Sunday, 2 October 2011

'The creative class is a lie'

Anyone still labouring under the illusion:

The creative class is a lie. The dream of a laptop-powered "knowledge class" is dead. The media is melting. Blame the economy - and the Web
"…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…"

"…But was this ever true? And who are the creative classes, anyway? The creative class is made up of a ‘creative core’, according to Florida’s classification, which is comprised of scientists, engineers, university professors, poets, novelists, artists, entertainers, actors, designers and architects, as well as the ‘thought leadership’ of our society, including non-fiction writers, editors, cultural figures, think-tank researchers, analysts and other opinion-makers. The creative-core group is supported by a phalanx of ‘creative professionals’ who work in a diverse range of ‘knowledge intensive’ industries such as high-tech, financial services, the legal and health care professions, and business management. While Marx understood class in terms of conflicting class interests dominated by uneven power relations, Florida, a keen supporter of growth-based free market economics, is keen to stress that the creative classes will work with rather than against the prevailing economic system: “The Creative Class has made certain symbols of non-conformity acceptable – even conformist. It is in this sense that they represent not an alternative group but a new and increasingly norm-setting mainstream of society”[53]. In this sense Florida argues capitalism has pulled off a major coup, ‘capturing’ people who would have been seen as “bizarre mavericks” operating on the fringes of bohemia, and “setting them at the very heart of the process of innovation and growth”[54].
Florida’s claim that the so-called creative class make up the ‘mainstream’ of society is deeply contentious. In Glasgow, for instance, around nine out of ten of the city’s jobs are in the service sector, which as the Glasgow City Council Plan (2008-2011) acknowledges, is characterised by a preponderance of lower paid and lower skilled services. Meanwhile, about a quarter of Glasgow’s working age population are on benefits and outside the workforce altogether. There is no point in arguing either that Glasgow’s benefit claimants and low-paid service sector workers can be rescued by “the leaders of twenty-first-century society”; for beneath Florida’s hyperbole a disturbing acknowledgement is made: “There is a strong correlation between inequality and creativity: the more creative a region is, the more inequality you will find there”[55]. As Florida admits, this inequality has “insidious dimensions”. The service economy ultimately operates as the “support infrastructure” of the creative age: “Members of the Creative Class, because they are well compensated and work long and unpredictable hours, require a growing pool of low end service workers to take care of them and do their chores”[56]. Florida himself suggests that the growth of this burgeoning, increasingly precarious service class must be understood alongside the rise of the creative class. Moreover, another troubling element arises in Florida’s thesis. In his tabulation of the classes (which includes ‘the agricultural class’, ‘the service class’, ‘the working class’, ‘the creative class’, and a subset, ‘the super-creative core’) traditional class actors – the middle and upper classes – are entirely absent. Could it be that their new homes are in the upper echelons of the ‘creative class’ and the ‘super-creative core’? …

Glasgow’s Merchant City: An Artist Led Property Strategy
Neil Gray

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