«The already considerable debate about what constitutes a ‘creative’ city becomes ever more critical as the world urbanises at a rapid pace. In ...»
While Florida’s work has attracted strong and sustained criticism, it is undeniable that his focus on creative occupation counterbalances the usual dependence simply on industry statistics in industry development debates. His insistence on ‘creative’ capital rather than the more generic ‘human’ capital has focused attention on the creative worker in mainstream policy debate in ways no other contribution has. The generic argument is made by Charles Landry (2000) that cities have one crucial resource – people, and that human creativity ‘is replacing location, natural resources and market access as the principal key to urban dynamics’ (quoted in Throsby 2010: 139). But Florida insisted that generic human capital was too imprecise a category to capture his understanding of ‘urban dynamics’ and instead has put the creative class center stage (Florida 2005: 6). While the great scholars of the city (Lewis Mumford 1961, Jane Jacobs 1961, Peter Hall 1998) have observed and analysed ex
post facto, Florida and his ilk champion policy interventions that give municipal authorities reason to consider a hitherto hidden or neglected resource.
Having said this, it is the case that the bulk of academic commentary runs against Florida. It is often argued that the definition of the creative workforce is too broad at one third of the US workforce and there are significant problems with the implied causal relationship between the creative class and economic growth (Peck 2005). While there may be no real sense of class identity or agency in Florida’s notion of the creative class, it has driven an easily stereotyped vision of inner urban, modish, bike-riding connoisseurs of nightclubs and restaurants that is weakly correlated to economic growth and social opportunity (Oakley 2004; McRobbie 2005). It has tended to create confusion and displace policies aimed at the specifically defined creative workforce and its sustainability (Cunningham 2011) as the consumption-oriented focus on discretionary expenditure by the creative class favours white collar professionals rather than bohemians. The focus on tolerance being the key to the three Ts (talent, technology, tolerance) (Florida 2005: 7)—the centrepiece of Florida’s claims to embedding a progressive politics in his research—has proven difficult to sustain. The lack of causal or even a strong correlative relationship between cultural diversity and openness and economic growth has led Florida and his team to step away from a strong adherence to tolerance as a driver (Storper and Scott 2009: 165).
Essentially, the fatal flaw, for our purposes here, is that Florida tells us something about what creatives do at leisure, but not what they do at work.
This branch of the CCD contrasts with the resolutely production-centric accounts of the classic and recently-minted creative cities accounts of Annelee Saxenian (1996), Saskia Sassen (1994), Allen Scott (2000; 2005), Michael Storper (Storper and Scott 2009), Ann Markusen (2006), Michael Curtin (2003, forthcoming) and other key writers in the field.
These writers are driven by the need to account for global economic dynamics, the effects of
postfordism and flexible accumulation on contemporary creative production practice at the level of particular, and especially globally leading or emerging, cities and city-regions. Scott asserts that The origins of urban development and growth in modern society reside, above all, in the dynamics of economic production and work. … To be sure, actual cities are always something vastly more than just bare accumulations of capital and labor, for they are also arenas in which many other kinds of phenomena—social, cultural, and political—flourish.
We might say, to be more accurate, that localized production complexes and their associated labor markets constitute proto-urban forms around which their other phenomena crystallize
Refuting the claims of consumption-centricity, Scott and Michael Storper warn that Recourse to amenities-based theories as a guiding principle for urban growth policy is illadvised because their theories manifestly fail to address the basic issues of building, sustaining and transforming regional ensembles of production activities and their attendant local labor markets. (Scott and Storper 2009: 164) The production-centric school of thought has made profound contributions to our understanding of the dynamics of global cultural dynamics and flows and indeed dominates the commanding heights of the academic literature. But it cannot be the last word on the matter, as consumption-centric accounts play a key role for that swathe of cities (like Brisbane) which will never sit in the pantheon of first tier cities, and to which the ministrations of those like Florida, Landry and Montgomery are directed. Again instrumentalising Foucault, the master tension in CCD between production- and consumption-centricity is a productive one. Policies to support production and for consumption don’t necessarily align and are often in direct competition. The tension between production and consumption will remain and heighten, as we will now see, as urbanisation
reaches epochal proportions, and what counts as production and consumption blur into each other under conditions of globalisation, digitisation and convergence.
The increasing centrality of CCD 2009 was the tipping point in the global history of human demographics. From this year, a majority of the world’s population are living in urban areas. Doug Saunders’ (2010) Arrival City: How the largest migration in history is reshaping our world presents the following data: advanced western urbanisation is complete. For many decades, rural dwellers have made up between 5 and 25 per cent of the population of western countries. Fewer than 5 per cent of western populations are employed in agriculture; in some cases it is as low as 2 per cent. In Asia, 41 per cent of people live in cities, and in Africa the figure is 38 per cent, but each month 5 million city dwellers are created through migration or birth in Africa, Asia and the Middle-east. By 2025, it is estimated that 60 per cent of total population will live in cities, by 2050, 70 per cent or more, and by the end of the century some equilibrium will be reached at 75 per cent. This kind of urbanisation is often represented as a holocaust in waiting, by writers like Mike Davis in Planet of Slums (2006), yet there are contra-accounts of slums as places where questions of sustainability, recycling and practical, low-tech innovation could be models for other parts of the world (e,g., Hermanson 2010; Hamdi 2004). This massive global urbanisation means that creative cities discourse will become, inexorably and inevitably, an increasingly important global issue.
Besides this epic demographic shift, two other megatrends are driving the rise of CCD that challenge enduring disciplinary methods, objects of study and policy frameworks. The first trend is the increasing preparedness of scholars to claim priority for the city-region over the nation-state as an economic and cultural agent in the contemporary world, as this volume’s co-editors put it in their Introduction.
It’s certainly the case that, under conditions of globalisation, the city region and its relations to other city regions are becoming major foci. But the trend can be overstated. It is a conceit of the transnational cosmopolitan left that the decline of the ‘interstate system’ (Lee
2010) represents an advance over the old Europe of imperial and colonising nation-states. But the new governance paradigm of the post war world that saw a supranational entity like the European Union perform some kind of controlling function over old imperial nations also saw the post-colonising establishment of more new nation states than ever before in history. I have myself been a strong critic of the ‘decline of the nation state’ proposition (Cunningham 1992; Cunningham and Jacka 1998), arguing instead that nation states, particularly those outside the western hegemony, exist as balances to the power of transnational economic and cultural forces and also interact interdependently with local, regional and provincial agents.
Nevertheless, two decades on, cities, city-regions and city-cultures have undoubtedly become increasingly prominent actors under conditions of globalisation—I canvas momentarily cases where the nation state is both critical, and contrary, to the creative city.
The second megatrend relates to the changing nature of cultural activity. The creative cities discourse will increase in importance into the future because the shape of culture is changing under conditions of globalisation, digitisation and convergence. Cultural production will continue to become even more digitally created and delivered on multi-platforms as barriers to entry and transaction costs on digital platforms are lowered. Cultural production will be engaged with globally while also being narrowcast within and to increasingly targeted niches. Such ‘global narrowcasting’ is the emergent form in which culture will be produced and consumed into the future. Cities will become ever more a balancing, anchorage point for an increasingly global and digital mobility of culture, with locative activities, events and dynamics that secure culture’s real-time, real-life embodiment. Digital culture always develops alongside rearrangements and often intensifications of such embodiment: evidence
for this can been seen in urbanistic congregations of user-consumers/producers, mixtures of virtual and geographically situated communities (Choi 2010). The question of ‘quality of life’ in burgeoning cities will bring the consumption and production polarities of the agenda closer together around the phenomenon of the ‘produser’ or producer-user (Bruns 2008).
As urbanisation continues apace, globally but especially in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, burgeoning city-regions will need to address their versions of CCD out of a quite different set of circumstances than those which have preoccupied the canonical writers of CCD who have sat within the Western tradition. Major city-regions will not necessarily be cultural production centres on a core-periphery model, with a small number of world-cities exporting to the rest of the world. They will consolidate along polycentric models such as the geo-linguistic regional model (Sinclair et al 1996). Peter Hall (1998: 23) apologised for his almost exclusively Western focus (with the singular exception of Tokyo-Kanagawa) in his magisterial account of Cities in Civilisation. Yet, given that the all the largest cities in the world, with the exception of New York— as long as we count Mexico City as the global south — are now or will be non-western in the near future, it is hard to imagine a successor to Peter Hall excluding in a twenty-first century survey of ‘cities in civilisation’ cities such as Shanghai, Mexico City, Beijing … or even Lagos.
Identifying new challenges for CCD The structural tensions which subtend CCD are not likely to abate, but changes in modes of urbanistic congregation, and production and consumption, just outlined, mean that CCD will evolve rapidly. In this concluding section, I explore some variations on the themes of pantheons of creative cities (production-centric) or great lifestyle urbs (consumption-centric), noting where new avenues of inquiry are being generated. Each suggests intriguing extensions of what is already a very robust research agenda.