This journey-style thesis is a sense-making attempt to the cultural tourism practice. Conceptualizing contemporary travel as a rite of passage, a modern-day pilgrimage, this paper strives to find out what transformational effects are available to an individual engaging in tourism practice and how it can benefit the society at large. When traditions, norms and morals lost in postmodernity create existential angst, the tourism as a “get away from it all” sheds a light on the values which went amiss and emphasizes the need for a more humanistic, value-based approach on a global level. Utilizing previous empirical research on transformational tourism and transformational psychology the conceptual framework of 3 levels of transformation through othering is created, leading to the conclusion that for the achievements of wholeness, peace and existential authenticity the loss of ego is required. By coalescing the fragmented theories in the fields of tourism, cultural economics and sociology this work contributes to the body of knowledge in these domains. The metaphorical nature of this thesis allows for the application of the findings beyond tourism and outside the mentioned areas.
Keywords: value-based approach, cultural tourism, transformation, loss of ego, existential authenticity
This study explores the organisation of complex cultural production in informal spheres. It does so by examining how 9 Kente production firms in Bonwire and Agotime-Kpetoe rural areas of Ghana’s Asante and Volta regions organise production. Based on analysis of accounts collected from 19 respondents during an eight-day fieldwork in the respective areas, the study demonstrates that cultural production is situated in social sphere and conforms to social rationalities. The research shows that in the absence of formal institutions, amidst uncertainties, firm-owners rely on social trust and social institutions to manage production process and dissuade delegation problem. Further, the study demonstrates that the existence of fraternal bonds is the most pertinent feature accounting for how production is organised. From the findings, I argue that cultural production is embedded in both economic and social context. As such it is vital for the field of cultural economics in its conception of cultural industry to accommodate the role of institutions in social realm have on the production and the industry as a whole.
KEYWORDS: Principle-Agent relationship; Social embeddedness; Global-South cultural industries; Social trust; Institutions
After two years working for a London-based investment bank, I’d come to the conclusion that it wasn’t the career I wanted so I began to make plans for another future. Bonuses were paid in February, so like everyone else planning to depart, I quietly waited until the money had cleared before tending my resignation. Now well over a decade since I left finance, I have two distinct memories of that period.
The first concerns one of my initial experiences in banking. I was interviewing for a position, and myself and another 30 or so prospective recruits had been invited for a weekend of tests designed to simulate life at the bank. One of the tests involved a group exercise where we were asked to evaluate a small number of company shares for inclusion in a managed fund. We discussed the companies, all the while trying to appear intelligent, show leadership, flexibility, and demonstrate all the other qualities we thought the bank would want. After presenting our recommendations, one of the senior bankers laughed. Apparently, we had picked the same shares as the other groups, so he announced he was personally going to buy shares in the company none of use wanted. The other senior bankers smiled in agreement. A few hours later, we were taken to an upmarket restaurant in central London, before going on to a bar where we were plied with drinks. At some point it became clear that a game of ‘chicken’ was being played among the bankers and interviewees: we had an early start next morning and who could stay out the latest would be the winner.
The second memory is of a phone conversation I had with a previous manager, someone who’d acted as my initial mentor, right before I officially resigned. He had called to tell me that he was leaving. I was a little surprised, but also very eager to let him know that I too was leaving. When he inquired why, and I told him I wanted to study art, he said he respected my choice but that it was a risky one. I didn’t ask him his reason for leaving, but I found out the next day he’d been fired. A couple of years later, while still at art school, I received an email from the same manager. He wanted to let me know that one of the companies we had worked for was suspected of financial fraud, their senior management were being investigated, and he’d been questioned.
Having trained and now worked as an artist for over a decade, I would like to contrast the above experiences with a recent one from art. In early 2017, my partner and I were asked to exhibit some of our collaborative sculptures at an ‘independent’ art fair in Stockholm. Established in 2006 as an artist-run alternative to Stockholm’s commercial art fair, “Supermarket” (as it is known) follows well-trodden art strategies of self-organization, anti-commercialism, and counter-establishment acts. At the same time, it is heavily publicized in mainstream media, is commonly referred to as an affordable art fair, and is staged in a modern commercial space where works are clearly priced. Upon arriving at the art fair, there was an undeniable sense that the organizers, gallerists and artists were getting enormous satisfaction from participating in the chaotic energy of an active marketplace.
In many ways, my experiences in art and finance indicate they are very different worlds. Finance is perceived as something definable in purely quantitative terms, objective, and fulfilling a purely instrumental function for broader social goals. Art, on the other hand, is perceived as emotionally directed, capable of being an end unto itself, and whose subjective value is inherently problematic to verify or agree upon. Having exchanged a career in finance for one in the arts, there are nevertheless instances where art’s approach to value reminds me of finance. I am therefore prompted to reconcile the choice I made, or at least make sense of what it is I’ve changed to, in moving from finance to art. The three incidents from art and finance, outlined above, illustrate some of the contradictions I’ve experienced in art and finance, and they provide an entry point to discuss some of the concerns and thoughts that have prompted my doctoral research.
My experience is that the common perception of finance as ‘hard’ and art as ‘soft’ doesn’t necessarily hold. This concept can be interpreted in many ways, but I will expand on two. Despite the recent financial crisis, most financial products continue to be estimated using mathematical models built on the assumption of objective inputs or market-imputed prices that conform to efficient market theory. Finance works hard to build tools and structures that infer objective measurement. But finance is also beset by emotion and a distinctive culture that has little to do with its purported accuracy or efficiency. The banker’s announcement that he would buy the ‘ugly duckling’ share, just like the game of who’d stay out the latest, was intended to signal that they were mavericks, comfortable with instinctual choices, and concerned with acts of bravado. It said if you want to get along here, you’d better be the same too. For someone who’d studied financial economics, it didn’t make sense.
Framing finance as ‘hard’, art as ‘soft’ corresponds to the perception that financial participants respond to purely economic concerns, while artists respond to aesthetic interests bounded by economic needs. Where artists encounter the market, the expectation is they hold their nose, do what’s necessary, and quickly retreat. In many instances, neither of these assumptions hold. Just as one of the companies we advised turned out to have deceived many of its banks and investors, the telling of good economic stories forms an essential part of how financial decisions are made. In some instances, economic stories are sufficiently compelling for nature to conform to its narrative. This was no doubt the intention of the management of the company that was suspected and later found guilty of fraud. Financial participants, of which I was one, are willingly led by finance’s aesthetized narratives.
Artists sometimes conform to the anti-market behavior commonly expected of them. However, my experience is that they are also often deeply interested in the market, its mechanisms, and its rituals. Contrary to what we would expect, artists often embrace the market in a manner that goes beyond reluctant fulfillment of economic necessities. This needn’t reduce to the conclusion that artists are readily seduced by economic returns, but my experience indicates that contemporary artists have an interest in the market that is not adequately reflected in theoretical accounts of the artist’s relationship with the market.
Finally, my ex-manager’s warning that art is a risky choice rings true, even from a man who just lost job and was possibly facing an end to his career in finance (which it turned out to be). Choosing to be an artist is risky given the poor likelihood of economic and artistic success. Given a banker’s profession revolves around evaluations of risk relative to return,
commenting that I was making a risky choice could be interpreted as my manager saying that I was making a poor choice. In the economic logic of my ex-manager, most artists make poor choices based on the return relative to risk. While participation in finance can be economically justified for a sub-set of professionals, the same cannot necessarily be said for non-professional participants who face distinct informational and technical disadvantages. This raises the issue that many participants in both art and finance appear willing to face unjustified risk. Again, from the perspective of dominant theory, what occurs in real life doesn’t make sense.
1.1 Motivation and aims
My doctoral research began from a desire to make sense of a career change I made, and to respond to a nagging sense of something being amiss whenever someone expresses surprise at what they consider a significant career change. Therefore, an important motivation for this research is a desire to understand the extent my career change also represents a shift of values and ideology. I am also motivated to understand whether I have switched to working with a very different range of goods, an alternative means of evaluating them, and another approach to how they are exchanged. The academic path is not the only direction for resolving these questions, and I have certainly explored these themes in my art practice. However, I am aware that art brings its own framework, rhetoric and values that make an analysis of art by art problematic. I have therefore embarked on an academic journey, in part, to step outside the specific logic of art and finance to reflect on what each really stands for.
Before turning to the overall aims of my doctoral research, I would like to discuss several other motivating themes. The first of these concerns my ongoing role as a practicing artist and the importance of an honest discussion about it and finance’s relationship. Despite the problems that arise when truth is considered as anything but a relative concept, it is perceived to be an important aspect to contemporary art’s function, and something artists strive for. As Groys (2016) writes, “if art cannot be a medium of truth then art is only a matter of taste”. Borrowing from Heidegger (2002), the truth quality of art could be understood as emerging from the tension between art’s ability to draw our attention to its broader social setting (its ‘world’ properties), while making us aware of the material ‘thingness’ of art object (its ‘earth’ properties). The absence of truth, Groys argues, would make art indistinguishable from the applied arts. If Groys is correct, and art is distinguishable from design, then a reflection on what I do and make as an artist, and how art sits in context with the market, are important artistic questions.
Another theme, relative autonomy, is an important principle in defining how I and other artists are educated to work. Young artists are often shaped by an ideology that says art must retain independence from market forces which, amongst other things, threaten to corrupt the intentions of art. At the same time, the market is not some ‘thing’ lurking at a distance to the art and the artist. It is a socially constructed mechanism that reflects, as Mirowski (1990) argues, a historically and culturally dependent concept of value. By extension of their socially and historically defined natures, art, artist, financial markets and financier are all intertwined. Responding to where these intersections occur, and reflecting on their nature, this research assists in clarifying what, precisely, art should seek to achieve autonomy from and why.
The theme of instrumentality is currently being debated in Norway and other European countries as a solution to perceived future funding pressures in the arts. Amongst other things, an aging population is leading some politicians and arts administrators to predict that the public financing of the arts will need to decline over time. One theme currently being debated is how artists can achieve financial independence through different commercialization channels. Whether achieved through greater focus on art sales, the use of art as training or therapeutic device, or having the artist apply his or her skillset in another commercial environment, artists are increasingly under pressure to apply art as an instrument to achieve financial outcomes. Reflecting on the nature of art, via a comparison to finance, facilitates some understanding of what is at stake when art is asked to increasingly fulfill this instrumental role.
I also believe this study raises important questions for finance, and our general understanding of what finance is. For many finance professionals, comparing art and finance may seem an unlikely project. On the occasions that I have begun to explain my doctoral research to economic or finance researchers at a university in Oslo where I teach, they normally assume I am interested in art markets or pricing models. When I reply that I am interested in exploring the social functions of each, how they interact, and the similarities and differences of their systems of evaluation and exchange, they typically seem a little confused or at least surprised. In posing questions about finance’s range of social functions, I am suggesting that more than economic issues are at stake in finance. As someone who has some professional experience in finance and academia, and has experienced a range of ways that people in both interact with finance, I believe these questions are important for developing a stronger critical tradition within the field. I hope that this and future related research will contribute to a more informed basis for financial participation.
Conventional wisdom dictates that finance and art are opposites. To claim similarity, as I shall do, may initially create some discomfort, but is done with the aim that it may generate insight. Responding to the motivations outlined above, my overall research aims to respond to four key themes that reflect on similarities between art and finance. The first of these is the broader aim of revealing the range of ways that participants interact with art and finance to realize personal needs and wants. Conventional theory holds that participants in finance are wholly motivated by financial or monetary-based concerns. If we consider that the primary function of financial markets is to facilitate the transfer of excess cash (savings) to productive elements of the economy in need of financing (El-Wassal 2013), then corresponding to the economic objectives of both financier and financée, decisions are made purely in terms of the trade-off between risk and reward. If there is evidence of deviation from this principle, on the basis that participants interact with finance in ways that fulfil other needs, finance can be considered to fulfill other, and perhaps non-economic, social functions. In art, conventional theory holds that acts are primarily driven by a desire to fulfil cultural needs and wants, with financial concerns occupying a subordinate instrumental function (Abbing 2002; Solhjell & Øien 2012). An investigation of the ways participants interact with one another in art may reveal other ambitions. By reflecting on what participants seek to fulfill through consumption and interaction within both fields, I aim to develop a fuller picture of the social functions art and finance fulfil, and where these elements intersect.
As a development of the above aim, a second aim of this research is to evaluate the cultural properties of finance. The arts are often asked to reflect on the extent to which artistic practices can be framed as a component of the economic system. More recently, arts research occurs under the banner of ‘creative industries’, something that implies that elements of the arts can be understood as a commercial segment rather than something separate to, or in tension with, an economic logic. Debate concerning the suitability of this categorization is less novel, with considerable research in this area (see Dekker 2015). However, a question which has largely been overlooked is a reversal of that which is often asked of art: To what extent can contemporary finance be considered to operate within the logic by which artistic goods are assessed and exchanged? Undoubtedly, there is a speculative quality to this aim. But by posing this question, I aim to explore a suspicion that finance is in part driven by aesthetic concerns. In pursuing this theme, I aim to clarify the nature of contemporary art as much as that of finance.
In contrast to my first two aims, my third aim is less concerned with the different social functions fulfilled by art and finance, but instead relates to understanding how morals impact the way artists and finance professionals negotiate conflicting needs. Assuming art and finance are capable of fulfilling multiple needs, understanding the moral reasoning process can clarify why the specific functions fulfilled by art or finance are often ranked differently across the professions, and why a single yardstick of value tends to dominate each field (Stark 2009). But it also offers a way to understand the decision process of artists and bankers when they are asked to make compromises. By inquiring about the moral reasoning for choices, rather than simply asking which of the good’s functions is emphasized in an exchange, I aim to provide a more nuanced understanding of what it is that artists and bankers value, and whether their methods of reasoning fundamentally differ.
My final aim contextualizes the research project. Very simply, I intend that this research can respond to the contextual question of ‘So what?’. What does it mean to art if it and finance fulfil common functions? Dwarfed by the scale and reach of finance, is it inevitably problematic for art if it and finance begin to mirror one another over a greater range of roles and functions? Likewise for finance, what are the implications for finance being understood as sharing characteristics with art? While these are much broader and challenging research aims, I hope to be able to apply some findings concretely to the way I personally interact with both art and finance. However, these are also questions that I hope will stimulate my and others’ future research around the intersection of art and finance.
1.2 Identifying options for a methodological approach
So where to begin a study of the linkages, similarities, and fundamental differences between art and finance? With my background in economics, a natural starting point might be to raise questions about art and finance’s relationship via a reflection on economic value. These concepts, after all, offer well developed pathways into a study of art and finance. Following this direction, it would be possible to look for evidence of a symbiotic or parasitic relationship between art and finance based on economic value. From the perspective of art’s use of finance, this approach might lend itself to a study of art auctions, investment funds, sponsorship, prizes and other forms of economic values that originate in the financial sphere. In other words, I could ask to what extent is art shaped by economic concerns that have an
attachment to finance. A subtler application of this approach might also examine the dynamic that results from art’s authenticity, and its economic value, being partly dependent on a market from which it can take an oppositional stand. This framing would also allow analysis of finance’s use of the art for social legitimization, marketing, and source of a new asset class. Viewed in this way, acts in art and finance can be linked by mutual economic objectives and values.
Education and professional experience in art has taught me other ways of looking at the basis of relationships and what drives behavior. Certainly, in the early stages of an art career it is not money but cultural values that dominate how goods are evaluated and exchanged. Cultural value, therefore, offers another value-based method for comparing similarities and linkages between art and finance.
Acknowledging cultural value as a distinct concept says value is more than something reducible to a financial measure. It therefore introduces a break between price and value, and necessitates asking the question: What is value? As I have come to understand, value is a problematic concept, and this is no doubt central to classical and later neo-classical economics movement away from the concept of value towards preferences, utility, and price. Economists such as Debreu, Hicks and Samuelson effectively expunged the notion of value from their discussion of economics by equating it with price times quantity. I will develop several ideas related to value in later sections of this chapter, but we can start by contrasting the economic concept of value with the idea that value exists in multiple dimensions. Value, in this sense of the meaning, can be thought of as the assessment of the worth of a good. Our assessment criteria needn’t be monetary, and the goods we assess can range from commodities to relationships or ideas. Throsby (2001), for example, suggests that cultural goods can have economic, aesthetic, social, spiritual, symbolic, historical, and authenticity value. Important to the notion that these represent distinctly different understandings of value is the assumption that these measures are incommensurable, hence they don’t collapse to common denominator such as price. This assumption does not prevent the different values from impacting one another, as Hutter and Frey (2010)’s analysis of art’s authenticity on economic value shows.
The value-based approach says that multiple values exist. But on closer reflection we realize that values are not something just ‘out there’ located in goods. Values are also the things that we as humans decide are important for us. To make these personal values real, as Klamer (2016) says, we need to realize them by having them ‘valorized’. This means that cultural values only become real when we act those values out. If I see value in an element of finance, I may valorize by performing a financial act. If I value a writer, I may read one of their books or discuss it with someone. Valorization, therefore, often involves having our values recognized by others. So acknowledging that there are multiple forms of value, and that the exchange of those values is a way of realizing the things we feel are important, the value-based approach provides a framework for analyzing the range of different values connected to fields such as art and finance.
By following which aspects of art and finance get valorized, we can draw conclusions regarding the nature of both fields, and where and how they intersect. By looking specifically at how cultural values are measured, and the assessment of different goods on these scales,
we can comment on the range of social function that goods in art and finance fulfil. For example, if there is evidence that people seek to realize different forms of catharsis through engagement with art and finance, we might investigate the basis by which cathartic goods are evaluated, which goods in art and finance this applies to, and whether there are differences in financial and artistic cathartic goods. Proceeding this way and examining art and finance from the perspective of cultural value entails more risk since it demands that theories of value in art be applied in finance, and therefore requires drawing from less developed theory and empirical research to support the observations made.
A third option, and a natural extension to an analysis via the economic and cultural frameworks outlined above, is to move beyond any single discipline and try to make sense of both fields and their relationship through either an inter-disciplinary or trans-disciplinary value framework. The inter-disciplinary approach is typically conceptualized one that recognizes boundary distinctions as it transverses them. An inter-disciplinary analysis of art and finance offers the ability to work with a broader range of values. But it also says we can apply value theories from a host of disciplines in analyzing where art and finance intersect. The inter-disciplinary approach stands in contrast to the trans-disciplinary approach which proposes there are no identifiable disciplinary fields (Sandford 2015). By opening-up to new definitions of value in art and finance, it offers a significantly expanded framework for analyzing what art and finance actually represent, and therefore how they interact.
With the economic, cultural and interdisciplinary/interdisciplinary value approaches representing different methodologies for structuring this how this research might proceed, the next section examines each in more detail. To draw some conclusions regarding the analytical methodology chosen for the articles following this introduction, I consider the underlying logic of each valuation approach, the types of goods each is suited to valorizing, how the valuation approach can be used to identify the social roles fulfilled by art and finance, and theoretical and practical limitations of each valuation approach. I commence by exploring the concept of economic value as a tool for analyzing the connections between art and finance.
1.3 An economic framing of art and finance
An attempt to frame art and finance’s relationship via economic value immediately raises the question: What exactly is economic value, and is it the same thing as monetary value? Most economists will typically say no, but the question turns out to be somewhat complex. As with a great many concepts in the social sciences, there is no agreed upon definition of economic value. So in order to develop the concept, it is useful to start with the adjective ‘economic’. What does the ‘economic’ in economic value refer to? It is an important question as it asks about the scope of economics and its tools, with economic value being one of them.
In 1932, Robbins published what turned out to be a revolutionary definition of economics. He writes, “Economics is the science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses” (1932:15). By defining economics as the study of means not ends, and simply stating that it’s concern is scarcity, Robbins lays the foundation for the expansion of economics beyond commerce. The field’s expansion came in the 1960s and 70s, with economists such as Becker (1971) taking a
much more radical position in terms of how far into non-commercial areas the tools of economics could be applied. Becker famously writes, “It includes the choice of a car, a marriage mate, and a religion; the allocation of scarce resources within a family; and political discussions about how much to spend on education or on fighting a Vietnam war.” (1971:1) On this basis, it seems reasonable that economics and its tools be applied to art.
Robbins’ definition of economics is not without its critics. Mirowski (1990), for example, argues that economics does not conform to a nature order, but rather mirrors the social order of a distinct epoch. And so despite the range of meanings economic value might have, the conventional understanding economic value turns out to be a restrictive concept. Mirowski argues that for the conventional economist, economic value is synonymous with price or exchange value. This is no more clearly expressed than in Debreu’s (1959) often cited depiction of value as market price times commodity volume.
To avoid confusion, and to not erase a broader range of traditions in economics and philosophy, Klamer (2016) replaces the term ‘economic value’ with ‘financial value’ when referring to price based measures of value. For clarity, I follow this distinction. Nevertheless, this is not the end of the story, with continued disagreement among economists and sociologist over the breadth of social terrain that economic tools and financial valuation are applicable to. Critical to applying economic tools to finance, art, or other social fields, is whether the assumptions required by economic theories hold in real life. It is on this point that many economists take issue with the use of economic concepts beyond commercial exchange. Not wishing to pre-judge how broadly the economic framework extends to art, and what can be achieved from an analysis of art and finance through financial value, a way forward is to set up what this approach might look like and examine if anomalies or problems arise.
Is it possible for craftsmanship to survive today? And how?
These are the questions from which this work moves. Everyone can see the objective difficulties that small production and manufacturing realities have to deal with today. This is something that was bothering me personally, and as my professor has always used to say, if something bothers you it is because it’s important. And it might be important also for others.
Therefore I thought about my Italy and all the incredible heritage of craftsmen and craft skills we have and we are getting to lose. I met in my past some cases that led me to reflect upon this issue, the conditions and problems that create a limit for craftsmanship today and make
difficult for it to survive. I wondered: how could it be possible? How could it be that we don’t mind about loosing something so precious, a richness for our economy and a powerful resource and potential for the future?
Thus I decided to dedicate my master thesis to investigate my questions and look for a viable solution to this issue. This thesis develops with a non-typical approach as an experimental research that builds up and takes shape during the process. It starts from a questioning and investigation around the concept of craftsmanship, its meaning and authenticity for then moving on to gather interesting insights from real cases and life experiences. After a first approach though the literature, I analysed successful cases and stories with a critical approach to find relevant insights. In many passages of the process I was also inspired by events of my personal experience, that I used to frame a new scheme of reference to look at my issue. I found that craftsmanship is about the “how”, the specific way of doing something in a certain way. It is, in the end, about realising one’s own values through an activity. This led me to investigate how it is possible to valorise craftsmanship, where valorisation means specifically to realise the values behind that activity. This consideration connects to a reflection on the theme of education and how education can help in creating the premises and best conditions for a valorisation of craftsmanship, both as a manufacturing activity and a broader concept of making a job in a certain way. At this point the research met my personal and professional experience and I introduced in the thesis a disquisition on how communicating at the outside a professional’s values enables people to attract the resources and contribution required to realise their projects.
The result of this long process of research is a new way to look at craftsmanship. It is not only something dealing with a manufacturing activity, but a way broader concept that can be applied to an any kind of activity and deals with the realisation of one’s values behind that
activity. Adopting a value based approach to look at the issue, this thesis becomes an address to the entire job market and world. It is about bringing back an idea of craftsmanship into our economy and working life in general, and make it the strength and starting point of a new way of making and marketing a job, where values and economy are synthesised in a renovated and innovative way.
KEYWORDS: craftsmanship, value, valorisation, education, contribution, entrepreneurship, economy.
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