Creativity on Demand: The Dilemmas of Innovation in an Accelerated Age

University of Chicago Press
Free sample

Business consultants everywhere preach the benefits of innovation—and promise to help businesses reap them. A trendy industry, this type of consulting generates courses, workshops, books, and conferences that all claim to hold the secrets of success. But what promises does the notion of innovation entail? What is it about the ideology and practice of business innovation that has made these firms so successful at selling their services to everyone from small start-ups to Fortune 500 companies? And most important, what does business innovation actually mean for work and our economy today?

In Creativity on Demand, cultural anthropologist Eitan Wilf seeks to answer these questions by returning to the fundamental and pervasive expectation of continual innovation. Wilf focuses a keen eye on how our obsession with ceaseless innovation stems from the long-standing value of acceleration in capitalist society. Based on ethnographic work with innovation consultants in the United States, he reveals, among other surprises, how routine the culture of innovation actually is. Procedures and strategies are repeated in a formulaic way, and imagination is harnessed as a new professional ethos, not always to generate genuinely new thinking, but to produce predictable signs of continual change. A masterful look at the contradictions of our capitalist age, Creativity on Demand is a model for the anthropological study of our cultures of work.
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About the author

Eitan Y. Wilf is associate professor of anthropology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of School for Cool: The Academic Jazz Program and the Paradox of Institutionalized Creativity, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Feb 4, 2019
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Pages
240
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ISBN
9780226607023
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / General
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
Social Science / General
Social Science / Sociology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Jazz was born on the streets, grew up in the clubs, and will die—so some fear—at the university. Facing dwindling commercial demand and the gradual disappearance of venues, many aspiring jazz musicians today learn their craft, and find their careers, in one of the many academic programs that now offer jazz degrees. School for Cool is their story. Going inside the halls of two of the most prestigious jazz schools around—at Berklee College of Music in Boston and the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York—Eitan Y. Wilf tackles a formidable question at the heart of jazz today: can creativity survive institutionalization?

Few art forms epitomize the anti-institutional image more than jazz, but it’s precisely at the academy where jazz is now flourishing. This shift has introduced numerous challenges and contradictions to the music’s practitioners. Solos are transcribed, technique is standardized, and the whole endeavor is plastered with the label “high art”—a far cry from its freewheeling days. Wilf shows how students, educators, and administrators have attempted to meet these challenges with an inventive spirit and a robust drive to preserve—and foster—what they consider to be jazz’s central attributes: its charisma and unexpectedness. He also highlights the unintended consequences of their efforts to do so. Ultimately, he argues, the gap between creative practice and institutionalized schooling, although real, is often the product of our efforts to close it.
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction

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