The Consequences of the creative class: The pursuit of creativity strategies in Australia’s cities

Atkinson, R. & Easthope, H.

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Atkinson, R., & Easthope, H. (2009). The Consequences of the creative class: The pursuit of creativity strategies in Australia’s cities. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 33(1), 64–79.

Australia , Creative Cities , Economic Growth , Typology

The idea of ‘creative cities’ has gained prominence amongst urban planners and policymakers who often now find links between economic development and the ‘soft’ attributes of cities. While definitions of the ‘creative industries’ and the ‘creative class’ continue to be contested, many key urban policy actors continue to focus on developing strategic programmes and policies to boost ‘creativity’ and economic growth. In this article we review recent attempts to implement creative city ideas across five Australian state capitals. Following the analysis of interview material derived from contact with 100 key community and policymaker actors, we first develop a typology of approaches to creative city ideas: concerted action, engagement and strategic drift. We then move on to consider how the idea of the creative city provides a simultaneously criticized yet powerful organizing device that informs local strategies in relation to prosperity. Our analysis highlights a series of connected consequences around four key issues: (1) arts projects and gentrification; (2) housing affordability; (3) revanchist strands to public space management; and (4) relative rates of social investment. We find that the rhetoric of universal social potential accompanying creative city ideas continues to overlook those unable to participate in this new economy, as well as those who are more actively excluded.

Main finding
The authors find that policy makers’, community organizers’, and NGOs’ understanding of city growth is one deeply embedded in the ideas and tactics of the creative city. However, they also find the creativity paradigm to be so broadly applied that it becomes an undiscerning catch-all for various modes of economic development and governance. Additionally, the paradigm was also used to code contentious policies into actions more acceptable. The authors argue that the consequences of the creative class affect four connected issues: 1) arts projects and gentrification, 2) housing affordability, 3) revanchist strands of public space management, and 4) relative rates of social investment.

Description of method used in the article
For perspectives on the creative city, the authors reviewed literature on creative strategies for economic growth and social development especially drawing on Richard Florida and Charles Landry. Additionally, interview data was gathered from consultations with 100 key actors (of which 82 were interviews) such as state officials, consultants, city bureaucrats, and community representatives across five Australian cities. Policy documents and state budgets were also reviewed.

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