Like a Fraction of Some Bigger Place—The “Creative Industries” in a Peripheral Zone: Reflections from a Case Study

  • Jacob Thomas Matthews CEMTI, Paris 8 University
Keywords: Critical Political Economy, Cultural Industries, Creative Industries, Periphery, Cultural Policy, Base/Superstructure, Residual Cultures.


This article questions the notion of “creative industries” while contributing to the analysis of mediations between the cultural sphere and capitalist relations of production. Research pertaining to the “creative industries”, as well as contributions to the political economy of cultural industries, have often focused on central and metropolitan areas. By contrast, the case study that these reflections are based upon was conducted in a peripheral zone, the Shetland Isles, marked by specific socio-economic, historical, political and cultural features. This study considered the importance of local cultural policies, over the past 35 years, and how they are presently facing a significant revision. However, the rise of “creative industries” discourse, and its applications in public policy can only be understood within a wider national and supra-national context. Moreover, I argue that these evolutions are linked to an extension of cultural industrialisation and commoditisation. By analysing the adaptations and limits that the “creative industries” doctrine encounters in a peripheral zone, this article firstly completes existing critiques of the notion. Secondly, it illustrates how an apparently exceptional terrain magnifies certain key aspects of relations between ideological / cultural superstructures, and the socio-economic infrastructure of contemporary capitalism. In particular, it is concerned with the increasing artificiality of the economic basis of Western societies, and the complex ways in which this phenomenon is translated within the cultural sphere.

Author Biography

Jacob Thomas Matthews, CEMTI, Paris 8 University
Jacob T. Matthews holds a doctorate (2006) and habilitation à diriger des recherches (2014) in Information and Communication Sciences. He is Maître de Conférences (Associate Professor) at Paris 8 University and a member of the CEMTI. His main research fields are the socio-economy of cultural and communication industries, capitalism and ideology, and critical theories.