Neo Bohemia: Aggregation of Exploitation

This is going to be a rather serious post as I found most of what Richard Lloyd had to say to be rather indicative of a deadly neo-liberal attitude that I find puts too much value on the movements of big business capital while also seeming to promote individual creative freedom, but only insofar as it can be then applied to the current capitalist regimes of big business.


Presumption of the necessity of the capitalist market system seems to be par for the course when writing about the industries of culture and creativity. In his book, Neo Bohemia: Arts and Commerce in the Postindustrial City, Richard Lloyd stokes fires that belch out capitalist intellectual propaganda that paradoxically extol the successes of labor while conflating them as positive symptoms of a neo-liberal capitalist market; a market where capital is unequally distributed from the top-down but where the innovations that spur the market originate from the bottom up.

For Richard Lloyd, “sympathy does not pay the bills”, nor for that matter do the arts. It is only through interface with the capitalist free market that art may find any support at all, according to Lloyd. Individual creativity almost necessarily indicates that the individual will have an inability to understand the “bottom line” of the larger business mechanisms that provide the basic framework for society as a whole.

For Lloyd, Neo-Bohemia requires capital influx from the larger corporate sector of the market because by definition it is defined by its gypsy and vagrant histories, and by the willingness of its participants to value freedom over security. This desire for freedom of expression is one that can be easily manipulated and exploited by the larger corporate mechanisms. For Lloyd, this is good business and exhibits the ability of the Neo-Bohemian creative to participate and excel within the confines of the One True System: Capitalism. I would argue that the creative of this day and age aspires to be court jester to King Corporation.56e18d3c4bbf904d5120e65918cac6fd

What is actually happening when larger corporate influxes of capital are found to be centering around bohemian areas and individuals is not a symptom of the free market finding a way to sustainably promote big business and creativity hand in hand but an effect of corporations are taking advantage of a system where “working people, irrespective of their talents and educational achievements, [have never] been as dependent and vulnerable…working in individualized situations without countervailing collective powers, and within flexible networks whose meaning and rules are impossible for most of them to fathom” (Lloyd, 244) Inequalities require continued exploitation in order to be propagated, but the more inequalities are exploited, the easier they are to propagate: it’s a Catch-22 for the modern individual and Nike’s business model.

Neo-liberal imperatives are built out of a historical tradition in the same way that Neo-Bohemia is. They are lofty ideological mechanisms that functionally favor the upper class. Traditional bohemia is defined paradoxically by its poverty and by its promotion of freedoms, creative or otherwise. The choice to live in poverty in order to live freely is not really a choice; it’s a sacrifice. When Lloyd suggests the notion of “elective affinity”, that bohemians choose a lifestyle that values freedom above material, he presumes that choosing expressive freedom inherently connotes a lack of economic opportunity. Creativity is a sub-cultural power that cannot on its own be monetized. However, once the individuals are willing to transfer (one might say sacrifice) their individual identity within a larger corporate mechanism, the individual is able to monetize their subculture.

The inherent flaw in this system is that the corporation is presupposed as the ruling entity and is imagined as a bank, employer, government, censor, audience, and priest. They are imagined as the only external sources of capital that provide not only the market for the labor to work within, but also ultimately determine the messages and style of all content that is produced in so far as they can promote and demote certain creative individuals through infusion or exclusion of capital, essentially guaranteeing that all the right content that “fits the bottom line” makes its way outward. Making the client happy is the name of Lloyd’s game and within the framework of Lloyd’s contemporary capitalism it is the goal of the corporations to infuse enough capital into areas to cultivate creative energies in order that they may “exploit these energies in myriad ways.”


  1. Gee, it seems to me that you misread my book, which is a critique of neoliberal capitalism not a primer on capitulation. I think my point was that artists produce forms of value that are then exploited by other interests, because capitalism. As for selling out, well I gather most of the people I observed would if they could, but it’s easier said than done. I am sure that you and your friends are much more pure though.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: