Against Creativity

My second monograph, ‘Against Creativity‘, was published in September 2018 by the excellent folk at Verso. It’s essentially a series of essays that pit the dominant narrative of creativity against the more subversive forms. Through the lenses of work, people, politics, technology and (of course) the city, I dissect how capitalism articulates creativity, but champion those who are going against that. There is a truncated view on Google Books. In 2019, it was translated into Spanish, Contra la Creatvidad.

Here is a video of a talk I did for Full Circle in Brussels on the book, in October 2018

This is the blurb from the publisher.

Everything you have been told about creativity is wrong.

From line managers, corporate CEOs, urban designers, teachers, politicians, mayors, advertisers and even our friends and family, the message is ‘be creative’. Creativity is heralded as the driving force of our contemporary society. It is celebrated as agile, progressive and liberating; the ideal paradigm of working in the knowledge economy. It shapes the cities we inhabit to encourage the wealth-generating ‘creative class’ to live and work there. It even defines our politics. What could possibly be wrong with this?

In this brilliant, counter-intuitive blast Against Creativity, Oli Mould demands that we rethink the story we are being sold. Behind the novelty, he shows that creativity is a barely hidden form of neoliberal appropriation. It is a regime that prioritizes individual success over collective flourishing. It refuses to recognize anything – job, place, person – that is not profitable. And impacts on everything around us: the places where we work, the way we are managed, how we spend our leisure time.

This version of creativity exposes every aspect of life to the market; is there an alternative? Mould offers a radical redefinition of creativity, one embedded in the idea of collective flourishing, outside the tyranny of profit. Bold, passionate and refreshing, Against Creativity, is a timely correction to the doctrine of our times.

Here are some endorsements from the academic world:

“For the past 20 years, creativity has been ubiquitous, an essential part of designs for office interiors, inner-city makeovers, and boosterish attempts by governments to redescribe precarious parts of their economies. It needs to be taken seriously—but it also, arguably, needs to be taken down. In this provocative, and often funny book, Oli Mould points up the absurdities of the creative economy, and some ways we might think beyond creativity.”

Prof Richard J Williams, University of Edinburgh

“It‘s [a] wonderful academic polemic that’s so informed with such a lightness of touch”

Dr Amanda Rogers, Swansea University

“There are few personal and collective traits that are prized more highly in neoliberal societies than ‘creativity’. In this powerful and well-aimed critique, Oli Mould lifts the veil on this ideology, to reveal a set of economic and political forces, pushing all of us to bend to the needs of capital.”

Dr Will Davies, Goldsmiths, University of London

“This book mixes personal experience and sharp sociological analysis in a highly entertaining takedown of one of today’s most important ideological tropes: creativity. Oli Mould takes the reader on a rather intimate tour behind the flashy scene of creative work, creative people, creative politics, creative technology and, of course, the creative city. Fortunately, he doesn’t leave us in the real dystopia we discover along the way but shows us that a truly creative world is possible.”

Prof Sebastian Olma, Avans University

I have some online articles that are related to the content of the book on OpenDemocracy and Jacobin. There is an extract of the Introduction on the Verso Books blog. Also, I argued in the ‘Debates’ section of the Autumn ’18 issue of the RA Magazine ‘against’ creativity (with Dean Keith Simonton arguing ‘for’).

The book has been reviewed in The Guardian, OpenDemocracyPop Matters, Real Life (which is built upon by e-flux), the Cleveland Review of Books, Il Manifesto (in Italian), Design Observer, the Chicago Review and the Morning Star. I talked about the book on the FreshEd, New Books Network, Critical Theory and Suite 212 podcasts.

I was also invited to discuss the book on Thinking Allowed on BBC Radio 4. The book is discussed at length on the Death//Sentence podcast as well as by Fernando Castro Flórez on his YouTube channel (in Spanish), and I have done Q&As with the Creative Review and the Huffington Post (again, in Spanish).

Here are some recordings of when I have spoken about in Full Circle in Brussels, for Statens Konstråd in Stockholm, at the University of Salford and in Macro in Rome. There was an unofficial launch of the book on 5 December at the Hoe Street Community Bank in Walthamstow (in conversation with Max Haiven).