Three arguments against 'soft innovation': Towards a richer understanding of cultural innovation

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This paper critiques recent research on innovation in the cultural and creative industries. In particular, this paper examines Paul Stoneman's idea of 'soft innovation' as a jumping off point for discussing theories of cultural innovation more broadly. Three critiques are advanced. Firstly, soft innovation is a theoretical perspective that has developed from neoclassical economics, and is therefore vulnerable to criticisms levelled at neoclassical explanations of economic behaviour. Secondly, the theory of soft innovation can be criticised for being contingently inaccurate: the observed reality of cultural industries and marketplaces may not reflect the theory's premises. Thirdly, because soft innovation defines the significance of an innovation in terms of marketplace success, it implies that only high-selling cultural products are significant, a difficult claim to substantiate. This paper concludes by arguing that our understanding of innovation in the cultural sphere can benefit from a multi-disciplinary approach grounded in the full gamut of human creativity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-556
Number of pages20
JournalThe International Journal of Cultural Policy
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • creative industries
  • cultural economics
  • cultural industries
  • cultural innovation
  • innovation policy
  • soft innovation

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