ICS Seminar Series - George Morgan

Date: Thursday 10 August 2017
Time: 11.30am–1pm
Venue: EB.G.02, Western Sydney University, Parramatta South campus

George Morgan

(Western Sydney University)

Subcultural Capitalism


In their landmark study, The New Spirit of Capitalism, Boltanski and Chiapello wrote of capitalism's remarkable capacity for renewal; in particular in responding to the post-1968 critique of alienated labour, bureaucracy, mass production and consumption. Creativity has now become a buzzword for western economic renewal. In our forthcoming book The creativity hoax, Pariece Nelligan and I argue that the idea of the 'creative economy' contains an implicit promise that work will become more fulfilling and that the worker can realistically aspire to build a vocation from their cultural enthusiasms. More and more young people are now enrolling in creative training courses as a result. But this promise remains largely unfulfilled. While the numbers of those employed in the creative industries is growing, much of the work being performed in these industries makes scant use of workers' creative skills. Most of those fortunate enough to practice such skills do so outside the wage contract, in the so-called gig economy. The lack of Fordist jobs forces many aspiring creative workers to become small entrepreneurs. Yet this transition is difficult: art has long been a form of protest against capitalism and those who aspire to creative vocations often have roots in various forms of non-conformity: bohemian, subcultural etc. This paper will explore some of the contemporary myths of new capitalism and at the way they provide symbolic bridges between the youthful non-conformist origins of creativity and the highly neo-liberal circumstances of the market for creative skills. I will look at how new capitalism seeks to reconstruct relations between producers and consumers, so as to mask the cold relations of commodity exchange.


George Morgan is Associate Professor in the Institute for Culture and Society and the School of Humanities and Communication Arts. His research interests range from urban studies to Aboriginality and post-colonialism, to youth and precarious labour, to the politics of moral panics. His current research considers how urban working class and minority (including Aboriginal and Middle Eastern) youth respond to the challenges of finding work and developing vocational aspirations in the 'creative industries'. His books include (as sole author) Unsettled places: Aboriginal people and urbanisation in New South Wales (Wakefield Press, 2006); (with Pariece Nelligan) The creativity hoax (Anthem Press, forthcoming 2017); (as editor, both with Scott Poynting) Outrageous: moral panics in Australia (ACYS Press, 2007) and Global Islamophobia (Ashgate, 2012).