American Sociological Association

Leveraging Youth: Overcoming Intergenerational Tensions in Creative Production

The sociological literature on creativity would suggest that collaboration between newcomers and more experienced members of an art world results in the fruitful combination of novelty and usefulness, though not without some conflict. Drawing on fieldwork and interviews with workers from the popular recording industry (rock/pop) in New York City, this article extends the literature on creativity as collective action by showing how three types of intergenerational tensions (aesthetic, technological, and career) are embedded in the ways newcomers and experienced workers see themselves and each other as agents of change and stasis. I propose a new variable—leveraging age—a mechanism intergenerational collaborators use to resolve or override these tensions to ultimately maximize creativity in group contexts. Leveraging age, as a form of knowledge extraction, occurs in creative bureaucratic organizations and describes how newcomers and experienced workers dualistically draw on each other’s respective strengths (novelty and tradition). I primarily examine the bottom-up part of this process—how experienced workers draw on the insights of newcomers—by analyzing five leveraging-youth practices, which vary by level of formality and intentionality, but mostly limit the interactional challenges between the two groups.

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Alexandre Frenette





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