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4 Cities and the Creative Class

4 Cities and the Creative Class - Cities and the Creative...

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Cities and the Creative Class Richard Florida Carnegie Mellon University Cities and regions have long captured the imagination of sociologists, economists, and urbanists. From Alfred Marshall to Robert Park and Jane Jacobs, cities have been seen as cauldrons of diversity and difference and as fonts for creativity and innovation. Yet until recently, social scientists concerned with regional growth and development have focused mainly on the role of firms in cities, and particularly on how these firms make location decisions and to what extent they concentrate together in agglomerations or clusters. This short article summarizes recent advances in our thinking about cities and communities, and does so particularly in light of themes advanced in my recently published book, The Rise of the Creative Class , which focuses on diversity and creativity as basic drivers of innovation and regional and national growth. This line of work further suggests the need for some conceptual refocusing and broadening to account for the location decisions of people as opposed to those of firms as sources of regional and national economic growth. In doing so, this article hopes to spur wider commentary and debate on the critical functions of cities and regions in 21st-century creative capitalism. “Great cities have always been melting pots of races and cultures. Out of the vivid and subtle interactions of which they have been the centers, there have come the newer breeds and the newer social types.” Park, Burgess, and McKenzie (1925) From the seminal work of Alfred Marshall to the 1920 studies by Robert Park to the pioneering writings of Jane Jacobs, cities have captured the imagination of sociologists, economists, and urbanists. For Park and especially for Jacobs, cities were cauldrons of di- versity and difference, creativity and innovation. Yet over the last several decades, schol- ars have somehow forgotten this basic, underlying theme of urbanism. For the past two decades, I have conducted research on the social and economic functions of cities and re- gions. Generally speaking, the conventional wisdom in my field of regional development has been that companies, firms, and industries drive regional innovation and growth, and thus an almost exclusive focus in the literature on the location and, more recently, the clustering of firms and industries. From a policy perspective, this basic conceptual ap- proach has undergirded policies that seek to spur growth by offering firms financial incentives and the like. More recently, scholars such as Robert Putnam have focused on the social functions of neighborhoods, communities, and cities, while others, such as the urban sociologist Terry Clark and the economist Edward Glasear, have turned their Correspondence should be addressed to Richard Florida, H. John Heinz School of Public Policy and Manage- ment, Carnegie Mellon University, 4800 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213; [email protected]
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