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October 03, 2007

Richard Florida

Creative Class Debates

« Creative Europe | Main | Herbert Muschamp »

Two of my favorite bloggers, Bacon's Rebellion and Where Blog, are debating the creative class. Their important points along with my take after the jump. What's your take?

Over at Bacon's Rebellion, Jim Bacon writes:

From my observation, Mr. Florida has given insufficient attention to the problem of affordable, accessible housing. So has Northern Virginia, which could find itself in the same situation as Boston if it's not careful. Tolerance is a wonderful thing, but tolerance is also in the eye of the beholder. Homeowners who won't tolerate the construction of affordable townhouses, apartment buildings or single-family dwellings converted into boarding houses for immigrants may not be as tolerant as they profess to be. The real test of tolerance, I would submit, is not the abstract endorsement of gay rights or illegal immigration but in whom you actually allow to live near you.

Actually I could not agree more. The whole last part of Flight is explcitly directed to these issues. There I argue that the world's leading creative regions are vexed by mounting issues of economic inequality and housing affordability. I single out greater Boston as an example of region (with bad marks on both) which risks losing its creative edge over time because young scientists, engineers and scholars (as well as artists, gays and bohemians) can no longer afford to live near its great universities.I've also written a recent paper on housing with Charlotta Mellander (yes, the one that landed me on Colbert) which reinforces this point, though in a different way. Places with high levels of bohemians and gays are seeing housing prices rise through the roof.  Jim mentions the Fairfax Conference I'll be speaking at later this month and adds: "I wonder if anyone will raise that issue in the Fairfax creativity conference." It was one of my pet peeves when we lived in Washington. We have the data and I promise Jim, I will raise it.

Where Blog has a post coming at this from a slightly different perspective.

Sometimes I can't help but wonder if maybe the whole Creative Class phenomenon is doing more to harm cities than it does to help them. ... Gentrification happens because neighborhoods throughout a given city are unequally supported. And while this isn't the fault of the Creative Classmates, they appear to be exacerbating the problem by attracting a disproportionate amount of attention -- and funding -- from mayors who think of their presence as a silver bullet. With rich creative people comes an increased tax base, and with an increased tax base, more problems can be solved in less privileged areas, right?

Walkability, density, urban character -- all of these things are supposedly important to the Creative Class. Yet there are cities much closer to New York (aka the Center) than Portland that offer all of these things in larger helpings yet have failed to tap into the Creative Class boom as effectively as the Rose City.  ... The importance of creativity in the modern economy is nothing to sneeze at. While basic services are something that cities need to focus more heavily on, it is important that they bolster the creativity of their populace. But it seems to me that spending city funds on cultural amenities, building artist housing, and hosting snazzy (and pricey) festivals might not be the best way to go about incubating a culture of innovation and artistic aspiration. If anything, they seem likely to create a dangerous "us and them" tension between the Creative Class and their fellow city-dwellers. So how can cities create a dynamic, creative culture without overreaching?

Again, I could not agree more.  He's right:  walkability, density and urban character are important prerequisites for a great city. But alone they won't cut it. They are necessary but by themselves insufficient conditions.  Quality of place turns on three factors: what's there, who's there and what's going on. And the latter two require human energy. That kind of energy does not come from physical form and the built environment; it comes to places that are open to, tolerant of and inclusive of the widest range of people - across income and class lines, races and ethnicities, sexual orientation and family types, and all the rest. One small aside on gentrification.  I was so vexed by my own findings about the creative class and rising housing prices that I asked Jane Jacobs about this. She had a simple reply. "Look back historically,"she said, "when a place gets boring then even the rich people leave."  Stamping out human creative energy may kill off some places, but that energy eventually migrates to new ones.

But he's right in saying that some city leaders have oversold this view.  One thing I always say in my speeches to community groups is that some overzealous community leaders have tried to create a simple formula for revitalzation: "Put a latte bar over here, a music venue there, a walking trail, and an ultimate frisbee field... and voila as if by magic a new class of  people appear." That's not the point. My bottom line that every human being is creative. And the creativity cannot be forced into the social categories we have imposed on ourselves. The places that will win over time are the ones that understand that the real key is to tap and harness the creativity of all their people - not just a privileged few. That's why I use Toyota as my example of a creative company, and talk about the factory my dad worked in, rather than say Apple and Google.

And he is so right on the looming us versus them tension.  As I've written, this is the class divide of our time. It's where political polarization and the culture wars come from. People who are being left out and left behind are understandably frightened and scared. Political entrepreneurs (on both sides btw) are preying on this.  The real task is to build pathways to a creative society in which all can contribute and be rewarded in which all engage their creativity at a much fuller level thereby contributing to economic growth.

The key to the future will be to extend the creative force into the service and manufacturing economies - across all segments of the population.  The logic of the creative economy is such that the further development of the economy requires the further development of human creative capabilities. We need to shift from a creative economy and a creative class to much fuller and broader creative communities and a creative society

In my travels around the world and our ongoing pragmatic as well as intellectual work, we are out there pushing communities to move toward that much more inclusive and fully creative model  It's fantastic that Where Blog and Bacon's Rebellion are helping to push in this direction too.

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Comments

Wendy

Richard,

To what extent do you think people who "measure" (or "count") the "creative class", as well as civic leaders and municipal politicians, tend to miss the contributions of people who have a "non creative" job and a creative or artistic career.

I'm thinking about the photographer who also works 2/3 time at the Latte Bar or the drywall mudder who is also a musician. In the city economic statistics, the latte bar and drywall work are more likely to be measured than more creative work.

And, I would think that flexible "non creative" jobs that pay well and in some cases offer benefits are key to supporting a vibrant cultural scene. Without her drywall work, a musician may not be able to afford to develop her music, for example. And her playing Friday and Saturday night at small venues attracts the computer programmers, technology researchers, and others in the "creative class."

In the United States where fear of medical bills holds people back from being freelance or entrepreneurs (see Ryan Healy this week at brazencareerist), I would think the opportunity for people to balance two careers -- an artistic one and a less creative one -- would be essential if a city or region wants a vibrant cultural scene.

Your thoughts?

Wendy

Forgot to include above: what I'm getting at is the question of whether there is a dichotomy or "class war" between the creative class and non creative work. Individuals in their complete lives (home, work, family, hobbies, etc.) may be contributing to the knowledge economy or the creative economy as well as to a more "traditional" service or industrial-manufacturing economy.

Michael Wells

Affordable housing is also necessary but not sufficient. One of the repeated themes about Portland's attracting creative class people and industries is how cheap it is among West Coast cities. And believe me as prices go up, city government and others are very aware of the dangers of gentrification.

On the other hand Eastern Ohio where I was born (near Wheeling W.V.) has dirt cheap housing but no-one wants to live there. The same is true of much of the central Midwest.

The problem is when lots of people want to live somewhere they drive up housing prices. The low income>artists & gays>more affluent creative class>gentrification phenom is happening in several Portland neighborhoods, with debate from all sides. I don't see a lot of poor Portlanders moving from the old hood to the really rural Eastern Oregon counties (see recent post) but certainly many are moving to the less expensive working class suburbs and semi-rural unincorporated counties.

Sandy

Wendy- You have mentioned several valid points. I've sat in several state-level policy meetings where the major point of contention (or blind spot) has been the disconnect between the anachronistic "measurement" of creative class occupations and the organic dynamic on the ground in creative communities.

I witness the creative contributions of those dreaded "lowly service workers" every day. They are more interested in their creative lives, and will do what they need to do to support that life. They are completely disinterested in which occupational group they get dumped into based on who hands them a paycheck/W-2 form. (I've had policy makers actually blame these young people for not being more specific on their tax forms.) The notion of creative/non-creative occupational delineations is truly an abstract construct for many people more interested in living creative lives. I've discussed your points with several young creatives in my city- one amazing musician is a waiter (by day) so that he can play in the horn section of a new local funk band (which just played to 6000 people- a true "blue hair and blue hair" crowd- in a free public concert downtown). He was emphatic that his day job was a means to support his music: "Where else could I work and still play with the band? I don't make tons of money here, but I can tour with the band on the weekends. Let me show you a picture of me and George Clinton from the show we did on Saturday. I played with him last weekend. I couldn't have done that if I was working a 9-5 job, putting my college degree to work." He also made the point that much of his money is grey economy income.


My thought is that policy makers (especially ED policy makers and ED professionals) are working the wrong leverage point- Focusing on "businesses" (industry classifications) and the typical policy mechanisms (TIFS and subsidies). This approach is both anachronistic and points to larger issues of top-down command and control problems- completely antithetical to creative regions. Growing bigger business/sectors/economies is quite different from growing organically (deeper/wider). As Rich has pointed out, perhaps a more efficient and effective approach would to develop the creative milieu- specifically the creative social entrepreneurial infrastructure to support the development of creative entrepreneurs and the civic/social environment to support/nurture the creative potential of each citizen. (As John McKnight says "A weak community is place where people can't or won't give their gifts". ) The shift to "support and nurture the creative potential of all citizens" is a little fuzzy for most ED policy makers more interested in the rote application of some policy deemed successful in the past.


RF

All - Thank you. This debate and dialogue is so very important. We will work on prosperity broadly defined. We will also launch a service economy project that is global in scope - aimed at identifying those industries, firms and locations that are tapping the creativity of their people and rewarding it. Of course examples do exist. H&M and Ikea in Sweden. Starbucks, Whole Foods, and others in the US. Umbra here in Canada. There are many others. One thing is certain. Firms that do this appear to get a huge Schumpeterian advantage - making super-profits and transforming entire industries. And we can do more, higher wages, better benefits, better career paths. There is a great case study done by University of Michigan researchers on the great deli Zingerman's and how they have built such a business model. it is actually happening at the local level. We have to better understand it, distill it and generalize it.

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과연 그 말대로 그렇게 많은 돈을 노력없이 번사람이 몇이나 될까요?
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적더라도 1-200만원 이라도 실제 벌어야 버는거지요...

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