From my latest, Expensive cities are killing creativity:
New York – and San Francisco, London, Paris and other cities where cost of living has skyrocketed – are no longer places where you go to be someone. They are places you live when you are born having arrived. They are, as journalist Simon Kuper puts it, “the vast gated communities where the one percent reproduces itself”.
There are exceptions in these cities, but they tend to survive by serving the rule. The New York Times recently profiled Sitters Studio, a company that sends artists and musicians into the homes of New York’s wealthiest families to babysit their children. “The artist-as-babysitter can be seen as a form of patronage,” suggests the Times, “in which lawyers, doctors and financiers become latter-day Medicis.”
This is the New York artist today: A literal servant to corporate elites, hired to impart “creativity” to children whose bank accounts outstrip their own.
The Times explains the need for the company as follows: “Parents keep hearing that, in the cutthroat future, only the creative will survive.” The “creative” will survive – but what of creativity? Enterprises like Sitters Studio posit creativity as commodification: A taught skill that bolsters business prowess for tiny corporate heirs.
Creativity – as an expression of originality, experimentation, innovation – is not a viable product. It has been priced out into irrelevance – both by the professionalisation of the industries that claim it, and the soaring cost of entry to those professions.
The “creative class” is a frozen archetype – one that does not boost the economy of global cities, as urban studies theorist Richard Florida argues, but is a product of their takeover by elites. The creative class plays by the rules of the rich, because those are the only rules left. Adaptation is a form of survival. But adaptation is a form of abandonment as well.