The expressive agenda as part of a wide social agenda

By Adrian Ellis

The expressive life agenda feels as much to me like the stuff of a broad social movement as it does a framework for policy analysis. The head of steam required for the policy analysis, the honing of performance indicators  and the required assault on producer interests in policy-making is likely to occur only  if there is, to use Bill's comment,  'an environment that honors expressive life as a public good.'   

For this to happen, the agenda needs to be linked back to the debate  about what constitutes a fulfilled life, expressive or otherwise, and whether social institutions are generally arranged in a way that permits that life to be led and that gives us all some gentle nudges in that direction, particularly in our formative years. 

This - the good life, what it is and how you live it - was for centuries an overt topic of discussion and not just amongst philosophers  and framers of constitutions but  then sort of went underground a little under a century ago, resurfacing in self-help literature and a few academic books that were generally seen as eccentric and subjective within the value-neutral realm of social science (e.g. Tibor Skitovky's  The Joyless Economy or Robert Lane's The Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies). The burgeoning literature of 'happiness studies' is attempting to bring this together and link issues of self-actualization back to public policy - health, education etc.  

But like the expressive life agenda with which it overlaps, the issue of how the long term interests of individuals are best promoted in a political economy that is dominated by producer interests is critical. It seems a long way from territory and nearer to that of adbusters but it's where Bill is taking us. It's what political parties used to be for ...

January 29, 2010 11:42 AM | |


This Conversation Are the terms "Art" and "Culture" tough enough to frame a public policy carve-out for the 21st century? Are the old familiar words, weighted with multiple meanings and unhelpful preconceptions, simply no longer useful in analysis or advocacy? In his book, Arts, Inc., Bill Ivey advances "Expressive Life" as a new, expanded policy arena - a frame sufficiently robust to stand proudly beside "Work Life," "Family Life," "Education," and "The Environment." Is Ivey on the right track, or more

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