In this article I review and evaluate recent work that argues for the rising importance of the cultural sector, and creativity in general, in the context of the new economy. Each of these key words—new economy, creativity, cultural sector—is ambiguous without further definition. I aim to clarify the big arguments made using these terms and see whether there is good evidence to support them. In particular, I will focus on claims that individual creativity and innovation have become central to economic productivity and competitiveness and argue that, although large-scale structural changes in social and economic life have been evident for some time, recent commentary may oversell or misidentify these shifts.

The paper has four main parts. First, I discuss the new economy and ask whether we really are now living in a global marketplace driven by information technology that values innovation and creativity. Second, I show how these ideas relate to recent research and policy on the creative sector and creative industries. Third, I review two recent efforts to argue that the creative sector and a new creative class are emerging as the most important features of postindustrial societies. Finally, I raise some questions about these arguments.