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Mapping professional lives: the study of the professionalisation of actors and dancers

By Vivien Freakley


This thesis explores the under-theorised and under-mapped area of labour supply within the field of artistic production. It agrees with cultural economists that the neoclassical economic theoretical models used to analyse the behaviour of artistic labour supply are inadequate - hampered by a lack of differentiated understanding of the employment modes, transactional roles and internal market relationships of artistic production. This thesis argues that generating a more powerful dynamic model for artistic labour behaviour depends on factoring in variables associated with work mode and functional role. There is evidence to suggest that artists and in particular, actors and dancers who are the subject of this study, mix a variety of functional roles in a mixed portfolio of entrepreneurial and employed work and the "mix" may change at different points in the career. Moreover, artists make apparently "irrational" work choices which cannot be explained by neo-classical economic theory. The thesis uses an empirical study of the working lives of eight performing artists to investigate the ways in which they act and inter-act within the artistic labour market. It finds that rational work choices are made which balance opportunities for accumulating reputation, investing in expertise, creative engagement and the minimising of financial risk

Topics: GV, PN2000
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