The Business of Creativity: Toward an Anthropology of Worth, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Business of Creativity

Toward an Anthropology of Worth, 1st Edition

By Brian Moeran


299 pages

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pub: 2013-12-15
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How does a group of people, brought together because of their diverse skills and professional knowledge, set out to be ‘creative’? How are ongoing tensions between beauty, fame, and money resolved? In The Business of Creativity, Brian Moeran, a leading scholar and writer on the creative industries, takes the sacred relic of creativity out of the crypt and airs it in the ethnographic alley. In contrast to the persistent image of creativity as the spontaneous inspiration of a gifted individual, Moeran shows how creativity emerges from collaborative engagements among people, genres, institutions, materials and technologies. He alternates thick description of work in fashion, advertising, and ceramic art with theoretical innovations that shed new light on the aesthetic, symbolic, and economic dimensions of creativity and the production of worth.


“Brian Moeran’s deep, detailed investigations of a sparkling variety of work situations lead him to an understanding of creativity, solidly based on close observation of people at work, that anchors this field, so often mired in vague talk, in the real world of potters, fashion magazines, perfumers, and other workers who are on creativity’s front line.”

—Howard S. Becker, author of Art Worlds

“This brilliant book is filled with profound insights on every page. Professor Moeran’s book is a window into the creative process; he convincingly shows that creativity is embedded in cultural practices and collaborative relationships. His ethnographic studies, mostly in Japan but also in Denmark, reveal that creativity emerges from collaborative improvisations, unpredictable but always grounded in conventions, norms, and cultures. If you are interested in creativity, innovation, and the role of creative work in today’s economy, you absolutely must read this book.”

—R. Keith Sawyer, Morgan Distinguished Professor in Educational Innovations, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"…Focused primarily on creative practices in Japan, business anthropologist/artist Moeran here alternates chapters on ethnography with propositions on the nature of creativity. Too many Anglo-European theorists romanticize creativity as indescribable, based only on individual talent. By studying creative worlds in a contemporary Eastern context, the author offers an interesting counterview. … Readers should start with the case studies and then return to the introductory chapter, 'Overture.' This approach will allow a better understanding of Moeran's theories on how cultural agents, institutions, and materials compete for resources, and of project collaboration for creating economically valuable art. Useful for multidisciplinary collections. Summing Up: Recommended."…
--CHOICE Magazine

"The Business of Creativity is a fascinating and helpful volume in its own right, on business, advertising, fashion, and ceramic arts. However, its message and methods are relevant far beyond those specific subjects and settings. Anthropologists can and have begun to apply the concept of affordance in many contexts, together with the view of culture as creative practice, as future-directed thought and planning, and the understanding of all of social life as an assemblage of 'motley crews' of people, institutions, 'things,' and environments. There are lessons in this book and in Moeran's career that are already revolutionizing anthropology and will continue to reshape it, for the better, into its own creative disciplinary future."

--Jack David Eller, Anthropology Review Database

Table of Contents



1. Circuits of affordances

2. Putting on a show

3. Ensemblages of worth

4. Shooting an ad campaign

5. The organization of creativity

6. Editing fashion magazines

7. Symbolic markets

8. Designing ceramics

9. Craftsmanship

10. Judging artworks

11. The politics of evaluation




About the Author

About the Series

Anthropology & Business

Crossing boundaries, innovating praxis
Both anthropology and business work at the forefront of culture and change. As anthropology brings its concerns with cultural organization and patterns of human behavior to multiple forms of business, a new dynamic of engagement is created. In addition to expanding interest in business as an object of study, anthropologists increasingly hold positions within corporations or work as independent consultants to businesses. In these roles, anthropologists are both redefining the discipline and innovating in industries around the world. These shifts are creating exciting cross-fertilizations and advances in both realms: challenging traditional categories of scholarship and practice, pushing methodological boundaries, and generating new theoretical entanglements. This series advances anthropology's multifaceted work in enterprise, from marketing, design, and technology to user experience research, work practice studies, finance, and many other realms.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General