Creative Labor – Markets, Behaviors, Risk Management

Creative Labor – Markets, Behaviors, Risk Management

Conference by Professor Pierre-Michel Menger, Collège de France
Respondent: Elodie Grossi, MFO/UVSQ

Professor Menger recently published:
Le talent en débat, Paris, PUF, 2018.

For further information:


For a sociologist, creative work consists of a rich set of characteristics. Take the basic properties of the organization of creative production. They include a strong individualization of performances and careers, an unusually high and well accepted flexibility of employment and teamwork, and an essential tension between obsessive patrimonialization and innovation based on creative destruction.

Look at rewards : they come in two ways, monetary (compensation) and non-monetary -the so-called “psychic income” or satisfaction earned when performing an expressive, non-routine work.

These characteristics are now rather well studied and understood. As shown by numerous recent studies that I have reviewed in my Economics of creativity, including my own empirical studies, a number of issues that seem usually puzzling have been successfully addressed. Among them, I can mention : the appetite for risk; the valuation of work as far as it correlates with its uncertain course; the simultaneous growth of employment and unemployment in the creative industries (more on this in my second presentation tomorrow); and the surprising tolerance of inequality among creative professionals.

Due to organizational properties such as bilateral contracts, variable architecture of teams, durability of artistic goods and the extensive documentation of their production, the sociologist should be able to grasp the end result of creative labor, that is, the work in itself.

On the one hand, the analytical equipment used in sociology is not well designed to study meanings and symbolic contents, since that undertaking suffers from low falsifiability.

Yet on the other hand, social science can do much better to research work as the end result of a process with its sequences, branchings, negotiations, revisions.

We need of course case studies, such as those provided by art historians, musicologists, literary scholars; they provide priceless insights in individual

To forge that apparatus, I propose to make full use of notions that sound familiar to social scientists, but that will sound less familiar and hopefully illuminating when knit together. The following outine of my presentation mentions them. Now let’s start the weave.

Pierre-Michel Menger


3 May

5:00 PM - 7:00 PM


Old Masters’ Studio, Ruskin School of Art

74 High St 
Oxford, OX1 4BG Royaume-Uni

(+44)(0)1865 276940