Chapter 32: Heritage
Françoise Benhamou The economics of the built cultural heritage has a particular status in the field of cultural economics. Heritage goods share some characteristics with other cultural goods, especially uniqueness and their perception as merit goods. They also differ from other cultural goods because of durability and irreversibility: if a historical building is transformed or destroyed, it cannot be recreated or restored in its initial shape. From this point of view, heritage economics is close to environmental economics. They share the preoccupation with sustainability, and the existence of an international demand linked to tourism. Heritage goods generate mixed feelings among researchers. Publications are not very numerous, probably because of many methodological difficulties: empirical issues lack data, and comparative studies are limited by the very specificity of national situations. Moreover, there is a kind of soft consensus in favour of public regulation, while at the same time subsidization is criticized for its inefficiency. Definition Heritage includes different forms of cultural capital ‘which embodies the community’s value of its social, historical, or cultural dimension’ (Throsby, 1997, p. 15). In this chapter we emphasize only the question of built heritage, in the restrictive sense of immovable heritage, including archaeological sites, historic buildings and historic urban centres (or some part of them). A minimal definition would identify the built heritage as the buildings and monuments inherited from the past, with a cultural or historical dimension justifying their preservation for next generations, but also contemporary monuments whose symbolic or cultural value is high, such...
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