Today is likely to be the last (official) working day of 2016. I’d like to say I’m in good shape for an early 2017 submission, but I suspect we’re talking the March/April range if I’m completely honest. If things can be done and dusted by mid-year then I will be pretty happy.
It’s strange to think I’ve been doing nothing but working on this one piece of writing for a full 12-months. I finished my transcription on January 2nd 2016 and here I am on December 22nd and it’s still a word salad of ideas. 80,000 coherent words doesn’t sounds like a lot, but damn it takes it out of you.
Today I need to write the last 1000 words or so of my ‘setting the scene’ or climate section. This is a new addition that has taken me a lot longer than it should (as in a week), but yesterday I just fell into the zone and did 4,000 in a day (which I can honestly say has never, ever happened before.) Today however….it’s 3:19pm and I haven’t started. To be fair I was at a funeral this morning.
Intellectually I’m being spurred on by Angela McRobbie’s book Be Creative: Making a Living in the New Culture Industries. I feel like this might be the missing piece of my larger puzzle. McRobbie argues that the rise of the creative industries can be linked to the reduction of social democratic policies and focus on neo-liberalism of governments like the New Labour Blair government. By encouraging the growth of creative labour, fuelled by increases in arts school intakes, the emergence of rave culture, technology change and globalisation governments essentially facilitated the destruction of collective approaches to labour (that is unions) by encouraging everyone individual to be creative AND entrepreneurial and “follow their passion.” Studies have shown that managerial techniques aimed to increase worker satisfaction and engagement within organisations are used to decrease union membership, and what we are seeing in the flexible, gig or precariat economy is a similar thing. Individual’s are encouraged to chase their creative dreams, start their own businesses, which leaves them not only 100% accountable for their own success or failure but removes any working welfare support they may have had.
While I’m not finished the book yet, it has made me very conscious of the the role that I have personally played in the similar structures emerging here in Australia. Education providers are the starting point as they are encouraging entrepreneurship and the reality of the portfolio careers but teaching ‘creative skills’ without critiquing the system itself. I often despaired at the lack of politics in the art school I taught at, but didn’t really consider my own role in contributing to a system I increasingly don’t believe in.
Thesis wise it’s not only given me some good positioning data about the reality of creative work, but has provided some guts to my ideas about what communities of practice do for creative practitioners. I have been arguing that communities of practice are not only sites of learning and identity formation for emerging leaders but that they provide psychosocial support and create a sense of career optimism. Which they do, but it’s a bit theoretically light. But taking MMcRobbie’s arguments I can see that communities of practice are also providing a barrier against the increasing neoliberal state of creative work. They are, on a micro scale, a type of emotional welfare net. So in effect they play two roles:
- For those in organisational settings they can be a buffer against identity regulation
- For those in the flexible gig economy they provide a type of support that is missing when there’s no collective body (like a union).
In both cases the coming together of like minded individuals to achieve a collective aim offers an antidote to the neoliberal ideas of individualism.
Yes I know this is a political stance, but I feel more energised when writing with a bit of politics behind me. This is one of the problems I have with my thesis, I feel it lacks my voice. I’m hoping that in this next re-write I can bring some passion to the project (even if readers don’t agree with me.)
Anyhow, off to write and I hope any readers have a good holiday season and a safe, productive new year. Here’s to a successful, happy 2017 filled with Phd submissions and resulting graduations!