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The Rise and Rise of Creativity

Steven Shapin: Creativity was a moment in the history of academic psychology. As an expert-defined category, creativity was also summoned into existence during the Cold War, together with theories of its identity, distinctions between creativity and seemingly related mental capacities, and tests for assessing it. But creativity also belongs to the history of institutions and organizations that were the clients for academic psychology — the military, business, the civil service and educational establishments. Creativity was mobilized too in the moral and political conflict between supposedly individualistic societies and their collectivist opponents, and it was enlisted to talk about, defend and pour value over U.S. conceptions of the free-acting individual. This served to surround creativity with an aura, a luminous glow of ideology. The Cold War ended, but the rise of creativity has continued. Many of its expert practices have been folded into the everyday life of organizations committed to producing useful novelty, most notably high-tech business, the management consultancies that seek to serve and advise innovatory business, and other institutions that admire high-tech business and aim to imitate its ways of working.

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