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Adrian Wooldridge

How to Reverse the West’s Creativity Crisis

Reviving our social and political imagination will require defeating tech monopolists, the academic clerisy, and other vested interests in the knowledge-industrial complex.

The creativity problem starts here.

The creativity problem starts here.

Photographer: Nick Cote for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Societies can suffer from famines of the mind as well as famines of the belly. Ideas wither on the vine; plants turn into husks; fields lie fallow; and before long the economic growth that ultimately feeds on the imagination stalls. This is what is happening to the world’s imaginative life, most notably in the West, which since the days of the Enlightenment has prided itself on the creative power of ideas.

The movie of the moment, in both box office and critical terms, is Tom Cruise’s “Top Gun: Maverick,” a sequel to a 1986 blockbuster. Publishers are forever looking for the next Malcolm Gladwell. Politicians are caught up in yesterday’s battles — over abortion in America or imperial measures in Britain. The 17th-century sage Francis Bacon was once called the “buccinator novi temporis” — the trumpeter of new times. Nowadays, many of the loudest trumpeters are of old times.