The role of the state
Let us suppose, for a moment, that the limits of governments are understood plainly: that this machinery cannot eradicate social need or the basest and most desperate conditions in favour of more productive, financially rewarding and fulfilling lives; that the scope for policy-making is radically framed, just as in a tribute musical act, by what has gone before and proven popular; and that the debate surrounding need and social justice must inevitably favour the individual or the collective. These, as such, are the limits of policy. The rational focus of governments, then, must be to keep the majority of the population somewhat satisfied, rather than happy - a vast umbrella of comfortable disquiet labelled ‘consensus’, which seeks to embrace those who wish to cast off limits on individual freedom and those who wish to extend redistribution. This framework of limited agency and choice echoes much of the thought of Spencer, particularly in his discussions of over-legislation and of the role of representative government. These discussions are no nearer to being resolved or finding consensus, in the current modern social and political era:
Though we no longer presume to coerce men for their spiritual good, we still think ourselves called upon to coerce them for their material good: not seeing that the one is as useless and as unwarrantable as the
Creative sector and economic development 19 other ... Take up a daily paper and you will probably find a leader exposing the corruption, negligence, or mismanagement of some Statedepartment. Cast your eye down the next column, and it is not unlikely that you will read proposals for an extension of State-supervision.
(Spencer, 1982: 268)
Such withering observations are found daily in the discussions of need, and in policy which has tended to veer between the kind that Spencer criticises here, such as high levels of investment in complex, hard-to-navigate policies; or the kind of moral emphasis that has been used as justification to roll back spending on the basis that needs are the results and outcomes of individuals’ respective choices (on matters such as savings, diet, health and lifestyle). Though each of these arguments has much justification to support it, the issue is not only the readiness of governments to be either paternalistic or moralistic; rather it is the framework through which they (and, therefore necessarily, society) must view needs. As different as these approaches to policy may be, each, however, emphasises the involuntary contribution of every adult individual in society. Why is this question such a vital point? Because, as the previous sections highlight, policy-makers have tended overwhelmingly to view need as a lens or consequence of too much or too little engineering of social justice: the paternalists see the need to invest in policy responses to social inequality; while market-oriented Conservatives (though not emphasising a free market) have sought to reduce spending and encourage individuals to be entrepreneurial and competitive, and self-reliant. However, the problem with such divergent perspectives of social justice and need is that while they may consider the role of the state vis-à-vis a group of people or even a demographic group, or geographic area, neither of these approaches considers properly the role of need in terms of the individual and the state. Let us pause here. This chapter is not suggesting that, simply, individuals should be self-reliant and that this forms the basis of policies, which deal with need. States have a responsibility to ensure a safety net of a minimum standard of living; but these debates are also challenged by the actions of states. It should also be stressed that, as Spencer suggests, these are not problems driven by traditional left-right division; but rather they are more entrenched and complex, and can be viewed as a manifestation of what King and Crewe (2013) have referred to as ‘the blunders of our governments’.
Structure, institutional design and governance delivery
The roles of institutions and the resultant scholarly debates around structure and agency are underpinning ideas in the creative sector. The role of governance across the creative sector and the fundamentalnotions of institutional design are embedded in ideas around the related concepts of structure and agency. These long-standing and wide-ranging debates have focused on the tensions between institutional structures and agents, and the friction between these aspects of governance. The discussion elsewhere in this chapter that focuses on liberty and the role of the state in changing behaviour though public policy is key to the role of structure and agency. The debates are also addressed in the following chapter on philosophical and methodological design. Recent debates in this area of scholarly debates have focused on the role of the spatial nature of structure and agency (Forde, 2019); the informal influence of work in urban living as a type of structure or agency (Lombard, 2019); and the role of agency in informing societal and scholarly debates in our understandings of political behaviour (Akram, 2019). Equally, scholars have discussed the role of free will and determinism as underpinning ideals of structure and agency (Pleasants, 2019), and in the creative context, the importance of structure and agency tensions (Silliman, 2001). Moreover, the comparative context of this book draws upon the global nature of the structure-agency debate across a variety of institutions and governance settings and examines disruptions to long-established ideas (Friedmann and Starr, 2002; Wendt, 1995; Moe, 1989; Castles, 1981).