Creativity, Genealogy, Capitalism


It is frequently maintained – by politicians, public policy-makers, entrepreneurs and educationalists, among others – that creativity is a wholly desirable and positive attribute. Implicit in this claim is the notion that creativity is also an ideologically neutral attribute. Creativity is seen to exist beyond ideology and politics, and even beyond history. Drawing on the histories of education, industry and the arts, this paper traces the ideological contours of the creative idea across the long nineteenth century. It argues that the creative idea is better understood as part of a historical process via which the market depends upon and produces a mode of economic life grounded in individual capacity – in short, as a product of the particular character of economic relations under capitalism. It is therefore unsurprising that creativity as it has been articulated into principles for organising the self and the self’s experience of the world — that is, creativity as a form of educational practice in relation to ourselves — has become the ground of the imperatives of government. There is a pressing need to investigate the relations between creativity and power and freedom – and how we have come to act towards ourselves in terms of a certain notion of creativity.




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