Tom MacWright

I read Against Creativity by Oli Mould on


This book is not good. If I had to describe it, it’d be sloppy.

It sets out a sloppy, vague villain - capitalism, writ large, or “neoliberalism,” no further clarity - and pins everything to it. Urban planning, startups, rock bands, art, management hierarchies. It’s all bad capitalist creativity.

The Cities chapter is a grating recitation of left-NIMBY talking points. That’s it. There’s no point in critiquing it because it’s the same stuff you read from anyone else who likes Marx and has a fleeting interest in housing, but not enough interest to read any book on housing.

It’s just like, what is this? The cringy disability discussion is one thing, but then we have the recycled discussion of algorithms and big data. There’s nothing new here. It’s just your usual description-of-the-world, of austerity measures or gig labor, and then “creativity” tacked on at the end of the sentence.

Against Creativity is probably best understood as a response to Richard Florida’s writing, which boosted the idea of bohemian creative types and their ability to reenergize cities. Like Florida, Mould is obsessed with the surface-level aesthetics. He just holds the opposite view, that creativity in capitalism is bad, because capitalism is bad.

There’s probably a book to be written here. There are points one could make. But this book is so ambiguous and sloppy that it left me with nothing. There weren’t cohesive arguments or ideas for what could be better. Despite all the citations, there wasn’t much discussion of any time before 2000 or anything outside the western world. I mean, I get it: capitalism is bad. But if you already get that, then you don’t need to read this book.