Helynne's Reviews > The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community, and Everyday Life

The Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida
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Jun 17, 10

Read from June 05 to 16, 2010

If a visitor from 1900 were plopped into the year 1950 and a visitor from 1950 had the chance to move forward into 2000, who would be the most shocked at the new society he/she would experience? It’s tempting to say the person from 1900 would be the most bowled over because of 1950 technology—cars, airplanes, films, TV, etc., However, author Richard Florida maintains that the 1950 visitor to 2000 would be even more surprised at the “deeper, more persuasive transformations” of the turn-of-the-21st-century world with its new lifestyles and world views—less racism, more embracing of diversity, tolereance of gays, and less patience with certain old school phenomena such as smoking; in short, “a time when the old order has broken down, when flux and uncertainty themselves seem to be part of the everyday norm” (4). In this lengthy and extensively documented study, Florida analyzes how the “multidimensional” nature of Creativity—with a capital C—has pervaded American life in recent decades and radically affected the economy, demographics, leisure, community, and attitudes in everyday life. “First, creativity is essential to the way we live and work today, and in many senses always has been” (21). Also, creativity is becoming less “radical” and more mainstream, and is becoming increasingly a vital economic force. The author identifies the most creative people in our society as first, the Creative Core; that is, people in occupations involving computer and mathematical skills, architecture and engineering, social science, education, library, arts, design, entertainment, sports and media. Second, there are Creative Professionals—people in business, management, health care, law, and high-end sales. He also identifies the much less creative and less fortunate folks in the working and service classes. Florida’s main theme is that it is the top two groups have the onus of leading the country in to a more sophisticated and innovative era than American has ever known before. ONe of his chapters is dedicated to the "three T's: technology, talent, and tolerance" that are all needed for creativity to usher in a better society. Another main premise is that the U.S. is now evolving from an “organizational age” in which decisions about companies, universities, etc., are made from a privileged few people at the top, to a creative structure where even low-rung factory workers are encouraged to contribute their own innovative input. The author recalls his father’s job as a worker in an eyeglass factor where he and his fellow workers were given a great amount of creative freedom. In the late 1960s when the factory went “organizational” and began hiring MBAs to oversee operations, the workers—including Florida’s father—became demoralized and left in droves (66). More and more people now demand creative work, and would even opt for a less lucrative job with more creative freedom over a high-paying post with too much structure. Chapter 6, entitled “The Machine Shop and the Hair Salon” discusses how few people now wish to be skilled, but routine, machinists, and instead, flock to beauty colleges where they can find challenge, flexibility, and most important at of all, passion for the work they do. Another interesting concept Florida describes is the modern tendency for people to seek an “experiential lifestyle”—one packed full of intense, high-quality, multi-dimensional experiences. Part of this involves “time deepening,” that is, the speeding up of activities to cram more experience into less time. For example, to replace tennis with raquet ball, which is over and done with faster than tennis. The many tables in this book show Florida’s meticulous studies and statistics that indicate which cities in the United States have the most creative people, productivity, and ambiance. Washington, D.C., Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and Austin, Texas are usually the top five in these tables in varying order. The results have to do with many factors—such as being in proximity to universities and/or research facilities—but some of the most important factors for regional creativity include tolerance for and desire to mingle with a great variety of people including those from all races, immigrants, and gays. There are so many more interesting concepts in this study but there isn’t room to mention them in detail. Florida ends with a charge to creative people everywhere to strive for a cohesiveness that will build more tolerant and productive communities that insist on authenticity in architecture and arts and shun a preponderance of generic strip malls, chain stores, and jaded, outmoded thinking. ‘The task of building a truly creative society is not a game of solitaire,” Florida concludes.’ “This game, we play as a team” (326).
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