Creativity is often related to freedom in every meaning of its word, starting with the space to create, and up to the need for the “room for imagination,” which, basically, every artist needs to come up with an original and exciting idea. Creativity and oppression, on the contrary, are rarely related to each other; indeed, they never go hand in hand, with violence obviously affecting creativity in the most negative way possible.
However, when considering oppression as a source of emotions, one must admit that it does affect creativity, even if this effect comes in the most negative form possible. Therefore, despite the seeming lack of links between the two phenomena, Marion Young’s five types of oppression are obviously relatable to Richard Florida’s recent edition of The Rise of the Creative Class Revisited.
When evaluating the contribution that Young’s work can possibly make to Florida’s work, one must mention the fact that, though often considered the negative force that reduces people’s creativity to zero, oppression can be the booster that finally reveals a person’s need to create under any circumstances. In other words, oppression pushes an artist’s need for sublimation to the breaking point, where it comes out in the form of the most sincere and impressive statement, be it a one-man show or a consolidated work of several authors.
As Young stresses, there are five manifestations of oppression, and the basic concepts of each of them can be found in Florida’s new edition as a factor that affects creativity. To start with, there is exploitation, which definitely rubs elbows with the basic definition of creativity as the need to “cultivate and utilize all of our national and human resources” (Florida x).
While the given argument might sound lacking in appreciation of the author’s vision or contribution to culture, in fact, creativity does presuppose that certain resources are used to create something worthwhile. Without the given element as a criterion for art critique, it would be impossible to define the value of an artwork within a specific cultural setting.
Another side of oppression defined by Young (Young 4), marginalization comes as a close second to exploitation. Again, while, compared to the traditional interpretation as creativity as an urge to create, marginalization might have little to do with the process of creation, it must be admitted that, in some way, creating something that makes a statement does set the author apart from the rest of the crowd; which is even more disturbing, it is the crowd to decide whether the author should be appraised or ostracized.
The fact that Young tends to shift the concept of oppression towards politics and the related issues, however, sets the idea of Florida’s book and Young’s writing somewhat apart, though, since, traditionally, art is considered as the phenomenon that is not supposed to be affected by the political forces, economical processes or financial changes in any way (Florida x). The given interpretation of art as a completely independent field, however, begs the question of whether art may or may not be viewed as a social phenomenon.
On the one hand, art is clearly the sublimation of one’s own conscience into a specific activity, i.e., painting, sculpture, literature, etc. Artists, in their turn, can be viewed as a prism that projects various social phenomena, mainly the peculiarities of social interactions, onto a particular model, with artistic tools as the means to express the artist’s vision of everyday reality or a certain event. Therefore, the idea of involving political and economical concepts into the discussion of art seems rather reasonable, which makes a perfect case of integrating the ideas suggested by Young into Florida’s new edition of The Rise of the Creative Class Revisited.
Finally, the line, which Youth draws between an individual and the oppressing group, comes out in full blue as the conflict between the artist’s vision and the vision of the rest of the people emerges. Therefore, Youth’s work can be related to Florida’s interpretation of art in many ways, including political, economical, social and sociocultural ones.
In spite of the apparent incompatibility of such concepts as creativity and oppression, the two studies revealed several shared relations. While one must acknowledge the fact that the direct effect of oppression on any form of art is in most cases downright catastrophic, in a specific environment, it can spur the creativity process and even produce new forms of art. It is worth keeping in mind, though, that the instances of creativity developing in some way in the settings of oppression are extremely rare and, more to the point, often led to the expression of the artist’s limitations, let along his or her pain and suffer, in their artworks.
Thus, oppression is one of the few factors that can trigger a lack of creativity. Consequently, oppression as a phenomenon and, primarily, as a factor that affects creativity can and must be analyzed in the context of its impact and the environment that it creates. Even though the effects of oppression range from negative to slightly positive, it can be assumed that, without the perspective offered by Young, the analysis of Richard Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class Revisited will be incomplete.
Florida, Richard. The Rise of the Creative Class Revisited. New York, NY: Basic Books. 2012. Print.
Young, Iris Marion. Five Faces of Oppression. MS Word file. 1–4.