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Creative economy and the idea of the creative society

Updated: Jan 9, 2021

"Creative economy consists of such areas as publishing, advertising, architecture, design, art, crafts, fashion, television, films, software, music, toys, and others. The areas of the creative economy are grouped in different lists suggested both by scholars and by government.

The concept of creative society arises both from the ever-increasing creative challenges in society and from the emergence of the creative economy. However, the creative society presupposes the existence of creative individuals and the economic environment within it. The paper deals both with the different classification of the creative economy and with the concept of a creative society".

Introduction In recent years, the scholars pay a lot of attention to the different aspects of creative economy including creative city (Evans, 2009; Kraetke, 2010; Gaižutytė-Filipavičienė, 2020), cultural economy (Gibson, Kong, 2005; DeFlillippi, 2007; Scott, 2010), creative class (Florida, 2002; Asheim, Hansen, 2009; Hansen, Niedomysl, 2009; McGranahan et al., 2011), creative work (Kark, Carmeli, 2009; Christopherson, 2008) and creative industries (Banks, Hesmondhalgh, 2009; Hutton, 2006; Kramoliš et al., 2020; Ciurea, Filip, 2019; Hon, Yen 2019). The scholars analyse the relationship between the creative economy and national economic growth (Melnikas, 2019; Bilan, 2019). The considerations on creative economy inevitably touch the philosophical, ethical, and ecological issues of economics (Valatka, 2019; Scheuer, Maziarz, 2019; Horčičková, Stasiulis, 2019; Behnke, 2018; Saeidi et al., 2018). The subject of the creative economy suggests different approaches. First, it is focused on the regions including so-called creative cities (Landry, 2003). Second, it is oriented to the sector of cultural industries (Howkins, 2007; Pratt, 2004; Hesmondhalgh, 2002; Power, Scott, 2004). As a combination of these two approaches, we can consider the concept of the creative class suggested by Florida (2002). The topic of the creative economy covers different levels, sometimes defined as cultural occupation and cultural economy (Markusen et al., 2008; Streimikiene et al., 2019). As regards the creative economy theorists, Howkins (2007) is one of the few scholars who explicitly presents the list of the creative sector from an economic point of view. He consistently examines various areas of the creative economy. The creative economy is also studied by other scientists from the economic relations (Caves, 2002), the creative class (Florida, 2002), innovative economy (Zhu et al., 2018), creative city (Landry, 2003; Lange, Schuessler, 2018), regional studies (Townsend, 2017; Coll-Serrano, 2018), tourism studies (Dias-Sardinha, 2018), political economy (Lee, 2017), gender studies (Hennekam, Bennet, 2017), and other perspectives. Below is a list of the creative sector of the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, which we will compare with the creative sector list presented by John Howkin (2007). The idea of creative society emerges in two perspectives. First, we can speak about the creative society having in mind creative occupation becoming more and more important in the age of smart technologies. Second, we can speak about creative society and creative environment in the context of the creative class.

If we deliver creativity to all people – not only to the creative class – we should recognise the creative society. The paper deals with a novel approach in two ways. First, the idea of the creative society follows the creative economy here. Second, the concept of a creative society is based not as much on Florida’s idea of the creative class as on criticism towards it. In this paper, first, different lists of the creative economy are compared, then the concept of a creative society is presented, and finally, the possible empirical indices of a creative society and their problems are analysed.

1. The Lists of the Creative Economy The mere presence of a creative sector’s list in the government shows some focus on the creative economy. As a result, in some countries, they are both supported and recognised as having an important role in the national economy. However, the official list shows some bureaucratic tricks since any classifier is already a sort of division into areas borders of which are very difficult to break. In fact, the sectors of the creative economy are not cut off from each other, moreover, they remain open in communicating with each other. In addition, the entire creative economy is a lively, bustling region where new areas are born and old ones die. The officially established list of the creative economy does not allow to pick up new areas that are not recorded in it and, conversely, unreasonably reanimates already dead areas. Since the government list is followed by the money that finances one or another area of the creative economy, the existence of such classification has both advantages and disadvantages. First, we look at the list of the creative economy in the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS, 2016). This list is shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Creative sector according to the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), 2016.

Source: created by the author according to DCMS 2016.

If we compare this list with another one formed some years ago (see DCMS, 2011 in Table 2) we see the tendency to join the areas of the creative sector. This tendency could be explained both by bureaucratic reason and by a real situation of merging creative sectors.

Table 2. Creative sector according to the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), 2011.

Source: created by the author according to the DCMS 2011.

When we move to Howkins’ list of the creative economy, we see additional adjustments. As shown in Table 3, Howkins examined each of the creative economy areas separately and thus presented his list, which is not the same as the DCMS lists.

Table 3. List of the creative sector.

Source: created by the authors according to Howkins, 2013.

In addition, there are lists of other scholars (Florida, 2002; Caves, 2002) who suggest the content of creative economy from their field of research. Some areas of the creative economy are distinguished by focusing on the dynamics and high economic growth, as well on the potential of these areas. This is typical of computer games that Howkins examines as a completely separate and very fast-growing area of the creative economy. A similar case is the sector of toys and games that are related to rapidly developing technologies, especially digital media. Developing new technologies is definitely a creative activity. In addition, technologies contribute to the development of other areas of the creative sector, such as software or computer games. On the other hand, the latter are inseparable from the development of digital and information technologies.

2. The Concept of the Creative Society

The concept of the creative society has a solid basis. Having many concepts, creativity is the attribute of any culture (Adomaitytė et al., 2018). Creative economy suggests the creative class as a new social formation (Florida, 2002). It seems that the creative class is the core of a creative society. The number, weight, and activity of the creative class predetermine the role of creativity in society. Still, there are several problems here. First, the creative class is not a new formation. It can even be considered the criterion of any outstanding historical civilization. Secondly, it is unclear how to define the creative class. If we define the creative class too narrowly (say, only as a class of artists), its role in society will be insignificant. If we define it too broadly (including engineers, doctors, bankers and businessmen) in the manner of Florida (2002; 2012), it will lose his identity. Finally, the concept of a creative society presupposes the idea that every individual is creative enough. There is no reason to speak about a creative class in this case. Although the segregation of our society increases, the division of it into the classes is a kind of Post-Marxist discourse if everybody has equal possibilities within a democratic environment. As a result, the concept of creative society represents a neoliberal approach that is hardly compatible with a Post-Marxist division of society into the classes (including creative one) as the holders of social capital.

Additionally, the question arises about the relationship between the knowledge society and the creative society. It seems that creativity requires more and more knowledge and skills in an environment filled with technology and media. As a result, creativity occurs in a knowledge society where creativity is only an aspect of promoting knowledge. Still, creative relationships imply entirely different social ties that predetermine changes in both economic relations and lifestyle. In addition, the priorities of creativity predetermine political changes. Finally, the fact that creativity is inseparable from knowledge does not mean that the first is an aspect of the second and not vice versa. Therefore, the discourse of the knowledge society does not eliminate and does not subordinate the discourse of the creative society, since the latter emphasizes the corresponding trends in social development. Another aspect of creative society is that it or a part of it, such as a class or an individual is something outstanding. We encounter this aspect or phenomenon in several ways. First, we are talking about an outstanding artist in a narrow and about an outstanding creative worker in a broad sense. However, this is a problematic issue. On the one hand, any artist or creative worker is a child of his or her environment, who also plays a certain role in this process. On the other hand, an outstanding individual also implies a hermeneutic and communication gap, that is, a lack of understanding and ignoring of his (her) work. Finally, outstanding individuals are undesirable in a media environment where ratings and mass audience are priorities. Secondly, we can talk about an outstanding community, including a class. For example, the creative class (if we recognise this) is outstanding both because of its creative achievements and due to its influence on society, although it is not the largest class. The problem here is that in a democratic society with its majority rule, a relatively small creative class can hardly influence political decisions. This suggests an unpleasant idea that a democratic and creative society do not agree. Some researchers (Florida, 2002; Florida, 2012) try to solve this problem by expanding the scope of the creative class, nonetheless this creates difficulties in identifying it. As mentioned, we can talk about an outstanding creative society. In this case, we face another difficulty: if a society is understood as a social community encompassing individuals and communities, then is it outstanding in relation to what? A creative society can be outstanding lest in relation to a knowledge society or an industrial society, which imply a different theoretical approach and other priorities. However, in this case, it does not indicate different societies but the development of the same society, when certain aspects become irrelevant. The creative society involves a creative lifestyle. The changed labour relations show it: freedom in choosing work schedules, long vacations, which are most often sacrificed for creative work, informal relations, when offices and institutions that administer creativity disappear, autonomy and responsibility in making both working and life decisions, inability to count working hours, on the other hand – hard work, short-term duties to the employer and consequently reduction in social guarantees. In other words, the creative worker balances between the desire to go beyond formal labour relations and the obligation to remain inside the labour market with some social protection. In general, the social life of a creative worker is varied in form. Still, in most cases, we are not speaking about waiting for rare moments of inspiration, but about hard work and self-discipline. Finally, both the creative worker and the creative society are characterized by the principle of ignorance. It manifests itself not so much in ignorance about the future impact or success of the work (Caves, 2002), but also in ignorance of what will affect the emergence of the work. The question arises whether there is a limit to creativity. Thus, it is a question of creative ecology and creative ethics. Each work of art, more or less individual, is limited by its social environment, which it puts forward or forgets. Creative ecology primarily appeals to the purification of consciousness from creative pollution (Howkins, 2009). Creative ecology is a certain strategy for forming the content of consciousness. This is necessary both for individual creativity and for the renewal of society. Ecology is a narrow transition between social mobility and social stagnation. In general, for ecology, individual creativity in the conditions of social engineering and the production of mass happiness is important. The expansion of the social horizon for individual creativity, which always arises in a certain social environment, is also connected with ecology. Creative ethics also appeal to the limits of creativity, although it interprets stagnation as unethical behaviour in relation to the creative society. A colourful creative society without the same rules implies different behaviour. Although Immanuel Kant (1997) associated ethics with reason and rationality, creative ethics encounters irrational moments when the behaviour of an individual is predetermined by his creative sensations and stimuli. We can talk about two sections of creative ethics: the content of the first is the creative aspect of ethics, the second is the ethical issue of creativity. On the other hand, one can speak of three ethics by social dimension: an individual, a communal, and a social. The first covers the aspirations of the creative worker, the second appeals to the professional activity, the third has in mind the universal maxims. A creative worker is an agent of all these ethics and their sections. Moreover, certain tensions or even contradictions between these ethics become creative stimuli. Creative ethics appeal to the unusual behaviour towards these contradictory ethics, although it seems unethical from other ethical perspectives.

3. Empirical Research of the Creative Society

The difficulties specific to empirical studies of creativity stem from the non-empirical nature of creativity. From a sociological point of view, studies of a creative society need empirical indices of creativity. Therefore, Florida puts forward certain indices of creativity: Bohemian, High Tech, Innovation, Gay, Talent, Melting Pot, and their integrative indices (see Table 4). It seems that it remains to count them, to evaluate national, professional, and religious communities, as well as to form policies that encourage creativity. But here the problems are just beginning. With respect to each of these empirical indices, methodological difficulties arise that cause doubts in the empirical approach to creativity in general: either these empirical indices do not sufficiently substantiate creativity, or they cannot be counted empirically.

Table 4. Indices of creativity.

Source: created by the author according to Florida 2002 and to Kačerauskas 2017.

For example, in the case of a Bohemian Index (that refers to creative workers in the narrow sense as artists), it is not clear who makes up this group. Are performers, (computer) designers, inventors, educators, scientists, DJs, graffitists considered as artists? Here a problem arises, as in the case of the creative class. To give a great influence to this concentrate of creative society, researchers tend to expand its boundaries, but then a threat to its identity arises. In addition, it is difficult to separate the artist from the manager and technologist in a post-modern and post-industrial society. Finally, it is unclear how much the artist must be outstanding to be counted among this layer. Therefore, the volume of the Bohemian Index depends on the question arising from the policy in the field of art and creativity: how much does a consumer community need an artist with his disinterested vision? When we try to determine the High Tech Index, first of all, there is the difficulty of separating high technologies from “low” technologies. In addition, high technologies are becoming a means of levelling creative activities instead of encouraging creativity. It seems that the Innovation Index, which is determined by the number of patents, speaks not so much of creativity as of a lower or higher social barrier in this respect. Moreover, the number of patents does not show the influence of inventions on social development after their implementation. Finally, the growth in the number of patents shows trends of not so much creativity as consumption. It is impossible to measure the Gay Index not only because statistics on this “sensitive” issue is hardly possible, and the phenomenon of bisexuality indicates that the boundaries of homosexuality are unclear. Difficulties result from the fact that being gay is primarily a cultural, not a physical (sexual) category. The Talent Index, which expresses the percentage of high school graduates, indicates not as much the talent (and thus creativity) of society as the attractiveness of higher education. A high Talent Index also shows a devaluation of higher education, i.e. an orientation towards the average level, which is the opposite of creativity. The Melting Pot Index, which expresses the percentage of immigrants, does not show the diversity (which implies creativity) of society but the probable closeness of sub-societies. In addition, the idea of a pot levelling cultural margins does not express creativity, which appeals to the cooperation of the cultural centre and cultural margins. The empirically of integral indices (Minor and Major), which at different scales cover the mentioned indices, is questionable not only because their components are problematic and difficult to measure, and not only that they cover only part of the possible creativity indices but also because that they appeal to what is behind empiricism, i.e., to historical consciousness, worldview and transmission of tradition. In addition to those mentioned above, alternative creativity indices can be advanced (Table 4). For example, the Emigration Index, which in some sense is the opposite of the Melting Pot Index, as it appeals to emigrants, and not to immigrants. Still, it expresses the freedom and tolerance of society: the least of all emigrants are from a totalitarian society, which can hardly be called creative. The Suicide Index seems to express the unhappy state of society, which is not consistent with creativity. Still, he shows the freedom of “exit” in a creative society. The indices of economic growth, sociability and urbanisation also express creativity, although not in a straightforward way. Economic growth implies more intensive creative activities. Sociability (including social networks) involves the exchange of creative ideas; a large number of cities and their sufficient size presuppose additional creative possibilities. The countries could be rated according to mentioned indices. However, the paradox is as follows. The same countries could be first in one list and the last in another. Lithuania is a good example. According to the OECD’s assessment of people between the ages of 25 and 34 who have completed tertiary education, Lithuania is fourth after South Korea, Canada, and Japan (World Economic Forum, 2018). In other words, Talent Index (high education) of Lithuania is very high on the global level. If we take another, Suicide Index, Lithuania is the last country with its 31.9 suicides per 100k (World Population Review, 2020).

Conclusion and Discussions The classification creative sector in the government shows some focus on the creative economy since they are recognized as having an important role in the national economy. However, the existence of such a list has both advantages and disadvantages since the government’s list is followed by the money that finances one or another area of the creative economy. It seems that the creative economy suggests the creative class as a new social formation. However, the concept of creative society is hardly compatible with a Post-Marxist division of society into the classes (including creative one) as the holders of social capital. The question of creative society arises whether there is a limit to creativity. Thus, it is a question of creative ecology and creative ethics. The difficulties specific to empirical studies of creativity stem from the non-empirical nature of creativity. However, from a sociological point of view, studies of a creative society need empirical indices of creativity. Limitations of study lie in the fact that only three lists (DCMS, 2011; DCMS, 2016; Howkins, 2007) of the creative economy are analysed here. Additionally, all of them are based on the data of one country (the United Kingdom). Besides this, the creative economy’s approach based on the regions is ignored here. Finally, the link between the creative economy and creative society must be reasoned better. According to mentioned indices, the different countries could be compared on a larger scale. As a result, the recommendations for policy in the EU and neighbour countries could be followed.


written by Prof. Tomas Kacerauskas, Head of the Department of Philosophy and Cultural Studies Faculty of Creative Industries - Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (Vilnius, Lithuania).

Team Leader and lecturer on behalf of the "CSB pilot course" core activity of the Erasmus Plus K203 Project "Cultural Studies in Business".

Published on March, 2020 on Transformations in Business & Economics, Vol. 19, No 1 (49), pp.43-52. ISSN 1648-4460 - Regular Paper

Vilnius University, 2002-2020 Brno University of Technology, 2002-2020

University of Latvia, 2002-2020.

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