Heteronomy in the arts field: state funding and British arts organizations

Alexander, Victoria D.. 2018. Heteronomy in the arts field: state funding and British arts organizations. The British Journal of Sociology, 69(1), pp. 23-43. ISSN 0007-1315 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

For Bourdieu, the field of cultural production is comprised of an autonomous and a heteronomous sector. A heteronomous sector is one that is interpenetrated by the commercial field. I discuss an arena that, until recently, was part of the relatively autonomous sector in the field of cultural production—the supported arts sector in the United Kingdom—and argue that it became more heteronomous, due to the penetration by the state. Heteronomy due to the commercial field is present but secondary to, and driven by, the actions of the state. Political parties’ attempts to diffuse and legitimate a particular economic ideology have led to state demands that arts institutions adopt neoliberal business practices in exchange for funding. Government giving to the arts, previously at arms-length, proved to be a Faustian bargain that demanded significant repayment in the form of lost autonomy. Coercive pressures from the state, enacted over time, show how the domination of one field over another can occur, even when the domination is resisted.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):



Arts, Neoliberalism, Cultural Policy, United Kingdom, Cultural Fields, Autonomy/Heteronomy

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Institute for Cultural and Creative Entrepreneurship (ICCE)


31 January 2017Accepted
25 July 2017Published Online
2 March 2018Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

21 Sep 2017 15:53

Last Modified:

12 Mar 2021 11:16

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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