The Rise and Fall of the Creative Class: a Response to Hanzi Freinacht

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Hanzi Freinacht is the main author in the website metamoderna.org. As a disclaimer, this is not an attack on Freinacht as a person, nor is the point to put in doubt his qualifications as a philosopher. This is an attack on his ideology. Freinacht claims to have discovered Ariadne’s thread, the resolution to the puzzle of overcoming postmodern capitalism, which he tells us consists of “out-competing capitalism”. Capitalism, he tells us, is not to be abolished nor combated, but outperformed. I am unsure if Freinacht is even aware of the irony here: for many years this was the line followed by the USSR during the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev, who used it as the ideological justification for reconciliation with the capitalist West and the abandoning of class struggle. The idea was that Soviet socialism was then (in the years following de-Stalinization) more efficient than western capitalism, so it would be a mere matter of time for countries (and specially countries just liberating themselves from colonial subordination) to see the superiority of the Soviet system and adopt it. This way, the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union would exponentially increase over time and come to deprive the centers of western capitalism of the resources needed to run their economy, and thus the Soviet Union would win the Cold War without firing a single shot. We know this did not come to pass. This brief history lesson serves to indicate that Freinacht likely did not do his homework. If he is going to make the naive claim of having discovered the way world capitalism will be overcome, he should be prepared to endure the ideological attacks this claim will provoke, both from the left and from the right.

 Which leads me to my second point: central to Freinacht’s ideology is the creative class being the radical subject that will lead to the overcoming of post-modernity. In Freinacht’s account the creative class is now the main contender fighting for prestige and power against the big bourgeoisie and petite bourgeoisie, and this creative class does so by possessing something that the other ruling classes allegedly don’t have: creative capital. To give a succinct definition we would say that creative capital is -again as understood by Freinacht- the capacity of certain subjects, either because of their charisma, skill or histrionism, to draw the attention of their contemporaries. In Freinacht’s idealist philosophy the mere fact that I take the time to read his blog already makes him the possessor of creative capital. Freinacht however, doesn’t take into consideration that I may take the time to read his blog, understand his philosophy and assimilate his ideas, in order to defeat said ideas. Louis Althusser already gave an account, back in the day, of how philosophy is highly partisan. Philosophy can only be for or against the status quo, there is no middle way. And the same could be said of this “creative capital”, creativity too is partisan.

To conceive that the creative class, will unite as a whole to overthrow the bourgeoisie is idealist. It is more conceivable to see this creative class as embedded in the same old main antagonism in society and as such, can only take the side of either the wretched of the Earth or the oppressors. The quintessential example here would perhaps be no other than Jon Jafari, a.k.a Jontron. As a YouTube celebrity he’s the possessor of this mystical ethereal substance called creative capital, he draws the attention of millions. If Jon Jafari is a part of the vanguard of the creative class that will in time overthrow the bourgeoisie, we’re doomed. When it comes to ideology, Jon Jafari appears, like many YouTube celebrities, to be ambivalently undecided between a Ron Paulian Libertarianism and a confused white nationalism. In other words, Jon Jafari is alt-right. And this matters a lot when talking about the creative class as subject: this creative class can in fact play the role of ideologues of capital, and not even just capital, but the most reactionary, chauvinist elements of the global bourgeoisie, perhaps it is no coincidence that, if we were to run a census on this internet based creative class we will find most of them to be white, urban, and from the global north.

Without delving into identity politics we can venture the claim that this global creative class is part of the stratum of the global division of labor that extracts surplus value from the world proletariat. Consider everything that has to be in place for someone to become a member of this creative class: one must be educated, urbanite, presumably having had all their material needs already met (Freinacht concedes as much when he calls this class “postmaterialist”) and “networked”, that is, already in contact with potential sponsors and patrons. Here we see, firmly in place, not just all the obstacles preventing the most radical elements of society even making into this privileged stratum of global society, but the reason why the creative class can never really be a true antagonist to the ruling class, they will always depend on their patronage. This alone should dilapidate the idea of this “creative capital” as ever existing independently from finance capital. Nor is the creative class, due to its simple lack of know-how, capable of overtaking production and running the factories independently from the bourgeoisie and thus making the bourgeoisie superfluous, as the proletariat in the standard Marxist narrative, in other words the creative class has nothing but its creativity. This makes it incapable of ever becoming a class-for-itself, a radical subject.

The creative class has two and only two paths ahead for itself, to continue seeking patronage from the moneyed sectors of society, hence continuing to be inherently parasitic, or becoming what in Gramscian accounts is called “organic intellectuals” and siding with the workers and the oppressed, that being the moment in which the creative class is subsumed into the world proletariat at large, this I think, is the only progressive way forward for this so-called class.

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