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Social Structure and Artistic Creativity

  • Janet Wolff
Chapter
Part of the Communications and Culture book series

Abstract

Everything we do is located in, and therefore affected by, social structures. It does not follow from this that in order to be free agents we somehow have to liberate ourselves from social structures and act outside them. On the contrary, the existence of these structures and institutions enables any activity on our part, and this applies equally to acts of conformity and acts of rebellion. One of the themes I shall develop in this chapter is the relationship between social structures and individual action, and I shall argue that all action, including creative or innovative action, arises in the complex conjunction of numerous structural determinants and conditions. Any concept of ‘creativity’ which denies this is metaphysical, and cannot be sustained. But the corollary of this line of argument is not that human agents are simply programmed robots, or that we need not take account of their biographical, existential or motivational aspects. As I have indicated already, I will try to show how practical activity and creativity are in a mutual relation of interdependence with social structures. The second main argument of this chapter is that in this respect artistic creativity is not different in any relevant way from other forms of creative action.

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Notes and References

  1. 4.
    ‘Capitalist production is hostile to certain branches of spiritual production, for example, art and poetry.’ (Karl Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Progress, Moscow, 1963, p. 285, quoted by Vazquez 1973, p. 155.)Google Scholar
  2. 35.
    ‘Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past’ (From The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, in Marx and Engels 1968, p. 96).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Janet Wolff 1981

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  • Janet Wolff

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