Against Creativity: How Capitalism Hijacked the Concept of Creativity for Its Own Ends
Against Creativity offers an unconventional take on the conventional wisdom that creativity is inextricably tied to success.
Rather than simply praising creativity and its applications, this book provides a hard-hitting analysis of how such an outlook can be used as a tool for subjugation, both in the workplace and by government policy.
You’ll explore how creatives have become “thought leaders,” and how AI and big business have weaponized creativity against civilians.
Moreover, Against Creativity delves into the ways that creativity can be used to overtake neighbourhoods, examining everything from ping pong tables to real estate development with a critical eye.
By taking an unconventional look at the current state of creativity, Against Creativity will make you think twice before rushing to praise any form of creative endeavor– further demonstrating just how powerful our thoughts can be.
Neoliberal Capitalism’s Appropriation of Creativity
Throughout history, the meaning of creativity has changed significantly.
Ancient societies saw it as a divine power, while during the Enlightenment period it was seen as a means of self-expression.
But in the contemporary world, creativity has been recast as a tool to promote economic power and development.
This is especially true with Neoliberal capitalism – an ideology which posits both individuals and society as functioning within an economic marketplace.
Neoliberalism has appropriated the concept of creativity so that it benefits economic interest rather than being seen as an intimate form of expression or creativity for its own sake.
We see this today in how employers often emphasize employees being “entrepreneurial” and governments have moved away from traditional social services such as schools and hospitals in favor of “innovation”.
Ultimately, Neoliberal capitalism has taken what was once a powerful force for transformation and used it to maintain itself- muting its potential for good in the process.
The Creative Class: Exploitation or Innovation?
When you work creatively under capitalism, you face a peculiar catch-22.
On the one hand, you’re expected to produce unique, high-quality output which can be sold for more than traditional average jobs – an enticing competitive advantage.
However, this often means longer hours and more strenuous working conditions with no guarantee of true recognition or compensation.
As Richard Florida argued in his popular The Rise of the Creative Class, creative-class workers are those that have particular skills that make them attractive assets to modern industries.
Theoretically speaking, these individuals could find freedom and stability in contract work, but employers have instead taken advantage of this new wave by cutting costs and paying less for artistic output.
Sadly this model leads to perpetual labor without any hope of increased economic standing as employers take advantage of the current competition among creatives.
However, there is hope on the horizon – some workers have chosen not to engage in the low-pay market economy design.
Instead they are building new economic organizations such as Coffee Cranks Cooperative and Mondragón University that make use of cooperative principles rather than relying solely on traditional wage relations.
This style of creativity has led to novel approaches to managing tasks with profit distributions as well as innovative ways of producing products that may finally give creatives access to true long term success.
Appreciate Diversity and Embrace Different Perspectives to Access True Creativity
Being creative means truly valuing the vast diversity of experiences that exist in the world.
We often celebrate those who think and act outside of the norm as “innovators” or as sources of genius, but it should be noted that many of those celebrated individuals conform to certain societal standards – usually white, able-bodied men from privileged backgrounds.
Rather than simply accepting these dominant views as THE way to experience life, true creativity encourages us to embrace alternative perspectives.
This could mean rethinking disabilities in terms of “diffabilities”: different ways of moving through life which may be just as valuable and meaningful as what we’ve been taught to consider normal.
For example, imagine a dance club for deaf people, where the shaking bass and dazzling lights are designed to provide an enjoyable night out – just different from what is typically considered entertaining!
True creativity thus values radically different ways of being: allowing us to embrace various subjectivities, creating space for new ideas, and honoring diverse experiences.
After the 2008 Financial Crisis, Creative Thinking Became Just Another Way to Cut Public Spending
After the 2008 financial crisis, creativity was seen as a way to solve the problem of public spending that had been used to bail out the banking industry.
Governments implemented major cuts on public services in an effort to cut costs, and these were branded as “creative solutions.”
This idea of “creative austerity” came about because cultural institutions had to compete for corporate sponsorship in order to survive, while public libraries had to offer more than just books in order to stay afloat.
Municipalities were also encouraged to offer tax breaks and other incentives in exchange for investment from major corporations.
Overall, creativity became a code word for austerity measures as governments sought ways to make up for the money used during bailouts.
This caused cultural spaces and public libraries around the world to struggle with their reduced funding, while cities had to become more entrepreneurial in order to attract big business.
Creativity Under Capitalism: Squandering the Potential of Digital Technology
Big technology companies like Google, Facebook and many others use data to their advantage in order to make a profit.
They collect, catalog and analyze every interaction that takes place online, creating the largest store of information in history.
It’s no surprise then that their focus on creativity is solely meant for profiting from data – “monetizing your life”.
The Silicon Valley start-up scene put creativity at its core by encouraging experimentation and risk taking which ultimately created the powerful tech companies we know today.
However, instead of using all this creativity to improve society as a whole, these tech companies are directing all of their talent towards monetizing user behavior.
The sharing economy has been transformed into an environment where each transaction is monetized by faceless corporations with individuals just trying to get a piece of the pie.
Companies like Airbnb and Uber have found creative ways to make money off normal activities such as carpooling or lending items without showing any concern for real social justice issues.
The Creative City Movement: Creating Identikit Communities and Ignoring Existing Residents
When it comes to the creative city movement, many cities are using the same formulaic approach.
Instead of engaging with the unique characteristics of neighborhoods and encouraging authentic local creativity, they impose standardized aesthetic interventions like public art pieces and colorful streetscapes.
This leads to a generic look that makes all creative cities feel the same, and fails to capture or embrace their unique character.
In addition to genericizing neighborhoods, this cookie-cutter approach often overlooks the needs of existing community members when it comes to more practical issues such as better social services or affordable daycare.
Rather than focusing on these essential matters for in-place residents, many municipalities use the movement as an opportunity for real estate investment and focus more on making a profit from new tourists or prospective buyers.
However, some cities are beginning to realize that encouraging actual creativity is much more beneficial than imposing a formulaic strategy from above.
These cities understand how important it is to nurture existing neighborhoods by taking into consideration their individual characters and specific needs of local inhabitants instead of pursuing economic gains at any cost.
The Against Creativity Book is an eyeopening account of our current conception of creativity and its inevitably harmful results.
The author argues that creativity can mean far more than inventing new products and monetizing social relationships in order to succeed within the capitalist system.
In fact, creativity can be a powerful tool to build alternatives and explore the nuances of human experience without profit as the motive – a much needed effort if we are truly going to foster change for the better.
The book’s key message is both thought-provoking and actionable: let go of the traditional rules of successful capitalism and instead use creativity for something greater.