Publishing Announcement

I'm pleased to announce the publication of my chapter, "The Business of Creativity: From SCDP to Modern Creative Enterprise," in The Universe Is Indifferent: Theology, Philosophy, and Mad Men." This book is full of great writing and social critique, all based on the AMC series Mad Men. 

My chapter talks about for-profit creativity, how to manage it, and, of course, the ethics of both. I cover not only the fictional agencies of Mad Men, but also contemporary advertising and creativity in general business practice. (Silicon Valley, I'm looking at you!)

Here's a short excerpt - enjoy!

Before Don leaves, one of his final professional acts is to conduct Peggy Olson’s performance review. In a scene that reveals both characters’ struggle with the tension inherent in for-profit creativity, Don poses a question: “What do you see for the future?” He rejects Peggy’s initial answers (“to be the first woman creative director at this agency…to land something huge…to create a catchphrase”) and prods her to answer more profoundly:

Don: “What else?”
Peggy: “I don’t know.”
Don: “Yes you do.”
Peggy: “Create something of lasting value.”
Don: “In advertising?”
(Don laughs openly at the idea.)
Peggy: “This is supposed to be about my job, not the meaning of life.”
Don: “So you think those things are unrelated?”
(Peggy stands to leave.)
Peggy: “I didn’t know you’d be in a mood. Why don’t you just write down all of your dreams, so I can shit on them?” [1]

This scene, like the entire series, reflects an unmistakable ambiguity about for-profit creative work. Both an emerging talent (Peggy) and an established leader (Don) are uncertain regarding their profession’s deeper meaning. They sense that, as creative workers, they inhabit a kind of liminal state, where they exist as neither artists nor businesspeople. This generates a feeling of disquiet for both characters, which in turn creates tension between them.

The ambiguity expressed by Peggy and Don invites a closer look at what it means to be a creative worker. It compels viewers to understand for-profit creatives as a unique subset of professionals, whose relation to the wider world is simultaneously influential and remote. Such a complicated characterization allows important questions to surface, such as: How can employers manage creative workers? What are the ethics of managing creativity? And, are creative workers ethically responsible for the impact of their work? 

[1] "The Forecast," S7/E10.