Our education system must support and nurture creative economy as a new source of growth and job creation. Curriculum in higher education must support learning for this ever growing sector. Especially when the young generation’s consumption pattern is seemingly growing as well as diversifying phenomenally towards cultural consumption. A significant factor turns out to be their quest for social identity.
In the era of globalization, creativity has emerged as an important source of growth for developing economy. The UN report on Creative Economy provides ample evidence to suggest that creative goods and services are not only the new source of growth but also a formidable way to beat downturn. For example, the period of recent economic crisis witnessed 12% fall in international trade while during the same period world trade of creative goods and services registered annual growth of 14%. The developing countries south-south trade in creative goods witnessed 20% growth while it contributed 43% of world trade of creative industries.
The creative economy encompasses arts, business, connectivity, driving innovation, and new business models. They are increasingly contributing to changing consumer preferences and spending patterns. As the social dynamics are changing under the influence of global forces, people are increasingly looking for culture, social events, entertainment, and leisure. A higher share of income is being spent on life-experiences associated with status, style, brands, differentiation, culture, and social connect. These products and services are rooted in creative economy.
Promotion of creative economy requires response to education, cultural identity, social inequalities, and environmental concerns. Education system must respond to changing global needs. Focusing on building both cognitive and non-cognitive skills in students would in all its earnest support creative economy and help job creation. Non-cognitive skills such as perseverance, openness to failure, zeal for trying new things, developing grit are at the core of supporting creativity, productivity, and performance. This is high time that our education system takes concerted measures to promote ‘merits of idea’ and remove ‘fears of failure’.
Cultural consumption is linked to social identity of youth
While there are detailed studies available on the expenditure patterns of youth in India, these spending habits have not been analyzed through the lens of social identity. Against the backdrop of India’s large youth demography, it becomes relevant to examine the links between spending and expressions of identity among youth. Attempts need to be made to analyse youth cultural consumption patterns, the factors that promote them, and how these non-food consumptions tend to be associated with youth identity, similar to Belk’s (1988) work that talks about the “extended self” and relation between consumption and identity. The concept of the ‘extended self’ and aggrandized individual roles have been developed which are helpful in understanding the link between youth consumption and social identity.
Theoretical & empirical underpinning
The early theory of consumption focused on ‘utility theory’ and provided explanation in terms of budget optimization by consumer based on the notion of price, income, and utility. The ‘fundamental psychological law’ propounded by J. M. Keynes (1936) was considered to be the first serious formulation of consumption function. Keynesian theory states that with a rise in income, consumption will increase but less than proportionately. “The poorer the family, the greater the proportion of its total expenditure that must be devoted to the provision of food.” The Engel Law suggests that the household expenditure changes in the manner that it declines on necessary items (like food etc.) with increasing income but increases on luxuries and non-food items. Income alone does not explain consumption patterns and its diversification towards non-food items. In any really satisfactory study of consumer behaviour we should perhaps include such factors as education, age, region, occupation, etc. in the demand function. This is especially true for cultural consumption wherein income is considered as a weak determinant. Therefore, factors such as age, region, occupation, education, and place of residence (urban/rural) etc. can be equally significant determinants of cultural consumption.
Growth of income diversifies cultural consumption
Income is the prime determinant of consumption. With the changing levels of income, there is likely to be a more diversification of consumption patterns. Goods and services consumed are of three categories: – necessities, comforts and luxury. At a relatively lower levels of income, demand for necessity goods will be higher whereas the demand for comfort and luxury will come about only as the income increases. Generally, the demand for luxury will have income elasticity greater than unity. As the Engle law of consumption suggests that, there will be a diversification from ‘food’ to ‘non-food’ consumption as the income increases.
However, consumption of goods such as “cultural consumption” seems to be affected by host of other factors, rather than income alone. Especially, youth tends to value it more and even at a lower level of income, cultural participation and consumption would tend to be higher. Scholars have also noted that when consumption patterns find basis in culture then hierarchy of classes decompose and ranking based upon class become less capable to explain the social dynamics and cultural identities due to disintegration of stratification process (Gerro, 2010).
Catherine Phillips (2005): Consumption choice helps identifying the multiple self that an individual develops consciously or unconsciously, that reflect in their consumption habits. Cultural consumption is not just a matter of affordability in term of income but it has larger appeal as a means of self-expression. Group identity is an important aspect as well, this includes formal- informal wears, tattoos, motorbikes or team t-shirts.
Belk (1988): The concept of self: our possessions become a major factor of influence and mirror image to our identities. This includes the purchasing and consuming of products that we associate with status, importance and an extension of one’s self, which includes things, people, places and body parts. Our consumption patterns also symbolically describes the way we perceive ourselves and want others to perceive us as.
Izabela Ścibiorska-Kowalczyk (2015) looks at cultural consumption as:
“Any personal contact with the product of culture or culture driven behaviour, as well as indirect and direct contact with other people”
Consumption of cultural goods only takes place when such needs arises. According to Izabela need for certain goods only arises at a specific time or a vital requirement, this very well links to the multiple self that an individual has, and how due to ‘need’ of certain good, an individual conforms to a certain identity
UNESCO (2009): UNESCO has categorized many activities into the field of cultural goods. Music, Cultural Heritage, Travel, Radio, Television, socio- cultural activities have been categorized as cultural goods by the UNESCO in 2009. The categorization of cultural items by UNSECO formed the basis of listing items for this study.
There are evidences to suggest that cultural consumption is an integral part of life for college going youth. They attach a lot of value to it and pursue variety of interests. Cultural consumption for college going youth is a way of life. This is more of an expression of their inner self. Cultural engagement is a two-way process for youth wherein self-identity expressed in cultural pursuits and in turn gets influenced by the continuous engagement.
There are empirical evidences to suggest that the choice of cultural items indicate youth’s life-style choice, expression of self-identity, and the urge to create social space. This is also turning out to be a vehicle of making and sustaining friend circle, an informal platform for sharing and expressing the self. This is also a vehicle to develop self-confidence and groom personalities.
It is to be reiterated that cultural consumption is indeed an integral part of a youth’s life and they value cultural engagement for variety of reasons. There is a strong sociological imperative for cultural consumption and youth attaches a lot of value to it. The pursuit of cultural engagement is a means of self-identity and expression as much as it a natural extension of self. It is high time that higher educational institutions consider the subject matter of creative economy seriously enough to be part of curriculum as well as ‘beyond classroom’ engagement.
- Belk, R. W. (1988). Possessions and the Extended Self. Journal of Consumer Research, 15(2), 139. doi:10.1086/209154
- Keyens, J. M. (1936) The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, Harcourt Brace, New York.
- Krishnaiah, J. and Krishnamoorthy, S. (1988) “Estimation of Engel elasticities for grain in Andhra Pradesh”, Margin, Vol. 20, No. 2, January-March, pp. 31-38.
- Pessoa, J., Deloumeaux, L., & Ellis, S. (2009). The 2009 Unesco Framework for Cultural Statistics (FCS). UNESCO Institute for Statistics.
- Phillips, C. (2003). How do consumers express their identity through the choice of products that they buy?. University of Bath School of Management Working Paper Series, 17, 2003-17.
- Ścibiorska-Kowalczyk, I. (2015). Consumption of Cultural Goods and Services. In Forum Scientiae Oeconomia (Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 19-29).
This piece of write up is prepared jointly by Pragya Chakraborty and Dr Prabhat Pankaj. The write up draws from the project undertaken by Pragya as part of her master’s thesis at the Department of European Studies, Manipal University, Udupi, Manipal, India.