"Market value in the knowledge economy is driven by creative energy in the workforce. In his groundbreaking 2002 bestseller The Rise of the Creative Class, prize-winning economist Dr. Richard Florida profiled the characteristics of creative knowledge workers, and introduced strategies for attracting and leading them successfully. With The Flight of the Creative Class, Florida addresses global competition and what countries and corporations must do to thrive in the knowledge economy." (http://www.landed.fm/shows/richard-florida.html)
A Confusing Concept
Christophe Aguiton and Dominique Cardon:
“the notion of "creative class" could be extremely confusing. Firstly, it brings together social groups with very different lifestyles and socio-economic conditions. To describe a young person painting tags on the wall of her city and living on the minimum income and Bill Gates or a CEO of a successful software company as member of the same "Super Creative Core" does not make much sense. Secondly, the notion of "Creative class" tends to gloss over the hierarchies and inequalities inherent to this era of globalised capitalism. Saskia SASSEN, in her book (2001), described in the same way as Florida the related growth in the dominant cities, such as New York, London or Tokyo, of the well paid workers of the financial economy and the poor, precarious and generally immigrant workers in services such as restaurants, security and the maintenance of those cities. However, instead of describing the growth of a Creative Class in several cities only according to their level of tolerance and the quality of their educational systems, Sassen draws the picture of hierarchical archipelagos where one two or three cities are at the centre of the worldwide flow of financial capital, giving them a dominant place in the world economy. We could hypothesize that the growth of digital cooperative uses associated with new Web 2.0 services could create the same kind of inequalities, on the basis that a network structure always creates some new form of exclusion (BOLTANSKI & CHIAPELLO, 1999).”
Source: The strength of Weak Cooperation. Christophe Aguiton and Dominique Cardon. Communication & Strategies, No. 65, 1st Quarter 2007.
The Post-Meltdown Fading of the Creative Class
By Scott Timberg:
1. The Crisis
"For many computer programmers, corporate executives who oversee social media, and some others who fit the definition of the “creative class” — a term that dates back to the mid-’90s but was given currency early last decade by urbanist/historian Richard Florida — things are good. The creativity of video games is subsidized by government research grants; high tech is booming. This creative class was supposed to be the new engine of the United States economy, post-industrial age, and as the educated, laptop-wielding cohort grew, the U.S. was going to grow with it.
But for those who deal with ideas, culture and creativity at street level — the working- or middle-classes within the creative class — things are less cheery. Book editors, journalists, video store clerks, musicians, novelists without tenure — they’re among the many groups struggling through the dreary combination of economic slump and Internet reset. The creative class is melting, and the story is largely untold.
It’s happening at all levels, small and large. Record shops and independent bookstores close at a steady clip; newspapers and magazines announce new waves of layoffs. Tower Records crashed in 2006, costing 3,000 jobs. This summer’s bankruptcy of Borders Books — almost 700 stores closed, putting roughly 11,000 people out of work — is the most tangible and recent example. One of the last video rental shops in Los Angeles — Rocket Video — just announced that it will close at the end of the month.
On a grand scale, some 260,000 jobs have been lost in traditional publishing since 2007, according to U.S. News and World Report. In newspapers alone, the website Newspaperlayoffs.com has tracked some 40,000 job cuts since 2008.
Some of these employees are young people killing time behind a counter; it’s hard for them, but they will live to fight again. But education, talent and experience — criteria that help define Florida’s creative class, making these supposedly valued workers the equivalent of testosterone injections for cities — does not guarantee that a “knowledge worker” can make a real living these days.
“It’s sort of like job growth in Texas,” says Joe Donnelly, a former deputy editor at L.A. Weekly, laid off in 2008 and now pouring savings and the money he made from a home sale into a literary magazine. “Gov. Perry created thousands of jobs, but they’re all at McDonald’s. Now everyone has a chance to make 15 cents. People are just pecking, hunting, scratching the dirt for freelance work. Living week to week, month to month.”
Past groups punctured by economic and technological change have been woven into myth. Charles Dickens wrote sympathetically about Londoners struggling through the Industrial Revolution of 19th-century Britain. John Steinbeck brought Dust Bowl refugees to life; Woody Guthrie wrote songs about these and others with no home in this world anymore. One of his inheritors, Bruce Springsteen, did the same for the declining industrial economy.
But the human cost of this latest economic/technological shift has been ignored. Many of us, says Northern California writer Jaime O’Neill, are living in a depression. “It’s hard to make the word stick, however, because we haven’t developed the iconography yet, he writes in a recent essay titled “Where’s today’s Dorothea Lange.”
A fading creative class — experiencing real pain but less likely to end up in homeless shelters, at least so far, than the very poor — may not offer sufficient drama for novelists, songwriters or photographers.
But journalists themselves have also ignored the human story all around them. In fact, the media — businesses that have been decimated by the Internet and corporate consolidation — have been reticent at telling the tale of this erosion. Good newspapers offer responsible coverage of the mortgage meltdown and the political wars over taxes and the deficit. But it’s easier to find a story about a plucky worker who’s risen from layoff to an inspiring Plan B than it is the more typical stories: People who lose their livelihood, their homes, their marriages, their children’s schooling because of the hollowing-out of the creative class and the shredded social safety net. Meanwhile, luxury coverage of homes, fashions, watches and wine continue to be a big part of magazines and newspapers.
Optimists like Florida are undoubtedly right about something: This country doesn’t make things anymore and never will. What the United States produces now is culture and ideas. Trouble is, making a living doing this has never been harder."
2. The Non-Response to the crisis
"So as these people lose their jobs, where are they going? The book/record/video store clerk is not only a kind of low-paid curator, but these jobs have long served as an apprenticeship for artists such as Patti Smith, Quentin Tarantino, R.E.M.’s Peter Buck or Jonathan Lethem.
Donnelly, who co-edits the Los Angeles literary magazine Slake, has watched numerous friends leave writing, art and acting. “I’ve seen a lot of people go into marketing — or help companies who want to be ‘cool.’ What artists do now is help brands build an identity. They end up styling or set decorating. That’s where we’re at now.”
The hard times and frustration are not confined to writers: Eric Levin is a kind of creative class entrepreneur: He owns Aurora Coffee — two cafes in Atlanta that employ artists and musicians as baristas, and the Little Five Points record shop Criminal Records, which, after 20 years, has just announced that it will close. (There are local efforts underway to try to save it.) When asked if he knows anyone who’s hurting, he replies, “Everybody I know.” And he emphasizes that independent business people are in the same boat with writers and musicians.
“Main Street U.S.A. is suffering,” he says. “If you like big-box retailers –they’re winning. Corporations are winning.”
The arts — and indeed, narratives of all kind — can capture a time, a place and a culture, and the inner and outer lives of its people. “But the tale of our times,” O’Neill wrote in his piece on the silence of the new depression, “is mostly being told by our unwillingness to tell it.” (http://entertainment.salon.com/2011/10/01/creative_class_is_a_lie/singleton/)
Creatives follow the economy, not the way around
"The problem is with the idea of the Creative Class itself.
What was missing was any actual proof that the presence of artists, gays and lesbians or immigrants was causing economic growth.
Jamie Peck is a geography professor who has been one of the foremost critics of Richard Florida’s Creative Class theory. He now teaches at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, but at the time Florida’s book was published in 2002, he was also living in Madison. “The reason I wrote about this,” Peck told me on the phone, “is because Madison’s mayor started to embrace it. I lived on the east side of town, probably as near to this lifestyle as possible, and it was bullshit that this was actually what was driving Madison’s economy. What was driving Madison was public sector spending through the university, not the dynamic Florida was describing.”
In his initial critique, Peck said The Rise of the Creative Class was filled with “self-indulgent forms of amateur microsociology and crass celebrations of hipster embourgeoisement.” That’s another way of saying that Florida was just describing the “hipsterization” of wealthy cities and concluding that this was what was causing those cities to be wealthy. As some critics have pointed out, that’s a little like saying that the high number of hot dog vendors in New York City is what’s causing the presence of so many investment bankers. So if you want banking, just sell hot dogs. “You can manipulate your arguments about correlation when things happen in the same place,” says Peck.
What was missing, however, was any actual proof that the presence of artists, gays and lesbians or immigrants was causing economic growth, rather than economic growth causing the presence of artists, gays and lesbians or immigrants. Some more recent work has tried to get to the bottom of these questions, and the findings don’t bode well for Florida’s theory. In a four-year, $6 million study of thirteen cities across Europe called “Accommodating Creative Knowledge,” that was published in 2011, researchers found one of Florida’s central ideas—the migration of creative workers to places that are tolerant, open and diverse—was simply not happening.
“They move to places where they can find jobs,” wrote author Sako Musterd, “and if they cannot find a job there, the only reason to move is for study or for personal social network reasons, such as the presence of friends, family, partners, or because they return to the place where they have been born or have grown up.” But even if they had been pouring into places because of “soft” factors like coffee shops and art galleries, according to Stefan Krätke, author of a 2010 German study, it probably wouldn’t have made any difference, economically. Krätke broke Florida’s Creative Class (which includes accountants, realtors, bankers and politicians) into five separate groups and found that only the “scientifically and technologically creative” workers had an impact on regional GDP. Krätke wrote “that Florida’s conception does not match the state of findings of regional innovation research and that his way of relating talent and technology might be regarded as a remarkable exercise in simplification.”
Perhaps one of the most damning studies was in some ways the simplest. In 2009 Michele Hoyman and Chris Faricy published a study using Florida’s own data from 1990 to 2004, in which they tried to find a link between the presence of the creative class workers and any kind of economic growth. “The results were pretty striking,” said Faricy, who now teaches political science at Washington State University. “The measurement of the creative class that Florida uses in his book does not correlate with any known measure of economic growth and development. Basically, we were able to show that the emperor has no clothes.” Their study also questioned whether the migration of the creative class was happening. “Florida said that creative class presence—bohemians, gays, artists—will draw what we used to call yuppies in,” says Hoyman. “We did not find that.”
I sent some questions about all this to the media contact at Richard Florida’s consulting firm, the Creative Class Group (which advises cities and companies how they can move up in his rankings). To his credit, he sent back a 3000-word response. Unfortunately, his answers didn’t really shed any more light than his books. When I asked if he could show me a city that had had measurable economic growth as a result of an influx of creative individuals, Florida said there was “wide consensus” that migration of creative individuals had taken place, and named some places like Washington DC, greater Boston, greater NY, and greater San Francisco.
But whether those places grew because creative people came there, or creative people came there because they grew is not clear. After that he pasted in an Op-ed from Michael Bloomberg, titled, “Cities Must Be Cool, Creative and in Control.” Of course, Mayor Bloomberg is entitled to his opinions. But more to the point, this felt like the same thing I’d been reading for a decade: Listing successful cities without any proof that gays, bohemians or techies were actually making them successful. The best, and most concrete, piece of evidence Florida offered was an unpublished study from 2001 in which author Robert Cushing said, “[The] creative capital model generates equally impressive results as the human capital model and perhaps better.” That’s fine, except that Hoyman and Faricy’s study, which was published in the journal Urban Affairs Review in 2009, tested for the same thing and found precisely the opposite. There is one test in economics that is meant to settle the kind of questions that Florida’s work raises, regarding hot dog vendors and investment bankers. It’s called the Granger causality test and it’s designed to disentangle precisely what causes what. I asked Florida if he had done one of these to test his theory, but he said he was “not aware of any Granger causality tests.”
But the test has, in fact, been done by Mel Gray, who teaches economics at the University of St. Thomas, and the results cast doubt on the idea that a flourishing artistic environment will cause economic growth. “It’s important to get some evidence one way or another,” Gray told me. “I spent a sabbatical in North Carolina, and both Raleigh and Durham have established these Offices of Creativity, and they’re all doing this without a huge amount, if any, evidence that it makes that big a difference. We’d like to clear the air here, if we can. The test was really designed to see if we could figure out what causes what. Was it growth that caused the arts, or the arts that caused the economic expansion?” Gray did the test with data from a handful of metro areas, but the results were inconclusive and didn’t show a clear effect one way or the other. So he decided to do it again with a bigger dataset for a more robust conclusion. This time he assembled data for fifteen cities spanning thirty seven years—from 1969 to 2006—and ran the numbers again, a project which he just finished this spring. “To my knowledge,” Gray says, “this is the only extended time series analysis that’s been carried out on this.” Over those thirty seven years, Gray found that spending on the arts caused economic growth in four of the fifteen metro areas: New York City, Atlanta, Dallas, and Minneapolis-St. Paul. In New York, the growth impact was short term, dissipating after four years. In Atlanta, it was longer term, appearing only after eight years. In both Dallas and the Twin Cities, the effect was short and long term. In the other eleven cites, arts spending had no clear effect on growth. “It really depends on potential factors unique to each city,” said Gray. “I’m tempted to acknowledge that we’ve been successful in the Twin Cities with our strong arts community. But I don’t think you can just recreate that by changing budget allocations in another city. There’s more to it than that. Fostering the creative environment may pay off. But there are so many other factors that it’s not clear there is a guaranteed payoff.”
Today, Creative Class doctrine has become so deeply engrained in the culture that few question it. Why, without any solid evidence, did a whole generation of policy makers swallow the creative Kool-Aid so enthusiastically? One reason is that when Florida’s first book came out, few experts bothered debunking it, because it didn’t seem worth debunking. “In the academic and urban planning world,” says Peck, “people are slightly embarrassed about the Florida stuff.” Most economists and public policy scholars just didn’t take it seriously.
This is partly because much of what Florida was describing was already accounted for by a theory that had been well-known in economic circles for decades, which says that the amount of college-educated people you have in an area is what drives economic growth, not the number of artists or immigrants or gays, most of whom also happen to be college educated. This is known as Human Capital theory, mentioned briefly above, and in Hoyman and Faricy’s analysis, it correlated much more highly with economic growth than the number of creative class workers. “Human capital beat the pants off creative capital,” Hoyman said. “So it looks like growth is a human capital phenomenon—if you’ve got a lot of educated people. We’re in a knowledge economy, where human capital is worth a lot more than just showing up for work every day.” In other words, if there was anything to the theory of the Creative Class, it was the package it came in. Florida just told us we were creative and valuable, and we wanted to believe it. He sold us to ourselves." (http://thirtytwomag.com/2012/06/the-fall-of-thecreative-class/)
Listen or watch: Richard Florida on the Creative Class