Creative Intelligence and the Cold War

US Military Investments in the Concept of Creativity, 1945–1965

in Conflict and Society
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ABSTRACT

This article investigates the Cold War entanglements of the concept of “creativity” with the US military. The field of creativity studies came about after World War II, and the military was a vital site for the production of knowledge about creative thinking. Creativity emerged on the geopolitical radar, in terms of the acquisition of creative thinking skills, attempts to “think the unthinkable” (atomic futures), and the detection of creative citizens. Creative, divergent thinking garnered a renewed urgency with the Sputnik shock, which showcased that conformist practices in knowledge production would not put an American on the moon. Between 1945 and 1965, the concept of creativity—as something to be defined, measured, and stimulated—was framed as a matter of national security and an object of geopolitical concern. This ensuing traffic in knowledge between Cold War academic and military contexts has been constitutive of present-day understandings of creative, undisciplined thought.

Contributor Notes

BREGJE F. VAN EEKELEN (PhD, University of California, Santa Cruz) is a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and a Senior Researcher History of Social and Human Sciences at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Her project “Brainstorms: A Cultural History of Undisciplined Thought,” funded by the Dutch National Science Foundation, charts the history of creative thinking in military and industrial settings from 1930 to 1965. She is a founding member of the Erasmus Institute for Public Knowledge (EIPK). Her recent work is published in the Journal of Cultural Economy, Economy and Society, Public Culture, and the Annual Review of Anthropology.

Conflict and Society

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