Discussion: View Thread

Subject: Did Richard Florida contribute to gentrification?

1.  Did Richard Florida contribute to gentrification?

Posted 05-24-2017 19:16

Judging from the scorn heaped on Richard Florida for his new book "The New Urban Crisis" one could believe that this man single-handedly created this new crisis of "winner takes all" and of the two very disparate cities by writing his first book "The Creative Class".

Urban demonstration

His "creative class" and his observations about the world being spiky, are a more elegant expression of the German proverb which states that "the devil always shits on the same pile". Progress has always been lopsided. Now decrying it looks like a late awakening for which the author is rightly derided. Far from congratulating the man for having gained new insights during the last 15 years, the New Republic ridicules him for simply being "nimble".

While cynicism can be fun, a critique from the left should be a bit more analytical, more historical, and less ad hominem. We will use a bit of Marx to put the critique back on its feet.

When Florida wrote the "Rise of the Creative Class" in 2002, the financial crash of 2007/8, the foreclosure crisis, the red hot pace in which some US cities gentrified, and a real estate developer and casino owner President were all future events which even dyed-in-the-wool Marxists could not have predicted even though they always predict calamity as inevitable in capitalism.  Marx' Kapital predicted mergers, incredible concentrations of power, overproduction and value destruction to get rid of whatever surplus. Except Marx didn't predict that capitalism would be around as long as it has or as nimble as it has proven to be. In the last round of nimbleness capitalism rediscovered US cities, some of which had been given up for good. Had Florida a role in that?
"I got wrong that the creative class could magically restore our cities, become a new middle class like my father's, and we were going to live happily forever after. I could not have anticipated among all this urban growth and revival that there was a dark side to the urban creative revolution, a very deep dark side. [..] cities are gentrifying, people are being priced out, displaced from their homes. I think we need a new vision for cities that combines an optimistic viewpoint with an understanding of the challenges that re-urbanization brings." (Florida in the Houston Chronicle 2016)
Favorite punching boy for the left: Richard Florida

Florida is a self-described left leaning book author. To blame him for the ills of the divided American city, bifurcated by race and class, is as absurd as..

Read full article

Nikolaus Philipsen FAIA
Archplan Inc. Philipsen Architects
Baltimore MD