Against Creativity Book Summary - Against Creativity Book explained in key points
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Against Creativity summary

Oli Mould

A critical examination of the contemporary notion of creativity

3.9 (48 ratings)
22 mins
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    Against Creativity
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    Neoliberal capitalism has appropriated the concept of creativity.

    Imagine that you’re walking the streets of New York and come upon a common sight: a homeless man asking for change. However, he’s asking in an uncommon way. Instead of holding a simple sign, he performs a song – complete with original lyrics. How creative!

    Or is it? While the man’s performance surely stands out on the sidewalk, he’s actually doing what everyone else in the city must do. He’s selling his labor to survive. Even as someone clearly let down by the capitalist system, he must still trade his talent for profit – thus perpetuating that same system.

    In the contemporary world, we’re all in a similar situation. What we understand as our creativity has been reduced to mere fuel for economic growth.

    The key message here is: Neoliberal capitalism has appropriated the concept of creativity.

    The concept of creativity has never been completely fixed. It has shifted and changed across time and space. In antiquity, creativity was a sacred power of the gods who could conjure whole new worlds. During the Enlightenment, creativity became an individual trait used by artists to communicate complex ideas or emotions – think playwrights, composers, and avant-garde painters.

    Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, creativity was redefined once again. These decades saw the entrenchment of neoliberalism, an ideology that posits society as an economic marketplace and people as rational, self-interested actors within that marketplace. As neoliberalism took hold in countries like the United States and the UK, more aspects of daily life became organized around this idea.

    So, how did this affect the concept of creativity? Well, for one, it stopped being a divine power or means of intimate expression. Under neoliberalism, creativity was recast as a tool every individual had to hone in order to be more economically valuable. Just think how often employers say they want workers who are “entrepreneurial.”

    This new concept of creativity has infiltrated our political discourse as well. In many Western countries, governments have rolled back regulations in the name of “encouraging innovation.” It’s even increasingly popular for right-wing politicians to deride traditional social services such as schools and hospitals as being insufficiently agile.

    In the following blinks, we’ll take a closer look at how creativity operates as a tool to maintain capitalism – and how it might be turned back into a force that can change the world for the better.

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    What is Against Creativity about?

    Against Creativity (2018) is a critical examination of the contemporary notion of creativity. This counterintuitive treatise proposes that the modern mandate to “be creative” might harbor hidden downsides.

    Best quote from Against Creativity

    Creativity is a distinctly neoliberal trait because it feeds the notion that the world and everything in it can be monetized.

    —Oli Mould
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    Who should read Against Creativity?

    • Workers tired of having to do more with less
    • Activists seeking real solutions to contemporary problems
    • Anyone interested in understanding the negatives of neoliberalism

    About the Author

    Oli Mould is a professor of Human Geography at the University of London. His previous work, Urban Subversion and the Creative City, examined the promise and limitations of contemporary social activist movements.

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