Cultural Economics – an interview with Professor Ruth Towse

woman contemplating colorful paintings

Ruth Towse, Professor of Economics of Creative Industries at CIPPM, Bournemouth University, talks to us about her new book and her approach to cultural economics.

Your latest book An Advanced Introduction to Cultural Economics has just been published. How did you come to write this?

Over the years, I have written and edited quite a number of books, chapters and articles on cultural economics, served as editor of the Journal of Cultural Economics and as President of the Association for Cultural Economics International. Many of these activities have been connected to my desire to promote the study and understanding of cultural economics by providing places of reference for those wishing to work in the field as researchers and teachers and to set standards for the academic discipline. I thought I had more or less exhausted these possibilities (and myself) when the invitation from Edward Elgar Publishing arrived in my inbox and I found it difficult to refuse. It seemed to me that the Advanced Introduction series offered an opportunity to write for a wider readership than those in academia and I have pitched the book accordingly. I imagined I was writing for an arts administrator or policy maker who feels he or she ought to find out what economists have to say about the arts, heritage and creative industries and it may also appeal as an introductory text to those studying a variety of related fields.

‘Advanced Introduction to Cultural Economics’ by Ruth Towse

Did you find the writing process difficult?

Having previously published a comprehensive textbook on cultural economics, I thought it would be easy to write. It was indeed the case that I had more or less solved the problem of the structure of the book and the chapter headings but I found that that was difficult to achieve with the word limit imposed by the publisher and the series and the writing was more challenging than I had bargained for. I may in fact not have fully succeeded!

Well we think you have! Can you tell us a bit more about your approach to cultural economics?

Cultural economics is an area of applied economics. In general, it does not require particularly difficult economic theory as much of the work that goes on in the subject is empirical but it does require a good understanding of data and analysis. I think many people have an intuitive grasp of basic economic ideas and that is all that is needed to read the book so I have avoided any technical terms that are not necessary and explained those that are. Since, however, much of the ‘outsiders’’ view of economics is that it is about figures – and that is often a motive for employing economic expertise – I go into the problems of data and how they are used. Otherwise, it seemed to me that the book should cover the whole scope of cultural economics and that meant there was only space for short surveys of some topics, so I have added further reading suggestions for those who wish to learn more. I also have my own special interests, which are particularly (these days) economics of copyright and its role in artists’ earnings and, more generally, in the creative industries. A book with no passion has little interest but one owes it to one’s colleagues and readers to offer as balanced approach as possible. I hope that the combination works!


Ruth Portrait-4Ruth Towse is Professor of Economics of Creative Industries at CIPPM, Bournemouth University and CREATe Fellow in Cultural Economics (University of Glasgow). She specialises in cultural economics and the economics of copyright. She has published widely in both fields in academic journals and books and has also edited several collections of papers and original contributions, including A Textbook of Cultural Economics (2010), published by Cambridge University Press. Ruth was Joint Editor of the Journal of Cultural Economics from 1993-2002, President of the Association for Cultural Economics International 2006-8, and President of the Society for Economic Research in Copyright Issues from 2004-6. She has lectured and given seminars, conference papers and presentations to a wide range of organisations in many countries and has been consultant on cultural economics and the economics of copyright to a number of national and international governmental organisations.



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