What’s ‘cool’ about Cool Capitalism?

My next PhD report takes a historical look at entrepreneurship and as a starting point, I am reading Cool Capitalism by McGuigan. In the first chapter, McGuigan calls capitalism into question. He explores the rise of capitalism from the ethical position of protestants through to mass consumerism revealing capitalism’s ‘dirty secrets’. He exposes the contradictions of capitalism as an inevitable outcome of a capitalist society. McGuigan refers to Schumpeter who remarked that the very nature of capitalism creates societies in which individuals can be both supported by the system and critical of it, in particular, artists and writers (much to Schumpeter’s discontent).

I’ve only read the first 20 pages of the book but it has provoked some interesting thoughts in relation to my interests. Firstly, the idea of  a ‘counter culture’ in a capitalist society and whether the cultural activities which took place during Thatcher’s period in government fit with this theory. For example, the evidence of entrepreneurship in  cultural producers who made use of enterprise policies such as the £40 a week enterprise allowance (for arguments  about the revival of the allowance see http://www.spectator.co.uk/martinbright/5218131/revive-the-enterprise-allowance-scheme.thtml). The setting up of small community based arts organisations, politically motivated projects dealing with racism, feminism and inequality and critical of the Thatcher government yet liberalised by it.

Secondly the tension between embracing values which support individual freedom so often associated with the arts and culture and yet the criticism from artists and intellectuals of the capitalist society.

Finally, the ‘cool’ element which I think McGuigan will go back to in more detail in his book but which for me, echos some research findings from a previous project. In my research I interviewed about 6 ‘cultural entrepreneurs’ and identified an element of ‘cool’ in the language and motivation of each interviewees. That is to say, a sense that ‘cool’ offers a solution to a traditional / old style of management or even, a new way of life. This is associated with an attack on 1950’s conventional business but does it still have resonance now? Are we looking to the cultural sector for ‘cool’? And has ‘cool’ in the cultural sector become part of the establishment under New Labour?

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: