SOC208 2019 Tut 9 Mon 1130 – Suburbia, meh … Give me Inner City! Cosmopolitan, gentrified, creative … and diverse?

In a globalised, digital world, with expensive inner city housing and commuting nightmares, surely we should all just live AND work in the suburbs? Work online, or in little local community working co-ops? Save ourselves all that expense and travel time? And yet we don’t. Something draws us back to the inner city, in ever-greater numbers.

The last few decades have seen a counter-movement away from suburban life, as young educated people and skilled migrants return to live in the inner city. These middle class knowledge-workers, identified as cosmopolitans by Robert Merton and Herbet Gans in the mid-twentieth century – outward-oriented, mobile, highly educated, networked professionals, students, artists, intellectuals and bohemians –now dominate inner urban environments. Richard Florida calls them the ‘creative class’, and notes that congregations of these workers appear in particular areas and particular cities (e.g. New York, San Francisco, Silicon Valley – and in Australia, inner Sydney and Melbourne). They attract both businesses AND other creative workers, because they give the business a competitive advantage in the ‘creative age’, and because the diversity they bring to an area – culturally, technologically, ethnically – is attractive to other creative workers.

They have changed the inner city. Sharon Zukin notes how the cosmopolitans have not only changed the mixture of people in the inner-city streets, but also changed the character – and costs – of the streets themselves. Carefully considered consumption choices have lead to the urban renewal of housing, shopfronts and amenities, with cafes, bars, food and clothing outlets and farmers markets selling organic, free-range, ethical products now a staple of inner city living. As Zukin notes in ‘Consuming Authenticity’:

“Often the same men and women are shopping for fresh goat cheese, supporting fair trade coffee, and restoring old brownstone houses in these socially ‘marginal’ areas. Just as they take pleasure in choosing alternatives to mass-market products – ‘pure,’ original, ethnic, fresh – so they are willing to take risks in choosing where to live. But in the process of developing alternative consumption practices, they contribute to changes that make these spaces more desirable” (2008, p725)

However, there are problematic elements to this renewal. ‘Desirable’ is synonymous with ‘expensive’. This is not only manifest  in the spiralling prices of houses and rentals in inner city areas, but in the rampant inflation of organic, ethical, and ethnic food sold to creative types searching for ‘authenticity’ in their consumption choices, which as John Oliver notes in a recent satire of the American Whole Foods chain, sometimes borders on the ridiculous.

At a more serious level, the consumer driven gentrification wave has lead to the displacement of the working-class and migrant workers who have traditionally inhabited the inner city for many decades. In looking at the differences between cities and regions, Florida notes that as business compete to attract the creative class, the cream of the gifted middle class and skilled migrant workers are sucked into the largest ‘creative’ global cities and spaces, leaving many home countries and cities to suffer from ‘brain drain’. In looking at the differences within the city, Zukin points out how existing, long-term working class residents and unskilled migrants are displaced in inner city areas of high migrant, middle-class intake, via increases in the cost of housing and living. And Kathleen Dunn notes how even the production chain and public space of traditional migrant workers working in the humblest of jobs – such as NYC street vendors – is being coopted and displaced by the wave of middle-class hipster food trucks sweeping the inner cities of America (and Australia).

Each of these factors points to widening inequality; between different global cities, between the inner and outer cities, and within the inner city itself, often between older and newer migrant groups. They also raise concerns over the long-term sustainability of such expensive living arrangements, the maintenance of diversity and authenticity if the poor are driven out, and the stability of neighborhood social cohesion.

S208UOW19 #Tut9 #Mon1130


Posted in SOC208 - Cities, Communities and Families, UOW.

7 Comments on SOC208 2019 Tut 9 Mon 1130 – Suburbia, meh … Give me Inner City! Cosmopolitan, gentrified, creative … and diverse?

Meaad Alqahtani said : Guest Report 6 days ago

Richard Florida points out that the important factors for economic growth in big cities are talent, technology, and tolerant.cities that open to new ideas and latest technologies pull creative class. Also, tolerant cities have a high level of education and attract creative people. The examples for open cities are Boston, San Francisco Austin. The cities that less open to new concepts such as Indianapolis, Memphis, and Cleveland. However, when creative people with high income moving into cities, land prices will be higher, how the talent people like musicians and artist with low income live in these cities? living in the suburbs still popular and possible for many people because it saves time and money.

Yasmin Latif said : Guest Report 6 days ago

Richard Florida highlights that although the creative class are living in this environment it does not mean that is any more diverse than the suburban areas. Suburban areas are becoming more ideal for families as it more of a family environment and can have a strong sense of community. Although there are many differences between living in the city and living in the suburbs people are still choosing to live in the city. The cities that are presented as more ‘cosmopolitan’ appeal to the creative class allowing the city to expand and have more diverse environment which can be enticing for those who are looking to move into the city.

Holly Kemp said : Guest Report 6 days ago

These days it just seems to make more sense to live and work in the suburbs, it would save massive amounts of time and money so why aren't we doing this then?? Cosmopolitans as described by Merton and Gans are the key leaders and for this sudden change from suburban to city life. These people of the creative class attract business and other likeminded people towards the city and work towards changing the characteristics of the built environment around them. This change though isn't always for the better though. These classes can be made accountable for the high costs of living in the city for those non creative classes. From readings it is clear to see that gentrification has both pros and cons associated it with it but how we can we make it more of a positive aspect of life for everyone not just the cosmopolitans of the world?

Hallie Churchill said : Guest Report 6 days ago

Urban Gentrification has created dramatic change for the communities involved. Many of these communities are located around and in close proximity to major cities and popular areas. The reason why people are less likely to live and work in the suburbs rather than the city is because there is simply not enough employment within the suburbs as the suburbs are a smaller area. Costs have increased in these areas due to the higher consumption rates. People can be displaced due to gentrification because they are influenced to leave from renovated areas and the price of new build areas are marketed at a high level and so they aren't exactly displaced but are excluded.

Madeleine Wiersma said : Guest Report 6 days ago

Richard Florida points out that big cities do not necessarily mean that the creative class are living there, or that it is more diverse. The creative class live in places not for their resources or for the typical luxuries that cities can offer, but to unite in a creative space. This promotes competition between companies. Living in cities and in creative cities might be increasingly popular, but it does not mean that it is becoming more diverse. The suburbs are still popular for families. Cities that are more cosmopolitan attract the creative class, and those cities grow to become diverse. Richard Florida says that cities such as Pittsburgh and Baltimore don’t retain creative talent because they are not the same cosmopolitan that is needed in order to attract and be tolerant to those people, despite having the technology to make it a possibility.

Nadia Ciccolella said : Guest Report 6 days ago

If living in the suburbs are so much more appealing and desirable then why don’t we just live there? Working from home or close to it can save us travel time and expenses however people are still choosing to live in the inner city where they are forced to commute long hours and as a result more congestion on our roads. Gentrification can be considered positive especially for cosmopolitans, as they are more mobile, more educated, and more willing to travel however it’s hard to see the advantages of gentrification for middle class or migrant workers. Gentrification has made it hard for non-cosmopolitans to fit in and it terms of migration there is a loss of social cohesion, travel time for work is increased dramatically and insecure renters are at risk of eviction. There are a few notable issues with cosmopolitism, gentrification and migration and it is evident how it creates problems with equity, social justice and social cohesion.

Liam O'Neill said : Guest Report 6 days ago

Although gentrification is drastically changing major cities for the better it is a big problem for people that are not ‘cosmopolitan’. While the creative class is changing the landscape of these cities and creating a safer and more diverse place for people living in the city it is at the cost of evicting lower class people from the city. This is detrimental to the efficiency of the city as it requires potential city workers to make a long commute into the city creating more congestion. With the city becoming too expensive to live in due to gentrification and suburbia a daydream for the majority of young Australians who want to live close to the city, where are people going to go? More people in Australia are moving back to their family home while they save up for a house and not spending money on rent, this may become the new norm.

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