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Two approaches to study the value of art and culture, and the emergence of a third

Abstract

This paper argues that a third approach to study the value of art and culture is emerging: the valuation approach. The paper, first, outlines the two established approaches to study the value of art. The economics of the arts approach in which economic analysis is used to analyze the arts is the first of those established approaches. The other established approach is the art and commerce approach in which the relative position of the arts in society and in particular its relation to the commercial and industrial world is analyzed. The valuation approach takes elements of these two established approaches, but focuses explicitly on processes of valuation of the arts and cultural goods on markets as well as within bureaucracies, organizations, among experts, peers and other communities. Central to the valuation approach is the notion that the study of market prices is not sufficient to establish the value of cultural goods. Contributors to this emerging approach analyze valuation processes in and outside markets, the norms and conventions used to value the arts, and the role of intermediaries who are able to deal with competing notions and justifications of value.

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Notes

  1. As will be discussed below in more detail, the economics of the arts tradition contains two sub-approaches. The first focuses on the study of markets for cultural goods, the second on the empirical evaluation of the impact of the arts and/or policies. The latter approach utilizes the concepts developed within the economics of the arts, but tends to focus more on the study of externalities rather than market outcomes. The two sub-approaches are thus complementary rather than conflicting.

  2. An early commentator on this draft, Tom Wells, pointed out to me that this structure can also be found in other fields of applied economics such as sports economics or environmental economics.

  3. In that same article, Blaug emphasizes the importance of conventions and the possible use of a variety of case studies to analyze these, suggesting that we should return to the issue in 10 years or so (Blaug 2001: 126). This is in fact the approach undertaken by the third tradition as we will discuss below.

  4. That the issue cannot be solved satisfactorily by introducing a second-order preference has been convincingly shown by Cowen (1989).

  5. This emphasis on the theory of value is also present in Throsby’s Economics and Culture (2001).

  6. These worlds overlap to some extent with the four spheres as delineated by Klamer (2004).

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Acknowledgments

The author would like to thank the participants of the Erasmus Econ & Culture Seminar and two anonymous referees for their valuable suggestions and criticism to earlier drafts.

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Correspondence to Erwin Dekker.

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Dekker, E. Two approaches to study the value of art and culture, and the emergence of a third. J Cult Econ 39, 309–326 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10824-014-9237-y

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Keywords

  • Cultural economics
  • History of economics
  • Valuation
  • Norms and conventions

JEL Classification

  • Z11
  • B29