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April 2, 2013 4:32 AM   Subscribe

Richard Florida Concedes the Limits of the Creative Class. Or does he?
posted by spamandkimchi (55 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Read this a little while ago. I agree with Richard Florida from the outset, that his response is bollocks.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 4:53 AM on April 2, 2013


Indeed, the places that most attract “the creative class” are also the ones with the fewest families and children, led by San Francisco, Seattle, Manhattan, and rapidly gentrifying Washington, D.C.

Manhattan has not attracted the "creative class" in a very long time.

I agree with a lot of what Florida is saying. The "creative class" often jacks up the rent, but then they don't buy. The rents are too-often subsidized by parental support and/or the poor spending patterns of youth. Since all the new residents who live there are childless, no extra investment is put into the school system, and other such things which buyers actually want. Since there are few long-term residents, a real estate bubble emerges. Then you wind up with nuttiness like Bushwick's real estate going up 20% in a year. That can't last.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:08 AM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


High rents are a tax on the creative class wannabes who mix up cause and effect.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:18 AM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well, it did give us the amusement of Providence rebranding itself as "the Creative Capitol," a slogan which the seemed to have lifted from Pawtucket, an adjacent town. Which, you know, is sad, because Providence is generally a) creative enough to come up with a real slogan, if the creative types got to speak and b) smart enough to not plagiarize from the kid in the next seat....
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:25 AM on April 2, 2013


The author of this essay, Joel Kotkin, appears to be supported as a "fellow" at a college deep in the dark heart of Orange County, CA, where he, presumably, earns his pay writing in support of low taxes, suburbia, and making babies.

He probably sees himself as some sort of crypto-libertarian, but this essay is just classic right-wing populism. The objective is to split the professional classes from blue-collar workers: not only will they raise your rent but 'teh gays.' (Read the comments and see how the readers pick up on the dog whistle.)
posted by ennui.bz at 5:32 AM on April 2, 2013 [13 favorites]


I think people basing their city planning on 'creative class' development are doing just fine on their own at splitting the professional classes from blue collar workers -- they don't need any help from critiques like Kotkin's.
posted by lodurr at 5:43 AM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


The heart of urbanist theory is really pretty conservative when you get down to it. Most of it boils down to "cities are healthier when they're made up of neighborhoods that include a significant proportion of families with children." A lot of the people favoring this type of development also would like to think of themselves as disciples of modern urbanism, but the warrants are inconsistent.

so in a way, basing your development theory on the idea that a 'creative class' will lift all boats is a bit like using sugar to keep yourself going when you're tired: sure, it will work, but it's going to have negative consequences. yes, you can get results with that strategy - but you're going to have to accommodate those negative consequences.
posted by lodurr at 5:48 AM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Providence rebranding itself as "the Creative Capitol," a slogan which the seemed to have lifted from Pawtucket

Good cities copy but great cities steal?
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:49 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


... all that having been said, mag wheels are not what you want to do if you want to turn a gremlin into a mustang. Gremlins were once serious competitors on the IMSA circuit, thanks to their relatively large engines and wide stance. But I think that's as far as I want to go on stretching that particular metaphor....
posted by lodurr at 5:50 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait a minute....I work as a "creative". But, there's no way in hell I could ever afford to live in one of these "Creative Class" areas. I also appear to be quite a bit older than the members of this supposed "class." Maybe it's the "Class" part of "Creative Class" I lack? Or, maybe it's just the trust fund I lack?
posted by Thorzdad at 6:14 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Speaking as someone who has been part of the creative class, and someone who has had hands-on experience with administrating same, I am rather skeptical about some of the details informing the premise in the first article.

The claim, as I understand it, was that money was given to "the creative class" in the hopes that it would revitalize a community, but darn heck shoot, it didn't happen. However, the article neglects to mention a) how much money was given, and b) how much red tape the recipients had to wade through in order to obtain it.

A lot of the "creative class" that the article is looking at is also being subsidized by their parents, but there's a whole other stealth creative-class that isn't. We are forced to carve out time to write on our lunch breaks and our weekends; we're running theater companies out of our living rooms. And a lot of the money that's been "invested" in the arts is either way too little to afford more than just a week's rent of a rehearsal studio, or requires a grant application that takes way longer than a lunch hour to figure out how to fill out.

So this sort of feels like someone complaining that they couldn't move a chair out of its spot, and then saying, "here, I'll show you," and trying to lift it with their pinky finger alone and then saying "see, it doesn't work!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:14 AM on April 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


The sad truth is that even in the more plausible “creative class” cities such as New York and San Francisco, the emphasis on “hip cool” and high-end service industries has corresponded with a decline in their middle class and a growing gap between rich and poor.
The term "creative class" grates horribly and I'm predisposed to take this guy's argument seriously, but dang is that a disingenuous little implication right there. Especially coming as it does after a litany of failed urban revival attempts around the country. The raft of issues around gentrification aside, encouraging fancy neighborhoods did not the wealth gap make.
posted by postcommunism at 6:16 AM on April 2, 2013


> A lot of the "creative class" that the article is looking at is also being subsidized by their parents, but there's a whole other stealth creative-class that isn't. We are forced to carve out time to write on our lunch breaks and our weekends; we're running theater companies out of our living rooms.

The author's definition of creative class seems to be "industries like entertainment, software, and social media." Less so local theater and art.
posted by postcommunism at 6:18 AM on April 2, 2013


The author's definition of creative class seems to be "industries like entertainment, software, and social media." Less so local theater and art.

Well, there's his problem. Now that feels like investing in the local Wal-Mart franchise and forgetting that most of the profit is gonna go to the Walton family instead of the local downtown, while the mom-and-pop stores that actually do make up the downtown business district go hungry.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:21 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's tough for city planners to create neighborhoods attractive to educated people with "creative" income levels while also regarding the urban underclass as having a right to stay in place, market forces notwithstanding. It's especially hard to do this for families, because the dominant educational ideology hates the idea of replicating de jure the parental income and marital status segregation which is created de facto in the suburban public schools. (This is less of a problem in New York City, where there's a legacy system of gifted education that leftists haven't been able to dismantle, their best efforts aside, and also "creative" includes a lot of people with incomes high enough for private education.)
posted by MattD at 6:23 AM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hey, whaddya know, wine bars and art galleries don't bring back neighborhoods when there aren't any jobs around that pay living wages. Who'd a thunk it.

You want to revitalize moribund cities? MAKE THINGS. Employee people to make things. Empower people to learn how to make things. It doesn't have to be software or websites or sensitive coming-of-age novels. It can be beer. Or bicycles. Or bricks.

Until there is a nationwide living wage and a substantial social safety net, urban redevelopment is just reshuffling the deck chairs.

It is astonishing the length to which the chattering classes will go to talk around the real problem: wages. Wages, wages, wages. Blue-collar wages. High-school-educated manufacturing-job wages.

Solve that problem, the rest takes care of itself.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:29 AM on April 2, 2013 [36 favorites]


Donning my red cape and deely-bopper horns, there can't be a nationwide living wage if there are not also astonishingly punitive import tariffs.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:43 AM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


There was sort of an idea that the down-on-its-luck rust belt cities could aggressively transform themselves into centers for the new creative economy (read: a post manufacturing economy that relies on varied work that is often based around a computer). Austin saw a huge influx of capital from California (and elsewhere) when it started reaching out to the tech communities, etc. And that this would trickle down to the lower classes because creatives prefer to live in cities, for one thing, and so there would be a boost in city taxes that could be applied to inner-city blight, etc.

But for most places this has not panned out, and even places that have attracted some of that sweet, sweet creative capital have mostly seen an increase in rent and property taxes that have displaced original residents, but not seen much trickle-down -- which is hardly surprising, as when does wealth ever just trickle down? People who have money want to see it reinvested to support their needs, and have the capital and political connections to see this done.

That being said, if we could revisit this in terms of a partnership between existing economic engines in a city and newly developing ones, there is something to this creative class business. I haven't quite put my finger on it, but Florida is right that we're not going to replace all the jobs that have gone overseas, and so city's that have been hit by this loss of jobs need to reimagine themselves as supporting the sorts of jobs that still exist and are increasing.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:45 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Despite what this exchange seems to suggest, there actually have been some intelligent and thoughtful critiques / updates to Florida's "creative class" argument. For example, Bader and Scharenberg (2010) have argued that "creative" scenes do not necessarily bring economic prosperity to a neighborhood; rather, they tend to materialize just before an economic upturn because they flourish opportunistically in urban areas that are in crisis, perishing/dispersing when real gentrification takes hold. Seeing the "creative classes" as a fragile and temporary formation that somewhat perversely profits off of urban decay gives a very different image from Florida's original picture. Similarly, it makes the touristification of "creative" neighborhoods all the more ironic and self-destructive—but not unprofitable (Novy and Colomb 2012; Novy and Huning 2009).

Bader, Ingo, and Albert Scharenberg. 2010. “The Sound of Berlin: Subculture and the Global Music Industry.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research no. 34 (1):76-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2427.2009.00927.x.

Novy, Johannes, and Claire Colomb. 2012. “Struggling for the Right to the (Creative) City in Berlin and Hamburg: New Urban Social Movements, New ‘Spaces of Hope’?” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2427.2012.01115.x.

Novy, Johannes, and Sandra Huning. 2009. “New Tourism (Areas) in the ‘New Berlin’.” In World Tourism Cities: Developing Tourism off the Beaten Track, edited by Robert Maitland and Peter Newman, 87–108. New York: Routledge.

posted by LMGM at 6:45 AM on April 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


There is definitely something special happening in these cities. I think the root cause is that they have a large number of young people with good jobs at giant corporations, and no kids. These are the people who have the time and money for trendy new music, art, and restaurants. The hipsters living in their parent's basements just don't have the money to spend on that kind of stuff.

Here in Minneapolis, I know a lot of young people with good jobs. But many of them buy houses and have kids and no longer have money to spend on cool stuff. The extremely high housing costs in the creative class cities, which keep couples childless and in apartments, ends up keeping the creative class alive.
posted by miyabo at 7:00 AM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Donning my red cape and deely-bopper horns, there can't be a nationwide living wage if there are not also astonishingly punitive import tariffs.

Well, that depends on your objectives, doesn't it? The "substantial social safety net" also proposed by BitterOldPunk will take care of the workers who no longer have jobs. You'll have higher unemployment (at least in sectors that trade internationally), and the mix of employment will change too - more women (tempted out of childcare), fewer young men (unemployable at higher rates), more illegal immigrants (who evade the wage laws and don't get the benefits). It's also very expensive.
posted by alasdair at 7:27 AM on April 2, 2013


Fuck.
That.
Guy.
So.
Hard.

Florida charged Cleveland exhorbitant amounts of money for consulting or whateverthehell, and wrote fluffy crap like this. See the photo on that article? That is East 4th Street in downtown Cleveland. It has undergone a reworking/revitalization because of ONE THING: a real estate company that owns pretty much the entire street, and has a hand in hand-picking the businesses that went in there. One street. One city block long.

This does not a creative class revolution whateverthehell make. At either end of East 4th there are plenty of shuttered businesses. Increasing the population of downtown by some insane percentage isn't tough -- people moved out years ago, and a handful of smarmy yuppies buying $250,000 condos in a neighborhood sans grocery store or livable amenities does not a neighborhood make.

For the cost of one stupid speech by Florida you could purchase -- I kid you not -- an entire BLOCK of houses in some Cleveland neighborhoods and play Creative Real Estate Mogul yourself, make your own little East 4th. But that takes time, effort and energy, not 40 minutes on a podium getting paid to spew hopeful bullshit.

Feel like getting your grar on? Read From Rust Belt To Artist Belt.

Yes, hipster artists who like cheap beer will save our city! Suuuuuuuure.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:32 AM on April 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Perhaps I just lived in cynical areas, but I don't remember proponents of Florida's theories fretting much over whether wealth would trickle down from the creative class. I recall them saying that the appeal was that it would turn "problem" neighborhoods into upscale areas, with the unspoken bit being "original residents be damned."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:36 AM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]



Until there is a nationwide living wage and a substantial social safety net, urban redevelopment is just reshuffling the deck chairs.


The rate of sinking on this particular ship is a significant portion of people's lifetimes. If It means I have 20 more years before I hit the icy, icy water, then I'm all for it!

Oops, did the mask slip?
posted by lalochezia at 7:44 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The ultimate takeaway is that people are an unprofitable proposition. To turn neighborhoods around, we must automate spending and consumption. Rust Belt cities won't prosper until we fill them with motorized yuppie-bots equipped with rotary wallets, diamond-coated cupcake chippers, and pneumatic espresso guzzlers.
posted by Nomyte at 7:50 AM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think people basing their city planning on 'creative class' development are doing just fine on their own at splitting the professional classes from blue collar workers -- they don't need any help from critiques like Kotkin's.

Richard Florida is just another douchenozzle management consultant running a con... but that's the problem: in a debate between a douche and a brownshirt everyone loses.
posted by ennui.bz at 7:56 AM on April 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


I study urban issues and I've been following Florida and Kotkin for a while. In my opinion, both have done pretty interesting, deep research. I don't totally agree with either of them, but I also think they both have valid arguments about the emerging urban landscape.

Or at least they used to. I've also noticed that as they've gotten more famous, a lot of nuance of their previous research has been dropped, and they've morphed into this stupid pro-urban vs. pro-suburban bickering. Florida has been more than happy to become the TED-friendly representitave of new, stylish, urbane urbanism, while Kotkin seems happy to be the Wall Street Journal's go to guy for poking fun at all those young urbanists who think they're changing the world, and to point out that the suburbs are still thriving.

But I guess that's what happens. Two older white males get to act as dichotomous stand ins and publicly fight over an issue that is really quite complex.
posted by mcmile at 8:08 AM on April 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


This does not a creative class revolution whateverthehell make. At either end of East 4th there are plenty of shuttered businesses. Increasing the population of downtown by some insane percentage isn't tough -- people moved out years ago, and a handful of smarmy yuppies buying $250,000 condos in a neighborhood sans grocery store or livable amenities does not a neighborhood make.
Even as I nod along with what bitter-girl.com says, I can't help but wonder if the sheer depth and extent of "The Great Recession" was not a significant contributing factor to the failure of urban renewal plans such as the ones Florida supported/theorized.
posted by mistersquid at 8:14 AM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I live in the depths of downtown Los Angeles, which is being transformed by City Hall, and thus awash with the semi-creatives moving into to immaculate lofts (about a third the size of mine, but they have central heat and ac), and the old guard of artists, cinematographers, car customizers, writers and drunks aren't too sure what to think. I love the great restaurant across the street but I hate the slobby valet company. My entire building is waiting with bated breath to see where Stumptown will open, but we know that means more trash and less parking.

Our new neighbors work in fashion, advertising, IT and various parts of entertainment, but they're administrators, accountants and such. But everyone in LA considers themselves to be creative. Doesn't mean squat. City Hall likes the increased tax base, but insists on all the inspections, paperwork, and red tape that strangle those who want to roll out of bed and make stuff.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:15 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


And if you want to get your creative class hate on, then I have to admit that the @Dick_Florida Twitter can be pretty funny.
posted by mcmile at 8:16 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is astonishing the length to which the chattering classes will go to talk around the real problem: wages. Wages, wages, wages. Blue-collar wages. High-school-educated manufacturing-job wages.

Well, of course. If they started talking about that, then it would pretty quickly lead to a very uncomfortable discussion wherein everyone would have to address the complete and utter failure of the neoliberal free-trade-as-unalloyed-good philosophy, which both political parties were entirely complicit in over the past several decades.

As a country, but often as not also at the local/regional level, we sold out manufacturing and blue-collar manufacturing jobs for a mess of "creative class" pottage.

As far as I can tell, the plan — and this implies that there was a plan, and not just momentarily convenient short-term goals* — was that we in the First World would somehow end up all sitting around, thinking great thoughts and working as "knowledge workers" and maybe writing software or turning out a movie now and then, and somehow afford to keep buying actual stuff from the people who, you know, actually make it.

How anyone thought that this would be remotely sustainable will be, I suspect, one of the great quandaries that historians will ponder when they look at the late 20th century and the decline of the US. There seems to be more than a little chauvinism inherent in it: it doesn't matter if we let the Japanese Chinese Vietnamese Cambodians manufacture everything; we'll still design everything here — as though we have a genetic talent for design and engineering that people working across the street from the actual factory won't ever have.

Somewhat ironically, the only reason why so many products are still 'Designed in the USA' is because US companies understand the market better, because the customers happen to be here. Which is an artefact of our lingering, decaying middle class and its attendant consumer culture; as manufacturing jobs build the middle classes of other countries, the ability of US firms to correctly outmaneuver competitors by knowing the market better will disappear. Similarly, the ability of Hollywood to market its creative output worldwide is based largely on US thought leadership and geopolitical position, and will decline accordingly if the latter does.

The promise of the "creative class" and the greater "post-industrial" circle-jerk economy, in which we'll all sell services to each other and still somehow manage to import oil and flat-screen TVs and medical supplies, was always a lie. It's a lie that has been of use to almost everyone in the US political system at one point or another though, and thus unfortunately an enduring one.

Florida is a neoliberal apologist but in the greater scheme of things his sins are pretty small; compared to the economists and politicians who helped sell out the whole country's manufacturing base, charging ridiculous consulting fees in order to get cities to erect hipster bait is small potatoes.

* On one political hand: union-busting, outsourcing to cheap-labor countries, consolidation of profits in the ownership class; on the other one: NIMBYism over factories, environmental concerns, and an apparent belief that everyone would be happier if only they had a few masters degrees.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:21 AM on April 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


great thread...sort of feeling like most folks here don't think either side of the exchange really captures the problem, though there are some different ideas about what the problem is (most of them interesting and IMO at least partially true).

personally these days i'm carrying all the world's problems back to what I'm lately thinking of as the Fernando Ideal: "It's much more important to look good, than to be good."
posted by lodurr at 8:25 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


... also, and apropos the Fernando Ideal, every city seems to operate on the idea that they're the ones who are going to get the brass ring. I'm generally not a big believer in zero-sum, but scarcity of resources is a real thing, and it does tend to drive what you can accomplish as a city. E.g., everyone was hot to get into gambling for a long time. well, how many gambling centers can the country support? and how long can you feed the middle & working classes on the blood you leeched out of them via gambling?

Tourism, arts, artisanship, similar story: people only have a certain amount of capital to spend on this stuff. If they're spending it in town X, it takes a substantial amount of energy to change their behavior to spending it in town Y, and that's generally going to happen at the expense of X (or some other town). I like to say that tourism & gambling are basically the simple-sugar of regional economic development. 'Creative class' development concepts are more nourishing, but they don't provide a complete protein profile. (Jeez, what is it with me today...)

But all this stuff looks great and feels great -- if you're critical of such plans, local boosters get on your case for 'being negative' and blame you when it doesn't work. It's much more important to be "positive" than to be realistic.
posted by lodurr at 8:32 AM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]



Florida is a neoliberal apologist but in the greater scheme of things his sins are pretty small; compared to the economists and politicians who helped sell out the whole country's manufacturing base, charging ridiculous consulting fees in order to get cities to erect hipster bait is small potatoes.


Well, compared to other hucksters, yes, his sins are small.

But Florida has gotten countless municipal government officials to think of themselves as landlords shopping their property to new tenants, instead of public servants catering to their existing constituents.

And that was a dick move of him.
posted by ocschwar at 8:34 AM on April 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Regardless of how you think about Florida, he's one of the first urban thinkers to think the prevalence of young people, childless adults, and gays and lesbians in center cities is a good thing, and can possibly be turned into something positive. (Note: I am not a planner in any way, just a historian of urban planning, who is doing some work on this topic.) For a long time, city governments have been concerned -- or in the case of my city, Denver, obsessed -- with the loss of white families with children to the suburbs. That's what "white flight" is, in a lot of places -- the migration of white families out of cities. Recognizing what single people, young people, queer people, and others bring to cities is a good thing -- but people (including Florida himself) have taken that idea and done odd things with it.
posted by heurtebise at 8:47 AM on April 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Living in San Francisco, and knowing a number of actually creative people who are struggling to survive in this town, I have real concerns about the use of the word "creative" applied to a group of people who are really just consumers of whatever is construed to be hip. Despite the influx of these supposed "creative" people I have not seen any increase in the production of art or music. Instead there are just these stores and restaurants that come and go while rents keep rising. Much of what made this town unique is fading away into a fog of the latest fads.
posted by njohnson23 at 8:50 AM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


The up-and-coming "cool" area in my city, the area where many of the city's most creative people live, is a very family-friendly area because it's one of the few areas in the city where young families can afford homes (both houses and condos) that have enough space to raise kids. And the same grassroots arts organization that has worked very hard to revitalize the neighbourhood has made sure to include young families in their efforts (there are two large street festivals each year, which now draw in crowds from all parts of the city, that are explicity marketed as both arts festivals and family festivals; they do both aspects well); they're also very conscious of ensuring that the influx of creative energy into the neighbourhood doesn't gentrify it too much -- they are actively trying to figure out how to keep improving the neighbourhood in a way that doesn't force out long-time residents due to inflated housing prices. It's a tough balance, but so far they seem to be succeeding.

I have no idea how we've managed to buck the trend suggested in the FPP and comments, but I'm pleased that -- so far -- we have.

Of course, the difference may be that the efforts here have been largely community driven (with some financial assistance from the city), rather than a top-down approach dictated by government and/or corporate interests.
posted by asnider at 9:00 AM on April 2, 2013



But all this stuff looks great and feels great -- if you're critical of such plans, local boosters get on your case for 'being negative' and blame you when it doesn't work. It's much more important to be "positive" than to be realistic.


I think the problem is a bit like why the "big lie" works. The creation of suburbia coupled with the slow decades-long disinvestment from manufacturing (and corresponding movement of investment capital to mexico and asia) was not some inevitable consequence of capitalism but a series of fairly deliberate decisions with radical consequences. So, if you are a "booster" looking at blight and poverty, to admit the truth, is to admit that your town or city has been the victim of some radical social engineering by the Wall Street and it's powerful friends.

It's much easier to believe in the magical tourism dollars, or gambling, or the "creative economy" (whatever that is) because to do otherwise is to confront a radical situation which ultimately means engaging in radical politics of your own. So, it doesn't actually matter what you are selling, boosters will always be on the market for bullshit, whatever the flavor.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:16 AM on April 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Of course, the difference may be that the efforts here have been largely community driven (with some financial assistance from the city), rather than a top-down approach dictated by government and/or corporate interests.

the other difference is that you are in Canada.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:19 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


One group certain to be flustered by this new perspective will be many of the cities who have signed up and spent hard cash over the years to follow Florida’s prescription of focusing on those things—encouraging the arts and entertainment, building bike paths, welcoming minorities and gays—that would attract young college-educated workers.
Why does biking infrastructure get lumped in alongside "encouraging the arts and entertainment" in the list of indulgences we have been putting up with for the sake of the creative class? Stereotypes about hipsters and their fixies aside, I see as many working-class people making use of bicycles for transportation as anyone else. Where I live (Chicago) there are groups that specifically advocate bike lanes as a solution for cutting down on the cost of living for low-income people.
posted by deathpanels at 9:34 AM on April 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Living in San Francisco, and knowing a number of actually creative people who are struggling to survive in this town, I have real concerns about the use of the word "creative" applied to a group of people who are really just consumers of whatever is construed to be hip. Despite the influx of these supposed "creative" people I have not seen any increase in the production of art or music. Instead there are just these stores and restaurants that come and go while rents keep rising. Much of what made this town unique is fading away into a fog of the latest fads.
I've always defined "creative class" to mean "people who are likely to be in a coffee shop at noon on a weekday."
posted by deathpanels at 9:37 AM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I see as many working-class people making use of bicycles for transportation as anyone else

I see a lot more. And they ride differently, too.

Around here, working class people using bikes for transportation motor along at maybe twice walking speed, and they'll be carrying an old backpack, riding a cheap bike. Middle-class folks who commute for health or ideology (like me) tend to go faster and have different equipment (nicer bike, bona fide saddlebags or a messenger with a chest strap). working class people hang grocery bags and u-locks from their handlebars, and bungie their lunch to the rear rack. if they wear a helmet (nobody ever gets cited around here), it's old. Sometimes they have a cheap road workers vest; they rarely have lights.
posted by lodurr at 9:58 AM on April 2, 2013


"Giving money to the creative class" is the hipster version of "trickle-down economics."
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:36 AM on April 2, 2013


There used to be a lot of small manufacturing outfits in my neighborhood (like 40 years ago)--paint factories, furniture, ceramics, textiles--but the environmental protection regulations would forbid any opening today, in this same place. I'm not saying those regulations are wrong, but that's one reason that manufacturing left the US and isn't likely to come back. A chocolate factory opened near me, and the red tape she went through was unreal--even though she'd relocated just across town.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:51 AM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I briefly met Florida around a year ago - I hired him as the keynote for an event, and he was an engaging and passionate speaker. He does 60 minutes of data, anecdotes and incorporates local information without a single cue card or slide - it's really quite amazing.

With that said, off-stage he is nothing like his stage persona, his books or his interviews. He's incredibly awkward, thoroughly disinterested in interaction and even trying to get him to meet the people who paid him to be there was like pulling teeth.

It made me think a little - how could someone so charismatic on stage be so thoroughly un-charming in person?

I've since started to piece together some thoughts on this - that his version of urbanism is about classifications, groupings and linking effects. What it - and seemingly he - lacked was a human element - an element that included things like irrational consumers, personal preferences for non-urban environments, the difference between causes and effects, and the like.

Deep down, though, I honestly question how many "creative class" people he's truly connected with along the way. The classification is huge and the group doesn't behave like a remotely like an amorphous blob - and trying to spend money chasing the latest fad at the cutting edge of this group is, in my mind, a fool's errand.

Cities are making really tough choices today - due to downloads of costs and funding being choked off from other levels of government, many cities are running amortized infrastructure deficits. Water, sewer and artery road maintenance are not as sexy as bike lanes, green space and renewable energy, but they're absolutely vital to the very existence of cities.

In the process of chasing creative class (or white-collar before it) desires around, we've lost a lot of advocacy for basic infrastructure which is ageing at a phenomenal rate. Plus, in many cities, a balance between creative and non-creative jobs exist - and now, in my city, you're getting people who think that bike lanes should be installed in place of trucking routes and that port infrastructure should give way to green spaces and densified urban residential development. Never mind that nearly 30,000 people in this city are employed in trade - but they're not the types of people that creative types actually interact with regularly.

San Francisco is a reflection of the revolving view of San Franciscans, but the same preferences and people don't live in Houston, or Washington, or in many of the smaller cities trying to play this game. Some people look at San Francisco solely as a curated Mecca for urbanites - when in fact, the kind of hyper-young industrial growth that Silicon Valley to San Francisco has had is not emulatable everywhere.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 11:27 AM on April 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


the other difference is that you are in Canada.

True. And we love our top-down approaches. And we've had a neo-con government for nearly a decade. A socialist utopia we are not.
posted by asnider at 11:41 AM on April 2, 2013


Amenity driven redevelopment is problematic when it collapses the hard policy choices of which public goods to prioritize into "if you build it they will come" cargo cult style wishful thinking. I mean, pushing for a revitalized Main Street with First Friday gallery walks and pop-up cafes in storefronts is so many times awesomer than the copycat festival marketplaces so many cities invested in after the success of Faneuil Hall in Boston. (Honolulu's version is always in the news for bankruptcy and financial troubles.) Or the immense tax breaks municipalities hand out in the chase for corporate headquarters and the like. But it still doesn't fix the huge structural problems that followed deindustrialization, globalization, containerization etc etc.

Even though I still am deeply annoyed at Richard Florida, I'm glad he acknowledges equity and access are missing pieces in the magic fix he has peddled so far.
posted by spamandkimchi at 1:05 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


mistersquid: Even as I nod along with what bitter-girl.com says, I can't help but wonder if the sheer depth and extent of "The Great Recession" was not a significant contributing factor to the failure of urban renewal plans such as the ones Florida supported/theorized.

Oh, my cephalopod friend! That is part of this whole barrel of nonsense!

See, once upon a time, there was this crazy shit called "living within your means." Working class people, you know where I'm coming from, right? You don't...

a. spend money on stupid shit
b. spend money on speculative shit
c. spend money you don't have

Using Cleveland as our example, you don't...

* waste money on building new stadiums downtown... we do NOT have good sports teams, kids, and it's unfair to ask the taxpayers to line a bunch of rich guys' pockets when money should be going elsewhere
* build a casino that turns downtown into an even worse hellscape, all while lining rich guys' pockets
* raise the sales tax even higher, without any kind of public input, to fund a Medical Mart project that will...oh wait, yeah. Line some rich guys' pockets...

When you could instead be investing in the schools (make the schools better than the suburbs and I guarantee your ass people will move back...private school tuition ain't cheap and neither are suburban property taxes), or...

Oh fuck it. Forbes says we're cool now. I guess we're all fixed. Never mind.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 2:16 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Fun times in Cleveland today!
posted by deathpanels at 10:53 PM on April 2, 2013


I don't think that "creative class" refers to a portion of the labor force, but rather to a particular cultural cross-section of the white-collar middle-class workforce. My* economic behavior is not significantly different from that of my peers who work in finance, but I spend my money on books and concert tickets rather than clothes and wine bars.

Any attempts to manufacture cool will, I think, necessarily fail, not just because it is decidedly uncool to manufacture it, but because cool neighborhoods are primarily cool because "cool people" already live there.


*I've lived in at least one neighborhood on this list so I don't think I'm putting my foot in my mouth too much in assuming this term is meant to apply to people like me – I have a college degree, I enjoy dingy dive bar rock clubs and art museums, and I blow my money on stupid crap like ten dollar hamburgers and book-making classes.
posted by deathpanels at 11:21 PM on April 2, 2013


I don't think that "creative class" refers to a portion of the labor force

From what I recall of Florida's early work on the subject, the creative class actually does refer to those employed in "creative" industries, but Florida defines this so broadly that just about anyone could probably be defined as a part of the creative class if you spin their job description in the right way.

Sure, it applies to those who we'd obviously consider artists. But it also applies to many white-collar jobs that most people probably wouldn't consider creative: is a lawyer a part of the creative class? Well, she does have to think on her feet and find creative solutions to win cases, so probably!

The main sector it seems to leave out is blue-collar, working class people. Although, even there, if you spin it the right way... Is an auto mechanic part of the creative class? If he builds custom hot rods, he just might be! Is a carpenter part of the creative class? That depends: does he install IKEA cabinets or is he an artisan?
posted by asnider at 9:02 AM on April 3, 2013


I find this completely silly. "Creatives" don't raise rents in cities. Extra demand for city amenities -> more people moving into cities without additional creation housing supply raises rents in cities. It has nothing to do with the stupid classification of workers engaged in new service industries that Florida has managed to make synonymous with his name and bad ideas.
posted by stratastar at 1:22 PM on April 3, 2013


We've talked sloppily about it, perhaps, but I don't think anyone really believes that the "creatives"* per se have caused rents to be raised. As you say, it was more a matter of trying to revitalize by drawing in a more desirable clientele without first really understanding teh underlying problems.

--
*you're in advertising, aren't you? just guessing...
posted by lodurr at 6:34 AM on April 5, 2013


Very good analysis on what problems the category of "creative class" based economic development.
posted by stratastar at 11:30 AM on April 6, 2013


To be more clear, I wasn't defending Florida... But pointing out that his hand-wave of rising rents ignores the more important fact that rents are rising in cities not because of anything to do with his vague and meaningless classification system that is really just part of his snake-oil to city sales strategy.

He begs the question on whether "creatives" (his bread and butter) are affecting rents, while continuing to peddle the creative class as the method of urban economic policy and redevelopment via his personal consulting.
posted by stratastar at 12:02 PM on April 6, 2013


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