Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Why Richard Florida’s honeymoon is over

with 2 comments

A rather catty little piece from the Toronto Star (Florida of course writes for the competition).

Honeymoons, typically, are short. For Florida, who arrived in Toronto just over two years ago to head the Martin Prosperity Institute, a University of Toronto think-tank created just for him, it’s officially over.

Shakir, a community advocate, was speaking at a public forum organized recently by the art magazine Fuse, and the group, Creative Class Struggle. Its website leaves little to the imagination: “We are a Toronto-based collective who are organizing a campaign challenging the presence of Richard Florida and the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto, as well as the wider policies and practices they represent.”

Well actually there is a serious debate here between the social justice types and the economic development fans. I was just going to update my report on his visit here – but mindful that not everyone spends much time digging in my back lot, perhaps I should draw attention to the Toronto debate.

I really do hope that it is about issues and not personalities. Though a a quick glance at the comments under the Star piece is a bit depressing.  I also think that we need to be careful about what is descriptive – and much of Florida’s work (or rather that of his students) is in this category – and what is prescriptive. Yes cities that have had the creative class move to them have done well, on the whole, but that was in a different era. It may have even been a sensible strategy to adopt before the world changed. But America’s economy is now very different and some of us think it is not going to go back to what it once was. And we may very well have to get good at making things again – real metal bashing, log sawing kinds of industry – and not just the froth and frills of financial services and public relations.

As I said at the time, I do not think I would have gone to his talk if I had not won a ticket in a draw. And after I bought his book and read it, I wished that I had held on to my credit card a bit tighter. I suppose the market for an autographed copy may well not be now what it once was.

Richard Florida now (August 2017) admits he was wrong – and he is sorry.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 28, 2009 at 7:50 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Dear Stephen,

    As you are a planner, I am sure you have read some of Richard’s work. So have I. I trust and value your opinion, and in this case, I hope you’ll trust mine. For my doctoral dissertation, I read much of Florida’s earlier work (on Toyota and the global commodity chains). Florida *is* a scholar. He might be now famous and he might be hated my many, but his earlier work was good. I can’t say much about his latest work, but he did, indeed, contribute to our understanding of economic geography and urban planning, and many people forget that. Paul Krugman’s latest economic analyses might not be the latest theoretical innovation, but his earlier work speaks for him. I’d like to give Richard the benefit of the doubt and the validity of his earlier work 🙂


    June 28, 2009 at 11:05 pm

  2. […] Why Richard Florida’s honeymoon is over [Stephen Rees's […]

    re:place Magazine

    June 29, 2009 at 8:17 am

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