Without democracy, no true creativity

Finished reading: Against Creativity by Oli Mould 📚.

This is a critique of everything symbolised by Richard Florida’s Rise of the Creative Class (2002). Supposed individual flexibility, agility and dynamism are just a cover for the destruction of rights at work, leading to increased precarity. Capitalist creativity, in which everyone is supposed to see themself as a “creative”, is an attractive but empty rhetoric that increases the pressure to produce for exploitation. True creativity, on the other hand, involves “an emancipatory force of societal change” (p.46). The author points out that democratic governability is at best an afterthought, when it should be front and centre of consideration. “What if we asked one simple question before any new app, machine-learning algorithm, or smart city infrastructure were created: how can this be used and managed democratically?” (p.196).

The argument of this 2018 book is prescient in relation to the crisis of Twitter and the rise of Mastodon and the Fediverse in 2023. Could people really control their own communications channels, instead of letting petulent billionaires run everything (into the ground)? It’s too early to tell, but the signs are that there’s a new mood of discontent with “Big Social” and a search for more accountable alternatives. As Mould points out, the first step towards change is to start imagining how things could be different.

This book pairs well with Ariel Gore’s very different The Wayward Writer. Early on in this creative writing manual the author quotes Ursula Le Guin:

“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words.”

Writing Slowly @writingslowly