Obama: Chief Executive of the Creative Class?


Have Richard Florida’s ideas about the economy and the ‘creative class’ come to maturity with the election of President Elect Barack Obama? It was, after all, the young and the diverse who propelled his candidacy. I spent a day with the heads of several local Chambers of Commerce recently and they all touted the soft-infrastructure and the ability to attract the creative class as the key to economic health for their cities. What’s Obama got to do with it?

Joel Kotkin on New Geography states:

Obama’s triumph reflects a decisive shift in the economic center of gravity away from military contractors, manufacturers, agribusiness, pharmaceuticals, suburban real estate developers, energy companies, old-line remnants on Wall Street and other traditional backers of the GOP. In their place, we can see the rise of a different set of players, predominately drawn from the so-called “creative class” of Silicon Valley, Hollywood and the younger, go-go set in the financial world.

Former George Mason professor Richard Florida who used the term creative class to describe people with both business acumen and a liberal cultural agenda. These are the new bohemians. They want arts, bike trails, and freedom from stodgy corporate hierarchies.

Many of the small but powerful corporations who supported Obama believe that creativity can save the U.S. economy. Google employees alone contributed over $400,000 to Obama’s campaign.

And boy do we need change. In Kotkin’s words:

“traditional business leadership… present a spectacle of utter disarray… commercial banks effectively nationalized… traditional manufacturers, notably automakers, also yearn to suck on the federal teat… traditional energy companies, long the whipping boys of Congressional Democrats, will be fully occupied trying to survive the onslaught of anti-carbon regulations now all but inevitable.”

According to Kotkin, the biggest difference between the creative class and the traditional business community will be seen in environmental policy. He sees a bleak future for manufacturers of tangible products, big consumers of carbon (agribusiness), and suburban staples like single-family homes and malls.

What do you think? Is it all spin and hype, or the coming of a real shift in America’s fundamental economics?

Image Credit: Squash713, Flickr

  • I think it’s about time we shift our mentality from industry and military to creativity and collaboration. Some of it is hype and spin, greenwashing, but another part is legitimate and necessary. Only when business leaders learn that sustainability equates to efficiency and competitiveness in the global sphere, will we stop being so lazy and complacent in a false sense of success and security.

  • anthony

    industry cannot be left behind. it was our departure from industry that killed the economy. in a global economy we to create something to trade.

  • Right on Sean & Anthony! We must make a shift away from the economics & politics of the military-industrial complex and craft a more sustainable, long-term civilizational model that doesn’t require global adoption of our debt-financed hyper-consumption system to keep us afloat. Global warming, growing energy & strategic resources competition, worldwide industrial pollution, species extinction, the credit crisis, and economic dislocation of indigenous peoples all serve to alter the trajectory of American-style modernity. The winds of change are now the gales of change, and Barack Obama is the right man at the right time to help us to transition to a more sustainable lifestyle that will have a positive global influence, instead of the bullying spectacle of ideological self-interest that dominated the last 8 years and left us increasingly disdained by the rest of emerging humanity. We are about to witness the wisdom of selecting a brilliant A average student with heart over a C average student with privilege, cockiness and global cluelessness for leader of the free world. That being said, it is true what Anthony said that it was our departure from domestic industry that has almost killed our economy, so we need to start to re-invest in our own internal industrial system to produce those essentials that will help free us from excessive global dependence and the exploding trade imbalances, indebtedness and deficits that have wrecked our real prosperity. I believe that our President-elect fully understands how we got to our current predicament under the mis-guided direction of BOTH major political parties, and he is determined to revitalize the middleclass, which is the real creative class in our society. For years the creative class had been increasingly marginalized or co-opted by the traditional power centers that control funding, access and policy, as big business used its political power to project its global market expansion even at the expense of its own fellow citizens and finally its own shareholders. Today we see the truth about these business leaders and their political lackies: they were willing to do almost anything to win for THEMSELVES, and the litany of their scams & deceptions is continuing to surface as they have the nerve to come to those whose savings & livelihoods they consumed for a quick, no strings attached, bailout. Fortunately, enough of the American people have awakened from tv & Walmart land long enough to demand real change, and we await, along with the rest of the human race, the dawn of a new day and a new American administration. The Globalist Multinationals and the Ruthless Neocons have had the stage long enough – change has finally come to American, and not a moment too soon.