It has now been over a decade since the concept of creative industries was first put into the public domain by the Blair Labour government’s Creative Industries Mapping Documents in Britain. The concept has developed traction globally, but it has also been understood and developed in different ways in Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and North America, and also in international bodies such as UNCTAD and UNESCO. A review of the policy literature reveals that while questions and issues remain around definitional coherence, there is some degree of consensus emerging about the size, scope and significance of the sectors in question in both advanced and developing economies. At the same time, debate about the concept remains highly animated in media, communication and cultural studies, with its critics dismissing the concept outright as a harbinger of neo-liberal ideology in the cultural sphere. This paper couches such critiques in light of recent debates surrounding the intellectual coherence of the concept of neo-liberalism, arguing that this term itself possesses problems when taken outside of the Anglo-American context in which it originated. It is argued that issues surrounding the nature of participatory media culture, the relationship between cultural production and economic innovation, and the future role of public cultural institutions can be developed from within a creative industries framework, and that writing off such arguments as a priori ideological and flawed does little to advance debates about 21st century information and media culture.
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