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Civic boosterism in the politics of local economic development -- 'institutional positions' and 'strategic orientations' in the consumption of hallmark events

  • Economics
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science


The author sets out to interrogate the manner in which cultural festivas have been theorised in the context of accounts of the role of civic boosterism -- or what he terms 'Urban Propaganda Projects' (UPPs) -- in the politics of local economic development. Attention is focused primarily upon how authors account for the way in which 'locals' respond to boosterism. Based upon the thesis advanced by the Ohio School, and a review of later work, the central argument pursued is that work to date has operated with remarkably impoverished conceptions of the antecedent material and cultural contexts within which hallmark events are being organised. In regard to their conception of the 'audience' for UPPs, authors have worked with the unacknowledged assumption that locals consume and relate to events largely in terms of the extent to which they buy into, resist (culturally or economically), or become disoriented, by the versions of local identity which are being promoted. Even when critical or Marxist in nature, this form of analysis limits enquiry to the terms of reference of the boosterist agenda itself. The author argues that more imaginative conceptual frameworks might orient analysts to look for other modes of consumption -- modes which indeed might refuse to recognise the language of boosterism (for good or bad) and which might require a different entry point to analysis. Using a case study of Glasgow's role as European City of Culture 1990, the author develops the contours of one such framework, with the aid of key concepts of institutional positions and strategic orientations. Although amenable to appropriation within existing critical or Marxist accounts, these concepts are not the products of that framework and thus generate, at the very least, a problematic relationship with it. It is concluded that accounts of local reactions to cultural festivals in particular, and to civic boosterism in general, must escape the epistemological straightjacket that the Marxist/boosterist agenda presents.

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