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The Creativity Hoax: A seminar with Dr George Morgan

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Room GOR B02

43 Gordon Sq.

United Kingdom

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The Creativity Hoax

George Morgan

Visiting Fellow
Department of Geography, Birkbeck

Associate Professor
Institute for Culture and Society/
School of Humanities and Communication Arts
Western Sydney University
https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/ics/people/researchers/george_morgan

Policy makers often speak of creativity, knowledge and innovation as the keys to economic renewal and implore workers to nurture their intellectual and symbolic skills in order to adapt to the demands of the new economy. But workers’ fortunes depend not only on these skills but also on entrepreneurial acumen and vocational agility. New capitalism seeks to make a virtue of transience. It has taken up the counter-culture’s critique of the Fordist job-for-life, in order to persuade young people in particular that careers are (and should be) episodic and project-based. The precariat must embrace the idea of the improvised post-modern career - a wild vocational ride that unfolds like the levels of a video game. They must become labile labour: opportunistic, excitable, flexible, mobile and ready to flow without protest or friction into the spaces opened up by Post-Fordism. Those who resist or ignore this turbulence and cling to the goal of security are in effect sleepwalking towards redundancy. Creativity has become a neo-liberal idiom for reorganizing work and working life in ways that erode communal bonds, loyalties and values and blur the boundaries between work and play, public and private.

Yet despite this, the creative economy remains a largely unrealized project, and much work performed in the West remains low-skilled and low-paid. Very few make a living exclusively from creative labour whether as employees, freelancers, or entrepreneurs. For the most part transnational cultural corporations reap the patentable or copyrightable bounty, belying the egalitarian myths of the new economy. The challenge for capital then is to habituate the precariat to the condition of abeyance, and to persuade young workers in particular to tolerate un/underemployment or jobs where skills and talents are underutilized (retail, hospitality or on the edges of creative industries), and that vocational fulfilment and financial security are attainable. This seminar draws on interviews with creative aspirants – from technical, production and performance fields – who wrestle with the prospect and reality of poverty and unfulfilled ambition. It contributes to the growing scholarship arguing that the new economy accentuates pre-existing social divisions and power rather than providing a springboard for social mobility.

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