Towards a Sociology of Creativity

  • Phillip McIntyre
  • Janet Fulton
  • Elizabeth Paton
  • Susan Kerrigan
  • Michael Meany
Part of the Creativity, Education and the Arts book series (CEA)


This chapter is an appraisal of the work sociology has undertaken as a discipline in terms of their investigations of creativity. Unlike psychology, which sees creativity as an attribute of all areas of human activity, from the arts to the sciences, sociology appears to focus its efforts on the arts and cultural production. We start our appraisal of the social environment by starting at the macro level with Sorokin’s work on civilisations and Kavolis’ concern with periods of artistic efflorescence. We then examine the idea that art is a social product drawing on Marx and a number of others who also claim that art is fundamentally a social construction rather than being produced solely by a single individual. We look at Janet Wolff’s detailed arguments about the social production of art, the relationship between agency and structure, as well as the work coming from the ‘production of culture’ school of thought led by Richard Peterson and his concerns with various constraints on the creative process. Howard Becker’s notion of ‘art worlds’ is a concept that has become, and continues to be, important. There are some similarities between Becker’s idea and Pierre Bourdieu’s notion of the field although Becker and Bourdieu debated this. French sociologist and anthropologist Bourdieu was deeply concerned with a social agent’s ability to act within systemically structured contexts particularly as this relates to many forms of creativity and cultural production. We then briefly explore what effect poststructuralist thinkers like Roland Barthes and his ideas on the ‘death of the author’ had on thinking about creativity.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Phillip McIntyre
    • 1
  • Janet Fulton
    • 1
  • Elizabeth Paton
    • 1
    • 2
  • Susan Kerrigan
    • 1
  • Michael Meany
    • 1
  1. 1.Communication and MediaUniversity of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia
  2. 2.Monash UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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