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4 Creativity in Context

4.1 European Policies for Creativity

May the acknowledgement of the decisive role of “creative” milieus be a counterweight to the lack of democracy produced by financial capitalism? Could it be so thanks to a model of economic democracy in which individual creativity can produce a participatory, intercultural environment? This seems to be a possibility indicated by the European Lisbon Strategies. They are no scientific literature but policy documents—with all the rhetorical and ideological burdens this implies, mixed with reasonable considerations on knowledge-based economy—that outline the policies for creativity actually practiced by the European Commission. They are also a source of inspiration for national and local policies, and therefore have an impact on our lives. Precisely for this reason it is interesting to devote some words about them in the context of this discussion. I will give a few quotations.

In the Green Paper (2010), Unlocking the potential of cultural and creative industries a bold philosophical statement is made:

“The main assumption here is that creativity is not exclusively an innate gift. Everyone is creative in some way or another, and can learn to use his/her creative potential” (p. 18)

The need to implement this principle by means of these policies is thus explained in the Lisbon Strategy Evaluation Document (2010) “The original Lisbon Strategy was launched in 2000 as a response to the challenges of globalisation and ageing. The European Council defined the objective of the strategy for the EU “to become the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010 capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion and respect for the environment”.. .” (p. 2)

The Green Paper then states:

“In the recent decades the world has been moving at a faster pace. For Europe and other parts of the world, the rapid roll-out of new technologies and increased globalisation has meant a striking shift away from traditional manufacturing towards services and innovation. Factory floors are progressively being replaced by creative communities whose raw material is their ability to imagine, create and innovate. In this new digital economy, immaterial value increasingly determines material value, as consumers are looking for new and enriching “experiences”. The ability to create social experiences and networking is now a factor of competitiveness. If Europe wants to remain competitive in this changing global environment, it needs to put in place the right conditions for creativity and innovation to flourish in a new entrepreneurial culture.. .” (p. 2)

The arts are said to play a crucial role in overcoming the boundaries between production and consumption:

“Access to and participation in the arts are constantly changing shape while the frontiers between creators and consumers are blurred with the development of participatory technologies such as blogs, wikis etc.

Subcultures are emerging that result in a multi-disciplinary mix of traditional and new artistic forms and content. While traditional institutions hold a special importance for accessing cultural services, there is a need to recognise and support new ways of experiencing culture, which plant the seeds of curiosity, analysis and demystification for a lifelong relationship with culture” (pp. 8-9)

“Art and culture have a unique capacity to create green jobs, to raise awareness, challenge social habits and promote behavioural shifts in our societies, including our general attitude to nature. They can also open new avenues to tackle the international dimension of such issues” (p. 18)

“A more intensive, systematic, and wide-ranging collaboration between the arts, academic and scientific institutions should be promoted, as well as private–public initiatives to support artist-led experimentation” (p. 9)

This goes in the direction of enhancing cultural differences:

“the mobility of artists, cultural practitioners and works are also essential for the circulation of ideas across linguistic or national borders, and giving to all a wider access to cultural diversity” (p. 15)

“... enhancing the capacities of developing countries in order to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions” (p. 16).

The policies focus on local and diffused creativity. Emphasis is placed on SMEs:

“Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the engine of the European economy.”[1]

“Clusters” and “meeting places” are “laboratories”, seen as driving forces for creative innovation” (see p. 13)

“Creativity and innovation have a strong and distinctive regional dimension. Policies and support instruments need to be determined locally, building on local specificities and assets and tapping into local resources (“place-based development approach”). At the same time, effective coordination between different policy and administration levels is essential for success. Impact assessment and evaluation tools should be built into development strategies to support the design of evidence-based policies” (p. 14)

From the contributions in the present text it is clear that the notion of “cluster” is more reductive than that of “milieu”.[2] The following statement, while foreseeing positive effects on the whole economy, recognizes that the “mechanism” has not been well documented (¼ understood?):

“Although the specific mechanisms by which this occurs are not yet well documented, it seems that creative innovation services provided by CCIs[3] are inputs to innovative activities by other enterprises and organisations in the broader economy.. .” (p. 17)

These policies promise to give back to individuals that freedom of invention and experience that the economic “mass” policies of the 20th century allegedly failed to grant. The meanings of creativity that are referred to in the economic field nowadays indirectly derive from elements of European Romantic thought, as interpreted in North America by A. N. Whitehead (Whitehead, 2010[1927–1928]. See also Pessato, 2013). We can find some traces of them in recent texts by Florida (2011) and Landry (2006). They are consistent with knowledge-based management (Nonaka, 1991). Some of these ideas influenced the Lib-Lab policies of Tony Blair, and even the European Green Paper, through concepts which are ambiguously situated at the crossroads between neo-liberal and libertarian values (See Giddens, 1991; Leadbeater, 1999; McRobbie 2001).

  • [1] See The new SME definition by the European Commission, available on the web
  • [2] The difference between the cluster and other forms of spatial agglomeration (such as milieus and industrial districts) lies in the different nature of the agglomeration economies involved: technicaleconomic in the first case and ones of intangible nature in the second, such as trust, cooperation, collective learning, etc. In other words, the cluster concept has a spatial/functional matrix, the concept of milieu has a local (place)/structural array
  • [3] CCIs ¼ Cultural and Creative Industries. “Cultural industries” are those industries producing and distributing goods or services which at the time they are developed are considered to have a specific attribute, use or purpose which embodies or conveys cultural expressions, irrespective of the commercial value they may have. Besides the traditional arts sectors (performing arts, visual arts, cultural heritage – including the public sector), they include film, DVD and video, television and radio, video games, new media, music, books and press. This concept is defined in relation to cultural expressions in the context of the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions. “Creative industries” are those industries which use culture as an input and have a cultural dimension, although their outputs are mainly functional. They include architecture and design, which integrate creative elements into wider processes, as well as subsectors such as graphic design, fashion design or advertising (Green Paper, pp. 5–6)
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