“The Closed-World Principle”: Corporations and the Metaculture of Newness via Oldness


  • Eitan Wilf




Although many corporations make claims about the newness of their products in order to make the public interested in purchasing them, not all of them make the same kind of claims. Whereas previous studies have highlighted claims to newness that are based on emphasizing the newness of almost all the parts of new products in relation to the parts of those products’ previous versions, I highlight claims to newness that are based on emphasizing the oldness of the parts of new products in relation to the parts of those products’ previous versions. These two distinct kinds of claims are patterned after two diametrically opposed normative ideals of newness that have a specific intellectual history in the modern west. This history and its contemporary instantiations have implications for the study of the motion of culture in general, and of the mechanisms that propel it in the corporate world in particular.

Author Biography

Eitan Wilf

Eitan Wilf is a cultural and semiotic anthropologist whose research interests focus on the institutional transformations of creative practice in the United States. He has conducted ethnographic fieldwork on the institutionalization of jazz music in academic programs, the development of art-producing computerized algorithms and sociable robots, and business innovation consulting services. He is the author of School for Cool: The Academic Jazz Program and the Paradox of Institutionalized Creativity (University of Chicago Press, 2014), and Creativity on Demand: The Dilemmas of Innovation in an Accelerated Age (University of Chicago Press, 2019). Wilf holds a PhD in anthropology from the University of Chicago.


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