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'An aphorism, properly stamped and molded, has not been "deciphered" when it has simply been read; rather one has then to begin its interpretation, for which is required an art of interpretation.' -- Nietzsche, 'On the Genealogy of Morals'

questioning the creative industry discourse « Previous | |Next »
May 5, 2011

The creative industry discourse is positive in that it does indeed expand the opportunities for many young people in fields of great interest, e.g. visual arts, media, design, popular music, performance studies, etc. And, in addition, there has long been a tradition of radicalism and critical thinking as well as politicisation in the arts and in culture in general.

Angela McRobbie argues in Variant (issue 41, Spring 2011) that the ‘creative industry’ argument re the importance of the talent-led economy is a form ‘cultural neo-liberalism’. In the remaining social democratic provision in the form of arts education and training is transformed through a new rhetoric to become a space for producing young people who are to be ‘entrepreneurs of the self’ just as Foucault predicted in his mid-1970s lectures.

The creative industry argument is premised on the promotion of creativity. The emphasis on ‘pleasure in work’, the idea of finding yourself in creative practice, appeals to all of our own narcissistic and private desires, that somehow under the right conditions we will plug into a core of talent that will relieve us of the burden of wage labour, a tedious job or unrewarding work. McRobbie comments that:

such a call can be a profoundly effective form of new disciplinarity, a technology of the self as Jacques Donzelot argued. We are increasingly required to ‘be creative’. We are expected to tap into our own inner resources and to find a way of using our talents. Indeed not to do so will increasingly be seen as a source of chastisement or even penalty. New subtle forms of cultural capital begin to appear; a creative elite who are able to take advantage of the support on offer from what was New Labour, and the others, who for whatever reasons resist this call, become instead reliant on a normal job and who are then in some ways social if not economic failures because on the party circuit of ‘network of sociality’ they do not have an interesting creative job to talk about

She adds that in recent years there is a requirement to have a working identity which is interesting, even fascinating. For young people this becomes part of their own self-identity, their value in the social world.

I am referring largely to those young people who are being trained in the arts and cultural and humanities fields. Many of them in the past would have gravitated to jobs which were socially valuable, if unexceptional, but the ‘dividing practices’ which accompany the intense processes of individualisation mean that in work, the person is called upon to be unique, and as a result this means pursuing jobs which appear to be more attractive, even if they have no rights and require long hours.
She says that her main point main point is that the dominant vocabulary for undertaking creative work under the auspices of neo-liberalism is one which shuns ‘old’ ideas such as protection and entitlement, and favours instead self reliance, ambition, competition and ‘talent’. The push was really to move the burden of workplace protection and security away from the ‘employers’ and onto the shoulders of the individual freelance person. A cultural agenda for encouraging new forms of work was at the same time a symbolic gesture to employers indicating a commitment to lowering their costs of labour.

With the emergence of the politics of austerity be a significant decrease in resources across the world of arts and culture, including education and training. McRobbie says that we will soon look back at the 1997-2007 decade as one where the state mobilises substantial resources to support a neo-liberalisation effect in the creative sector. Structural under-employment and the normalisation of under-employment is here to stay

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:46 AM |