Oli Mould https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/17373/all cached version 17/01/2019 12:35:13 en Does “being creative” just mean maintaining the status quo? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/oli-mould/does-being-creative-just-mean-maintaining-status-quo <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Whether it’s Theresa May lecturing EU leaders, or bosses lecturing employees, it seems everyone’s being urged to be more creative these days. Meanwhile true creativity is marginalised.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/grow heathrow.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/grow heathrow.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="380" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Grow Heathrow. But this isn't the kind of creativity that our leaders and bosses are urging. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/transitionheathrow/6979349077">Transition Heathrow</a>.</em></p><p>On Friday, Theresa May gave a hastily put-together and rather terse speech&nbsp;doubling-down on her recent position that it’s the EU to blame for the ‘impasse’ as she described, in the negotiations. Yet only a year ago, her Florence speech made numerous references to conciliation and cooperation, and notably how the EU should be ‘creative’ in its attempts to find a deal with the UK. The Prime Minister didn’t actually give much detail as to what she meant by ‘creative’, but then again, she didn’t have to. We all knew what she meant right? By simply invoking that most caustic of c words, she was drawing on the tacit understanding that by being creative, you are being inventive, hard working, and generally trying to achieve the best results. &nbsp;</p> <p>This is because we are <em>constantly</em> told to be creative. In work, at home, by our bosses, teachers and yes, even by our leading politicians – we are urged to think creatively and, it’s implied, untold innovations and riches will follow. </p> <p>But what does it mean to be creative? <em>Really</em> creative? Moreover, what actually is it that is being created?</p> <p>When our bosses tell us to be creative in the workplace, what they are really saying to us is to be more <em>productive</em>. Creativity in our working lives involves coming up with a new product that can be sold, a new service to offer, or finding ‘efficiency’ savings in production (which more often than not translates into job losses). Often, being ‘creative’ at work involves being more adaptable, working longer hours or even foregoing a secure contract for an alternative ‘flexible’ working arrangement, or perhaps even seeing your work ‘outsourced’. </p> <p>When tech companies build ‘creative’ products that supposedly ‘disrupt’ traditional business models, what they are really doing is making us all more addicted to their machines. And the recent <a href="https://twitter.com/Channel4News/status/1039833924443230208">backlash</a> against the labour practices of the ‘gig economy’ comes from exploitative models that deliver <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/feb/07/death-dpd-courier-don-lane-tragedy-business-secretary">below minimum wage work</a> and precarious <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/26/gig-economy-flexibility-exploitation-record-employment-low-wages-zero-hours">zero-hour contracting</a>. While this may well be championed as providing flexible working arrangements, such benefits are only really enjoyed by those already secure enough to take on such precarious work. Being creative therefore is nothing more than simply working towards increasing the bottom line.</p> <p>We are bombarded with how-to guides, Ted Talks and self-help books that all claim to show us how to be more ‘creative’ and perhaps emulate the multi-billionaires of this world by coming up with an original idea. For example the US psychologist <a href="https://www.ted.com/talks/adam_grant_the_surprising_habits_of_original_thinkers">Adam Grant</a> tells us that these ‘originals’ (giving the example of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs) procrastinate a bit, aren’t always the first ones to implement the idea, and actually have a back catalogue of distinctly average ideas. Yet, by following in their footsteps, perhaps we too can harness our inner creativity to create a world-changing product. </p> <p>But what is never articulated in these narratives is the context in which these ‘originals’ occur. They are typically white, educated in elite institutions, and/or have <a href="http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hy-musk-subsidies-20150531-story.html">received huge grants</a> or <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/02/how-jeff-bezos-got-his-parents-to-invest-in-amazon--turning-them-into.html">parental help</a>. Not to mention that the end goal of all of these creativity evangelists is to produce more stuff, more ‘growth’, economic or otherwise.</p> <p>And in politics, when leaders like Theresa May tell us to ‘be creative’, what they are really telling us is to do more of the things that governments used to do, for ourselves. Austerity politics in the UK has exposed this form of ‘creativity’ for over a decade now. As central government continues to slash funding for public services (from the police to public libraries), the accompanying rhetoric is to ‘do more with less’, or in other words, be creative with what you already have. But such policies can have <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/10/austerity-health-cuts-healthcare-poorest-tories">hugely detrimental</a>, if not <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/06/duncan-smith-death-michael-o-sullivan-work-capability-assessments">fatal</a> results for those dependent on funding for everyday survival. </p> <p>After the financial crash of 2008, caused by the lack of proper regulation on so-called ‘casino banking’, the banks were bailed out to the tune of <a href="https://hbr.org/2010/01/vision-statement-a-map-to-healthy-and-ailing-markets">US$3.6 trillion globally</a>. Yet the response to this has been further deregulation of banking services, justified by the rhetoric of creativity and entrepreneurship. </p> <p>So what is really meant by being creative is maintaining the current status quo of capitalist accumulation under neoliberalism. It stems in part from what the Marxist economist Joseph Schumpeter in the ‘50s called ‘<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_destruction">creative destruction</a>’, the idea that for capitalism to create, it must first destroy. These days, being creative as it is currently understood is little more than a pseudonym for more of the same – more precarious labour models, more unravelling of social bonds, more selfishness, more austerity, and more income inequality. </p> <h2>A better vision of creativity</h2> <p>So what does it <em>actually</em> mean to be creative? What about all those people who are creating entire social and economic systems that don’t fit this narrative? There are myriad examples. In Argentina, we’ve seen the <em><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/mar/10/occupy-buenos-aires-argentina-workers-cooperative-movement">recuperadas</a></em> working co-operative that fired their bosses to create a more equal working environment. Closer to home in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/23/hoe-street-central-bank-walthamstow-london-debt">Walthamstow</a>, there are artist collectives printing their own money to pay off the crippling debts of local residents. Self-build communities, like <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/sep/16/anarchism-community-walter-segal-self-build-south-london-estate">Walters Way in Lewisham</a>, are real alternatives to the housing crisis. </p> <p>And even more creative than that, there are eco-squats that have created entirely self-sufficient societies, such as <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/29/grow-heathrow-runway-protest-community-given-14-days-to-leave-site">Grow Heathrow</a>. They produce their own food, energy and entertainment, and recycle everything including their own waste. </p> <p>Yet all of these movements and organisations are not included in the ‘official’ creativity rhetoric. In fact they are actively marginalised and destroyed. The Argentinian co-operatives are being dismantled by the new right-wing president. Self-build housing estates are under pressure from developers. Grow Heathrow is constantly under the threat of eviction. And the continued criminalisation of squatting makes alternative, radical living models increasingly difficult. </p> <p>And what of creative people? Are the tech entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley really pushing the boundaries of creativity? What about disabled people who are creating entirely new experiences of the world? People who are deaf, blind, or bipolar, for example, are experiencing the world in radically different and creative ways. Take synaesthesia for example – a condition in which the senses are fused, and people can see music or hear colour. People with synaesthesia include the musicians Pharrell Williams, Tori Amos and the artist <a href="https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/gyxq73/melissa-mccracken-synesthesia-painter-interview">Melissa McCraken</a>. They are using their different perceptions of the world to create artistic interpretations of a world the rest of us will never be able to experience. </p> <p>Yes, these experiences are bought and sold, but they stem from people who have a radical interpretation of the world. Disabled people glimpse parts of the world others do not, they show us new experiences and emotions that otherwise would not exist. Is that not really what it is to be creative? Rather than placing them at the margins of society, cutting their benefits and excluding them from our public spaces with hostile architectures and austerity politics, they should be at the forefront of society, showing the rest of us what experiences there are to be had in this world. </p> <p>We face multiple omnicidal threats in this tumultuous world – planetary environmental catastrophe, the re-emergence of institutionalised fascism, and technological dystopia. In order to think through these problems, we can’t just think ‘creatively’, we first need to radically rethink what it means to be creative in the first place.</p><div><em>Oli Mould's new book&nbsp;</em><a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2852-against-creativity" target="_blank">Against Creativity</a>&nbsp;is<em>&nbsp;published by Verso on 25 September, and Oli will be speaking about it at&nbsp;</em><a href="http://www.foyles.co.uk/Public/Events/Detail.aspx?eventId=3763" target="_blank">Foyles in London</a><em>&nbsp;on Thursday 27 September 7pm.</em></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/oli-mould/what-do-we-talk-about-when-we-talk-about-creativity">What do we talk about when we talk about creativity?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Oli Mould Fri, 21 Sep 2018 14:52:49 +0000 Oli Mould 119773 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why culture competitions and 'artwashing' drive urban inequality https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/oli-mould/why-culture-competitions-and-artwashing-drive-urban-inequality <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>From Los Angeles to Liverpool to the new London competition, 'creative cities' policies are designed to soften gentrification's hard edges, never asking 'culture for <em>who</em>?'</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/balfron couple.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/balfron couple.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Sascha Pohflepp/Flickr, Creative Commons.</em></p><p>This summer, London's mayor Sadiq Khan launched the <a href="https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/arts-and-culture/apply-become-london-borough-culture?source=vanityurl">'London Borough of Culture Competition</a>'. Celebrating London as the 'cultural capital of the world' the 32 boroughs in London now have the chance to compete for £1m of arts funding by showcasing their creativity, originality and character. </p> <p><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/sep/06/what-makes-a-creative-city?CMP=share_btn_tw">Last week</a> the Guardian proclaimed that competitions like Khan’s creates “socially relevant, resilient, sustainable and equitable future-proofed culture”. </p> <p>The narrative of the ‘creative city’ – first coined by <a href="https://www.demos.co.uk/files/thecreativecity.pdf">Charles Landry and Franco Bianchini for Demos in 1995</a> – simply won’t go away. It’s been a kernel of urban development discourse, one that uses ‘creativity’ and ‘culture’ as tools of economic growth. </p> <p>But this complete genuflection to creativity and culture as an uncomplicated and neutral form of urban development (read gentrification) obscures one vital question. The question that is never asked by these hyped-up competitions and accompanying obeisant literature, is “culture for <em>who”</em>?</p> <p>Critiques (<a href="http://www.tacity.co.uk/book">my own included</a>) have argued for decades that the policy has given new clothes to gentrification, inequality, social cleansing and the destruction of people’s livelihoods. Perhaps equally as damaging, it has mobilised the complex notion of <em>culture</em> for purely economic means.</p> <p>Khan’s competition has been modelled on the success of the UK City of Culture competition (currently held by Hull), itself inspired by Liverpool’s 2008 award of the European Capital of Culture title. Both competitions have been designed to foreground how culture can be ‘showcased’ as a means of celebrating a city’s diversity, culture, creativity and civic pride. </p> <p>However scholars have <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09548963.2012.674749">argued</a> consistently that the EU and the UK’s competitions are vehicles of urban development and infrastructure programs. Building on its 2008 European Capital of Culture award, Liverpool created a ‘model’ of urban development based around cultural development, which aimed to be replicable in other cities. The huge boost in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2009/jan/07/british-capital-of-culture">tourism</a> and to the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2010/mar/11/liverpool-profited-from-being-culture-capital">local economy</a> convinced the then New Labour administration to replicate the competition in the form of the UK City of Culture competition.</p> <p>Lately and perhaps more nefariously, the ‘creative city’ policy narrative has been given a shot in the arm by the process of ‘artwashing’. As the researcher and activist Stephen Pritchard has argued, it is a process that uses artistic practices unwittingly (or not) in the service of private capital. It is the deliberate use of art as a tool to make a place more ‘amenable’ for private capital and the aesthetics that it currently desires. </p> <p>A now classic example is the <a href="https://50percentbalfron.tumblr.com/post/160510324794/balfron-tower-the-artwash-of-an-icon-by-rab">Balfron Tower in East London</a>. Over the course of nearly a decade, it has been lusted over by developers for its now kitsch brutalist style, proximity to Canary Wharf and its panoramic views over the city. These developers, the housing association and the council have all conspired to use artists and artistic institutions to dress the place up as somewhere desirable for the elite. Community projects, all-night ‘immersive’ Shakespeare performances and street art are just a few of the practices that have been funded, with the goal of making it a cool, funky and bohemian place; the kind of place that cannot help but be gentrified. </p> <p><a href="http://colouringinculture.org/blog/artwashingsocialcapitalantigentrification">For Pritchard</a>, artwashing “turn[s] the benign into the terrible; interpersonal relationships and dynamics into global statistics and generic standards; people reduced to little contributions to the financial bottom line”. Artwashing therefore is the deliberate use of arts and culture to secure future profitable gain rather than social inclusion or commentary. It is the mobilisation of artistic creativity completely devoid of its subjective, complicated and politically-charged context. </p> <p><a href="http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/miranda/la-et-cam-art-gentrification-boyle-heights-20161014-snap-story.html">Boyle Heights</a> in Los Angeles is another area undergoing artwashing, but in this case the local community is fighting back, hard. A predominantly Latino community, they have seen many of the recent gallery openings as an attack on their way of life. Very quickly they have organised protests, which have been very noisy, militant and sometimes downright filthy in their activism (even throwing faeces as a gallery window). The resistance groups’ demands are relatively simple. Demanding needle exchanges, Laundromats and affordable housing instead of art galleries doesn’t seem unreasonable, but of course, that doesn’t fit with the current creative city development agenda.</p> <p>Artwashing then is when private capital, and those State institutions that smooth its application, act collaboratively to soften the image of demolition or ‘decanting’ poorer tenants and residents by mobilising an artistic front that prepares the ground for future ‘redevelopment’. And it is happening because of the persistent popularity of the creative city model. Despite continuing scholarship exposing its gentrifying qualities, this model continues to be wheeled out as a policy of urban renewal, as this week’s Guardian article demonstrates. &nbsp;</p> <p>Local cultures, and how they contribute to the construction of a ‘global’ city, are made, unmade and remade constantly by communities. Artwashing, cultural competitions and the many other policies of creative city development foreground a particular kind of culture; one that is more about consuming the latest fads (be that <a href="http://www.eastlondonlines.co.uk/2015/11/boxpark-apologises-for-all-white-croydon-advertisements/">pop-up retail</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/cereal-killer-cafe-attack-whos-wrong-and-whos-right-in-the-great-gentrification-battle-48293">cereal cafés</a>, or <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-36630113">urban theme park rides</a>) than actual urban citizenship. </p> <p>At Boyle Heights, the resistance of many of the local groups to artwashing has been predicated upon their cultural predispositions toward activism, protest and fierce protection of their own way of life. It is seen as militant and rather indiscriminate at times, but it is part of their <em>culture</em>. In Balfron (and indeed many other council estates across the UK), the working class culture is being admonished; all because they have the temerity to occupy a building that has stunning views. The culture of these marginalised groups often goes unrewarded by the ‘creative city’ narratives, yet they are far more ‘cultural’ in that they represent the day-to-day life of the city’s citizens. </p> <p>Khan’s competition, on the surface, is a welcome source of funds to allow councils to invest in local cultural events that will benefit communities and celebrate this day-to-day citizenry. However this must be seen in the broader landscape of London’s desperate public sector funding situation. For example, the chronic housing crisis (that the recent film ‘<a href="https://www.dispossessionfilm.com/">Dispossession</a>’ so acutely details) is evidence of how London’s councils are allowing private real estate developers to completely destroy local amenities and social housing stocks, all for the promise of more housing for residents (which of course, never materialises). The desire for affordable homes for all Londoners should really be taking preference over which council can put on the best cultural festival. Culture is a slippery concept in this regard. It is broad enough for it to be universally positive in its application (who could really not want cultural provisions?), but such breadth allows too much room for corporate agendas to use it simply to mobilise private capital. </p> <p>Artwashing techniques, Cultural Borough competitions or continent wide urban renewal programs; they all use the tired platitudes of 'culture', 'creativity', 'originality' and 'innovation' that should by now act as red flags of a deeper process of making culture fit an economic and market narrative. A narrative in which culture is emptied of its nuances, contradictions and indeed its humanity, all for the purposes of lining the pockets of developers and the politicians who placate them. </p> <p>Culture does indeed have the ability to transform lives, build friendships, tell new stories and write new histories. But to wrap this up in a narrative that is designed to find new ways of implementing financial investment that has a proven track record of harming local communities is pernicious at best. All it does is create a competitive milieu that forces local communities (who are already on their knees due to gentrification and political disavowal) to fight it out for table scraps. At a time of political turmoil, social unrest, a chronic housing crisis and public sector decimation, culture should be utilised as a way to forge new alliances, social movements and collectives to push against these ills. Culture is not something to be used to maintain the status quo, it is an instrument for change. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/matt-bolton/is-art-really-to-blame-for-gentrification">Is art really to blame for gentrification?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/hsiao-hung-pai/grenfell-tower-and-people-without-capital">Grenfell tower and the people without capital</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/steve-hanson/city-of-blades">The City of Blades</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk gentrification culture Oli Mould Thu, 14 Sep 2017 10:01:12 +0000 Oli Mould 113329 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Can memorialisation be a form of urban protest? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/oli-mould-samuel-merrill/can-memorialisation-be-form-of-urban-protest <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Perhaps the arch footpath of the demolished Heygate estate should be preserved, a reminder of the London that was.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/DSCF5854-1-2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/DSCF5854-1-2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>On September 21st 2015, the Queen Elizabeth Hall of the South Bank Centre closed its doors for two years to undergo essential maintenance work. This also meant the disappearance of the only view the public could get of Cyprien Galliard’s sculpture ‘<em>Cenotapth to 12 Riverford Road, Pollockshaws, Glasgow’ </em>(pictured above). This esoteric, masterful and breath-taking sculpture was only visible from inside the building (located as it was in the ‘secret garden’ of the Hall’s unroofed interior, a space originally visible to the public through the glass windows of the Hall’s foyer). </p> <p>The demolition of the Riverford Road tower blocks in 2008 commenced a large regeneration scheme that was originally planned to culminate in the levelling of the Red Road tower blocks live on the opening day of the Commonwealth Games. A public outcry <a href="http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/commonwealth-games-bosses-shelve-plans-3409017">forced an apology</a> from the organisers of the Games, but the Red Road flats where eventually brought down in a <a href="http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/watch-glasgows-red-road-tower-6614277">controlled demolition</a> in October 2015. </p> <p>The celebratory, more than efficient way by which these complicated building structures were brought down evoked the mediated spectacle of a city’s ability to eradicate its (in this case, social housing) history and a violent silencing of a city’s contested modernist history.&nbsp; </p><p><em><span class="print-no mag-quote-right">...the future of this subversive memorial is uncertain. Much like the future of the very modernist utopian ideal that it depicts.</span></em>Galliard’s attempt to resist this silencing is thus contentious, as exemplified further by his decision to construct this cenotaph from the ‘recycled concrete and building detritus’ of the demolished Riverford Road Tower. This memorial is far more than a traditional totem to a modernist past and Galliard <a href="http://mapmagazine.co.uk/8936/cyprien-gaillard-recycling-th/">himself</a> spoke of how the artistic installation ‘fights against nostalgia’. In other words, he created an active piece that brings new artistic and symbolic overtures of memorialisation to bear on the remembrance of the modernist utopian dreams that passed away with the demolition of the estates. Architectural historian Adrian Forty has shown that concrete has a reflexive relationship with both memorialisation and modernity, and so with the Cenotaph, the material residues of these Glaswegian buildings may be smashed, but Galliard has reassembled them to produce a monument that carries those modernist materialisms, and places their full weight on the contemporary city. Now, however, with the closure of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the future of this subversive memorial is uncertain. Much like the future of the very modernist utopian ideal that it references. </p> <p>This is because recently <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jan/09/david-cameron-vows-to-blitz-poverty-by-demolishing-uks-worst-sink-estates">David Cameron announced</a> a new housing development initiative that will demolish the few reminders of this dream that we have left, the derogatorily termed ‘<a href="https://theconversation.com/camerons-sink-estate-strategy-comes-at-a-human-cost-53358">sink estates</a>’, at once ‘brutal’ and ‘a gift to criminals and drug dealers’. Reigniting Alice Coleman and Oscar Newman’s poverty-by-design arguments, these proposals are set to usher in the further gentrification of these estates’ urban neighbourhoods. Many critics see these plans as an <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/05/rob-poor-give-rich-housing-policy-2016">ideological assault</a> on the country’s remaining council housing, and as adding more fuel to the housing crisis fire. </p> <p>Is it time that we take inspiration from Galliard and utilise the (seemingly ever-increasing) ruins that this ‘regeneration’ process is creating for more poignant and subversive processes? The materiality of these so-called ‘sink estates’ is the cause of their perceived malignity, but also the reason many campaigners champion their preservation. Reclaiming the objectified and fragmented scraps of their history to utilise as markers to past communities is one way to ensure that their historical struggles and causalities are not forgotten. And, as architectural geographer Jane Jacobs and Stephen Cairnes have argued in their recent book <em>Buildings Must Die</em>, the death of buildings is something that rarely enters into the thought process of creating new urban places (housing or otherwise). If we bring to fore how buildings die (socially and materially), perhaps then it can inform more justly how they should be created?</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/DSCF6259-1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/DSCF6259-1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Heygate bridge</span></span></span></p><p>Take for example the 1970s Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle, which has become a symbol of London’s gentrification. Since the Elephant and Castle master plan was released in 2004, which included the demolition of the homes of some 3000 people who lived at the Heygate, these regeneration plans have come under fierce criticism from anti-gentrification campaigners. It is seen as emblematic of London’s housing crisis, and its redevelopment is regularly held up as a classic case of private developers’ profitability margins being put before the needs of residents. A modernist housing estate catering for low-income residents, the Heygate was soon derided as ‘anti-social’ by politicians and perceived to be riddled with high crime rates and people locked into poverty. The Think Tank Policy Exchange (<a href="http://politicalscrapbook.net/2014/07/tory-charity-attack-backfires-thanks-to-secret-cameron-recording/">one of David Cameron’s reported ‘favourite think tanks’</a>) <a href="http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/images/publications/create%20streets.pdf">stated in 2013</a> (page 19), “it never established any true sense of community and quickly established a reputation for violence and crime”.&nbsp; </p> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-left">Now, in its place, vast glass towers of luxury flats are being built, with very few units even remotely affordable</span>However, many campaigners argue against this, and point to many <a href="http://www.elephantandcastle.org.uk/download,12,stage_one_consultation_report.pdf">voices of former residents</a> that stress the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/oli-mould/%E2%80%98love-where-you-live%E2%80%99-and-other-lies-of-gentrification">over-riding sense of community</a> that the area espoused, its vibrantly mixed population, its stock of affordable council housing, and instead <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/jun/04/is-demolition-ever-the-best-way-to-regenerate">blame chronic and deliberate under-investment</a> in basic maintenance for the area’s poor reputation and its structural and social problems. Now, in its place, vast glass towers of luxury flats are being built, with very few units even remotely affordable to the people who once lived on the estate. </p><p>One of the few remaining elements of the original estate is the concrete relic of a footbridge that spans Heygate Street, a walkway that once connected two sections of the estate (pictured above). Currently the bridge is being used by the developers as a means to transport material, but once it is no longer useful as means of facilitating the redevelopment, it will be removed.</p> <p>But what if it was preserved instead? It’s concrete materiality and modernist aesthetics are a stark reminder of Heygate Estate, and a poignant actualised memory of the historical legacy of the site’s council housing past. But in the spirit of Galliard’s <em>Cenotaph</em>, more than just for nostalgia, preserving this remaining infrastructural fragment of the Heygate could etch these (highly contested) histories into the urban landscape and resists the site developers’ and investors’ prevalent nostrophobia. It could be a permanent memento of the art of council housing, something to remind future generations that urban living once aspired to be affordable, communal and socially just, even if the result was contested and, for some, problematic. </p> <p>If preserved the bridge would become London’s most recent memorial arch, less triumphant than those which stand in traffic islands around Hyde Park certainly, but surely for those who grew-up and lived on the Heygate with just as much, if not more, meaning. </p> <p>The heritage protection of Heygate’s concrete arch and its use as a memorial would also help it avoid the fate of another of the city’s arches, that which was demolished all too rapidly in the early 1960s to allow for Euston Station’s modernist re-rendering. Fragments of that arch returned to the lawns in front of the station briefly this year as part of an artistic exhibition that was symptomatic of resurgent calls for the arch’s reconstruction and the retrospective mourning of a new generation of Londoners. While those calls might be said to reflect the same conservative distaste for London’s modern architecture that led to the demolition of the Heygate, they also generally illustrate how redevelopment decisions do not always stand the test of time. Might Londoners of fifty years forth be longing for the return of Heygate? The possibility that they might, coupled with the rapidity of our current era’s urban change and gentrification, suggests that taking stock of a building’s death and reassembling its material and social fragments to produce a more informed future is more important than ever. Preserving the Heygate’s remaining ‘street in the sky’ would thus be an optimistic gesture, especially if we consider Forty’s claim that when “confronted by a concrete memorial, we face an object that advertises the double aspect of modernity – of a journey into a better future, but which at the same time, as a memorial, reverts to a moment of past time.”</p> <p>Across London growing numbers of people are establishing groups and networks to fight for the little corner of their city. Resisting the rampant gentrification that is so apparent in our cities no doubt requires an ever-increasing suite of resources. But for those battles and places that have already seemingly been lost (like the Heygate), there are still ways in which we can resist the forces that have bought about these losses. In other words, by enabling these places’ unloved modernist pasts to haunt their neoliberal futures, we must summon up further energy and fight for the past as much as the future. </p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><em><span>If you liked this article, you can support us with </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><span>£3 a month</span></a><span> so that we can keep producing independent journalism. </span></em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anne-williams/housing-and-planning-bill-is-disaster">The Housing and Planning Bill is a disaster</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/harry-blain/should-labour-be-party-of-home-ownership">Should Labour be &#039;the party of home ownership&#039;?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/liam-barrington-bush/does-london-need-radical-assembly">Does London need a Radical Assembly?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/graham-peebles/market-driven-homelessness-in-london">Market driven homelessness in London</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Samuel Merrill Oli Mould Thu, 04 Feb 2016 00:11:11 +0000 Oli Mould and Samuel Merrill 99412 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘Love where you live’, and other lies of gentrification https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/oli-mould/%E2%80%98love-where-you-live%E2%80%99-and-other-lies-of-gentrification <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Let’s admit that gentrification is an&nbsp;immoral&nbsp;urban process. It is a deliberate policy of social engineering and needs to be tackled at its source.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Gentrify this! spacebahr Flickr. Some rights reserved..jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Gentrify this! Flickr/Spacebahr. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Gentrify this! spacebahr Flickr. Some rights reserved..jpg" alt="Gentrify this! Flickr/Spacebahr. Some rights reserved." title="Gentrify this! Flickr/Spacebahr. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Gentrify this! Flickr/Spacebahr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The marketing mantra of “love where you live” courses through the ongoing ‘redevelopment’ of the Heygate Estate in London’s Elephant and Castle into Trafalgar Place. The </span><a href="http://www.cityquays.co.uk/pdfs/28/81/288100.pdf">City Quays project</a><span> in Greenwich offers “a private island in London to call your own”. </span><a href="http://www.lilliesquare.com/development">Lillie Square</a><span>, which will be built on the Earls Court site hawks “modern garden square living” where you can “dwell in luxury”. All these (and many more) are symptomatic of a language of disavowal. It denigrates existing residents and paints them as unworthy of their homes as they were. And it is, in essence, inhumane.</span></p> <p><span>But it is just a small part of a sweeping narrative of cities needing to be developed and regenerated, into ever more profitable, consumerist and homogenous centres of middle-class spending. And in all of this, the incumbent residents and their communities are of no consequence. It is a narrative that stretches all the way from advertising-speak to broadsheet journalism.</span></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Banner at &#039;Reclaim Brixton&#039; protest. Guy Corbishley Demotix. All rights reserved..jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Banner at ‘Reclaim Brixton’ protest. Demotix/Guy Corbishley. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Banner at &#039;Reclaim Brixton&#039; protest. Guy Corbishley Demotix. All rights reserved..jpg" alt="Banner at ‘Reclaim Brixton’ protest. Demotix/Guy Corbishley. All rights reserved." title="Banner at ‘Reclaim Brixton’ protest. Demotix/Guy Corbishley. All rights reserved." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Banner at ‘Reclaim Brixton’ protest. Demotix/Guy Corbishley. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>A recent piece in the <em>Spectator</em> by Stephen Bayley, “<a href="http://www.spectator.co.uk/arts/arts-feature/9565362/the-moral-case-for-gentrification/">The moral case for gentrification</a>”, recounts the story of Detroit’s decline and how it is slowly being regenerated by artists and entrepreneurs. He then goes on to suggest that the ideas around the political rejuvenation of ‘Northern Powerhouses’ could be implemented via a large-scale regional gentrification project, much like is happening in Detroit.</p> <p>Bayley concludes:</p> <blockquote><p>&nbsp;“Let’s not be squeamish ourselves: let’s admit that gentrification, for its beneficiaries, is nice evidence of social promotion."</p></blockquote> <p>Bayley’s piece is symptomatic of a mainstream discourse on gentrification that is misinformed, misguided and has the potential to do real life damage to people who will eventually be effected by policies that it champions. It echoes other articles from the UK and the US that are proclaiming <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2015/01/the_gentrification_myth_it_s_rare_and_not_as_bad_for_the_poor_as_people.2.html">gentrification as a ‘myth’</a>, or that it’s being mistaken for a process of <a href="http://www.citylab.com/housing/2015/02/is-your-neighborhood-changing-it-might-be-youthification-not-gentrification/385193/">'youthification’</a>. </p> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Protest against evictions in Spain. Adolfo Lujan Flickr. Some rights reserved..jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Protests against evictions in Spain. Flickr/Adolfo Lujan. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Protest against evictions in Spain. Adolfo Lujan Flickr. Some rights reserved..jpg" alt="Protests against evictions in Spain. Flickr/Adolfo Lujan. Some rights reserved." title="Protests against evictions in Spain. Flickr/Adolfo Lujan. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protests against evictions in Spain. Flickr/Adolfo Lujan. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Too often, this narrative that excuses gentrification is laced with obfuscating, politically charged and inflammatory language. Pro-gentrification proponents pictorialize cities as ‘dead’, ‘degenerate’ or ‘not vital’. Hence we hear terms like ‘regenerate’, ‘revitalise’ and ‘renaissance’. Scholars have&nbsp;</span><a href="https://southwarknotes.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/loretta_lees_tom_slater_elvin_wyly-gentrification__-routledge2007.pdf">written extensively</a><span>&nbsp;about how such language neutralises and naturalises gentrification, and renders the existing residents as not important.</span></p> <p><span>In suggesting that cities such as Stoke are ‘dead’, Bayley is not only guilty of lazy journalism, but its macabre malevolence reduces people’s lives as somehow not worth living. He goadingly suggests that “Stoke’s terraces may yet see a splash of Farrow &amp; Ball, Ocado deliveries, lead planters with box trees and a higher Audi count”, as if the consumerism of London’s middle class is somehow the antidote to chronic and terminal fatalism that currently engulfs the ‘Northern’ city of Stoke-on-Trent.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Anti-gentrification activists march in Berlin. Thorsten Strasas Demotix. All rights reserved..jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Anti-gentrification activists in Berlin. Demotix/Thorsten Strasas. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Anti-gentrification activists march in Berlin. Thorsten Strasas Demotix. All rights reserved..jpg" alt="Anti-gentrification activists in Berlin. Demotix/Thorsten Strasas. All rights reserved." title="Anti-gentrification activists in Berlin. Demotix/Thorsten Strasas. All rights reserved." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Anti-gentrification activists in Berlin. Demotix/Thorsten Strasas. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Arguments have also become overly-simplistic. Bayley echoes many other generalised articles and states that “gentrification is about middle-class migration and resettlement”. But 50 years of scholarship rightly suggests it is far more than that. Bayley presents gentrification as an inevitability that we must all genuflect to or perish.&nbsp; Labelling cities as ‘natural organisms’ is conceptual trickery, positing development as natural removes any political ideology from it. Tom Slater, an urban geographer coins this as <a href="http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/article_comments/there_is_nothing_natural_about_gentrification">'false choice urbanism’</a>, which he argues is something developers (public and private) set upon urban locales. </p> <p>Slater argues:</p> <blockquote><p>“It’s either gentrification (good) or disinvestment (bad), which reduces urbanisation to an ugly morality play that precludes the crucial political question of how capitalist urbanisation and uneven development creates profit and class privilege for some whilst stripping many of the human need of shelter”.</p></blockquote> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Protestor at &#039;Reclaim Brixton&#039; march. Peter Marshall Demotix. All rights reserved._0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="‘Reclaim Brixton’ march. Demotix/Peter Marshall. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Protestor at &#039;Reclaim Brixton&#039; march. Peter Marshall Demotix. All rights reserved._0.jpg" alt="‘Reclaim Brixton’ march. Demotix/Peter Marshall. All rights reserved." title="‘Reclaim Brixton’ march. Demotix/Peter Marshall. All rights reserved." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>‘Reclaim Brixton’ march. Demotix/Peter Marshall. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Bayley decries the anti-gentrification debates (of which Slater is a leading voice) as “class-based loathing”, but this line of argument is a putative attempt to whitewash critique of its validity without tackling or having to engage with the subjects it focuses on (namely the urban poor). The existing residents in these places, condescendingly described, are rendered voiceless.</span></p> <p>Bayley wades into the recent debate about Robin Hood Gardens, arguing that the “rebarbative … estate will, perhaps, be saved by fashionable youth even as the original tenants disdain it”. Such disdain however stems from a chronic lack of renovation funds. The deliberate withholding of funds for maintenance and upkeep means that of course the buildings will fall into disrepair. Such ‘<a href="http://socialistregister.com/index.php/srv/article/view/5811#.VYvomxNVhHw">accumulation by dispossession</a>’ is a classic strategy of developers and is a nefarious attempt to position them as derelict, to which the only remedy is razing, and replacement with units that appeal to the super-rich. The recent <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/jun/25/london-developers-viability-planning-affordable-social-housing-regeneration-oliver-wainwright?CMP=share_btn_tw">expose of Southwark’s mismanagement of the Elephant Park</a> development is a prime example. </p> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Eviction of the Focus E15 mums. Liam Barrington-Bush Flickr. Some rights reserved..jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Eviction of the Focus E15 Mums. Flickr/Liam Barrington-Bush. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Eviction of the Focus E15 mums. Liam Barrington-Bush Flickr. Some rights reserved..jpg" alt="Eviction of the Focus E15 Mums. Flickr/Liam Barrington-Bush. Some rights reserved." title="Eviction of the Focus E15 Mums. Flickr/Liam Barrington-Bush. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Eviction of the Focus E15 Mums. Flickr/Liam Barrington-Bush. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The housing crisis that is currently engulfing London (and will no doubt continue to infect other regions in the country) is a direct symptom of the kind of policies that journalists like Bayley advocate. That crisis, lest we forget, is causing misery and precarity on an industrial scale.</span></p> <p>Bayley claims a ‘moral justification’ for gentrification. But by linguistically vanishing vast swaths of the urban population, by falsely presenting cities as natural organisms that must ‘develop or die’, by using inflammatory and derogatory metaphors, and by getting basic geographical facts incorrect, he does the exact opposite. </p> <p>Gentrification is an&nbsp;<em>immoral</em>&nbsp;urban process which is directed politically by those seeking to enforce an ideological agenda. It is a deliberate policy of social engineering and needs to be tackled at its source.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/guy-aitchison/labour-council-is-using-sinister-new-law-to-purge-homeless-from-hackney">Homelessness, freedom and why we should resist the social cleansing of Hackney</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Economics Equality Oli Mould Tue, 07 Jul 2015 12:22:03 +0000 Oli Mould 94144 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What do we talk about when we talk about creativity? https://www.opendemocracy.net/oli-mould/what-do-we-talk-about-when-we-talk-about-creativity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Neoliberal logics are increasingly being applied to the ways in which we talk about ‘creativity’. The new dogma of ‘creativity’, far from ushering in an age of horizontalised power structures, masks powerful processes of elite capture and capitalist development.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/864197.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Loft in the Red Zone"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/864197.jpg" alt=" “Loft in the Red Zone” 2011 art exhibition" title="Loft in the Red Zone" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'> “Loft in the Red Zone” 2011 art exhibition, inspired by Occupy Wall Street. Demotix/Shameel Arafin. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>According to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.rsablogs.org.uk/2014/adam-lent/hell-breaking-loose-mass-creativity-defining-feature-century/">a recent essay</a> by Adam Lent&nbsp;for&nbsp;the Royal Society of Arts, the last 250 years or so have been the most “creative” in history, and “all hell is breaking loose”. Lent argues that since&nbsp;the Roman Empire, human history has been interrupted by “brief explosions of inventiveness”, but the average wage earnings from the first century AD stagnated right up until the 18th century. Then the industrial revolution happened and everything changed. We live in “creative times” now, where traditional firm hierarchies and the compartmentalisation of R&amp;D, marketing and the more 'creative' aspects of firm activity is on the wane. Lent argues that the capacity of governments and corporations to "enforce their will is spectacularly diminished when compared with 30 or even 20 years ago". Eulogising the “power to create”, Lent’s essay demands that governments, businesses and civil society embrace the revolutionary power of this new kind of creativity&nbsp;by not trying to regulate it.&nbsp;</p> <p>Lent’s writing,&nbsp;while appearing to espouse a more revolutionary tone by arguing&nbsp;that&nbsp;creativity&nbsp;should&nbsp;be 'unleashed' in governments, businesses and society more widely, is sadly all too reminiscent of the kind of policy rhetoric that has actually&nbsp;increased&nbsp;inequalities&nbsp;and social injustices, rather than ushering in a new society of equitability and horizontalised power structures. Such a discourse is part of a wider dogma of 'creativity' that is being spun to mask more tacit, soft and affective, but no less powerful processes of centralisation, elitism and neoliberal capitalistic development. </p> <p>There are two main reasons for this way of talking about creativity. Firstly, a neoliberal logic is applied without reservation to the full gamut of human development. Creativity, Lent argues, has somehow exploded in the last quarter of a millennia or so (despite also stating that "the ability to create is a fundamental part of what it is to be human"), largely because it is only since the industrial revolution that creativity has begun to be capitalised upon. However, such a view is entirely centred around the fundamental history of capitalism. Lent foregrounds this by arguing that, "in the first century AD, most people could expect an income of around $1.20 a day". Attaching the value of current currency to the previous 2000 years or so of human development is a practice that serves to showcase the pervasiveness of the powers of financialisation. Late neoliberal capitalism thrives on the marketisation of everything (hence we are now seeing the rise of ideas like '<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/max-holleran/lets-share-please-provide-your-credit-card-information-to-get-started">the sharing economy</a>'). </p> <p>In Lent’s vision, it seems we can now&nbsp;monetize the activities of people throughout history. By applying such a logic, and hence seeing no rise in income for 1,750 years, the obvious conclusion is that they must not have innovated because there were very few rises in income. But such a viewpoint fails to consider anything beyond that which can be codified. Moreover the creativity Lent talks about seems to be anchored to digital ability. Just because they could not code in the Medieval period, does not mean that they were not creative. Such thinking&nbsp;applies a logic of contemporary capitalism to a society which operated&nbsp;far beyond such a&nbsp;remit. It&nbsp;argues that&nbsp;creativity, if not 'used' to create something that increases economic productivity, is not creative. This is sadly the narrative which is indicative of modern day evangelists of creativity: we are all creative,&nbsp;but only if you employ this in a contribution to economic growth.&nbsp;</p> <p>The second reason manifests itself in Lent’s argument that creativity is subverting the hegemony of the established order. He argues that "establishing a world where millions can apply their ingenuity to solving problems is far more likely to bring about adequate solutions than one where this power is delegated to an exclusive elite", conjuring up images of the lone maverick fighting the established order. However what he fails to acknowledge is that the very creativity he is&nbsp;festishising&nbsp;<strong>is</strong>&nbsp;the power of the elite. He bemoans Google, YouTube and Facebook for monopolising the “power to create”, yet champions Uber for following the same logic of firm growth. He lambasts attempts to ban Airbnb but argues that there is a need to support those who “lose their jobs”. Such conflicting argumentation serves to highlight the anachronism of his argument&nbsp;and inherent flaws within it.&nbsp;If we are to support creativity that sees the proliferation of start-up apps, then another Google will always be the result. We have Airbnb and Uber now, so of course we are much more creative than the Romans ever were. </p> <p>Such a narrow, blinkered view of creativity gives no merit or worth to activities&nbsp;that&nbsp;do not go toward maintaining economic elitism, and only serves to enforce a logic of neoliberalism and the centralisation of power. What about community empowerment? What about subculture? What about social activism? What about charity work? The suggestion that we are living in creative times is a red herring, when it merely veils how creativity is a new term for unequal development. The reason Lent 'sees' creativity blossoming in the last 250 years is that since then, power structures have been refined in order to exploit true creativity for&nbsp;capitalist development (and the inequality it creates).</p> <p>There are many ways in which this narrative can be deconstructed. But perhaps more importantly, we need to guard against the kind of policy that such thinking is inculcating. Creative cities that are&nbsp;<a href="http://grist.org/cities/fallacy-of-the-creative-class/">hyper-gentrifying</a>, and creative industries that are&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/27/diversity-black-actors-tv-lenny-henry-david-harewood-treva-etienne">not diverse</a>,&nbsp;are but some of the by-products of the self-determining worth of 'creatives'.&nbsp;</p><p>Creativity is the power to subvert those institutions that dominate, oppress and create inequality. Creativity is very much fundamental to our human nature, but it has became co-opted by powers looking to hijack it for the development and maintenance of the established order. We are no more creative than we used to be; it is just that now, hell really has broken loose, because people have become so very good at channeling that creativity into creating hegemony, centralised power and injustice.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/alex-khasnabish-max-haiven/why-social-movements-need-radical-imagination">Why social movements need the radical imagination</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> Civil society Culture Democracy and government Economics Equality Ideas Oli Mould Tue, 29 Jul 2014 20:23:48 +0000 Oli Mould 84795 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Oli Mould https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/oli-mould <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Oli Mould </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-firstname"> <div class="field-label">First name(s):&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Oli </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-surname"> <div class="field-label">Surname:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Mould </div> </div> </div> <p>Oli Mould is a lecturer in Human Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London. You can read his blog at <a href="http://tacity.co.uk/">www.taCity.co.uk</a> and he tweets at <a href="https://twitter.com/olimould">@olimould</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/urbansubversion">@urbansubversion</a>.</p> Oli Mould Tue, 29 Jul 2014 15:54:37 +0000 Oli Mould 84796 at https://www.opendemocracy.net