In this paper the “new” notion of the creative economy is linked to previous efforts to name and interpret the types of changes that have affected industrial societies since the Second World War (e.g. Daniel Bell’s and Allain Touraine’s post-industrial society, UNESCO’s knowledge societies). Drawing on a detailed, critical analysis of UNCTAD’s Creative Economy Report 2008 which sought to measure global trade flows of creative goods and services, the discussion in this paper underscores the highly contestable manner in which statistical data are used and interpreted in this report to formulate directions for policy strategies. It is argued that the conflating of creative industries into the gambit of cultural industries serves an important ideological function. Specifically, the failure to maintain a clear distinction between arts and culture on the one hand, and creative industries on the other, enables to latter to call for the deployment of similar regulatory measures to those which been implemented by national governments over the past four decades to protect the arts and culture sectors.