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4.2 A Creative Atmosphere

In this section I will be discussing what I might call “macro-atmospheres”—by analogy with “macro economy” and “political economy”.[1]

The creative “air” that one can “breathe” in a “district” or in a “milieu”, its “atmosphere”,[2] is attractive and contagious. It can be quite euphoric. It certainly awakens and directs energies, and this has effects on social relations and the economy in general. A widespread atmosphere of this kind is no doubt the effect of certain “media”, and of the relationships that they foster. It is not only an effect, but also a marker. Is it a clear, exhaustive index? In how many different ways, with different and even opposite meanings, and in how many structurally different circumstances may a creative atmosphere emerge?[3]

The more strictly economic reasons for the emergence of the concept of creativity are discussed in another chapter of this book (Chapter “A Hermeneutic Approach to the Knowledge Economy” by Cusinato). Here I am interested in the formation of an imagery and of lifestyles which—as should be clear from the previous section—are immanent to, rather than superimposed upon, the “messages” of the contemporary economy and its “media”.

The notion of creativity was extended between the nineteenth and twentieth century from art to society and politics. While the Romantic artist was considered a sort of spiritual guide for his people, the reverse transition also occurred, so that politics was came to be regarded as a kind of art: the art of creating new peoples, a new humanity. It is not by chance that the word “avant-garde” was shared by the arts and politics, and that artistic avant-gardes such as Futurism recognized an affinity with supposedly avant-garde political movements such as Italian Fascism. Benjamin soon spotted the use of the concept of creativity by the Fascists and Nazis as a means of “aestheticizing” politics, building euphoric mass situations through the enveloping “aura” emanating from the leader. The euphoria of this creativity was expressed in terms of the enhancement of technological power, down to its extreme expression: war (Benjamin, 2012[1935a]) (from this point of view, I might observe that this fetishism of technology in the Nazi version pursued—very rapidly and hierarchically—the same identity of creation and destruction that Schumpeter identified in capitalism, where it was marked by much slower, discontinuous and pluralistically negotiated phases (Schumpeter, 1942, chapter VII)). Now, the project of enhancing individual creativity in the new economy might seem almost a different realization of the Neo-Platonist project of the Renaissance, taken up by Leibnitz and by the Romantics, and according to which each individual is a microcosm, i.e. a partial but consubstantial reflection of the macrocosm. The Romantics took up the idea, thinking that God—or nature—was immanent in every individual, and that especially the “creative” par excellence, the artist, embodies the microcosm. And so someone can ask: 'Everyone is Creative'. Artists as Pioneers of the New Economy? (McRobbie, 2001).

  • [1] This is related to B€ohme's aim of using the concept of “atmosphere” for a “Kritik der a¨sthetischen O¨ konomie”: see B€ohme (1993 p. 116), B€ohme (2013, pp. 43–46 and 49–65)
  • [2] Marshall & Marshall (1889, p. 53) : it is the atmosphere of “districts” of small factories. The concept of “atmosphere” plays an important role in the text by Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos in chapter “Milieu, Territory, Atmosphere: New Spaces of Knowledge”
  • [3] By contrast to the uniqueness of the index which B€ohme (2003, p. 118) attributes to an atmosphere, the current use of “creativity” is in itself vague. Many forms of contagious enthusiasm, such as adolescents' keen interest in the use of digital devices, are easily recognizable in “creativity”: which is the message? Is it unequivocal? Furthermore: we could recognize a lot of 'creativity' even in various destructive or even criminal activities...
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