But who are you?
In a recent email, someone wrote: “The site seems a bit shady and I sort of feel as a anti-Creative Class group you have to make yourself known and not hidden behind the anonymity of the internet. Maybe this was not the intention, but it was my first impression of the site.”
We are a group who came together to challenge the power of the ‘creative class’ rhetoric circulating in Toronto. Our anonymity is the result of our agreement to work as a collective. The content, material, and actions described on this website are the product of collective effort, not of the work of any one individual. As a matter of practice, we intend to resist the desire for individual attribution so widespread both within and outside the academy.
This site is a work in progress. We are striving for anything but “shady.” We want to mobilize with like-minded academics, activists, and citizens to challenge the gross oversimplifications of the ‘creative class’ and its depiction as an elixir for economic regeneration. As always, please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments. We will try to respond as quickly as possible.
Is Creative Class Struggle an attack on academic freedom?
The concept of academic freedom seems inexplicably and inherently appealing. Who would want to deny the abilities of professors and students to design and carry out their own research? At what cost do we block the road to knowledge?
Creative Class Struggle believes that the notion of academic freedom is premised on two false and tired distinctions. First, it suggests that universities and academic research are external to the political and economic relationships and processes that shape non-academic lives. This is not the case. Not only is university research shaped by the whims of governments and the market, but it also has an immediate effect on those outside the university. Academics make weapons, justify cuts to social spending, and advocate for war. Should ivy-covered walls protect this work?
Second, academic freedom suggests that researchers are free to pursue their research. This has never been the case and increasingly such freedom is endangered, not by movements like Creative Class Struggle, but by efforts to dictate the terms of university research through the market. For example, the Harper government recently decided to earmark an increased share of federal funding for “business-related” research. Click here for more information about this decision from the Canadian Association of University Teachers.
Creative Class Struggle welcomes the presence of Richard Florida at the University of Toronto as an equal. We will have made a small step towards the ideal of academic freedom when:
- Florida teaches a load of undergraduate and graduate courses equivalent to other professors in Canada and is paid accordingly.
- Florida receives research funding transparently and not in direct appropriations from the Province.
- African Studies, Caribbean Studies, Diaspora and Transnational Studies, South Asian Studies, Aboriginal Studies, Women Studies, and other departments and programs are adequately funded.
- The university creates a School of Labour Studies and a People’s Prosperity Institute.
Why Creative Class Struggle?
Creative Class Struggle welcomes the participation of anyone who is concerned about the effect of Richard Florida and his policies on our communities and everyday lives. These policies increase the vulnerability of youth, women, people of colour, immigrants, and workers (see our pamphlet Welcome to the Creative City). Our campaign is not focused singularly or primarily on class; rather, we hope to create a broad coalition of people to struggle for and create institutions that reflect their own needs, not those of corporations, governments, universities, and scholars. We chose the name Creative Class Struggle because it is provocative and speaks directly to Richard Florida’s term the creative class.
Lastly, we believe that class matters. People are fundamentally divided by wealth, status, work, and geography. Richard Florida’s work contributes to these divisions by erasing the experiences of the working class, while celebrating the precariousness of the so-called creative class. This is well worth struggling over.
Why Richard Florida?
Richard Florida’s ‘creative class’ thesis is at once a source and a symptom of a powerful set of ideas that governments around the world are enthusiastically, and with little serious debate, adopting into policy. Florida’s language is familiar. It calls for a deepening of changes that we have seen since the 1970s: increased competition, increased place marketing, and above all an unquestioned allegiance to the imperative of economic growth. Consultants and academics like Florida are gaining recognition and benefitting financially from commodifying culture and the arts and by promoting urban ‘revitalization.’ But these changes have destructive effects—not least, the exacerbation of inequalities along class, race, and gender lines—that are hidden behind the glitzy and seductive promise of the ‘creative city.’
We believe that Florida and his Creative Class Group deserve criticism for profiting from these trends. Florida was paid $2.2 million by the government of Ontario for his “roadmap to nowhere,” Ontario in the Creative Age, which argues that creative and knowledge workers will lead Ontario to financial recovery. Insipid claims like this one distort the realities of laid-off manufacturing workers, low-paid service workers, and everyone else ignored in policies that privilege a few ‘creative’ citizens. But our criticism is not exclusively directed at Florida. Rather, our intent is to expose the ‘creative city’ as problematic, to use Florida as a springboard to discuss a broader set of issues, and to create space for a critical conversation.
What do we mean by disruptive?
In many ways, we hoped the participants of the Creative Class Struggle event in June would answer this question when they raised their voices in discussion, education, performance, and display. But our use of this word has triggered a shocking amount of concern from our friends, allies, colleagues, and correspondents.
We understand disruption as the ultimate goal of our campaign. But we don’t plan to destroy anything—except, perhaps, silence and apathy. What we want to disrupt is the smooth pervasiveness of the ‘creative city’ rhetoric: the language, the ideas, the values, the enthusiasm. We want to muddy the gloss of the ‘creative city’ story. We want to upset its uncritical and unquestioning adoption.
Is this a joke?
Yes, but it is not very funny.