February 21, 2013
Geoff Mulgan in Is There a Creative Class? assesses the work of Richard Florida on the creative class and the creative economy. The assumption her eis the insight that the creative economy is continuing to grow in importance, and every city should have a serious strategy for growing its creative economy.
Mulgan acknowledges that Florida has promoted what to Mulgan are important truths about how the world works:
the growing importance of creative roles, sectors and jobs; the need to shift urban regeneration away from its fixation on physical improvements to a focus on people; and the links between cultures and milieu and economic effects.
However, Florida's most prominent claim is that there is a meaningful category called a creative class, which in the US accounts for as much as 30-40% of the workforce, and that its size drove economic growth: the bigger the creative class in a city, the faster its growth rate. The implication was that cities shouldn't just build art galleries - they should do all they could to grow and attract this group of people.
Mulgan says that:
the argument that there is a single creative class has crumbled under investigation. Accountants, consultants, professors, engineers are very different from each other, and not obviously much more creative than, for example, builders or engineers. No generalisations about the creative class - for example about their movement, motivations, cultures - has survived analysis.
The size of the creative class is much smaller than Florida claimed, and it would be unwise to conclude that they are a cause rather than an effect of growth.