Richard Florida became famous among people who think about cities 15 years ago with “The Rise of the Creative Class.” He predicted that postindustrial cities would succeed by focusing on the three Ts: technology, talent and tolerance. People in the “creative class” benefit from density, he said, and would move to places where laws are kind to tech entrepreneurs, where museums provide an evening out and where gay people are comfortable. Indeed, New York recovered its private-sector jobs nearly four years faster than the nation after the Great Recession.
In “The New Urban Crisis,” Florida focuses on what the creative class’s emergence, and the decline of the middle class, have done to cities. Florida uses the category “creative class” to distinguish the one-third of the American work force who employ their brains rather than their bodies. The second group he puts into two further categories, the working class — that is, people who do physical labor — and the service class, describing waiters, retail workers and the like.
“Creative class” is not an accurate term, but it is sexy. What Florida means is the top third of American earners, which would include a financial adviser who encourages his clients to invest in a varied portfolio and stay there — vital, but not creative. It would not include a firefighter who has to think fast about what to say to a drunken, suicidal man to keep him from jumping off a building. The term includes pop superstars who remember the old East Village, and the guitar player who can’t afford to live near there. It is obviously judgmental, encompassing life as well as work, so it tells a supermarket clerk that he must be a dolt.
The news for cities since this upper-middle class emerged is not good....
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