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257 of 272 found the following review helpful:
The way things work Sep 02, 2003
By P. Lozar
Richard Florida's study began with a rather straightforward premise: what characterizes the cities and regions that are economically successful today? His conclusions are rather controversial, but, based on the statistical evidence he presents (as well as my own experience), I found them highly convincing.
The liveliest economies, he finds, are in regions characterized by the 3 T's -- talent, technology, and tolerance. The implications are profound, to wit:
1. Conventional wisdom holds that, to boost an area's economy, it's necessary to attract large companies and thus create jobs. In fact, companies locate where the talent is; all the tax breaks in the world won't bring a large company to your area if they can't find the quality of employees they want there. Often, too, the talent itself will generate new companies and create jobs that way.
2. Urban planners assume that, to attract talent/jobs, what's important is to provide infrastructure: sports stadiums, freeways, shopping centers, etc. In fact, creative people prefer authenticity -- so making your city just like everyplace else is a sure way to kill its attractiveness.
3. The often-misunderstood "gay index" doesn't mean that gay people are more creative, or that attracting gays to a community will ipso facto boost its economy. Creative people tend to prefer gay-friendly communities because they're perceived as tolerant of anyone who isn't "mainstream"; a city that's run by a conservative good-ole-boys network isn't a good place to try to start a business unless you're one of the good ole boys.
The book is primarily descriptive and analytical, rather than prescriptive. But I feel it's immensely valuable for pointing out that much of the conventional wisdom about economic development and community planning is just plain wrong, and suggesting alternative approaches that have a greater chance of succeeding. And I'm amused (and bemused) by the reviewers who sneered that this book propounds an elitist, liberal, contempt-for-the-working-masses view of American society. To me, the book is almost TOO descriptive: didn't these reviewers read the many statistical tables and the lengthy analyses that the author provides? Fact: The most economically successful cities and regions have these characteristics. That isn't propaganda; it's the way things work.
28 of 31 found the following review helpful:
The Importance of Place Jul 01, 2005
By Chris M.
I highly recommend this book. As a professional who cares deeply about the survival of his own urban area, I found this book an indispensable and provocative read. I do have some reservations (below), but, nonetheless, recommend this book to anyone who cares about the future of cities. More detailed review follows.
Richard Florida's Rise of the Creative Class tells two stories. First, Florida tells the story of an emergent social class comprised of people engaged creatively in the workplace. Because creativity qua capital is the most critical resource in the new economy - as opposed to more traditional sources of capital such as land and natural resources - the "creative class" wields considerable influence in transforming societal norms. The societal transformations ushered in by the creative class are, in fact, means to further nurture and support creativity. Everything from a looser dress code to the postponement of marriage and family can be viewed as reflections of the needs and wants of people actively engaged in creative pursuits.
After detailing this emergent class - and identifying this class as the vanguard of economic growth in the 21st century - Florida instructs regions on how best to attract and maintain the creative class. Cities and regions would do well, Florida insists, on accommodating the needs and wants of the creative class. Places that offer a diverse array of authentic experiences and a tolerant attitude toward different lifestyles will excel in attracting creative workers. Inherent in this argument is that place - more than ever - is the key determinant in fomenting creativity, and, by association, economic growth.
In the first part of the book, where he expounds upon the makeup of the creative class, Florida pulls together a great amount of scholarship from many different disciplines on economic and societal change. This, in itself, is impressive and the book serves as an indispensable repository for the current academic discourse on societal transformation in the post-industrial, post-modernist world. More importantly, Florida gives creative workers much needed attention and recognition. More than just a fringe group of R&D specialists and street performers, Florida convincingly argues that creative workers are the economic leaders and accurate barometers for social change. Although his definition of creative worker might be a bit expansive (30 percent of the workforce), this does not diminish the argument that these workers have influence far beyond what many recognize.
The Rise of the Creative Class is strongest, however, when Florida is on more familiar ground; that is, when Florida, the regional economist, can expound upon the importance of place in attracting and nurturing creative talent. Much of his discussion in this section revolves around the importance "Three T's"- Technology, Talent and Tolerance. Cities with a robust combination of these factors are leading creative centers. Florida's thesis is buttressed by his own rigorous statistical analysis as well as statistical analysis of others based on Florida's observations.
A couple notes of criticism and caution. First, Florida's economic history discussion - all of economic history is a means to harness creativity - is unwieldy and an unnecessary whitewash. This discussion slows the trajectory of his argument and it could be argued that this condensed historical discussion cuts against his general argument that this is a period of singular economic and social change. Also, Florida shifts the focus from city to region a bit too freely. Florida is clear that a vital urban core is a necessary component to a region's attractiveness to the creative class; however, the book falls short of a serious discussion about the critical relationship between core and suburbs. Reading this book with an eye to rejuvenate the urban core, I felt a greater recognition of the struggle for resources between the core and the suburbs was necessary - especially in resource-poor regions. Too often, Florida assumes a natural symbiosis between the two.
That said the book is a must-read for those who care about the future of their cities and regions. The book is certainly provocative and Florida never pulls punches - he even goes after the vaunted Robert Putnam. Although briefly acknowledging the pitfalls of the creative class's social influence, I think it is safe too say that Florida is a cheerleader for the social changes ushered in by the creative class. I'm much less sanguine. The lifestyle demanded by the creative economy - the blurring of work and personal space and the diminished focus on family - could be the creative class's undoing.
121 of 148 found the following review helpful:
The Cognitive Elite: Now you see it; now you don't Jan 25, 2004
By Celia Redmore
Possibly anyone who wrote a book on the �Creative Class� just before 2003 should be exempt from critical review � just like anyone who wrote an investment guide in 1928, or a colonial government primer in 1775. But �The Rise of the Creative Class� has recently been reissued in paperback, is frequently quoted by ambitious politicians, and is still being touted by its author. Therefore, it matters that we re-examine its contents carefully.
Richard Florida�s thesis is that there is a niche group of society, which over the past century has grown to become a separately identifiable class in its own right, distinguishable from the Working Class or the Service Sector Class or the almost-disappeared class of agricultural workers. This is different from saying that today�s better-educated workers need less direct supervision, or that many jobs vary more in content from day to day than used to be the case.
The author struggles mightily to define the nearly one-third of the population that he calls �creative� as a valid class. He proposes definitions, backs up a couple of pages later, corrects his proposal, and starts off down another path. The result is more of an out loud conversation with himself than a clearly delineated model. There are no neat conclusions here.
The book uses both published sources and the author�s own research to identify the characteristics of his new class: who they are and what motivates them. Sometimes the sources are of doubtful value.
One has to wonder why he would turn to his public policy students at prestigious Carnegie Mellon University to find out why highly-paid manufacturing jobs are no longer attractive to young blue-collar workers. A stroll through any of Pittsburgh�s poorer neighborhoods would surely have elicited a more sensible and substantive response than that such jobs were �insufficiently creative�.
Similarly, the book quotes an Information Week magazine survey of high-tech workers on what mattered to them. Florida reads the low rating of stock options as a motivator to mean that respondents valued �creative work� more than money. As one of those respondents, I can tell you that we were simply saying that the declining stock market had rendered all our options worthless. We were tired of being paid in funny money.
A core point in the book�s thesis is that �creative workers� deliberately move to �diverse, open, tolerant� regions and that �creative companies� follow them there � a reverse of the earlier pattern of workers going to where the jobs were. This is one of the many patterns Florida tries to pin down, but which squirm under his microscope. San Francisco follows the pattern, but pleasantly homogenous, middle-class Austin, TX is a high-tech Mecca, while funky, artistic, open, tolerant, diverse New Orleans lags.
Tolerant of whom, by whom? Florida points out that there is a negative correlation between �non-whites� and �creative class� companies. The best leading indicator is the presence of a gay community. But is it surprising or meaningful, that the most affluent areas of the country are frequently home to double-male-income, no-kids households? Surely, this datum isn�t enough to define a new class?
Dr Florida assumes � as did most of us � that 2002 represented the nadir of the US economy and that we were rapidly returning to a more �normal� job situation. In retrospect, we were all wrong, but what can one say about the �Creative Class� thesis with the benefit of hindsight? Let�s quote, as the book does, Hewlett-Packard CEO, Carly Fiorina, the quintessential �creative class� leader of the time:
�Keep your tax incentives and highway interchanges; we will go where the highly skilled people are.�
Most recently, this same CEO has angrily declared her �right� to move those same jobs to a tax-shelter in funky, artistic �. Bangalore. If a million jobs can be re-categorized overnight from �Creative Class� to commodity �Service Sector�, were they ever really part of a �Creative Class� at all?
** Dr Florida has created a web site that can legitimately be regarded as an informal addendum to the book: [...] .
30 of 35 found the following review helpful:
Lots of data, not much focus Nov 27, 2006
By Emil B
The key concept of this book is the existence of a new Creative Class. Richard throws into the Creative Class almost everybody and groups them in two categories: the Super Creative Core and the "creative professionals". These two groups include: scientists, professors, poets, novelists, artists, entertainers, actors, designers, architects, non-fiction writers, editors, cultural figures, researchers, analysts, programmers, engineers, filmmakers, financial services, legal and health care professionals, business management and the list goes on. The problem is that the definition of this class is so loose. Even Richard admits that the definition is not really clear, but he goes on discarding the importance of rigour. A class must have political alignment as an expression of a common ground in the way wealth is created and distributed. It should be reflected in the way people vote; otherwise the class does not make sense. It is difficult to convince anyone that you can put these people in the same class: engineers and artists, accountants and actors.
The book uses shocking statistics and quotes and then follows through with flashy language to wrap up a nicely packaged chapter. The problem is that the book has enough time to loose the reader after seemingly never ending debates. This book has so much information and so little structure. All those tables are useless because they do not support a coherent system of principles or story. The writing is difficult to read and very repetitive. After the first fifty pages the same arguments are being rotated again and again: creativity is important, the time of agriculture has passed, the heavy industry is not important for global leadership, there is tension between individual freedom and corporation rigidity, etc.
In describing the new class, Richard Florida observes that "Fewer than one-quarter of all Americans (23.5 percent) accounted for by the 2000 Census lived in a 'conventional' nuclear family, down from 45 percent in 1960. This is social group is mentioned many times in the book. By contrast, the family social group is almost completely ignored. I have the impression that this is actually the creative class and all these indexes (Bohemian, Single, Gay, etc) match quite well the group's dynamics.
I gave this book a two stars rating purely on style and clarity and overall coherence of the book. I think that regardless of the political affiliation, the reader will have genuine difficulty in following the book from the beginning to the end. For instance, in discussing the transformations of every day life, in a polemic with other authors Richard says:
"Juxtaposed to this view are those who believe technology and unbridled market forces are making us work harder and faster, leaving us less time to enjoy each other and out interests, destroying human connections and damaging our neighbourhoods and communities. If the techno-utopians romanticize the future, these techno pessimists glorify the past. Unfettered hypercapitalism is leading to the end of work and the demise of high paying, secure jobs, according to social critics like Jeremy Rifkin. Worse yet, the elimination of such jobs destroy an important source of social stability, argues Richard Sennett, casting people adrift, corroding our collective character and damaging the very fibre of society. The workplace is evolving into an increasingly stressful and dehumanizing "white-collar sweatshop" in Fill Fraser's view, beset by long hours and chronic overwork. In the eyes of cultural critic Tom Frank, business has become an all-powerful and hegemonic cultural force, as entities like MTV and The Gap turn alternative-culture symbols into money making devices. Neighbourhoods, cities and society as a whole are losing the strong sense of community and civic-minded spirit that were the source of our prosperity, argues Robert Putnam. In his nostalgia for a bygone era of VFW halls, bowling leagues, Cub Scout troops and Little League, Putnam contends that the demise of these repositories of `social capital' is the source of virtually all of our woes..."
If you were able to read the text above without losing your concentration and you remembered what started it, then you might be able to read the book and even like it. Otherwise you will probably find that after you read page after page you realise your thoughts were wondering somewhere else. You come back, re-read those pages, only to find you lost your thoughts again.
20 of 23 found the following review helpful:
Thought Provoking and and an Important Addition Jan 15, 2005
I work with an organization that is in the process of revitalizing an small city in upstate New York. Florida gives us food for thought about how the young, professional...creative class thinks differently than the generations that preceeded them. This book is not an end-all (what book is?)it adds some important thoughts to the conversation. The lifestyle expectations of this group are higher. I lived in LA for most of last year and I obsevered a pattern of creative class individuals leaving for Boulder, Austin, and the like in order to have a better life...in most cases at equal or less income.
His thesis that a growing creative class population is a factor in economic and lifestyle growth is valid. As manufacturing jobs continue to decline in the US we need to look towards the well-paid occupations that will grow. I recently read Peter Drucker's "Management Challenges for the 21st Century" and he refers to this group as "knowledge workers" and he believes that they are the most important group of workers our economy.
The bottom line for me is: The creative class people like a lot of the same things that other groups do but it's more important to them. Considering this group is an important element in urban development.
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