Two years ago we ran a cover story on Richard Florida’s theory that the “creative class” was the determining factor in the revival of American cities. Not so, says Joel Kotkin in this rebuttal published in the British magazine Prospect. Not only did Florida gather his data during the dot-com bubble, but he missed something more fundamental:
Little recognised amid the creative class craze is the fact that a strong and growing middle class is still the key to well balanced urban life. Without a permanent middle class, cities through history–from ancient Rome and 17th-century Venice to 19th-century Amsterdam–have lost their balast, become ever more divided by class, and ceded their central role.
While “creative” cities like New York and San Francisco will always be attractive, who they are attractive to are the residents of “other more dynamic rising cities–places like Shanghai, Singapore, Taipei, Perth, Calgary, Los Angeles, Houston or Phoenix–that still retain their ‘animal spirits’ and remain the locus of middle-class aspiration.”
New Yorkers and Londoners still possess the essentials for a more vital future. But first their political leaders must realise that great cities need schools for families, transport that works, jobs for the middle and the aspiring working classes. And they must acknowledge the continuing need to invest heavily in public safety, particularly in an age of terror.
Hmmm. Great schools, jobs, public safety. Sounds like an agenda for a future mayor.