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Creativity, Habit, and the Social Products of Creative Action: Revising Joas, Incorporating Bourdieu
BENJAMIN DALTON* American Institutes for Research
Hans Joass The Creativity of Action (1996) posits that conceiving of all action as fundamentally creative would overcome problems inherent in rational and normative theories of action and would provide an alternative basis for action-based theories of macrosociological phenomena. Joas conceives of creativity as a response to the frustration of prereflective aspirations, which necessitates innovative adjustment to reestablish habitual intentions. This conceptualization creates an unsupportable duality between habitual action and creativity that neglects other possible sources of creative action, including habit itself. Combining strengths from Bourdieus concept of habitus, creativity can be redefined as the necessary adaption of habitual practices to specific contexts of action. Creative action continually introduces novel possibilities in practical action and provokes a variety of social responses to its products. This revised concept of creativity overcomes the dichotomy presented by Joas, identifies a microsocial source of innovation in creative action, and calls attention to patterns of creative authority in society at large.

INTRODUCTION Hans Joass The Creativity of Action received much praise and thoughtful commentary from English-speaking scholars after its translation from the German in 1996. Joas posited that conceiving of creativity as a fundamental characteristic of action would overcome the deficiencies inherent in various models of normative and rational action and provide the basis for an alternative action-based theory of structural change. The enthusiasm that greeted this argument emphasized the great promise it holds for integrating major themes of contemporary social theorizing, generating a conceptually cohesive theory of action, and detailing the microsociological bases of meso- and macrosociological processes. Camic (1998:283) hails The Creativity of Action (hereafter referred to as COA) as a masterly contribution to theoretical work on action that merits comparison to [Parsonss] The Structure of Social Action, while others called it one of the most important contributions to action theory in recent decades (Gross 1999:341) and a very significant work . . . one of the more excitingand creative efforts to theorize action in recent times (Campbell 1998:1067). At the same time, these and other commentators argued that COA would not spawn new avenues of sociological research directly (Burger 1998; Mouzelis 1998). Campbell (1998) notes that Joass book constituted not the introduction of a new theory of action but the prolegomenon to one, meaning that no sociologist . . . would be

*The author wishes to thank Ed Tiryakian for his time and encouragement and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful insights. Direct correspondence to: Benjamin Dalton, American Institutes for Research, Education Statistics Services Institute, 1990 K St. NWSuite 500, Washington, DC 20006; email: Sociological Theory 22:4 December 2004 # American Sociological Association. 1307 New York Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20005-4701



in any position to go out and apply Joass theory (1998:1067). Although COAs achievements in intellectual historiography, scholarship, and conceptual breadth were rightly praised, its potential for establishing a new architecture for action theory remains under debate (Arnason 1996). The creative action theory propounded in COA has seen some limited adoption (Beckert 2002; Swidler 2001), but questions remain about its theoretical and empirical consequences. This article is an effort to clarify and to strengthen Joass contribution by analyzing some of the difficulties of his approach and by offering a revised conception of the role of creative action in human agency. This revision rests on three assertions. First, the model of creative action presented in COA relies on a problematic duality between creativity and habit. Joass work reveals the importance of a relationship between creative and habitual action and not solely the importance of creativity itself (Camic 1998:289). Indeed, any discussion of creativity or innovation necessarily introduces a generally opposed concept of habit; likewise, any discussion of habit or routine in regard to human agents at least implicitly involves a concept of creative action. That COA is written from a perspective that views creativity as the most significant aspect of agency is a matter of emphasis; large parts of the core of the book in fact could be interpreted as a demonstration of the habitual character of most human action, in which creativity plays a limited but crucial role. Joass conceptualization, relying on a model of creative problem solving from American pragmatism, ultimately describes creativity as a phase of action that emerges in response to the interruption of habitual activity. This unfortunately presents a distinction between habit and creativity that ignores situations in which creativity is not expressed episodically. Second, the problems that result from Joass underlying model can be overcome partly through comparison to another significant strand of contemporary theorizing that takes habitual action as its starting point but, despite similarities, was neglected almost completely in COA. This alternative approach is exemplified in the work of Bourdieu and his conception of the habitus. Here creative action is subsumed under a broad and flexible concept of habitual and embodied action that admits the possibility of intelligent and strategic improvisation, at least within existing cultural frameworks. However, this perspective ultimately treats creative action as a residual capacity of agents that leaves them free to make choices only within the rubric of their restrictive socioenvironmental fields or in reaction to abnormal crises. It fails to identify moments of what we might consider purer creativity, where actors step out of adopted boundaries and transcend the fields of action in which they normally are engaged. Even when this problem is recognized, it forces the reintroduction of creative abilities as a separate category of action and leads back to the same problem found in COA. Third, a full revision and incorporation of the concept of creative action into our theories of agency requires recognizing the simultaneous presence of habitual and creative elements in all moments of action. Creativity and habit cannot be viewed as separate types of action, no matter how elegant and nuanced the model, nor can one swallow the other such that individuals are ascribed either profoundly limited capacities for action or absurdly unlimited freedoms. Only by acknowledging that actors in interaction with specific environmental conditions rely on habitual schemas and implement contingent techniques suited to the moment can this conflict be resolved. Creativity is not simply the impulsive action of an inherently creative agent, a reaction to the interruption of previously successful routines, or a restrictive set of strategies available to the habituated actor. It also rests in the perfection of routine and the



practical difficulties of action. Recognizing this allows for consideration of the social products of creativity and their potential role as a microsocial source of structural and cultural change, thereby achieving by other means the promise of Joass conviction that creativity is at the center of human action.

CREATIVE ACTION COA is a sophisticated and eclectic approach to theorizing about the actor. Its core perspective relies on contributions from social theorists and philosophers from the American pragmatist school, including John Dewey, William James, Charles Peirce, and G. H. Mead, and builds on previous work by Joas (1993, 1990, 1989, 1985; see also Joas 2000). It integrates a variety of major themes from contemporary theory, such as situational action, temporality, collective action, emotionality, and the embodied actor, and provides a portrait of agency that is complex, nuanced, and sensitive to the experiences of the everyday actor in his or her situational contexts. Joas (1996) takes pains to emphasize that creativity should not be seen as a new type of action to be arrayed alongside other, older types like rational, normative, and impulsive action (pp. 4, 145) but rather that creativity is an essential element of all activity that deserves to be placed at the center of theorizing about human agency. Joas articulates his theory of creative action in direct opposition to the general agreement between rational choice and normative approaches on the role of means and ends in human action. Normative approaches emphasize social roles and social norms in shaping behavior but are consistent with rational choice approaches in that they implicitly advocate the means-end schema of action that is the historical legacy of utilitarianism and from which pragmatism was a significant detractor. Joas (1996) makes three main assertions, each of which contradicts one of three tacit assumptions involved in this means-ends conception: First, according to Joas, human action is always embedded in a stream of action that does not permit the strict and continual division of thought and action: goal-setting does not take place by an act of the intellect prior to the actual action, but is instead the result of a reflection on aspirations and tendencies that are pre-reflective and have already always been operative (1996:158; emphasis in original). This conceptualization opposes the interpretation of action (prevalent in rationalistic approaches) as always and inevitably intentional. Second, human action takes place in reference to a body that exists in a semiautonomous relationship to will. Action can often be achieved only through the relaxation of bodily control, and even when the individual asserts control, the body has an influence on action that is often unanticipated. This tenet corrects the faulty rationalistic belief that the cognitive mind exerts precise control over the bodys actions and that the body is simply an instrument of will, and reinforces other theoretical efforts that have sought to place embodied action at the center of understandings of human agency. Third, and drawing from a much richer and longer tradition of sociological and philosophical writings, action and actors are inherently integrated within social groups; taking the autonomous human actor as the starting point for action theory, as theories of rational action do, ignores this reality of human existence and a long history of intellectual thought on the matter. The last third of COA applies the insights of the individually-oriented theory of creative action to problems in macrosociology, discussing creativity in the light of collective action, functionalism, postmodernism, and differentiation and democratization. Joas applies the concept of creativity to this wide range of topics holistically



rather than building from the specific model that the earlier part of COA constructs. It is unclear whether an aversion to the common practices of rational choice and game theorists drives this avoidance or whether he has so fully entered a dialogue with theories of functionalism and modernity that connecting them to his previous discussions of creativity becomes too difficult to be done in a precise and derivative way. Regardless, the gap between the first half of the discussion and the second half can be startlingone reviewer was somewhat astonished at this break, a kind of hiatus in which we suddenly find our selves in the midst of collective action performed by collective subjects (Kilpinen 1998:177; see also Gross 1999; Mouzelis 1998). For example, nowhere does Joas conduct a sustained consideration of the importance of mediating structures such as social networks, families, work organizations, or social foci, although all of these concepts have become increasingly important in sociological theory (Fligstein 2001; Colomy 1998; Feld 1981). Nevertheless, even had Joas employed his well-constructed model of creativity as the main foundation for these latter discussions, his macrosociological approach would continue to suffer from the weakness of his initial model. Thus, this article mainly addresses the shortcomings of the model of creative action rather than Joass application of this model to issues in broader-scale theory, although some consideration of the ways in which this revised concept can be used to articulate meso- and macrosocial theory will be offered later. The concept of creative action is presented as a critique of rational choice and normative theories of action, but the core of Joass approach relies on two closely related assumptions, derived from pragmatism. First, Joas claims that the normal or typical mode of action is habitual and pre-reflective, being geared to goals that, at any one time, are not specific and determinative but are vaguely defined and orienting. A cognizing subject does not approach the world through a set of separate calculations and decisions regarding clearly defined ends but is already always embedded in a history or stream of action that forms the bedrock of present thought and feeling. One of the primary faults of the means-ends schema for Joas is an inaccurate rendering of decision-making in time: the means-end dichotomy assumes an implausible moment in which the actor chooses methods and goals as if he or she were outside of a continuing stream of action and lacked any cultural, social, or corporeal context. COA both disputes this and offers an alternative perspective in which the actor, as part of a legacy of personal and social action, acts not only with reference to this context but as a person whose daily actions have been routinized by that legacy (see also Whitford 2002 for a similar account). That is, actors exist within a history of action that gives meaning to and orients their behavior, and this history is present at any given moment through developed habits. Thus, the three concepts that summarize Joass (1996) challenge to normative and rationalistic assumptionssituation, corporeality, and socialityreflect the embeddedness of actors and could be viewed as a suitable replacement for the means-ends schema as the primary basic category of a theory of action (1996:160; though this quote applies only to situation, embodiment and social integration also can be characteristics or elements of the situation in which the actor inevitably is embedded). Second, Joas argues that creativity is called forth when these habits are interrupted, possibly leading to the restoration of routine or conscious deliberation and decision-making over goals and means. Only in the face of encountered difficulties problems that interrupt the habitual flow of actionis the actor forced to confront his or her assumed goals and methods and consciously construct new patterns of



behavior, thought, and/or feeling. Aspirations in fact usually become pre-reflective as these new patterns of action take shape and become routinized themselves. This model additionally specifies how the concept of creativity incorporates the possibility of rational and norm-oriented action: rational action and precise goal-setting can be a specific response to the interruption of successful action in the world, while norms at least partially can provide the habits and routines one adopts. The overall model is presented succinctly in Joass (1996) description of the basic pragmatist model: All perception of the world and all action in the world is anchored in an unreflected belief in self-evident given facts and successful habits. However, this belief, and the routines of action based upon it, are repeatedly shattered; what has previously been a habitual, apparently automatic procedure of action is interrupted. . . . The only way out of this phase is a reconstruction of the interrupted context. . . . This reconstruction is a creative achievement on the part of the actor. If he succeeds in reorienting the action on the basis of his changed perception and thus continuing with it, then something new enters the world: a new mode of acting, which can gradually take root and thus itself become an unreflected routine. (1996:128129) While Joas (1996) goes on to identify the standard criticisms of this basic model and to describe it in less temporally discrete terms (Action constantly encounters unexpected obstacles. . . . Every situation contains a horizon of possibilities which in a crisis of action has to be rediscovered (1996:133)), the basic perspective retains the view that creativity and habit are separate phases of action. Although action is situated in a stream of ongoing activity and creativity clearly linked to habitin fact arises only out of habitthe underlying model of phases of habitual and creative action forms each as separate moments of activity. We can speak of a rapid alternation of phases, so that creative actions and habitual actions can succeed one another multiple times in even short moments of activity, or similarly can describe creativity as a continual series of smaller or larger adjustments to habitual schemas in specific contexts; however, no matter with what detail the sequence of these phases are specified, they remain separable episodes, analytically and empirically, in the practical activity of agents. This duality makes it theoretically possible to specifically identify all acts as creative or routine. Though Joas does not make the claim that his theory has or necessarily should employ this propertyin fact Joas (1996) intends to regard creativity as present in all moments of action (1996:4)this characteristic derives directly from the tacit treatment of creativity as a distinct phase of action alternating with prereflective modes of action. Situations in which creative action does not arise from the shattering of habitual orientations can demonstrate how this duality imposes limitations on understanding the very concept of creativity it purports to integrate into a theory of action. As a method of investigating the validity of the theorys claims, examining these situations reveals that the very possibility of making a distinction between creativity and habit becomes evidently unrealistic in the face of certain contradictions. Creativity cannot be maintained as a unique capacity without reference to some noncreative category, which poses problems ironically similar to the critique that Joas (1996) makes of the notion of rationality, i.e., that rationality cannot be employed without generating one or more residual categories that are implicitly nonrational (1996:146; cf. p. 5). Three instances where the Joasian model linking creativity and routine breaks down serve to illustrate these problems: (1) impulsive behavior; (2) routinized creativity; and (3) creativity as the perfection of routinized action.



Joas (1996:169) himself addresses the importanceand the difficulty it poses for rational and normative theoriesof impulsive behavior. His discussion here is couched in a general discussion of the importance of recognizing bodily limits on intentional action, drawing particularly on Merleau-Pontys (1962) Phenomenology of Perception. One of the tacit assumptions of rational choice that COA argues against is that actors are able to control their bodies (1996:167). A serious consideration of corporeality implies not only that bodily control is inherently limited but also that the body has a general influence on action that is independent of social norms, preferences, andinterestingly enoughpragmatic actions themselves. There is, as Joas notes, a recognition that the release of bodily control accomplishes goals as much as the active control of the body, albeit in far less predictable waysthe need and desire for rest and sleep is achieved by a kind of letting go, for example. Much contemporary action theory fails to acknowledge that notions of passivity, receptiveness, and other stances that are, in some sense, not strictly active must be incorporated into theory if it is to avoid the teleological interpretations of action characteristic of the major prior approaches. Impulsive action plays a role in this analysis as a type of behavior that, however mysteriously, emerges from the body or from an unpredictable and unstable relationship between mental effort and bodily response.1 But impulsive action is more than just an illustration of the importance of embodied action. Impulsivity is itself a type of creativity and can operate in a manner different from the model of creative action offered by Joas. Even if a routine is successful, it is possible that actors will change or will experiment with that routine out of boredom or exhaustion with it. It is not simply the case that creative action is pragmatic in the sense that the phasic model implies; rather, impulsive outbursts or novel variation can occur for ostensibly nonpragmatic reasons, even to the extent that the subsequent failure of that routine is not perceived as a failure or frustration but instead as a surprising and pleasurable disruption of normal activities. It may emerge, in fact, simply from desires to interrupt or to vary routine. Thus impulse is creative in a fundamental sense: it may be surprising, destructive, innovative, or simply irrelevant and foolishtypes of action a systematizing theory based on the reasonable (not necessarily rational) nature of actors is reluctant to include. Here the relatively optimistic tone of pragmatist thought contrasts with notions of subversion and deviance that creativity also involves, notions Joas recognizes in his discussion of Marxist revolution as a metaphor for creative action but subsequently does not incorporate in his main discussion. Impulsive action may be motivated by the desire to exert power, even brutally; it may be prompted by alcohol or other drugs that loosen inhibitions or that alter perceptions of reality. At a broader level, it can be an impulsive reaction against social expectations or a general cultural milieu, as Joas (1996) himself touches on in one brief discussion of Nietzsche (1996:190191). In these situations the creative impulse does not represent an attempt to solve a problem or deal with an interruption of habit but may be designed or motivated by the desire to create problems or intentionally disrupt habitual action. Though the reasons for such behavioror at least the proximate causes of itmay be more purely physiological or psychological than most social theories typically allow, and though the intentions may be less positive than pragmatism historically has granted, its potential clearly derives
1 This contrasts with Deweys (1922) use of impulse, which is regarded alternately as perception or emotionally laden reactions to stimuli. Though Joas does not engage in a lengthy commentary about impulse, the implication of his emphasis on embodiment is decidedly different from Deweys use of impulse and points to a certain interpretation of pragmatism that might be contested. See end of this section for further elaboration.



from routine situations in a manner different than that provided for in the Joasian model. For Joas, creativity is inevitably a constructive force, not a destructive or even disruptive one. A second type of action that does not fit neatly with the model presented in COA occurs when creativity is itself routinized. Artistic work is perhaps the best example. Joas spends some time considering notions of creativity that are, implicitly or explicitly, artistic or semi-artistic. His long chapter on Metaphors of Creativity deals with numerous concepts with such ties: expression, derived from Herder, which has strong emotional connotations; production as a central concept for Marx; and life as a concept in the philosophy of life of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche (also compare Joass (1989) review of Castoriadiss work). But in Joass subsequent emphasis on the advantages pragmatism offers for understanding creativity, he neglects to establish a place for aesthetically motivated action that was so central for these earlier thinkers. Thus, Joas misses the possibility that the relationship between artistic orientations as creative activity and habitual orientations does not have to be one of alternating phases. Aesthetic practice depends on the introduction of novel techniques within a framework of common expectations, without the necessary failure of previously accepted forms. Artistic work also can and often does become routinized itself, in manifestations of specific styles or through work in certain genres, and when routinized, the concrete realization of specific forms of artistry may be creative achievements because of small deviations from artistic ideals or paradigmatic works. A model of action that argues that creativity is the product of encountered problems cannot recognize the simultaneous presence of creative and habitual action in contexts such as these. Even the pragmatist defense to the charge that it views creativity as instrumental for the restoration of habitual modes of actionand thus that it neglects artistic expressions of creativityfails to articulate how creativity relates to habit in aesthetic practice. This defense depends on the assertion that it is the relationship between knowledge (or consciousness) and action, and not action and its results, which is instrumental (Joas 1996:132; Joas 1993:22; Dewey 1934). Although it is true that Deweys (1934) concern with artistic experience and Meads (1934) privileging of play in the development of the social and subjective self reveal an awareness of thoroughly noninstrumental capacities for experience and action, and in these cases imaginative experience is the primary mode of consciousness, creative action in this sense still remains separate from nonimaginative, habitual action. Artistic expression in fact represents a break with habitual modes of consciousness: Then [mind] forms the matter of reverie, of dream; ideas are floating, not anchored to any existence as its property, its possession of meanings (Dewey 1934:273). Yet such creative achievements can be sedimented into routines that are accessible within habitual conduct; the musician may enter, with clockwork regularity, into highly personal interpretations of the same piece each day, with its habitual invocation representing a creative performance in specific time. Indeed, to the extent that all action involves stylistic norms and models (whose very breaking also may constitute their affirmation), creativity becomes a concept applicable in varying degrees to every situation, and the imaginative qualities involved become possessed of a range of habitual characteristics (Huizinga 1949). But the model of creativity as habit-interruption forces a distinction between habit and creativity that does not permit one to interpret highly routinized creative action in an appropriately sensitive way. This suggests a third set of situations that raises a perhaps more profound objection to the Joasian model of creative action. Instead of an inadequate tool for which creativity must intercede, habit can become an actual foundation for creative action.



If habit or routine are taken as indicative of the modern concepts of schemas and roles, for example, we are faced with an interesting and perhaps paradoxical situation: the perfection of habit can lead to creative action. Creativity is not simply a reaction to the interruption of previously successful routines but can be and often is the result of conscious attempts at improving habitual actionmaking routine more successful than it has been in the past, even if that routine generally is successful. A chef attempting to perform to the ideal expectations of his role experiments with new combinations of seasonings or new cooking times; an athletic team learns or discovers particular exercises and attitudes that maximize its performance in competition. These actors encounter no moment of frustration or shattering, as Joas might say; they are not even necessarily faced with minor obstacles to the fulfillment of their goals. Instead, they consciously or perhaps even habitually (!) attempt to improve the realization of the roles of which they are a part, a process that might as easily result in creative action as a clear and direct frustration of their unreflected routine. As with routinized creativity, creativity as the perfection of routine behavior disrupts the entire model on which Joass concept of creativity is based by demonstrating that creativity does not necessarily take place outside of habitual actionthat is, in response to its failuresbut can and often does take place within it, as an extension of its functioning. These three situations illustrate the limitations Joass dualistic construction imposes on our understanding of creative action. The phasic model of habit-interruption cannot subsume types of creative action that do not arise from the frustration of general intentions. However, one could argue that this simply necessitates expanding the concept of frustrations to include such sources as exhaustion or boredom, lack of artistic innovation, or failing to reach imagined levels of habitual performancethat, in fact, pre-reflective aspirations can include a variety of intentions that do not specifically relate to what observing individuals might perceive as successful performance. Such an argument could be founded on a different interpretation of pragmatism than found in COA; some reviewers indeed argued that Joas misinterpreted his intellectual fount by ascribing too great a gulf between the habitual and the creative (Kilpinen 1998:177; McGowan 1998:292). Peirce (1958), for example, describes the development of a new habit as potentially projective, relying on the imaginative construction of unpracticed lines of action (i.e., without frustration) (1958:5.538; see also p. 8.304). Dewey (1922) utilizes a surprisingly vigorous conception of habit that undermines the notion that it can be frustrated only by overt failure: habit being an ordering or systematization of minor elements of action; which is projective, dynamic in quality, ready for overt manifestation (1922:4041). Thus, creative reconstruction could be based on a variety of frustrationsor, more generally, challengesthat do not necessarily reach the level of shattering or conscious interruption. This argument, in fact, moves substantially in the direction of the revision offered in this article. However, it is not evident that the pragmatism of COA or Joass intellectual predecessors provides a clear and consistent foundation for such a perspective. Both continue to retain the notion of a separable category of habits that in many or most situations are not frustrated: even in his relatively nuanced discussion in Human Nature and Conduct, Dewey (1922) still refers to a body of residual undisturbed habits (1922:182) and states (somewhat contradicting himself elsewhere) that continuous interruption is not possible in the activities of an individual (1922:179). James (1890) similarly asserts that habits, despite their plasticity, are a matter of physics that can be changed only when blocks develop that force habits into newcreated path[s] (1890:109). Given that Joas (1996) likewise relies on a certain rigid



notion of habits and frustrations (though he is aware of pragmatist flexibility on these counts; see 1996:129, 159, 161) and that he is the foremost interpreter of pragmatism to a sociological audience today, the lack of clarity found in COA itself is particularly problematic. Joas (1996) at one point says that [a]s long as no problems of action arise, human interaction with reality consists in a flexible interrelationship between global expectations and global perceptions (1996:159)acknowledging the flexible nature of habits but asserting that creativity exists only as a response to specific problems of action. Yet as long as one retains the notion of a separable body of habits that is not challenged necessarily in practice, it reinforces a dichotomy that neglects the possibility that some action may contain creative and habitual elements simultaneously. Fortunately, there exists an alternative basis of theorizing about action that would allow for this possibility yet would retain something of Joass original parsimony. In the following section, I explore how the works of Bourdieu and his conception of the habitus provide a perspective in which creative action is embedded directly in habitual patterns.

HABITUAL ACTION COA is based on the premise that creativity is an element of all human action and that its place in a theory of agency has been neglected and indeed made invisible by the assumptions underlying rational choice and normative approaches to the actor. Yet any reintroduction of the concept of creativity as a component of the theory of agency inherently involves introducing the complementary concept of habit. Indeed, Joas (1996) himself notes at one point that an emphasis on creativity does not contradict the rediscovery of the routine dimensions of action; on the contrary, these two dimensions complement each other (1996:285). But one of the surprising aspects of this work is the extent to which it neglects perspectives on agency that place a central emphasis on habitual action. Especially instructive in this regard is the complex of ideas surrounding Bourdieus use of habitus (Kilpinen 1998:41). In fact, Joass approach shares affinities with an entire line of French thinking that locates action in habitual capacities, as is revealed in his extensive use of and commentary on MerleauPonty. Canguilhems (1978) work on the nature of the pathological and its relationship to categories of normality, for example, reveals similar thinking as found in Joass pragmatist-inspired work: The healthy man does not flee before the problems posed by sometimes sudden disruptions of his habits, even physiologically speaking; he measures his health in terms of his capacity to overcome organic crises in order to establish a new order (1978:117). Likewise, Joass discussion echoes Merleau-Pontys (1962) concepts of skillful coping and maximum grip in describing the adjustment of optimal arrangements in the face of environmental disturbances (see also MerleauPonty 1971, 1968, 1963; Mauss [1935] 1973). Space constraints do not allow an adequate consideration of how these additional authors complement or contradict Joass theory of creative action, but their connections are worth noting since they form part of the background to Bourdieus insights. Bourdieus work, and the line of thinking that it reflects, presents a perspective that is at first glance almost entirely grounded in a habitual model of individual and collective action. Given the emphasis placed throughout COA on prereflective modes of thought and action, perhaps the biggest shortcoming of this work is that it fails to thoroughly consider Bourdieus work. Bourdieu in fact is referred to explicitly only twice: once in the text (Joas 1996:233) and once in a footnote to that



same passage (1996:290). Although the present article could not possibly draw out all of the implications Bourdieus wide-ranging work has for a theory of creativity in action, some basic reflections can and should be offered on the strongest alternative to Joass creativity-based theory of agency, especially in Bourdieus use of the Latin term habitus. Bourdieus habitus possesses some surface similarities to the notion of habit that Joas employs. Habitus, meaning class-based dispositions, or a system for the production of specific practices linked to a class hierarchy (Bourdieu 1984), is one-sided with respect to the Joasian model of habit interruption: it does not reference creativity explicitly. Bourdieu operates out of a legacy of (largely French) structuralism that is not the primary intellectual inheritance of Joas. Within this legacy, Bourdieu was keen to develop an alternative and flexible conception of agency that did not posit rules of action, thought, and language to which people wittingly or unwittingly conformed. Nor did Bourdieu (or his intellectual predecessors and contemporaries who also used the term habitus) intend to describe habitus as mere routine or the mechanical repetition of learned behaviors, a tendency in the heritage of Cartesian dualist thought (and that long has been absent in sociologysee Camic 1986). Rather, habitus refers to a general disposition, operating at a level below consciousness, that allows for intelligent and strategic actionat least within the field of action of which it is a part (Bourdieu 1984:466). Thus, in the very definition of habitus there is a flexibility that provides for at least the possibility of creative agency. This flexibility, and the creative potential actors possess, exists on two levels. First is the generality of the habitus itself. As a disposition or as principles of action (Bourdieu 1990:53), the habitus is necessarily plastic, permitting innovation in the carrying forth of specific actions. The habitus and its dispositions can be transposed to culturally or socially unfamiliar contexts where they supply meaningful interpretations and suggest practical actions for the challenged actor (Bourdieu 1984:172). Both the unconscious aspect of the habitus and its tendency to dispose actors to certain kinds of interpretation and action correspond quite closely with Joass insistence that a global background of prereflective aspirations typically orients action, but Bourdieu goes further by implying that even the operation of innovative or strategic acts is a largely unconscious and intentionless process: Bourdieu (1990) at one point refers to habitus as the intentionless invention of regulated improvisation (1990:57). In place of the pragmatist tendency to see creative action as at least a guided (if not necessarily cognitive and deliberative) process in the face of recognized problems, Bourdieu offers a concept in which creativity is persistently invoked in practical contexts through the generative power of habituated tendencies. Here then we encounter a view of habitual action that integrates creative action within it by emphasizing that habit (in its flexible, disposition sense) is not perfectly prescriptive for all contexts, including the familiar. The problematic duality between habitual and creative conduct collapses into a single dimension of action that generate[s] and organize[s] practices and representations for all actions (Bourdieu 1992:53). The second source of creative agency lies in the intelligent, strategic character of action and the flexibility individuals have within fields to act to their own or others advantage. This flexibility depends on the generality of the habitus itselfits status as an orienting dispositionbut is a unique source of differences among actors. For Bourdieu, action is strategic with respect to the specific cultural and social fields in which individuals operate and is restricted by the dispositions inherited from the active construction of differences among social groups (Bourdieu 1984) but within



these bounds agents can choose from a variety of possibilities in achieving practical mastery over various valued forms of capital. Implicit in this creative element of the habitus is the assumption that agents, especially to the extent that they and their individual habitus represent group identities, are motivated primarily by desires for power over status-conferring and status-confirming objects and forms of knowledge and expertise. Thus, while the first source of creativity within the habitusits generalityinherently requires innovation because of the inevitably imprecise fit between general dispositions and concrete situations, the second is a specification of values and goals that limits the type of creativity likely to occur and ties it to certain social and cultural histories that individuals and groups reproduce through their actions and learned dispositions. The second creative property of the habitus has been the target of some of the major criticisms directed at the concept and its supporting conceptual framework (Crossley 2001a, 2001b; King 2000; Potter 2000; Kogler 1997; Alexander 1995; Jenkins 1992, 1982; DiMaggio 1979). The creative element that exists within the habitus is a creativity that is always tied to the specific social and cultural fields an agent engages. Thus, even when Bourdieu discusses nonhabitual action, whether characterized as rational or creative, the habitus places restrictions on what types of innovation can occur: We can always say that individuals make choices, as long as we do not forget that they do not choose the principles of these choices (Wacquant 1989:45). While this may be true of the typical actor in normal or usual circumstances, Bourdieu does not seem to allow here for the type of thoroughgoing reconstruction of principles, goals, or methods that a fully rational or creative actor hypothetically could produce. For Bourdieu, creativity is always a restricted set of strategies embedded in bodily hexis and the logic of a particular social milieu (Bourdieu and Passeron 1977). Even in later work in which Bourdieu (2000b) is keen to answer his critics by emphasizing the flexible nature of habitus, he maintains these restrictions: there is no rule . . . that can provide for all the possible conditions of its execution and which does not . . . leave some degree of play or scope for interpretation, which is handed over to the strategies of the habitus (2000b:162, emphasis added). Habitus is flexible and open-ended but continues to place significant bounds on the horizon of possibilities that Joas describes. This restricted realm of creativity within the habitus, despite possessing an advantage over Joass model in its ability to conceive of creativity as the interaction between habitual action and specific environmental conditions, fails in its ability to incorporate a robust conception of creative agency. Strategic action that is intelligible in reference to current fields is possible, but rational action that is consistently self-conscious and reinventing across time is not. Innovative acts and perspectives that arise from crisis events are possible (Bourdieu 1986, 1990, 2000a, 2000b) but occur irregularly and even then may not question the principles of judgment or action on which they are based. This unidirectional model of agency ultimately cannot account for any but the most limited types of creative acts. Even the use of Bourdieus (1977) practical theory, in that it makes constant reference to rules (of the anthropological structuralist kind) that may be seen as habitual or routinized, has little to say about creativity outside of the bounds of particular cultural logics that individuals follow (see King 2000 for a contrast between habitus and Bourdieus concept of praxis). To attempt to expand the universe of creativity within Bourdieus scheme necessitates the explicit introduction of creativity as a separate dimension of action. This is seen, for example, in Crossleys (2001a) examination of Bourdieus importance for conceptualizing embodiment. Having noted some of the criticisms of habitus as a



possibly deterministic concept (Crossley 2001a:ch. 6), Crossley subsequently argues for a separate, creative capacity for action: The capacity for habituation is twinned with the capacity. . . for innovative and creative praxes which give rise to modes of acting worthy of conserving through habit. Many of our habits are acquired from the collective pool in our society, which we see being performed around us and are able to copy. . . Indeed, one mode of the intelligence of the human organism is its tendency to replicate solutions to action problems which it perceives others performing. But aside from this, or running parallel to it, there is a dual tendency in human behavior; toward innovation and creation on the one hand, and towards habituation on the other (2001a:129). This ascription of an innovative capacity to actors treats creativity as an ability distinct from habituation, a dimension of action that exists alongside of habit but that remains separate and whose origins lie in a realm decidedly remote from the habitual, practical engagement of the body that Crossley and others describe so expertly (Crossley 2001a, 2001b, 1995; Dreyfus and Dreyfus 1999; Hoy 1999; Shilling 1999; Mauss [1935] 1973). Furthermore, creativity is seen here as a kind of undifferentiated tendency that exists naturally within human agents, suggesting that it is a type of general impulse or drive that simply exists within the body and that is not affected, like habitus itself, by sociohistorical conditions. Creativity becomes a residual category for those elements of action that cannot be accounted for by the problematically oversocialized view of the actor that the habitual and embodied perspectives on action tend toward and for which Joass work attempts to compensate. Ultimately, from the perspective of a Joasian theory, Bourdieus theories are still theories of habitual action, and while they may do an admirable job of allowing for creative action within a habitual dimension and may ingeniously link social conditions and social change over time to individual action, the restricted model of action at its core limits possible theorizing about when and why creative action occursand with what consequences. The central characteristics of Bourdieus conception of habitus unconscious, transposable, a sediment of historical distinctions between groups, and globally predisposingare extremely useful for deepening Joass conceptualization of the typically prereflective orientations of actors. But the primary lesson Bourdieus perspective holds lies in the possibility of uniting habitual and creative elements in a theory of action that neither depends on ascribing a separate origin and operation to a creative tendency nor on toggling between habitual and creative moments in the unfolding course of practical challenges. By combining the insights of Bourdieus approach with Joass intention to place creativity at the center of theorizing about the actor, a possible solution to the problematic relationship between habit and creativity emerges that treats creative action as a necessary facet of all practical agency, even as it remains grounded in habit.

CREATIVITY IN ACTION From Joas, we see how habit predominates in action and how creativity can operate with respect to habitual action in moments of reconstructive agency. From Bourdieu, we see how creativity can arise directly from the interaction between (general) habit and specific, concrete situations. If we are willing momentarily to sever the connection emphasized in Bourdieu between habit and received cultural and social patterns, then we can unite the



more robust concept of creativity found in COA with Bourdieus recognition that all action is creative to the degree that it involves moving from a set of general, habitual schemas to the specific realization of action in actual contexts. Creativity then can be defined as the necessary innovative adaptation to generally defined tasks, which, in the course of action, must be carried forth in specific form. No schema can provide all the details of every situation, and no habit can anticipate the contours of each moment in which it may be invoked: all action requires the innovative adjustment to particular circumstances that can neither be precisely foreseen nor completely routinized. Creativity is an inherent feature of action that exists within both highly routinized activities and within more self-evidently creative conduct, but the problem is not necessarily one geared toward reestablishing habit or unreflective goals, as the problem is a general difficulty in all moments of action. Such creative adjustments can rework principles and strategies of action, even in contexts that do not provoke actors by crisis. Thus, the concept of creativity that emerges from these themes draws on two models whose strengths complement the weaknesses of the other. Joass approach addresses the limited capacity for creativity that Bourdieu ascribes to individuals by allowing for the possibility that obstacles to unreflected intentions may challenge common principles and abilities for judgment that otherwise are habituated as dispositions. Bourdieus approach dissolves the problematic phasic model presented in COA by recognizing that all actors face the difficulty of transforming general intentions informed by habitual knowledge and practice to concrete achievements in particular circumstances. This provides an alternative reading on the traditional pragmatist argument that consciousness is invoked in its fullest form when agents are faced with difficulties in their environment.2 Here, individuals are always aware of the creative necessity for the contextual adaptation of their habits. It is, in fact, a habitual awareness, a practical, embodied, and typically subconscious knowledge that any real achievement requires various forms of adjustment to circumstances that face the actor. This is another significant contribution Bourdieu and the concept of habitus provides to this different conceptualization of creativity: the creative adaption to circumstance is itself a habitual condition of the agent in encountering a world that always imperfectly matches its schema. This conceptualization differs from Bourdieus account in that it does not claim that this creative element arises only from the imperfections of the habitusi.e., its generalitybut rather incorporates the Joasian understanding that any sociocultural and natural environment poses difficulties to the actor that often precisely contradict elements of these schemas. Action is difficult, not simply due to the intelligent activity required to translate a general disposition into specific forms of action, but because it is a situated and contingent achievement that is sometimes frustrated by obstacles to its fulfillment and thereby necessitates questioning the practices and principles individuals typically follow. Creative action is not always restricted to the methods available within a specific cultural environment or field, nor does radical creativity only occur during collective action in which group awareness of the differences between subjective expectations and objective conditions produce demands for change. Rather, given the problematic of action itself, its achievement can and often does entail the reworking of common assumptions and techniques at both individual and group levels so that, as Merleau-Ponty (1963:153) observes, any shared history, however embodied in practice, is a moving equilibrium. Collective
2 Joas notes in COA that this argument comes under unfair criticism because pragmatism has a more sophisticated understanding of active, conscious thought, as revealed by Thomas and Mead in particular (the former addressing moments of definition, the latter addressing the relationship between identity, selfaware consciousness, and social embeddedness).



action based on crisis events remains a significant source of social change, but articulating creativity as a dimension of routine behavior specifies microsocial sources of change that Bourdieus approach otherwise neglects. This approach dissolves another dilemma apparent in Joas: COA implies not merely that action must be divisible between creative and habitual phases but also that social scientists can make judgments about the boundary between the two from a theoretical position outside immediate contexts of action. This epistemological stance does not play a large or overt role in Joass thought, but its assumption is a theme running throughout the course of his descriptions of actors and their typical behavior. Stressing instead that creativity is a component of all action allows the lay distinction between creativity and habit, which continues to be a real and socially significant difference, to be a judgment properly made by individuals and groups who are witnesses to the peculiarities of achieved performances in concrete social contexts (Camic 1986:1075). Thus, the social definition of creativity, as distinct from mere routine, is not conflated with a theoretical evaluation of this difference, and the general model that identifies all action as creative can be developed into more specific hypotheses about when and with what consequences innovative behavior is distinguished from typical, routine behavior. Ascribing to actors the ability to make this distinction also provides a stronger foundation for a macrotheoretical approach based on creative action by allowing for social (not merely individual) consequences of creative activityconsequences that affect other agents and groups and that can serve as a source of change in social structures. Indeed, one of the criticisms of COA not addressed here yet is the extent to which Joass model is heavily individualisticthat, as one reviewer argued, Joas failed to offer a compelling model of creative interaction (Layder 1997). Indeed, the previous discussion momentarily suspended the integral connection Bourdieus concept of habitus has with broader issues of social change and reproduction in order to meet Joass conceptualizations on its mostly individual-oriented grounds. Within the main discussion, Joas relies on language, metaphors, and examples that typically describe an actor alone in interaction with his or her environment (even though that environment is often implicitly social). Yet creative action can be conceived of as a small group or institutionally arranged activity in which creative solutions are produced through interaction centered on socially acknowledged problems or socially practiced habitse.g., a family reworking its schedule on the basis of an emergency or a business team acting together in serving a client or customer. Symbolic interactionism certainly draws a set of concerns from Mead that stresses this interactive component rather than the creative element Joas stresses in regard to Meadand often provides a conceptualization of action that approaches the reconceptualization offered in the present article on the basis of a comparison to Bourdieu (Shibutani 1986, 1961; Turner 1968; Goffman 1967, 1959). Creativity is not only contextualized socially, which Joas makes clear, but also is often socially interactive, involving routines that can be only accomplished jointly.3
3 The interactionists, however, occasionally repeat some of the same problems objected to in Joas and Bourdieu here: e.g., Shibutani (1961) talks about interruptions and frustrations of an equilibrium in action and about crisis as a goad to change, though he also includes discussion of less disruptive innovations and processes of diffusion (1986:366372). Goffman (1967) offers nuanced descriptions of how individuals were responsible for the successful accomplishment of ritualized interaction, but emphasized the ritual component more than the creative. Nor have they typically had access to the refined conceptual developments that Bourdieu offers or relied on in the French intellectual tradition represented in Canguilhem, Merleau-Ponty, and Mauss as a way of thinking about routine in interaction. Most significantly, however, they did not place creativity at the center of their theorizing and thus miss both the specific formulation offered here and the implications this formulation has for theorizing about macrosociological change.



Viewing the consequences of action from this perspective reveals that working through the habits implied by situation and received routine is not successful simply according to some internal capacity of judgment: as Goffman (1959) notes, performance requires an audience, and successful performance requires the approval or at least complicity of that audience. The unstated assumption of Joas and the pragmatists is that individual (though socially affected) decisions determine the process of response and interaction that produces a successful or workable outcomean inappropriate isolation of the actor. Given that all action occurs in an explicit or implicit social environment or is directly or indirectly shaped by social forces, this view should be corrected to one from which creativity is seen not as an interaction between the individual and environmental constraints related only to his or her routine concerns but instead as an interaction between the individuals attempts to operate successfully in the world and the social judgments that permeate any such attempts. This perspective differs significantly from what Joas (1996) calls the primary sociality of the actor, which is mainly an acknowledgment that no individual decision about goals or means is separate from the social context in which the actor operates (1996:184195). The image presented by Joas is, in fact, precisely contextual; the actor engages a world whose meanings and boundaries are provided by the social environment but in the creative process itself only operates with a consideration of those prereflective aspirations that he or she maintains. Yet creative performances and outcomes themselves are judged, directly or indirectly, by other actors; one element of what it means for actions to be creatively interactive is that there is a process of social response that shapes their outcomes. Though absent from the central discussion in COA, this is in line with Joass emphasis on social acts of creativity in the last part of the bookthe working through of alternative possibilities of action in groups and society at large as evidenced in creative democracy, for example. Here, the individuals creative actions, arising from applying general schemas to specific situations, operates in a social environment that both prompts innovative adjustments and reacts in varying ways to its accomplishments. But this also points to an additional element of the social character of creative action that goes beyond intersubjective judgment and accomplishment: that creativity involves the production of practices that can assume independence from the original creative intent.

THE SOCIAL PRODUCTS OF CREATIVITY To create means to producea product, something that exists in a social and physical environmentand not simply to solve (intellectually or internally) a problem or to negotiate the disjuncture between general intentions and specific contexts. This process occurs in relationship to past experiences embodied in habits, as both Bourdieu and Joas make clear, but it also occurs in a social environment and a physical environment and therefore has significant consequences for those environments. Because creative products enter a social environment at the same time they are formed by it and therefore are constituted as practices that can be observed and can be reacted to independently of their practical significance to the original agents, other groups or individuals may treat innovative acts based on their own set of interests and desires. These observers may be participants, of course, and from Goffmans (1959) or Meads (1934) perspective there need be no distinction: judging action means becoming a performer oneself. But actors also may decide to adopt or to modify creative actions



for other circumstances, to condemn the creative acts as subversive or dangerous for social stability, or to engage in a variety of contradictory responses that reveal ambivalence linked to conflicting social pressures or positions. Creativity generates social products not only by virtue of the fact that it may involve interactive accomplishments but also because these products can assume a level of autonomy from their primary contexts by themselves being employed as part of the background for subsequent creative acts. This is additionally important if we view the products and process of creativity as not only social but material and embodied as well: all action, whether defined creatively, rationally, normatively, or in another or an eclectic fashion, involves physical and symbolic relationships to objects in the environment. To MerleauPonty and his intellectual tradition, and the pragmatist tradition upon which Joas draws, these material or symbolic objects are subjects of the agents actions; they are involved both in creating and in solving the problems actors face in real situations. But these traditions perhaps do not emphasize enough that these objects may possess, for the experiencing agent, a substance or reality that opposes them and that requires or provokes certain specific responses (although see Bourdieu 2001). According to this perspective, every object implies a way of relating to that object that is conditioned by socially influenced perceptionsi.e., objects imply certain behavioral, affectual, or cognitive stances the actor generally takes in relationship to them. A chair involves a bodily relationship to its physical structure that is different from the relationship a person has to sitting on flat ground, and this relationship involves a variety of consequences for individual behavior and attitudedemureness, propriety, candor, for exampleand that themselves may vary by the specific associations that differences in setting, materials, construction, and even specific shape of the object involve. Purely symbolic objects or objects of knowledgefor example, the idea of a personal Godlikewise imply stances linked to their acceptance and that dispose individuals toward adopting certain attitudes or perspectives that other ideas would notas a pagan pantheon implies alternative patterns of religious activity from monotheism. Granting that nothing in the purely physical constitution of objects or in the nature of an attitude or idea forces individuals into certain postures (literal or figurative), but that material and symbolic objects are invested with social significance that, as it were, provoke responses, it is true nonetheless that agents exist as much in a material world as in their own bodies and that relationships to the material of existence can and do have significant consequences for the possibilities of action. Thus, creativity implies not simply the overcoming of practical or strategic problems or the reestablishment of the capacity for practical activity through the refinement of habit and is not only social in the direct judgments and environments in which creative action is embedded, but it also involves creating material and symbolic objects that exist in a social space and that have implications for the embodied existence and practice of other agents. This concept of the social products of creative action identifies an important source of innovation for social change. Creative agents, relying on habitual and embodied schemas, continually produce practical innovations in interaction with a social and physical environment that systematically limits, judges, and incorporates those creative acts into the ongoing stream of social life. These creative achievements are products in a variety of senses: they may be new physical objects, new techniques of embodied action (Mauss [1935] 1973 and his techniques of the body), novel ways of relating the body to the physical and built environments, different judgments or perceptions of the social or socially constructed natural world, or new ways of



organizing social life itself. They may involve small adjustments of comportment in highly specific situations or may require the reworking of principles of power and influence in large social bodies (which, as Foucault (1978, 1977) has artfully demonstrated, also involves physical objects and corporeal techniques). Since all action is by definition creative by virtue of unique conditions that can never be anticipated fully or routinized, the production of innovations that results from the negotiation between habitual accomplishment of general intentions and the specificity of precise context is a central component of action in which all situated agents participate and serves as an ever-present source of creative production for social change. This is not to say that all action is necessarily recognized as creative, is treated in the same way if some element of novelty is identified, or has the same consequences for the sociocultural and material environment. Rather, as a constant source of deviance inherently embedded in established practices, creative elements within habitual behavior are subject to the same array of social influences that all action is subject tointerests attached to structural positions, institutional bonds, cultural perceptions, the power of authority, and threat of force. What is or is not recognized as creative; how the social products of creativity are adopted, modified, or rejected; the pace of technological and social reconfiguration over timethese variables must continue to rely on developments in macrosociological theory that articulate the overarching forces and their relations. But by placing creativity and its social products at the center of human action, the reconceptualization offered here does suggest that broad-scale social theorizing be attentive to patterns of creativity in society at large. It conjures a vision in which the surrounding social forces form in conjunction with creative agency a kind of architecture that governs the recognition and movement of creative products in social space. This architecture defines the relationship between agentic creativity and social response at any given time, highlighting certain viewpoints and privileging certain positions for their ability to shape and to direct creative energieseven as the structure itself is subject to the innovative, strategic manipulations of individual and corporate actors. Thus, the image of creativity permeating action that Joas offers expands to generate an image of society as defined by relations of creative achievement and production. In contrast to the arguably reproductive model of Bourdieu, which limits the possibilities of change to crisis events (collective or individual), and in contrast to the phasic model provided by Joas, which focuses attention on moments of creative production, this conceptualization directs us to the connections between continuous introduction of novel possibilities in practical action and the patterns of creative authority that influence social response. By identifying the importance of social products of creative action as a source of possibilities for future change and by linking such innovation to broader cultural and institutional structures that govern their recognition and the reaction to them, this consequence of the earlier reconceptualization strengthens Joass attempts to place creativity at the center of human agency and makes a more direct link with the macrosociological concerns addressed there. At this point, this link is mostly suggestive, but if creativity is viewed as central to human action and as a source of innovations affecting large-scale change cumulatively or directly, then it identifies a significant set of concerns that macrotheoretical approaches must take into account when considering social change. Further work in this direction, then, might consider how social and cultural structures systematically manage the constant introduction of creative accomplishments produced in action and thereby influence the direction of historical change.



CONCLUSION This article has been concerned chiefly with achieving clarity on the concept of creativity and with identifying its potential in bridging issues of agency and structure. Joass work represents the most significant attempt to date to actively integrate a concept of creativity into modern social theories of human agency and action. However, introducing such a concept into sociological theory necessitates dealing with an opposed concept of habit or routine. Joass approach, utilizing a model of creative problem solving from American pragmatism, describes habit and creativity as complementary phases of action but unfortunately maintains an unsupportable dualism between the two. The alternative approach provided by Bourdieu subsumes creative action or creative capacities within a broad concept of habitual and embodied action, but in doing so it leaves creativity as a kind of residual capacity or ability linked to restricted strategies of action. To overcome this dichotomy, we must recognize the simultaneous presence in all action of habitual and creative elements. Creativity emerges from the nature of routine activity itself (whether individually habitual or prescribed in roles or schemas), which can never be specified with absolute precision and demands interpretation or performance in the concrete realization of action. Recognizing further that action takes place in a social and physical environment in which creativity is both judged by and has consequences for other actors establishes the potential for bringing the concept of creative action, so carefully and insightfully explored by Joas, into broader theorizing about the relationship between agents and the social structures in which they are embedded.

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