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March 31, 2008

Richard Florida

City Lover

« Who's Your Blogging Head ... | Main | Tune in - Here and Now »

Toronto Life blogger, Douglas Bell, chastises me for a recent "love letter" to Philadelphia, attempting to imply because I have some nice things to say about Philly my affection for Toronto must be insincere, adding that:

All of which is fine, except that don’t all these worthy abstractions — “mega-regions,” “$2 trillion in economic output” — neatly obscure the fundamental problem of North American urban life? I’m speaking of the growing disparity between rich and poor and the diminishing prospects for political engagement between these increasingly polarized classes. Anyone who’s seen even a few episodes of The Wire, David Simon’s brilliant study of urban alienation, knows that it is exactly this sort of high-minded obfuscating that drives us further and further from recognizing this simple truth.

Sometimes it pays to slow down and take a look at someone's work before bashing away at the keyboard. A key theme of Who's Your City? is that the world is spiky, meaning that there is a growing disparity between mega-regions and other places and within mega-regions between rich and poor.  The book argues that today class divisions are increasingly overlayed by location and place.  And Flight of the Creative Class includes an inequality index for all US regions, arguing that mounting inequality and political polarization and disengagement is a huge problem for the US. In fact, I wrote a column on just that kind of polarization for this Saturday's Globe and Mail, and another a while back on the increasing social and economic polarization of the 3 Torontos. Understanding class polarization and growing economic and geographic inequality is at the very core of my work.

And I still really like both Philly and Toronto just fine - and a whole bunch of other cities too.

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Comments

Michael Wells

I love The Wire. I don't watch much TV, but a friend recommended it so highly we rented the first season and were mesmerized. It looks spot-on for some segments of cities like Baltimore. On the other hand, to get your ideas of reality from TV is sketchy at best. The Wire represents only parts of a much larger urban reality.

"Diminishing prospects for political engagement between these increasingly polarized classes..." In fact, the chances for cross-class engagement are maybe the best they've been in 30 years. The (please God) collapse of the Reagan coalition and its hold on the conservative working class opens the chance of a new coalition. In all the pontificating about the Hillary/Obama split, the pundits fail to notice that the working class's chosen candidate is -- a woman, an intellectual, and a liberal.

And even Avon Barksdale might be inspired by Barack.

Wendy

I'm only half way through your book. But so far, the most fascinating observation/evidence to me has been that cities with the highest amount of innovation or creative output also tend to have the largest amounts of disparity between rich and poor. The implication seems to be (and maybe you say this explicitly later) that somehow this full spectrum of socio-economic status, like a rainbow of ethnic groups, is necessary for sparking ideas and innovation.

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