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Against Creativity

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  288 ratings  ·  40 reviews
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, celebrated as agile, progressive and liberating. It is the spring of the knowledge econo
256 pages
Published September 25th 2018 by Verso
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May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had to read this book, well, not literally, but once I had read the title, it became urgent. In part, this was out of a kind of perverse sense of pleasure. There are lots of books that essentially do this - they take a topic that everyone just assumes is unequivocally good - you know, motherhood, apply pie, giving a list of three examples - and then tells you all the things that are bad about that generally assumed good thing. The best part of this is that as a reader I then come to these book ...more
Robert Maisey
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Against Creativity has a fine idea at its core - one that would have made an excellent long format essay or article - but sadly not a particularly good book. Even a relatively short book like this one.

The idea is thus; creativity is the act of making something new, but under the conditions of capitalism, creativity is co-opted to simply reproduce more of what the market wants and expand the sphere of the already existing power structures. Instead of creating new ways of being and seeing, it crea
Cathie Thurgate
Against Creativity argues that 'creativity' has been subsumed into Capitalism, and is now merely used as a tool to further the same neo-liberal status quo. Each chapter covers a different facet of life - politics, architecture, technology - showing how the term creativity has lost any revolutionary power or any power to create something actually different, and instead we are pressurised to bring creativity into every detail of our lives - to be 'creative' with our time to get more done at work w ...more
Supriyo Chaudhuri
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a powerfully argued tract against commercialised creativity, which de-socialises the creative process and privileges consumption above everything else. There are good parts of the book - the section on technology is among them - and not so good parts, which reads more like an academic paper. And, as with other books like this, the attempts to outline a solution, of building creative resistance, appears optimistic and strained, compared to the eloquent description of the pervasiveness of ...more
Sep 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
A really good book that illustrates the way capitalism has commodified the idea of creativity and this can be see essentially every job posting these days. He goes through the way capitalist creativity and the creative class has effects on advertising, politics, work, technology, and, most interesting to me, housing and the city. It's a fairly quick read but worth it. ...more
Scott Folsom
Jan 01, 2019 rated it liked it
This is the response to Florida that I needed in 2014 when I was taking an educational technology course and had to read him. There's one quibble I have, and it's with his discursive intervention into disability studies with the figure of the "diffabled". I'm of two minds about it, both of them disapproving. First, the broader disability studies community tends to have taken the political decision that disability exists as a political class and that the label itself is value neutral, and ...more
Joel Adams
Dec 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
// excellent critique of neoliberal discourse on contemporary “creativity”
Somewhere along the line, creativity became safe, became mundane, became ordinary. Its ubiquity is at odds with the equally dangerous myths of creative genius – of the individual ‘superman’ (and those lionised are almost always men) with great insight and the drive to impose their will on their culture, their environment, their people. It’s a requirement in job descriptions from entry level to executive/leadership; it’s a fundamental part of business development; it’s the heart of urban regenera ...more
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A very accurate critique of creativity as a tool of capitalism and an unlikely missing point in the neoliberal agenda. Oli Mould sheds light on all the modern day phenomena that you couldn't help but feel weird about, but couldn't quite pinpoint the connection between. Gentrification, artwashing, co-working spaces, Silicon valley style startups as well as Richard Florida's creative class all get well-deserved attention here. A really good read that once again proves that we have nothing to lose ...more
Feb 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
3.75 stars
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Oli Mould's main thesis is that creativity as we know it today under Capitalism, is so unlike the creativity we think we know. He explores the spaces of work, people, politics, technology, and the city to excavate examples, and to suggest a radical kind of creativity that destabilizes what Capitalism tries to build through its version. Along the way, Mould helps define what neoliberal ideology is, and how it uses creativity to marginalize, gentrify, speed up work, keep political control from the ...more
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
An interesting read with a central view that creativity is being harnessed by capitalism, something that generally agree with. There are some good examples in the book to help illustrate the points made, and much of it is thought-provoking, but I found the conclusion section a bit disappointing in that it was presented as ‘six impossible things to believe before breakfast’ (after a line from Alice in Wonderland), which to be honest, did seem quite impossible in some cases, so not very encouragin ...more
florence baxter
Oct 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favourites
doesn't get five stars to make it amazing solely because i feel like he definitely could've (and probably should've) gone into more depth about what to do next, and how to actually 'stop' this neoliberal bullshit; he kinda just glazed over that at the end and idk if he purposely discussed this on such a level as to not offend anyone or like outwardly talk about supporting marxism etc but anyway he should've lol but overall just a book of truth and an important read to start the discussion ...more
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favourites
I really liked this. It did get boring towards the end but other than that I would recommend this book.
Austin Lim
Dec 28, 2019 rated it liked it
The book's basic premise is that "Contemporary capitalism has commandeered creativity to ensure its own growth and maintain the centralisation and monetisation of what it generates." Each chapter looks at how capitalist creativity manifests itself in different places—politics, work, the city, etc. Mould does a good job showing how creativity masks austerity, gentrification, competition, and other deleterious effects of neoliberalism. (I wished, though, that he'd spent more time on specific case ...more
Oct 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
A layman's look at how 'creativity' as a communal notion was co-opted by ideas like the Enlightenment, capitalism, and neoliberalism to become a method of maintaining and crafting the status quo, gain profit, and promote the individual (as opposed to the community).

Explores these themes through such concepts as the self/people, politics, technology, and the like.

A decent analysis of how subversive concepts, people, movements, or creations can become co-opted and used by the very systems they at
Mohammad Ashori
If you are reading this book because of the title or the summary description of its content you might be disappointed. The author didn't offer a "radical redefinition" of creativity as the book claimed. It's a rather difficult book to get through and I am writing this review after reviewing my notes in the book.
I am not sure I walked away from this book learning anything new or with a new understanding of the obfuscation of creativity. There were a lot of examples and arguments provided to make
Jan 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
As a visual artist and designer, I really vibe with where this book started, and had my horizons significantly broadened by where it went. The logic of neoliberalism consumes all, and the expectation to monetize every piece is strong-- so strong, that I originally wrote "product" in this sentence, and that's a pretty telling slip. Mould's main thesis is that it's been a political project to redefine "creativity" as an act that serves capital in an atomized, non-collaborative way the reinforces m ...more
Dec 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: perspective
The author has a compelling central argument that tethers the book together; that modern "creativity" has been largely co-opted as a tool for capital. And while his thesis may be largely apt and fascinating, there are times throughout the book where his examples and concepts could have been more concretely based on lived experiences and research. For example, the author makes large and sweeping statements about the anti-capitalist potential of 3D printing. Yet the fundamental economics of the pr ...more
Nick Jones
Nov 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Wish I had read this while I was in advertising. Would’ve loved it when I was 25 and angsty. The argument is less controversial than the title. Creativity has been privatized. Exploited by industry, subsidized by gentrification, and now expected to brainstorm their way out of consolidation-fueled budget constraints, the artist has become the unwitting workhorse of its sworn enemy the capitalist. After setting a sad scene with solid examples the book ends without offering a viable remedy. Artists ...more
Thomas Andrew
Jan 12, 2019 rated it liked it
I came into this book expecting to read some searing criticism of art, music, and other "creative industries." While this featured into the analysis, it feels a bit like a shallower version of the magnus opus of Boltanski and Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism.

It's well written and a great intro to the precarious nature of neoliberalism. But, I felt it's use of the term "creativity" a bit stretched. It pulls all kinds of managerial feudalistic tendencies into it including "disruptive" work
Conor Wilson
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
In many ways, this is the critique of Richard Florida's deeply problematic ideas outlined in his 2002 book 'the rise of the Creative Class'. Mould does a fantastic job of subverting how we conceive and deploy the language of creativity in our everyday life. Creativity, for Mould, is inextricable from the broader economic processes which govern our everyday life; neo-liberal capitalism. As such, creativity has been co-opted and appropriated, and used to serve market forces, with often devastating ...more
Apr 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Have I just become bored by anti capitalist writing because I don’t need to be convinced? I’ve seen feminist takes on this subject that I find more accessible and intersectional (Kelly Diels is one feminist business coach that writes beautifully on the subject, or Kerri Kelly has a more strident voice). This is fine, it does take on cultural appropriation and the algorithm and artwashing and ableism very competently. But I also felt totally uninspired to do anything but not participate. (Could b ...more
Vuk Trifkovic
Jan 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Starts off sharply, but tricky to sustain the pace. Very good analysis of the problem, and it's a bit trickier to follow up on it. Particularly as a lot of problems were mediated through technology, which author gets, but is not quite living in the same way that, say Greenfield was. The avenue of exploring diffability is very intriguing though.

All in all, would recommend for wide reading, but perhaps just short of that four *.
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As a freelance copywriter and someone 100% entrenched in the creative economy, Moulds discussion on how creativity has become solely consumptive was exactly what I needed.
How is creativity being used as a tool, instead of a power?
How can we begin to rethink and challenge the ideal of “flexibility?”
Where is radical creative thought being assimilated into the capitalist system?
A must read for anyone in the creative field: writers, designers, illustrators, photographers, videographers...
Seymour Millen
I'm not sure the rubric of creativity covers everything the author finds distasteful about the last 10 years. The concept is stretched to accommodate far too much and so has to avoid a lot of scrutiny to avoid snapping entirely. If the author wants to criticize gentrification and art-washing, so far so good: what that actually has in common with the social media industry's use of algorithms is not convincing. Half marks, rounded up for effort. ...more
Dec 18, 2020 added it
This is six months on, but I remember wishing this was a better book than it was. In theory, it dismantles the corporatized, commodified “creativity” that’s become a catchword since the 2000s. In practice, chapter after chapter this book clung to anecdotal evidence which worked as illustration but never really drove the arguments home. For me the lingering takeaway was the critique of Richard Florida’s “creative class,” but maybe that’s because I’ve read those critiques elsewhere and often.
Mar 03, 2019 rated it liked it
The book asks the right questions about the misappropriation of creativity for monetary gain. However, the argumentation fails to convince over the length of a book. An essay might have been ample enough. The repetitious examples and arguments. Did enjoy the chapter on art's role in gentrification though! ...more
Sam Jones
This is a book that perhaps would have been better as an essay. Despite occasionally clunky writing, the chapters on creativity in contemporary politics and urban planning/gentrification provided plenty of food for thought. I'll certainly be thinking about the ways that I can prioritize the impossible over the relentless certainty of capitalism in the coming weeks and months. ...more
Gabriel Fockler
Aug 01, 2020 rated it did not like it
I found it incredibly boring and gave up halfway through. It feels like a collection of essays for grad school, with a pretty thin connective tissue. It feels like the entire book could have been condensed into a single entry in "keywords of capitalism."

I do agree with the general point of the book, i just found it very dull to read.
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Oli Mould is Lecturer in Human Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London. His work focuses on issues of urban activism, social theory and creative resistance. He is the author of Urban Subversion and the Creative City and blogs at

aka Oliver Mould

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