Introduction: Concerning the Creative class/Introduction: Sur la Classe Creative

By Tremblay, Remy | Canadian Journal of Regional Science, Autumn 2007 | Go to article overview
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Introduction: Concerning the Creative class/Introduction: Sur la Classe Creative


Tremblay, Remy, Canadian Journal of Regional Science


Since the release in 2002 of his book The Rise of the Creative Class, Richard Florida has given conferences in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere in the world expounding on the blessings of the creative class (a theory of his own yet noticeably inspired by Jane Jacobs and Claude Fischer). The conferences were attended by Chambers of Commerce and other audiences seeking political strategies or competitive approaches applicable to economic development and growth in large urban and metropolitan areas. According to this theory, the new development process is fuelled by a set of three T's: technology, talent and tolerance. Researchers in the United States and Europe have scrutinised the creative class theory, its methodology and related statistics; empirical results demonstrate that there is no generalizable rule through which talent leads urban growth and urban or regional competitiveness, at least in Canada. The creative class model is in effect a predictor that does not account for the performance of British cities, yet it remains adaptable. For example, sociologist Robert Lang (2006) berates Florida's creative class theory as a vague metatheory. The theory proposes a causal bond between the location of talent and regional economic development: "Regional economic growth is powered by creative people, who prefer places that are diverse, tolerant and open to new ideas. [...] Greater and more diverse concentrations of creative capital in turn lead to higher rates of innovation, high technology business formation, job generation and economic growth" (Stolarick et al 2005).

In order to assess and classify urban centres' or population clusters' competitiveness and vitality in the dynamic context of globalisation involving both commerce and knowledge, this regional economic development theory is governed by a trio of truisms--technology, talent and tolerance. In fact, the parameters used by the author are: (i) talents (including the ratio of university graduates), (ii) bohemia (jobs in the creative arts--authors and writers, producers and directors, choreographers, orchestra conductors and music composers, musicians and singers, dancers, actors, painters and sculptors, visual artists, photographers, graphic designers and illustrators, decorators, occupations connected with the performing arts, with fashion, with art shows or exhibitions, and with handicraft and traditional fine crafts), (iii) ethnic and social diversity (more on this below), and (iv) technologies (export of hi-tech goods and services--aeronautics, electronics, pharmaceutical et medical, scientific equipment, telecommunications, computing and computers, architecture and engineering, laboratories, and TV, movie and audio-visual production). For anyone wishing to take advantage of the theory in the competitive urban arena, the first hurdle lies in the fuzziness of its key concepts, and chiefly that of creative class. In the U.S., the creative class would bring together more than 30 % of the active population, i.e. approximately 38 million individuals. Furthermore, the theory is partial to a certain professional elite--young, unmarried, mobile citizens of the world (cosmopolitan) who have an appetite for technology. Florida's prospective theory of the avant-garde metropolisis confronted by objections concerning the use he makes of a secondary indicator that is intended to assess the tolerance of cities, i.e. his Gay Index based on data on unmarried partner households available in the U.S. 2000 Census. Levine's analysis (2004) of this question is pertinent; he informs us that "in the largest metropolitan areas in the country, San Francisco accounted for the largest percentage of gay households (1.8 %) and Buffalo the lowest (0.4 %) in 2000." Although Florida's idea seems disproportionate with respect to its economic scale, the statement uncovers a unique evolution in American culture and values, namely the organisation of groups that have always been marginalised, more or less tolerated, brought into disrepute or otherwise stigrnatised (alcoholics, compulsive gamblers, dug dependent persons, homosexuals, cross-dressers and transvestites, transsexuals, inmates and ex-convicts, dwarfs, psychiatric patients or mentally disturbed persons, blind, deaf and mute persons including left-handers whose special feature is deemed socially unimportant today) : "When one recalls that [homosexuals] never wanted for educated and intellectual adherents, it is all the more puzzling that no homophile organization appeared in America until after the Second World War" (Sagarin 1969: 79).

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