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Alexandra Manske: "Creative are the children from the rising milieus of the 1960s

Alexandra Manske: "Creative are the children from the rising milieus of the 1960s
Photo: © Alexandra Manske

The cultural and creative industries are an expanding field.  And yet employment relationships are precarious. The sociologist Alexandra Manske has been researching the cultural and creative industries for years. Now her new book has been published: "Capitalist Spirits in the Cultural and Creative Industries". We talked to her about creative people between artistic urge and economic compulsion, about free development versus social security and the future of the creative industries.



CCB Magazine: Hello Alexandra, you are doing research on the cultural and creative industries. What is actually creative about doing research on creative people?

Alexandra Manske: Uff, social research is first of all subject to strict regulations and formalities, which is not very creative. But writing in itself belongs to the four canonical disciplines of art, which is therefore very artistically creative. And research is also creative, because you have to be creative in order to find out certain things.

CCB Magazine: The subtitle of your new book is: "Creatives between economic compulsion and artistic urge". How does this balancing act affect the work of creative people?

Alexandra Manske:Artists and creative people today embody the modern working subject. They move between artistic being and new entrepreneurship. And artistic-creative work today, but also in the past, is characterized by a high level of education, flexibility, high work motivation and financial restrictions in favor of an intrinsic motivation. However, creative workers are increasingly exposed to economic constraints because they have to market themselves and their work more and more. In my work I was concerned with the practice behind the discourse. For currently, three scenarios are outlined in science: One assumes that artists and creative people are victims of today's precarization society because they live in insecure working conditions and earn poorly. The other side argues that artists and creative people are accomplices in flexible capitalism because they experience creativity and being an artist as freedom, but this freedom is accompanied by an increase in personal responsibility and social risks. The third perspective is that creative people are still primarily artists. In my investigation I ask: What is the reality behind the discourse?

CCB Magazine: And, what is the reality behind the discourse?

Alexandra Manske:The question is, do the creative people really all still think: "Boa, we are the avant-gardists because we still work in such an unconventional way" and therefore do not even notice in front of which capitalist carts they are being harnessed? Or is it quite different that many creative people today simply want to do their job in order to earn money with it? Because how else can one explain that nowadays more and more people are working in the creative industry, even though the conditions are so precarious? Every year the creative sector generates 130 billion euros nationwide, which results in a gross value added of over 60 billion euros, more than the chemical industry. No other field of employment has expanded so strongly since the 1970s. Around 1.6 million people today earn their money in the creative sector, significantly more than in the automotive industry. At the same time, members of the artists' social security fund earn an average of only 15,000 euros gross per year. But the question is: Why do you participate in such a thing?

CCB Magazine: Why do you take part in such a thing?

Alexandra Manske:My thesis is: The creative people are predominantly children from the upwardly mobile milieus of the 1960s and 1970s. Today there is a sense of social security, which is to a certain extent a historical remnant and which can be traced back to the cultural change and economic improvement from the mid/end of the 1960s and also to the welfare state commitment, namely to the introduction of the artists' social security fund in the early 1980s. This kind of coverage had never existed before. And now suddenly it is the creative workers who are particularly hard hit by precarization. In other words: In another form, traditional patterns of social inequality, which are already 150 years old, are reproduced. Today, these patterns of social inequality are favored by the attractiveness of the economic expansion of cultural and creative industries.

Many creative people think that it will go well somehow

CCB Magazine: How?

Alexandra Manske:Creative people are aware of their social situation, but at the same time there is something like an industrial habitus of social advancement and social security, i.e. the belief that things will somehow work out. And this belief exists precisely against the background of a generation with the experience of social advancement, which mentally continues to have an effect even today. It also takes a while until mentalities change.

CCB Magazine: Will these mentalities change in the future?

Alexandra Manske:That remains to be seen. On the one hand, a new awareness is already emerging; initiatives and networks such as Haben und Brauchen or the Coalition of the Free Scene in Berlin are sending out clear signals and are also taking politicians to task. They are campaigning for the preservation of spaces for creative people and legal minimum fees. On the other hand, however, there is still a great deal of reluctance to organize, for example, in trade unions. The creative industries are still a union-free area.

CCB Magazine: In your book you also describe Berlin as a location for creative people. What role does Berlin play in your observation that an "industrial social habitus of social advancement" still prevails today?

Alexandra Manske:You can only understand today's Berlin if you go back to the 1970s, because it was during this period that what Klaus Wowereit called "poor but sexy" a few years ago emerged. Although nightlife was already happening in 1913, the National Socialists' madness put an abrupt end to this dazzling past. Historically, Berlin is a traditional workers' city, also with a distinct (sub)cultural past and a bourgeois salon culture. In the 1970s, the artistic and creative scene in Berlin took shape. During this time, spaces were conquered, structures were created. And at that time, people settled down in an economic sanctuary that offered a lot of space and laid the roots and foundations for what I call in my book "Beschleunigungsfeiern nach '89" ("Acceleration Celebrations after '89"): the so-called "night entrepreneur" became characteristic of 1990s Berlin. This "night entrepreneur" has developed from the subcultural and socio-cultural niches of clubs and bars like "Cookies" or "Trash". Berlin was suddenly no longer just a playground for economically uninterested artists. Berlin was also interesting for economically thinking creative people. 

One can only understand today's Berlin if one goes back to the 1970s

CCB Magazine: Is that good or bad?

Alexandra Manske:Both. Today, the creative industries are very important for the urban economy as a whole. This also applies to Berlin. The more culture a city has, the more attractive it becomes in the global competition for locations. In Berlin, 200,000 people now work in the cultural and creative industries. Today, one in ten of the working population is employed in the creative or cultural sector. By comparison, in Hamburg this figure is eight percent, but on average in Germany it is "only" a good three percent - and even that is more than in the insurance industry. At the same time, one in two creative and cultural workers today cannot make a living from their actual work. They are also dependent on bread and butter jobs, especially in Berlin.

CCB Magazine: In your book you speak of the "re-actualization of the social question" since the 1980s.

Alexandra Manske:Yes, in the context of the general flexibilisation of work, artistic-creative work since the 1980s has increasingly unfolded within a framework of conditions characterised by increasing economic and socio-political uncertainty. As a consequence, fixed-term contracts, part-time jobs, and freelance employment relationships that are only slightly or not at all regulated dominate today. It is thus a process of precarization of artistic-creative work.

CCB Magazine: How?

Alexandra Manske:Artistic-creative work is becoming increasingly subject to the demands of the market. In addition, the artistic-creative labor market today is characterized above all by an expansion of privately organized creative labor markets. The precarious employment zones have also become more differentiated through artistic-creative work: Being a freelancer is no longer a fixed employment status as it was in the 1970/80s. Rather, changing employment relationships and forms of employment are the norm. However, changing forms of employment are not provided for in the statues of the artists' social security fund and lead to considerable problems of security. All in all, even from a global perspective, a new zone of unprotected and unstable employment has established itself in artistic-creative fields of activity.

The increasing poverty of old age is becoming a problem for creative people. Probably no way will lead past a citizen insurance

CCB Magazine: How to solve this problem?

Alexandra Manske:It's imperative that the regulations of the artists' social security fund be adapted to the new challenges in society. In the future there will also have to be minimum fees among self-employed persons. In addition, I also welcome the construction of a City Tax, as in Berlin, for example, through which at least part of the money collected flows into culture. All in all, it will also have to be about creative people organizing themselves: There is simply a lack of uniform collective actors. The different associations have different target groups, and they often have little money; some represent the self-employed, others all kinds of professional associations. This is where we need to come together. And a new awareness will have to develop. It is already apparent that there is something like subjective social exhaustion among creative people, because many simply can't take it anymore. In the long term, increasing poverty among the elderly will also become a problem for creative people. There will probably be no way around a citizens' insurance.

Alexandra Manske: Capitalist spirits in the cultural and creative industries. Creatives between economic compulsion and artistic urge, transcript verlag 2016

Category: Knowledge & Analysis


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