the culturalization of the economy

[Image via Elliott Brown under Flickr Creative Commons]

In an increasingly globalised world, culture is paramount. The culturalization of the economy as developed by George Yúdice theorizes culture within this framework. According to Yúdice, the economy is changing and its affect is culture vis-à-vis the creative industries. Using the UK mobile services company Three alongside Scott Lash & John Urry’s Economies of Signs and Space, this blog post will explore and further develop how Yúdice’s “culturalization of the economy” manifests itself in the UK markets.

As a UK mobile services company, Three works to “challenge and change” the mobile industry. Originating in 2003, Three was the first mobile company to offer “All You Can Eat” data plans: unlimited data usage for a set monthly price. As consumers and smartphone users, many of the apps we use also use data. Lash and Urry argue that the culturalized industry, or the manufacturing industry, is the production of culture (1993: 123). The culture industries, Lash and Urry argue, “have provided the template” (1993: 123) for the manufacturers. Three’s Instagram about section reads the following:

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 6.50.27 PM

[Screen Shot via Three UK Instagram]

It is also in Three’s branding and online content that addresses contemporary online culture. Three uses short and to-the-point statements to market their services and products. Often these statements involve their signature hashtag #makeitright. The concept of the hashtag is less than 8 years old (according to History of Hashtags) and speaks to Three’s practiced way of speaking to the culture of today.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 was recently released. What does this film have to do with Three?

[Screen Shot via Three UK Instagram]

[Screen Shot via Three UK Instagram]

Three’s recent Instagram (as left) shows they’ve branded their Oxford Street store “District Three” as an homage to the film’s recent release. These acts of branding are arguably manufactured by our current culture (pop culture!) as Lash and Urry contend.

Lash and Urry also argue our society is post-Fordist and reflexive. Post-Fordist in that our culture production is flexible and design-based, with a large focus on the idea of lifestyle (1993: 112). Reflexive in the form of aesthetic reflexivity, which is the flow of symbols, the importance of signs and “cultural capital creation” (Lash and Urry, 1993: 112). Today, a product must be culturally flexible to be successful. Three is a unique case. It’s product is the only one on the UK market to offer an unlimited data plan due to cultural infiltration and consumer demand in smartphone data app usage. In compliment to this, the company also speaks to contemporary culture in that of the culturalization of the economy using creative industries processes in branding and online content. Three seems to be performing double duty when it comes to the culturalization of it’s company. Or as Three might argue, simply working to #makeitright.


  • Lash, S and Urry, J. (1993) ‘Accumulating signs: the culture industries’ Economies of Signs and Space. London: Sage.
  • Yúdice, G. (2003) ‘The expediency of culture’ The Expediency of Culture: The Uses of Culture in the Global Era. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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