Meny Stäng

Standing on the Crowd´s Shoulders: The Social Origin of Creativity

Av Koen Janssen


We applaud Boudelaire for his Les Fleurs du Mal, we revere Marx for Das Kapital and we admire Picasso for Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. All three are pieces of art in their own right and each of them arouse strong emotion of love or hate in many of us.

We exhaustively ponder the meaning of these works but when it comes to the origin of the works we almost always end up with unsatisfying statements of dates and places. Das Kapital originated from the mind of Marx in the 1860’s in London, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon from the hand of Picasso in 1907, and the original Les Fleurs du Mal from the pen of Baudelaire during the 1840’s and 1850’s in Paris. This explanation does not suffice in a study of the origin of these works.

In the following article I will not refute that these masterpieces stem from the minds of these individuals, I will, however, assert that these minds are not the source of these works. They are the fertile ground in which the seed of creativity is planted. I will assert that creativity, that lays at the base of bringing something ‘new’ into being, is not solely an individual trait but is, for a large part, dependent on the collective personal relations the ‘creator’ keeps. Furthermore, I will show that ‘being creative’, or being viewed as creative or innovative, largely depends on one’s personal network for assessing something as valuable and distributing this view amongst others.

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