Culture and the Public Sphere addresses cultural policy from a critical and multi-dimensional perspective. It is informed by some of the most advanced ideas in contemporary social theory, drawing particularly upon the work of Pierre Bourdiew, Michel Foucault and Jurgen Habermas. The book challenges the commonly accepted instrumentalist agenda for "cultural policy studies" and proposes an alternative view of cultural policy as a matter for the widest possible critical and cultural debate.
Illustrating his case with examples from recent cultural policy initiatives in Britain, the United States and Australia, McGuigan considers a range of topics which include: the American culture war'; the flattening of cultural hierarchies and the blurring of cultural boundaries according to a postmodernist and petit-burgeois imaginary; the rise of managerialist and market reasoning in public arts administration and broadcasting; the 'post-Fordist' restructuring of the cultural industries; urban regeneration strategies under conditions of de-industrialisation and worsening social exclusion; national culture, museums, themeparks and the global phenomenon of heritage tourism; problems of 'race', identity and cultural citizenship; panopticism, market censorship and moral regulation, especially with regard to children's media consumption; and, the role of computer-mediated communications in democratic discourse. Throughout McGuigan argues that even in a postmodern world there is a place for value judgements in the arts and seeks to map out a new terrain for policy-oriented cultural studies in education, research and professional practice.