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The Fundamental Question

Back in 2002 James Allen Smith addressed the Museum Trustee Association and Getty Leadership Institute and asked “What do economics have to do with culture?” He noted the “pressure we are under to justify our work in instrumental or utilitarian terms,” and how when “cultural critics talk about economics, or economists talk about culture, smart people can end up saying ridiculous, confusing things.” In the talk that followed he offered a comprehensive analysis of the trends in cultural sector economics that are increasing the pressure to evaluate, and described the issues behind the fundamental question: “In what language should we answer when policy makers and foundation funders speak their utilitarian prose and expect quantitative answers?” It is a talk well worth reading in its entirety.

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