The Creativity Hoax

The Creativity Hoax

Precarious Work and the Gig Economy

By George Morgan & Pariece Nelligan

We often hear that creativity is the key to economic regeneration in the west, yet those who pursue creative skills/ambitions typically experience low incomes and poor career prospects. ‘The Creativity Hoax’ argues that the ‘call to creativity’ is designed to make workers more labile, agile and mobile, ready to shelve their ambitions and transfer their skills towards the opportunities the labour market produces.

Hardback, 174 Pages


January 2018

£70.00, $115.00

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About This Book

We often hear that creative and intellectual innovation is the key to western economic renewal, that cognitive capitalism has succeeded in globalizing the mental-manual division of labour, and that old work – blue-collar, repetitive, de-skilled – is now consigned to the factories of the developing world. At the other end of the long production chains, the West relies increasingly on immaterial labour. From this perspective no rustbelt city can hope to regenerate, no developing nation can ascend to first-world status, without the ‘new oil’ of intellectual property. Workers in general are told to adapt to this transition, to remake themselves for the new economy. Rapid shifts in patterns of consumption, taste and technology can render jobs and skills obsolete in ways that defy the planning and foreclosures of Fordism.

Vocational fortunes depend not only on intellect and creativity but also on entrepreneurial acumen and vocational agility. New capitalism seeks to make a virtue of transience. It has taken up the counter-culture’s critique of the Fordist job-for-life, in order to persuade young people in particular that working life is (and should be) episodic and project-based. The precariat (Standing 2009) must embrace the idea of the improvised post-modern career - a wild vocational ride that unfolds like the levels of a video game. They must become labile labour: opportunistic, excitable, flexible, mobile and ready to flow without protest or friction into the spaces opened up by Post-Fordism. Those who resist or ignore this turbulence and cling to the goal of security are in effect sleepwalking towards redundancy.

‘The Creativity Hoax’ argues that creativity, the leitmotif of new capitalism, has become a key neo-liberal idiom for reorganizing work and working life in ways that erode communal bonds, loyalties and values and blur the boundaries between work and play, public and private. However, the creative economy remains a largely unrealized project, a fantasy of regeneration. Despite the inflated rhetoric of vocational fulfilment, much work performed in the West remains low-skilled and low-paid. Very few make a living exclusively from creative labour whether as employees, freelancers, or entrepreneurs. For the most part it is transnational cultural corporations that reap the patentable or copyrightable bounty, belying the egalitarian myths of the new economy. [NP] The challenge for capital has been to habituate the precariat to the condition of abeyance. In order to tolerate un/underemployment or jobs where skills and talents are underutilized (retail, hospitality or on the edges of creative industries), young workers need to be persuaded that vocational fulfilment and financial security are attainable. ‘The Creativity Hoax’ draws on extensive interview and observation research with creative aspirants – from technical, production and performance fields – who wrestle with the prospect and reality of poverty and unfulfilled ambition.


‘A great blend of the personal, the political and the empirical – this is an essential volume for anyone who wants to understand work and the problems of work in our society.’
—Kate Oakley, Professor of Cultural Policy, School of Media and Communication, University of Leeds, UK

‘This is a wonderful and important book in the best tradition of cultural studies. It explores what “autobiographies of uncertainty” feel like in contemporary capitalism. Morgan and Nelligan’s notions of “just-in-time workers”, “labile labour” and “promiscuous aspiration” look set to become key points of reference for future analyses.’
—Rosalind Gill, Professor of Cultural and Social Analysis, City, University of London, UK

‘In The Creativity Hoax, George Morgan and Pariece Nelligan unleash a scathing, and timely, critique of the promises and fantasies of the “gig economy”. Most poignant are the book's diverse voices, drawn from interviews with those at the coalface of new forms of precarious work.’
—Chris Gibson, Professor of Human Geography, University of Wollongong, Australia

Author Information

George Morgan is associate professor at the Institute for Culture and Society and the School of Humanities and Communication Arts at Western Sydney University, Australia.

Pariece Nelligan is adjunct fellow at the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University, Australia.


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Table of Contents

Preface: Rustbelt Aspirational; Acknowledgements; Introduction; Chapter 1: The Creative Imperative: Remaking Capital/ Remaking Labour; Chapter 2: Post-Industrial Pedagogy; Chapter 3: Leaving Covers- Land: The Metropolitan Journey and the Creative Network; Chapter 4: Do Give Up Your Day Job; Chapter 5: Labile Labour; Chapter 6: The Just- In- Time Self ?; Chapter 7: Beyond the Social Factory: Reclaiming the Commons; Conclusion: Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You; Bibliography; Index.


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