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50 million alleged cultural creatives may or may not be right...
May 15, 2005 2:58 PM   Subscribe

There is nothing flaky about this. There is nothing New Age about this. These people are practical. They love the Earth, and they want to live their values

What the hell is a Cultural Creative? According to this book, there are already 50 million Cultural Creativists in the US, many of whom may not know it yet. Are you one?
But is this really a social movement, or just another manufactured demographic marketing term, like "metrosexual"?
Could CC give the left a language with which to discuss spirituality? or is this all just hype?
posted by es_de_bah (56 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Damn hippies.

I'll be forming the Barbaric Destructives shortly. Meetings to be held in the local bar whenever the hell we get around to it.

And, God, that fucking questionairre. "Are you a swell person? Are you just incredibly smart? Doggone it, do people like you?"

People like this make me want to kill puppies and bury them in styrofoam hamburger caskets.
posted by jonmc at 3:09 PM on May 15, 2005


This reminds me of the recent label "the brights" for atheists / agnostics. It's almost as annoying.

I personally fit in neither category. I am a Delightful Enlightened Thrilling Wonderfulitarian.

(jonmc, I will make little crosses out of kitten bones for you)
posted by fleetmouse at 3:10 PM on May 15, 2005


Yeah, that questionaire is pretty lukewarm. The homepage sounds like they're just trying to sell books/fill seats.

jonmc do the Barbaric Destructives condone the use of advanced weapons, or is it stricty a clubbing and burning thing?
posted by PurplePorpoise at 3:14 PM on May 15, 2005


PurplePorpoise: We prefer chairs to the head, and broken beer bottles to the eyesocket, but we're not purists.

Nothing like dippy-ass meadowmuffins to bring out my Inner Redneck, I swear.
posted by jonmc at 3:16 PM on May 15, 2005


I agree this idea is a bit on the hippy side, but two things got my attention: 1) The reintroduction of spirituality into liberal dialogue (importantly, as an individual endeavor), and 2) The prospect of a belief system that could apply to all those on the left. If the past US election was any indicator, liberals need more than a common enemy to unite them. The rubric they give for being a cultural creative is kinda ludicrously wide, but maybe that's the only way to include everyone on the left.

And i know we all hate that man in the sky here at metafilter, but we have to find some common ground with our superstitious neighbors.
posted by es_de_bah at 3:31 PM on May 15, 2005


The prospect of a belief system that could apply to all those on the left.

No belief system could apply to a group of people that large. Wanting to be inclusive is admirable, but you do that by accepting a certain amount of difference of opinion, so you be allied when it comes to common causes, not by this cumbaya bullshit.

And i know we all hate that man in the sky here at metafilter, but we have to find some common ground with our superstitious neighbors.

I certainly don't. I've gotten into plenty of hot water for defending religion here, but that isn't what these people are about, from what I can gather, unless the religion is First Amalgamated Church Of The Self, because it seems the real purpose of these people is to allow people to slap some cutesy-ass label on themselves, pat eachother on the ass for being enlightened and walk away feeling all self-staisfied. And self-satisfaction is the fucking enemy.
posted by jonmc at 3:37 PM on May 15, 2005


Well, I agreed with 10, so according to them I'm just a "Cultural Creative".

But given that I think the whole thing is plainly a cobbled-together bunch of contrived, airy-fairy bollocks, perhaps not.
posted by Decani at 3:39 PM on May 15, 2005


Ray's work is an extension of the Stanford VALS study, the original lifestyles segment marketing study. The core of his work is summed up in The New Political Compass. (Disclosure, I assisted in preparing the PDF of an early draft and with some feedback)

The report itself is in PDF and can be linked from the article.

My assessment is the segmentation is valid, but the trend analysis is lacking. I suspect the trends which produced the Cultural Creatives have been running down their change momentum for some time.

The research needs to be continued to discuss recent trends in any informed or meaningful way. I suspect we are in the midst of a Traditionals backlash that involves a shift of socioeconomic power to that segment, but their numbers will continue to diminish in the future. At the same time, the CC's will get spread wider and thinner (since they are no longer in a growth phase and have become an establishment of their own.)

Overall, the CC meme is fluffier than the facts warrant. But it's a good hypothesis of the changes that happened over the last 40 years.
posted by warbaby at 3:40 PM on May 15, 2005


I actually read that book (it looked interesting and was on sale) and even though I might fit into some of those categories, I'm just buying into it. Lots of broad generalizations and very choir-preachy. And well, just preachy.

It basically boils down to, "Hey, we want a better life. Here are some general ideas on how to make it better." The things they're talking about are things anyone on either side of the political or social spectrum want. A closer community, a better economy, a cleaner environment, money and effort towards education, just with a different spiritual baseline.

Could CC give the left a language with which to discuss spirituality? Not everyone on the left is spiritual. This concept of CC may just be what some people need to solidify their thoughts on how their spirituality connects with mainstream America. It is definitely an interesting book with some good ieas, a lot of statistics and one-person accounts.

or is this all just hype? You betcha.
posted by erisfree at 3:42 PM on May 15, 2005


Do cultural creatives have indigo children when they mate? That and fleetmouse's "brights" (sigh, Dennett) which I also thought of probably show that there's some serious longing for community amongst these groups.

Of course Cultural Creatives has the same initials as Christian Coalition... that's just bad marketing.
posted by ontic at 6:13 PM on May 15, 2005


I prefer this C.C. to either.
posted by raysmj at 6:24 PM on May 15, 2005


because it seems the real purpose of these people is to allow people to slap some cutesy-ass label on themselves, pat eachother on the ass for being enlightened and walk away feeling all self-staisfied.

Feeling self-satisfied after sharing one's deeply held (and largely uprovable/irrational) beliefs is a while lot better than being left with a feeling of self-loathing after doing same.

It is also sustaining, from a mood perspective. It seems to help people deal a bit better with the natural cruelty of the world at large.
posted by wah at 6:25 PM on May 15, 2005


God, what fucking fruit loops. I like my leftism without the lame-o "spirituality," thanks.

Actually, the only people I've ever known who were God-addled and still repectable were the social justice–oriented Catholics who ran my high school. They tried to be Christ-like and made a big effort to help and protect the worst off without ever being evangelical in anything other than deed. They never looked for recognition; they did good because it was right and that was enough. Frankly, those are the only freaks I want on my side.
posted by dame at 6:32 PM on May 15, 2005


You can't create a social revolution out of a trademark. Cultural CreativesTM can keep their label for themselves.

(Or rampant overuse of that ugly font, for that matter.)
posted by blacklite at 6:36 PM on May 15, 2005


Although, to be slightly more productive: It would be nice if there was some cultural movement outside of politics that people who are generally left-of-centre could identify with and use to unite themselves against the onslaught of preachy moralism, but it would necessarily be created after the fact, for the purpose of uniting the left in a common moral thread -- so it would be very easily branded as both leftist and preachily moralist, almost by definition.

There's a huge sociocultural divide that grows as progress becomes increasingly faster and people react in different ways, and attempting to slap band-aids on it and re-label things is just not going to heal it. It's almost intractably complex at this point, I think.
posted by blacklite at 7:10 PM on May 15, 2005


I don't think that facing the "secular humanists are the enemy" nonsense is best accomplished by buying into mysticism in any way shape or form. This may be about some "personal" not-one-kind-fits-all spirituality, but I absolutely guarantee that it includes some aspects of magical thinking, and if the left is to stand for any one thing, I would hope that it stands behind science. Someone has to.

Oh. Hmm. Perhaps time to fill in that "how did you come up with your nickname" question, since mine sounds positively astrological.
posted by dreamsign at 8:22 PM on May 15, 2005


I'd like to know who comes up with these utterly stupid ideas. I swear there must be some balding little middle manager somewhere sitting at a desk just cranking out these retarded memes.
posted by nightchrome at 8:23 PM on May 15, 2005


does that font require that i use homeopathic medicine?
posted by gorgor_balabala at 8:26 PM on May 15, 2005


I was wondering what the hell that was. I took one of those online test thingies last week - "What is Your World View?" it was called - and it pegged me equal parts "cultural creative", postmodernist and existentialist. But

These optimistic, altruistic millions might be willing to speak more frankly in public settings and act more directly in shaping a new way of life for our time and the time ahead. They might lead the way toward an Integral Culture

ewww! ew! Sticky! Gross! That's like when I took a religion test and came out Unitarian Universalist. (I'm agnostic you bastards!) Why am I only ever allowed to choose between stupid and gross?
posted by furiousthought at 8:36 PM on May 15, 2005


Ah, but it isn't enough to be an atheist/agnostic to be a Bright.

To be a Bright (someone who fits the definition and registers on this Web site)...

You DO want to be a Bright, don't you??
posted by dreamsign at 8:52 PM on May 15, 2005


Thanks, gorgor_balabala. That made me laugh so hard I think the neighbors turned on the light to see what was going on.
posted by ontic at 9:11 PM on May 15, 2005


Ah, yes. A few academic NFs realize that NFs as a "class" exist, a then set out to try and make a community composed of that class.

Then some NTs read about their efforts and make fun.

How all perfectly archetypal.
posted by catachresoid at 9:36 PM on May 15, 2005


That's like when I took a religion test and came out Unitarian Universalist. (I'm agnostic you bastards!)

So, you're saying the test was invalid? Whatever you say.
posted by raysmj at 9:43 PM on May 15, 2005


Which test? The religion test? I was annoyed by how it came out, yes. But then it was an online quiz thing so what could I expect?
posted by furiousthought at 9:49 PM on May 15, 2005


The religion one - you don't have to believe anything to be a Unitarian Universalist, considering that they subscribe to no creed. It's a religion, but then again it's sorta not. So you can very well be an agnostic, and be a Unitarian Universalist. I'm not a UU member, but it's not exactly secret information here.
posted by raysmj at 10:10 PM on May 15, 2005


What do you mean by NF and NT?

Also, if they are so creative, can't just one of them do decent web design?
posted by jb at 10:14 PM on May 15, 2005


Forgive me for finding the tone of this post utterly asinine. While it is arguably silly to apply labels to demographic trends, there are 300 million people in the USA, and I think it's hardly "outrageous" to think that 1/6 of them care about the environment, women's equality, and progressive justice.

And since when is "metrosexual" a marketing term? If you live in the dead of suburbia and hear terminology from faroff places where culture actually exists, you shouldn't assume it's always mass media marketing. Believe it or not, there are people out there who haven't been spoon-fed their identities by the television. If the mass media grapples to find labels to apply to them and you think that's dumb, fine. But don't confuse it with thinking the people, themselves, are dumb.

Anyway everyone is being marketed to, these days. It's no statement about any one group's validity or cohesion that marketers have identified them and started targeting them. If anything, that just means they're a real force in this country.
posted by scarabic at 10:25 PM on May 15, 2005


Ok, maybe it's too late to appologize for my snark...

b>erisfree "Hey, we want a better life. Here are some general ideas on how to make it better."

I totally dig the 'wanting a better life' (for myself and humanity at large), but you hit the nail on the head. Most people want goodwill towards man & all, but most of those people either don't know how or don't care to follow those "general ideas."
posted by PurplePorpoise at 10:36 PM on May 15, 2005


most of those people either don't know how or don't care to follow those "general ideas."

So, we're talking, what, 5/6 of people? :)
posted by scarabic at 10:52 PM on May 15, 2005


If some Brights are Cultural Creativists, and some Cultural Creativists are indigos, and all indigos are snarks, which of the following statements is true?

a. All Brights are snarks.
b. Some Brights are snarks.
c. No Brights are snarks.
d. Making up a category and putting people in it is not consequential in any way unless you get linked to by a popular weblog.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:09 PM on May 15, 2005


Remember what Edward Norton's character in Fight Club was like before he met Brad Pitt? I'm pretty sure that's a "Cultural Creative."
posted by ScottMorris at 11:10 PM on May 15, 2005


Yeah this sounds a lot like the "Brights," doesn't it?
posted by scarabic at 11:20 PM on May 15, 2005


jb: This is a pretty good starting point.

Also: thanks for the post, es_de_bah. Enjoyable.
posted by catachresoid at 11:22 PM on May 15, 2005


Scarabic, you didn't seriously just say that Metrosexual was a cultural identity, did you?

It's actually an insult referring to shallow self-obsession accordint to the person who came up with the phrase.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:24 PM on May 15, 2005


The combination of inspid new-age imagery, horrid web design, smugness, and know-it-all-ism of the CulturalCreatives.com site actually makes me want to vomit right here.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 12:03 AM on May 16, 2005


Remember what Edward Norton's character in Fight Club was like before he met Brad Pitt? I'm pretty sure that's a "Cultural Creative."

No wonder he started punching himself in the face.
posted by the cuban at 3:29 AM on May 16, 2005


I'll be one of jonmc's Barbaric Destructives if I'm allowed to use a broken axe handle with a little bit of duct tape on one end to tenderize puppyburgers and terrorize the populace.
posted by sciurus at 6:03 AM on May 16, 2005


I hate everything! Give me something to spit on!

Whew! I was just about to like this post. Thanks for setting me straight, Those Who Defy Classification By Cynically Criticizing Classification Systems.
posted by elderling at 6:49 AM on May 16, 2005


Sure. You're membership card is in the mail.

You can't create a social revolution out of a trademark.

There are no social revolutions. Ideologies may change, fashionable stances may change, what bullshit justifications for behavior people create may change. Human nature does not change. We're all pretty much doing the same stuff here: eating, sleeping, shitting and fucking.

Silly labels like "cultural creatives" exist to make social scientists and writers feel like they know shit, and for readers to make believe that they're special exceptions to the general rule humanity. They're not. You're not. I'm not. Deal.
posted by jonmc at 6:52 AM on May 16, 2005


none of you ever gets bored with 'funny' comments about being nice, positive, hippies etc?
I mean the Cartman-routine is SO 1999 :P

Why do people react to positivness in that lame way? Is it a way of putting people with their feet on the ground; 'cause if it is > please don't mind, I know I'm _far_ from perfect.

Time to end this era driven by money and ego.
* insert some gloomy prophesy here *

on preview: jonmc, Silly labels like christians you mean?
posted by borq at 7:05 AM on May 16, 2005


sure. but at least the Christians are smart enough to hedge their bets by saying that paradise comes after you die.

Time to end this era driven by money and ego.

You mean like every other era in human history?

As my hero and role model says:You wake up in the morning/totally confused/can't get a date/but you're getting screwed

you're searching for a reason/a way to carry on/when everything is broken/and everything is wrong

So you tried to save the whales/You found a tree to kiss
You gave a crippled child/His dying wish

You're waiting for an answer/A message from above
You've always been a sucker/Another fool in love

What's it all about
Pussy and money
I ain't tryin to be cute
I ain't tryin to be funny
Everybody lies about
Pussy and money.
posted by jonmc at 7:11 AM on May 16, 2005


To paraphrase the Life of Brian scene, "The only ones we hate more than the Unitarian Universalists are the fucking United Universists."
posted by MrSoyBoy at 7:19 AM on May 16, 2005


So you can very well be an agnostic, and be a Unitarian Universalist. I'm not a UU member, but it's not exactly secret information here.

I knew that too but if you're going to have results for both "agnostic" and "Unitarian Universalists" (which this quiz did - it's an old MeFi thread somewhere) parsing out whether the quiz-taker goes to church seems key. Anyway the point of my initial comment, if it had one, is that this "cultural creative" stuff has been going around a bit before we at Metafilter made our horrid discovery.

posted by furiousthought at 7:40 AM on May 16, 2005


jesus jonmc, pussy and money are just raw materials, we're trying to have a civilization here!

seriously, tho...i'm not debating whether or not any type of culture is just vanity, but culture does decide how a group of people justifies or denies themselves money and pussy (or justifies the fact that they are not getting any by saying that they are denying it).

and these things DO matter if you want to try and understand some of the more surprising bits of history. money and ego only get free reign when coupled with an edible, spreadable world view...
posted by es_de_bah at 7:42 AM on May 16, 2005


not that this is one of those world views...
posted by es_de_bah at 7:43 AM on May 16, 2005


You mean like every other era in human history?
Mankind tends to react to rock bottom. As we're about to hit rock bottom again, i think we have two choices: "Apres Moi, le deluge" or "let's break the fall and see if we can survive".
Guess I'm hopefull.
posted by borq at 8:03 AM on May 16, 2005


rather than join the snarkfest here, i'll actually discuss the ideas ... i really don't think there's 50 million cultural creatives in this country ... and even if there are, they're a minority ... obviously

it seems like a rather lukewarm description of a bunch of rather lukewarm people, with some intense and dedicated exceptions ... there's a passivity and isolation about it i'm not comfortable with ... we could probably argue all day whether that's the nature of what's being described or simply the result of the times we live in ... i really don't know
posted by pyramid termite at 8:22 AM on May 16, 2005


There are no social revolutions. Ideologies may change, fashionable stances may change, what bullshit justifications for behavior people create may change

And what of the liberation of women?
posted by cytherea at 8:31 AM on May 16, 2005


And what of the liberation of women?

They are now free to be as petty, annoying, and stupid as men.

Life is a cabaret!
posted by jonmc at 8:37 AM on May 16, 2005


I should say that I thought the bright things was pretty silly, but it was more the fact that the word bright is already well-defined and they only redefine it as "a naturalist". I think that this and the Indigo children thing are different because they're trying to identify a pre-existing but un-named phenomenon. I don't know whether identifying these groups will really accomplish anything, but I don't think it's absurd to at least look into what they're talking about. And yes, the site is ugly as hell, but it's not the web-design federation, it's an informational website (although that's a little lacking, too).

...a belief system that could apply to all those on the left.

Aren't they all just Liberals?
No there are fewer liberals than conservatives, and fewer of either than people who don't see themselves as either left or right. This is about a new kind of politics.

the real purpose of these people is to allow people to slap some cutesy-ass label on themselves, pat each other on the ass for being enlightened and walk away feeling all self-staisfied.

Aren't they all just Self indulgent, hot tub Yuppies?
No. The emergence of the Cultural Creatives is not about yuppies and self-indulgence, it's about the people who care, and who are taking steps to make it practical and real.

Did anyone read the site?

What do you mean by NF and NT?

I assume iNtuitive Feeling and iNtuitive Thinking - Jungian personality types (AKA Meyers-Briggs). And, that assumption being correct, I score very stongly T in my INTP and I think I would both qualify and am not mocking the site. Given that, I'd say there's a difference between a "Cultrural Creative" and a ?NF?.

special exceptions to the general rule humanity.

I don't see this as special cases to the rule humanity as much as I see it as seperate instances of the class humanity.

You mean like every other era in human history?

Tell me you aren't seriously denying differences in human eras. Are there commonalities that cross the boundaries of eras? Yes. Was the Bronze Age different from the Industrial Revolution? No, of course not; just generalize all the differences away (like above) and pretend that what you have left is the answer. And since they're all the same we can just forget history, right?
posted by nTeleKy at 8:38 AM on May 16, 2005


*sigh* Wherein cases==exceptions for all instances of cases.
posted by nTeleKy at 8:41 AM on May 16, 2005


Tell me you aren't seriously denying differences in human eras.

No, but generally speaking peoples motivations are the same: money, sex, power, ego. We're all a lot less noble than we like to think we are, every last one of us.
posted by jonmc at 8:47 AM on May 16, 2005


jonmc left out breathing oxygen from his list.

Society does segment along social values and the number of resulting clusters is relatively small. Unlike the SRI Values in American LifeStyles (VALS) studies -- which were turned into marketing analysis -- Ray's work concentrated on cultural values.

And, lo and behold, there was a category (which he chose to call "Cultural Creatives") that hardly existed in the late 1950's and grew to about 25% by the 1970's.

Simultaneously, American social values became more complex. Initially (in the 1950s), a single variable was sufficient to explain most of the results and the event-space of social values was mostly one-dimensional. As the 1960's progressed, the descriptions became more two-dimensional and the old right / left, liberal / conservative, labor / capital dichotomies became less and less useful as descriptions because they were no longer tightly coupled.

Instead, we now have situations where there is right-wing labor (intially known as the "hardhats") and liberal capitalism and progressive versus liberals and business conservatives versus social conservatives.

The book is pitched at CC's as an audience. I think that's a flaw. But what is getting lost in the snarkfest is that Ray has some useful ideas about how American society fractured along values lines.
posted by warbaby at 10:10 AM on May 16, 2005


jonmc your comments always make me laugh.

However, this time I think you are very, very wrong.
Not concerning the whole, "Humans have always just desired food or sex, nothing has ever changed." I think that is pretty much spot on...though we might add metafilter and ipods to the list.

I think you are wrong in assuming that, because human development has followed this path so far, it will remain this way indefinitely.

There is simply no way to prove that this is the case. My fiancee often despairs, upon hearing me ask the Television News People, "Why can't you just understand for a minute that fear isn't the only way to get people's attention?" She says, "People have always been like that. It won't change." There are really two different claims in that statement. The first is demonstrably true. The second is not. And does not follow from the first.

I'm sure people said that sort of thing in the Southern United States during the 1830s and 40s. A lot.

Nevertheless, I particularly appreciate your deflowering of the hippy populace and I hope you continue.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:20 PM on May 16, 2005


nTeleKy:
"and I think I would both qualify and am not mocking the site."
Well naturally. You are familiar with MBTI, NJs tend to snark more readily then NPs, and by this time it would be redundant nor devils-advocate-like. I guess this as a fellow INTP.

"Given that, I'd say there's a difference between a "Cultrural Creative" and a ?NF?."
I agree: These are NFs that are conflating politics with psychology. I'm far from convinced that this is a positive thing for the group in the long run. Great for marketers in the now, though.

Baby_Balrog:
"There is simply no way to prove that this is the case."
True. But if one accepts that (1) the behavior is centered in the reptile hindbrain, and (2) that we're actively trying to thwart natural selection from occurring in humanity, it simply doesn't seem likely.
posted by catachresoid at 2:50 AM on May 17, 2005


jonmc your comments always make me laugh.

I could say the same about you.
posted by jonmc at 6:31 AM on May 17, 2005


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