‘Thriving Instead of Surviving’: A Capability Approach to Geographical Career Transitions in the Creative Industries

Ana Alacovska*, Christian Fieseler, Sut I. Wong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This article examines career transitions in creative industries that involve geographical relocation from large metropolitan creative cities to small, remote and marginal urbanities. Drawing on 31 in-depth interviews with freelancers who have relocated to peripheral Southern European locales, the article explores the ways in which creative workers make sense of and justify their career transitions away from the metropolis, while reassessing reflexively over their lifespan the shifting meaning of their career success. We propose the adoption of Nussbaum’s capability approach in the study of such career transitions as a means of strengthening current theorizing about the role played by urban contexts in individual conceptualizations of career success and meaningful professional identities. Applying this analytical lens, we tease out the ways in which our informants perceived the influence exerted by different urban contexts on their capacity to enact a set of capabilities for the attainment of well-being and quality of life at different stages in their careers while striving to preserve a stable professional identity as creative workers. We argue that a good life evaluation, which includes a reflexive and comprehensive reassessment of the capabilities to live life well while pursuing a creative career, underlies creative workers’ shifting interpretations of geographical career transition that contravene conventional measures of career upward mobility, development and growth.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)751-780
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Published online: 17. September 2020


  • Capabilities
  • Capability approach
  • Career sense-making
  • Career stage
  • Career success
  • Career transition
  • Creative careers
  • Creative cities
  • Creative industries
  • Creative labour
  • Cultural economy
  • Cultural work
  • Good life
  • Identity work
  • Life span perspective
  • Life-course
  • Nussbaum
  • Sen
  • Well-being

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