Struggling with the Creative Class


This article develops a critique of the recently popularized concepts of the ‘creative class’ and ‘creative cities’. The geographic reach and policy salience of these discourses is explained not in terms of their intrinsic merits, which can be challenged on a number of grounds, but as a function of the profoundly neoliberalized urban landscapes across which they have been traveling. For all their performative display of liberal cultural innovation, creativity strategies barely disrupt extant urban‐policy orthodoxies, based on interlocal competition, place marketing, property‐ and market‐led development, gentrification and normalized socio‐spatial inequality. More than this, these increasingly prevalent strategies extend and recodify entrenched tendencies in neoliberal urban politics, seductively repackaging them in the soft‐focus terms of cultural policy. This has the effect of elevating creativity to the status of a new urban imperative — defining new sites, validating new strategies, placing new subjects and establishing new stakes in the realm of competitive interurban relations.