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CULTURE

The Rise of the Creative Class, Revisited


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By Richard Florida, The Atlantic Cities


June 25, 2012 | 3:53 p.m.

ThefollowingisanabridgedversionoftheprefacetoTheRiseoftheCreativeClass,Revisited,outthismonth
fromBasicBooks.
ItsbeentenyearssinceIpublishedandabitlongerthanthatsinceIwroteTheRiseoftheCreative
Class.Itwouldbeanunderstatementtosaythatalothaschangedsincethen.Weveseeawholeseries
ofworldshatteringeventsfromthecollapseofthetechbubbleand9/11,totheeconomicandfinancial
meltdownof2008,anyoneofwhichmighthavebeensucienttoderailorreversethechangesin
AmericasclassstructureandtheeconomicculturalandsocialtrendsIdescribedinthatbook.
Instead,theyhaveonlybecomemoredeeplyensconced.AtatimewhentheU.S.unemploymentrate
topped10percent,therateofunemploymentfortheCreativeClassdidnothiteven5percent.Bylate
2011,thesocialmediasiteLinkedInreportedthatthewordmostusedbyitsmemberstodescribe
themselveswascreative.AsTechCrunchputit:Inatimeofhighunemployment,whentraditionalskills
canbeoutsourcedorautomated,creativeskillsremainhighlysoughtafterandhighlyvaluable.Weall
wanttobepartoftheCreativeClassofprogrammers,designers,andinformationworkers.Thetermused
tomeanartistsandwriters.Today,itmeansjobstability.TheCreativeClasshasbecometrulyglobal,
numberingbetweenonethirdtonearlyonehalfoftheworkforceintheadvancednationsofNorth
America,Europe,Asia,andaroundtheworld.
TheRiseoftheCreativeClasswasneveraboutthenew,thetrendyorthefaddish.Itwasandismy
attempttoexplainthekeyforcesthathavebeentransformingoureconomyandcultureoverthepast
severaldecades.Ourworld,itseemedtome,waschangingasdramaticallyasithadsincetheearlydays
oftheIndustrialRevolution.ItwasntjusttheInternet,ortheriseofnewtechnologies,oreven
globalizationthatwereupendingourjobs,lives,andcommunities,thoughallthosethingswere
important.Beneaththesurface,unnoticedbymany,wassomethingtrulytectonic:theriseofcreativityas
afundamentaleconomicforce,andtheriseofanewsocialclass,theCreativeClass.
Spanningscienceandtechnology,arts,media,andculture,traditionalknowledgeworkers,andthe
professions,thisnewclassmadeupnearlyonethirdoftheworkforceacrosstheUnitedStatesand
considerablymorethanthatinmanycommunities.Itwastheriseofthisnewclassandofcreativityasan
economicforcethatwastheunderlyingfactorpoweringsomanyoftheseeminglyunrelatedand
epiphenomenaltrendswehadbeenwitnessing;fromadventofwholenewindustriesandbusinesses,to
changesinthewaywelived,worked,andconsumed,extendingevenintotherhythms,patterns,desires,
andexpectationsthatgovernedourdailylives.
Somuchofwhatseemedshockinglynewandoutlandishwhenthebookwasoriginallypublishedhas
cometobeviewedasthenorm.Myideasthatthetalentedwerebeginningtofavorcitiesoversuburbs,

thaturbancenterswerechallengingsuburbanindustrialparknerdistansaslocationsforhightech
industry,thatoldercitieswerestartingtoregainsomeofthegroundtheydlosttoSunBeltboomtowns,
werewidelyderidedwhenIfirstbegantowriteaboutthem.Tenyearslater,theyaretakenforgranted.
Adecadeago,manycriticsdismissedmynotionthatavibrantlocalmusicscenecansignalthataplace
hastheunderlyingpreconditionsassociatedwithtechnologicalinnovationandeconomicgrowth.I
caughtalotofflakforproposingthatdiversityanopennesstoallkindsofpeople,nomattertheir
gender,race,nationality,sexualorientation,orjustplaingeekinesswasnotjustaprivatevirtuebutan
economicnecessity.Iearnedacertainmeasureofnotorietyforsuggestingthatavisiblegaypresenceina
citycanbeseenasaleadingindicatorforrisinghousingvaluesandhightech.
IwasaccusedofconfusingchickensandeggswhenIsaidthatthesecrettobuildingbetter,morevibrant
locationswasnotjustattractingcompanieswithhandoutsandtaxbreaks,butbuildingapeople
climateandnotwithstadiumsandgenericmalls,butwithparksandbikepathsandstreetlevel
culturethatwouldmakepeopleseverydaylivesbetter,improvetheunderlyingqualityofplace,and
signalacommunitythatisopen,energized,anddiverse.Theconventionalwisdominsistedsuchthings
werebutfrillsandfrivolitiesthatcomeaboutasproductsofeconomicdevelopment,notawaytospurit.
Tenyearslater,forwardlookingcommunities,largeandsmallalike,arebusilyreclaimingtheirdisused
waterfrontsandindustrialareasandtransformingthemintogreenspaces;atthesametime,suburbsare
seekingtoremakethemselvesintobetter,morelivablecommunitiesbyaddingtransit,shoringuptheir
ownartsandculturescenes,anddevelopingpedestrianfriendlytowncentersthatarefilledwiththe
bestfeaturesofcities.
Handinhandwiththerevivalofcitiesandthedensificationofsuburbia,thedawningoftheCreativeAge
hasusheredinanewfoundrespectforlivabilityandsustainability.Thistooispartandparcelofthe
deepershift.Thequestforcleanandgreenispoweredbythesameunderlyingethosthatpowersthe
CreativeEconomy.Wherethegreenagendaisdrivenbytheneedtoconservenaturalassets,theCreative
Economyisdrivenbythelogictofullyharnessandnolongerwastehumanresourcesandtalent.
SomehavedubbedtheveryconceptoftheCreativeClassaselitistandaccusedmeofprivilegingitover
otherclasses,orcalledmeaneoliberalwithanaivelyoptimisticfaithinthepowerofmarkets.Iassure
youthatneitheristhecase.Thekeythesisofmyargumentisassimpleasitisbasic:Everyhuman
beingiscreative.ThattheCreativeClassenjoysvastprivilegesistrue,buttoacknowledgethatfactisnot
toendorseit.Theessentialtaskbeforeusistounleashthecreativeenergies,talent,andpotential
ofeveryoneelsetobuildasocietythatacknowledgesandnurturestheinnatecreativityofeachand
everyhumanbeing.
YetevenasIwritethesewords,allisfarfromwell.Theeconomicmeltdownof2008wasnotjustacrisis
ofWallStreet,ofwantonfinancialspeculation,andofaneconomydebtbingeingonhousingand
consumergoods,thoughallofthosethingswereimplicated,butadeepercrisisthatrantotherootsofthe
oldFordistorderandtheverywayoflifeithadengendered.Weareinthatstrangeinterregnumwhen
theoldorderhascollapsedandtheneworderisnotyetborn.Theoldorderhasfailed;attemptstobailit
out,tobreathenewlifeintoitortosomehowpropitbackuparedoomedtohistorysdustbin.Anew
globaleconomicorderistakingshape,butitisstillconfinedwithinthebrittlecarapaceoftheold,withall
oftheoutmoded,wasteful,oildependent,sprawling,unsustainablewaysoflifethatwentalongwithit.

Theriseofaneweconomicandsocialorderisadoubleedgedsword:itunleashesincredibleenergies,
butitalsocausestremendoushardships.Weareinthemidstofapainfulanddangerousprocess,onethat
isfullofunknowns;wetendtoforgetwhatafraughtanddangerousbusinesschildbirthis.Myhopeis
thatbyunderstandingthisneworder,wecanspeedthetransformation.
Still,thatneworderwillnotsimplyorautomaticallyassertitselfintoexistence.Itwillrequirenew
institutions,anewsocialcompact,andanewwayoflifetobringitintobeing.Wemustturnour
attentionfromaformofeconomicgrowththatisreflectedinhousingstarts,automobilesales,energy
consumption,andothercrassmaterialmeasurestoasharedandsustainableprosperitythatliftshuman
wellbeingandhappinessacrosstheboard.Wemustshiftfromawayoflifethatvalorizesconsumption,
inwhichwetakeouridentitiesfromthebrandedcharacteristicsofthegoodswepurchase,toonethat
enablesustodevelopourtalentsandourindividuality,findingpurposethroughourworkandother
meaningfulkindsofactivities.Ourfledglingcreativeeconomyneedstogivewaytoafullycreative
society,onethatismorejust,moreequitable,moresustainable,andmoreprosperous.Oureconomic
futuredependsonit.
AgreatstumblingblockintheUnitedStateshasbeenthehugeriseininequality.Inequalityreflectsthe
starkdivideineconomicprospectsbetweentheclassesthedemiseofsomanyoncehighpaying
WorkingClassjobsandthebifurcationofthelabormarketbetweenhigherskilled,higherwageCreative
Classjobsandlowerskilled,lowerpayServiceClassjobsinfieldslikefoodpreparation,homehealth
care,andretailsales,wheremorethan60millionAmericanswork,45percentofthelaborforce.
TheUnitedStatesisactuallyanoutlierwhenitcomestoinequality.Acrossmostoftheadvancednations,
greaterinnovationandgreatercreativitytendtogohandinhandwithlessinequality.Anewsocial
compactaCreativeCompactcanturnourCreativeEconomyintoajustandCreativeSocietytoo,in
whichprosperityiswidelyshared.Butthiswonthappenonitsown.Whiledrivenandshapedby
economiclogic,thekeyinstitutionsandinitiativesofthefuturewillbeshaped,astheyalwayshave,
byhumanagency.Forbetterorforworse,theywillbetheproductsofpoliticalchoices,whichturnon
politicalpower.
TheCreativeClassstandsattheforefrontofwhatthepoliticalscientistRonaldIngleharthastermedthe
transitiontoapostmaterialistvaluesashiftfromvaluesthataccordprioritytomeetingimmediate
materialneedstoonesthatstressbelonging,selfexpression,opportunity,environmentalquality,
diversity,community,andqualityoflife.Althoughtherearecertainlydivisionswithinthisnewclassand
itsmembersdonotfitneatlyintotheoldleftrightspectrum,itsvaluesarestaunchlymeritocratic.Many
areoendedbyinequalityofopportunityandrepelledbyasystemthatisriggedagainstsomany.These
attitudesandinclinationsarepoliticalveinsthatcanandarebeingtapped.
AsthegreathistorianEricHobsbawmnoted,theArabSpringandOccupyWallStreethavemoretodo
withtheCreativeClassthantheydowithtraditionalWorkingClassmovements;assuchtheywere
harbingersofthisnewpolitics.Thetraditionalleftwasgearedtoakindofsocietythatisnolongerin
existenceorisgoingoutofbusiness,heremarked.Itbelievedverylargelyinthemasslabour
movementasthecarrierofthefuture.Well,wevebeendeindustrialised,sothatsnolongerpossible.
Themosteectivemassmobilisationstodayarethosewhichstartfromanewmodernisedmiddleclass,
andparticularlytheenormouslyswollenbodyofstudents.
Likeallperiodsofgreatchangeandtransition,ourtimesarefraughtwithdiculty,disruption,and
challenge.Butultimately,Iamoptimistic.Thistime,perhapsforthefirsttimeinhumanhistory,

economiclogicisonourside.Humancreativityisthemostspectacularlytransformativeforceever
unleashed,anditissomethingthatallofuscandrawontoonedegreeoranother.Iftheriseofthisnew
orderandnewsocialclassposestremendouschallenges,itcarriestheseedsoftheirresolutionaswell.
Overthenextseveralweeks,IllbesharingthekeyfindingsfromRiseoftheCreativeClass,RevisitedwithCities
readers.Staytuned.
RichardFloridaiscofounderandeditoratlargeatTheAtlanticCities.HesalsoasenioreditoratTheAtlanticanddirector
oftheMartinProsperityInstituteattheUniversityofTorontosRotmanSchoolofManagement.Heisafrequent
speakertocommunities,businessandprofessionalorganizations,andfounderoftheCreativeClassGroup,whose
currentclientlistcanbefoundhere.

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