Not everyone buys the creativity story

Creativity is, one might say, the new black. An increasingly fashionable urban-development script has it that a historically distinctive “creative economy” – powered by raw human talent, as cool as it is competitive – is displacing sclerotic, organization-era capitalism. The prime movers in this new new economy are members of the so-called Creative Class, a mobile elite whose finicky lifestyle preferences increasingly shape the geographies of economic growth.

The big promoter is professor Richard Florida:

Routinely overstated and hyperbolic, Florida’s essential argument is that human creativity has become the engine of early-21st Century economic development, such that the competitiveness of nations and cities is increasingly rooted in the capacity to attract, retain, and “nurture” talented individuals – the newly dominant factor of production.


Beneath the creative rhetoric, Florida presents a fairly familiar urban-economic development story: construct new urban governance networks around growth-oriented goals, compete aggressively for mobile economic resources and government funds, respond in formulaic ways to (imminent) external threats, talk up the prospects of success, and, whatever you do, don’t buck the market. The emphasis on the mobilization of elite policy communities around growth-first urban policy objectives is nothing new, but whereas the entrepreneurial cities chased jobs, the creative cities pursue talent workers; the entrepreneurial cities craved investment, now the creative cities yearn for buzz; while entrepreneurial cities boasted of their postfordist flexibility, the creative cities trade on the cultural distinction of cool.

See The Cult of Urban Creativity

(Update 2017: Richard Florida mostly admits he’s theories have been all wrong.)

And in Michigan, they’ve even got

Richard Florida might be on to something (the real world suggests his theory has not always worked so well) with the creative class and creative cities concept. But his tools are blunt. He lumps so many people into his “creative class”  that any sizable city gets labeled “creative”.  In fact, the whole country is basically “creative” (see map). Some example misfires in this approach are described. In his  approach, health care workers are a “creative class” so Spokane is a creative city.

As you can see, not everyone buys in to the creative class concept. But his point is valid:

a jobs strategy needs to start from a fundamental principle: That each and every human being is  creative and that we can only grow, develop, and prosper by harnessing the full creativity of each of us. For the first time in history, future economic development requires further human development. This means develop a strategy to nurture creativity across the board – on the farm, in the factory, and in offices, shops, non-profits, and a full gamut of service class work, as well as within the creative class. Our future depends on it.


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