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MyCreativity Reader

visible impact on the self-description of the creators themselves. A significant amount of those people working in the applied arts would not define themselves as part of the creative industries, but as graphic designers, fashion designers and so on, or according to the different artistic fields that shape education, professional representation, social security, the tax system, etc. In addition, the respective intrinsic systems of quality and reputation play a crucial role. These institutions still define the field, as opposed to some more or less adequately designed funding programs. The creative class remains wishful thinking for policy-makers influenced by Richard Florida. However, there are some exceptions to this general assessment. In Vienna three centres for small enterprises and self-employed artists working in the creative industries have been recently founded without public support and the people there define themselves as creative entrepreneurs.17 In a way, this self-understanding can be understood as a revival of the ideas of socio-cultural work in the 1970s – autonomy in organising one’s own working conditions without any dependence of the state – although the market orientation of this creative conceptualisation goes against the grain of traditional political autonomist theory. In any case, both socio-cultural approaches and the economic idea of commercially successful creative entrepreneurs are equally based on a rejection of the idea of ‘autonomous’ art. The former see themselves as part of a left movement (though fuzzily defined), while the latter focus on their role in the ‘normal economy’. As the autonomy of the arts can also be interpreted as a chance for political and social critique (and is used in this way by contemporary artists and art theorists), the rejection of this notion potentially undermines the critical possibilities of creative work. On the other hand, the rejection of the genius-concept can also be read as broadening or democratising the concept of creativity itself. However, while this held true in a substantial way for socio-cultural institutions regarding the position of women, this notion is far less contested throughout the creative industries. Indeed, the precarious situation of creatives is especially problematic for women, who have traditionally been responsible for all manner of unpaid care work. What Has to Be Done? The notion of the creative industries contributes to confusion rather than clarification and should, therefore, either be avoided or specifically defined with regard to the concrete questions we are dealing with. On the level of general political discourse, it seems paramount to dismantle the political aims of the creativity hype that mainly consists of reducing state activities, enhancing a general market orientation, shifting the responsibility for social welfare from the state to individuals and testing disciplinary tools in flexible knowledge-centred labour markets. However, when it comes to proposing positive measures that can be developed out of this analysis, the claim for a return to the social-democratic welfare state in its strong and paternalistic form seems questionable. This is due not only to the empirical difficulties of such a return but also because an all-inclusive labour market of this type can hardly be envisaged from a normative perspective. Even in the heyday of the welfare state, regular full-time employment was predominantly a privilege of white male citizens. More importantly, the

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a critique of creative industries


welfare state also meant a high degree of state intervention into the working and living conditions of individuals; a limitation of individual responsibility and freedom that does not currently seem desirable. The demand for self-defined working conditions developed in the socio-cultural movement of the 1970s should not be buried together with many other political claims of the past. After all, this claim seems to be a common interest of people working in the creative industries, even while the desire for independence is becoming instrumentalised by the flexibilisation discourse. However, it also does not seem viable or desirable to renounce every form of state responsibility, i.e. the responsibility for all members of a society. Thus, the system of social security has to be organised in such a way that warrants social security as a general basic income (obviously, there are many unsolved questions with regard to such a basic income, such as its amount and potential recipients). Another crucial step to improve the economic situation of creators is a radical reform of the intellectual property system, including a model that directs the payment flow to the original copyright holders rather than towards an intermediary industry. Apart from this general social responsibility, however, it seems worthwhile to think of forms of self-organisation rather than top-down state institutions. For instance, minimum fees for certain services could be regulated independently, as well as insurances for times of low or no income. Even loans for investments could be self-organised. The centres for the creative industries that were recently founded in Vienna could become a starting point of associations to develop other forms of cooperation and self-organisation through sharing a common infrastructure as well as developing synergy effects. Public support might be necessary at certain points of this development, or even constantly, but should not be combined with public control beyond a necessary minimum. Self-organisation requires self-reflection and solidarity. In this sense, the discursive hype around creativity could help to enhance self-organisation within the field of the creative industries and, perhaps, lead to broader forms of solidarity and the definition of more general political aims. Discourses on precarious living and working conditions offer a forum for political activity beyond the field of the creative industries, however, this discourse has not currently reached Austrian creators. This is probably not only due to their apolitical attitude (although this is a factor too), but also because the claims of this discourse (as represented in the Mayday movement, for example) are too general to apply to their concrete living and working conditions. Above all, one has to differentiate between forms of flexibilisation that are clearly a means to exploit people who cannot defend themselves, and a flexibilisation that is, at least partly, desired by creatives themselves. If workers in the creative industries developed their own definitional concepts for their lives (as it has been done by the intermittents du spectacle in France), the possibilities for and limitations of solidarity could be defined. Indeed, it could be especially fruitful to develop discursive contexts with critical artists that reflect the living and working conditions in contemporary societies. And, obviously, an awareness of the broader global context would be required to compare national situations in the creative industries and to develop common strategies. At present, the international hype around creativity has reached the Austrian political system, but not those effected by this policy hype. The same holds true for critical discourses on this subject. It seems paramount for this discourse to step out of the realms of critical theory and art, and to begin to include those we are speaking about.

Profile for Ned Rossiter

MyCreativity Reader: A Critique of Creative Industries  

Edited by Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter. Published by Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam, 2007.

MyCreativity Reader: A Critique of Creative Industries  

Edited by Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter. Published by Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam, 2007.