Creative underclass? ©Keltie Colleen
The Journal of Urban Affairs just published a really interesting special issue on the creative underclass.
The creative class has been hailed extensively by urban scholars, planners and policy makers over the past decade, particularly for its supposed ability to have a positive effect on urban development. The almost mythical creatives are seen as relatively easy to ‘deploy’ in areas where regeneration is desired. Moreover, their individual situation is seen as the archetypical successful and desirable urban life.
But reality often deviates from the romanticized professional and private lives of these ‘creatives’ and the urban development mechanisms attributed to their presence in the city frequently have perverse outcomes.
For example, creative actors often work as freelance professionals. Something the creativity advocates hardly take into account is that this freelance situation often is some sort of disguised unemployment. The German book “Wir Nennen es Arbeit: Die Digitale Bohème oder Intelligentes Leben Jenseits der Festanstellung”(We Call it Work: The Digital Bohème or Intelligent Life Beyond the Permanent) beautifully deals with this topic in the case of Berlin, where many (aspiring) creatives migrate to, but many of them are not able to make a living with what they (want to) do.
Betahaus, a coworking space in Berlin ©Smartworkers
Another well-known effect in urban regeneration practices is that the settlement of those hailed creatives causes gentrification to such an extent that it results in the displacement of residents.
Those are just some random thoughts on the subject. The new issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs takes on a very interesting and relevant perspective.
What it comes down to, with the notion of creativity and creatives entering the urban issues sphere, is that new issues arise. This means new challenges, but also new interpretations of urban development such as temporary usage of vacant space, ‘pop-up urbanism’ etc. The issues and contradictions include the insecure position of these ‘new’ urbanites, defining what is creativity and what is copying creativity (or sheer capitalism), and the thin line between social improvement and gentrification. Just check out the Creative Underclass edition of The Journal of Urban Affairs.