European inventory of
societal values of culture

O’Brien & Oakley - Cultural Value and Inequality

O’Brien, D. D. & Oakley, K. (2015). Cultural Value and Inequality: A Critical literature Review. Arts & Humanitites Research Council

Inequality has become essential to understanding contemporary British society and is at the forefront of media, political and practice discussions of the future of the arts in the UK. Whilst there is a wealth of work on traditional areas of inequality, such as those associated with income or gender, the relationship between culture, specifically cultural value, and inequality is comparatively under-researched.

The literature review considers inequality and cultural value from two points of view: how cultural value is consumed and how it is produced. The review argues that these two activities are absolutely essential to understanding the relationship between culture and social inequality, but that the two activities have traditionally been considered separately in both academic research and public policy. The review concentrates on the ‘big three’ issues of inequality – race, class and gender, where most of the literature is to be found, but also touches on disability, sexuality and spatial inequality. All of the research reviewed suggests an undeniable connection between cultural value and inequality. Understanding that connection is currently impeded by problems with data.

The report suggests the political saliency of this topic means that public policy must do more to provide robust research, particularly about cultural production.

O’Brien & Oakley “Cultural Value and Inequality: A Critical literature Review”