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.