SOLUTION: SOSC 1340 York University Glossary Terms Definition Discussion

SOLUTION: SOSC 1340 York University Glossary Terms Definition Discussion.

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Nowadays we have a very romantic notion of nature, associating it with images of
forests, mountains, streams and the wildlife that inhabit these places. Our
understanding of nature is not only romantic, however; it also involves a series of
assumptions about what it means to be ‘natural’ and – as importantly – what it
means to be ‘unnatural’. For example, forests are natural, but plastic is not; moose
are natural, but cars are not; and humans are natural, but also not at the same time.
The reason we have such a complex relationship with nature and the environment is
because nature itself – and what it means to be natural – is constituted by a diverse
set of human practices and knowledges ranging from the findings of scientific
research through cultural representations of nature in film and other media to the
organization of business within capitalism. This has led a number of human
geographers to argue that, in a very real sense, our imaginations and our socioeconomic practices actively shape nature and the natural world, not only in our
minds but also in reality (e.g. Smith 1984 [2008]; Whatmore 2002). Thus, they argue,
humans are both products of nature and the producers of nature.
This influence or impact of humans on the environment – which we define, for
simplicity’s sake, as the world’s biosphere – has been well-documented over the last
few decades, but awareness of our human imprint on the world and the implications
this has for our livelihoods and survival has a much longer history. In fact it is
possible to identify environmental movements as far back as the nineteenth century,
when various peoples and groups sought to highlight the damaging impacts of
industrialization on society. Examples include: the Romantic poets like William
Wordsworth, Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley at the end of the eighteenth
century and start of the nineteenth century; the Sierra Club established in 1892 in the
USA; and the Garden City movement that sprang up at the start of the twentieth
century. The modern environmental movement, however, emerged in the 1960s and
1970s as a response to a range of environmental issues and crises like chemical
pollution, oil spills, anti-whaling campaigns, toxic waste, biodiversity loss, animal
extinctions and so on (Millington and Pickerill 2005). One particular driving force was
concerns about the ‘limits to growth’ – the title of an influential report in 1972 – of
the world. Since the 1960s and 1970s there has been a growing interest in
environmental change and human-environment interactions, leading many thinkers
to start calling our current era the ‘Anthropocene’ – or, age of humans (Castree 2014).
The Anthropocene is especially dominated by the impacts of human activity on the
world’s climate. As a result of these impacts, one of the key global challenges facing
us today is how to mitigate (i.e. stop) and adapt to (i.e. live with) anthropogenic
climate change, especially the significant shifts in global and local temperatures
(e.g. warmer winters, colder summers), increasingly violent weather events (e.g.
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hurricanes, floods, storms etc.), melting ice caps and permafrost, and so on. How we
deal with climate change and its impacts is shaped by the assumptions we have
about the environment; this is not only in terms of romanticized visions of a pristine,
untouched nature, but also in terms of how nature is treated by the state and
businesses as a private resource and a common dumping ground for pollution and
waste. What we want to emphasize in this chapter is that capitalism has both created
the environmental problems with us today and is also proposed as the solution to
those problems by world leaders. It is important, in light of this contradiction, to
consider what other perspectives we might bring to bear to resolve these issues.
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We cover several issues in this chapter relating to global environmental change.
First, we look at mainstream perspectives on the environment, pollution, limits to
economic growth and concepts of sustainable development. We also outline the
main ways that capitalist businesses seek to resolve environmental problems.
Second, we present a critical take on understanding the environment called political
ecology. This approach incorporates notions of environmental justice and politicaleconomic change that challenges prevailing and dominant business solutions. Third,
we focus on climate change as an empirical example of a global environmental
problem, one which has become a seemingly intractable problem.
What is the environment? What are its limits? The natural environment can be defined
technically as the world’s biosphere, its biomes and its diverse and varied
ecosystems. The biosphere comprises three interconnected parts: the atmosphere,
which is the air cover around the Earth; the hydrosphere, which is the surface-level
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(e.g. oceans) and below surface waters (e.g. aquifers); and the lithosphere, which is
the upper levels of the Earth’s crust and includes the soil, plants and animals. Within
the lithosphere there are a number of different biomes; these are plants and animals
that inhabit distinct areas of the Earth’s surface (e.g. desert, grassland, rainforest
etc.). Within the biomes there are smaller ecosystems of interacting, self-regulating
animal and plant populations adapted to specific local climates, topographies etc.
(Robbins et al. 2010). As we have mentioned already, this technical definition
obscures the human shaping of the environment through economic actions and
decisions like pollution, waste production, biodiversity loss, climate change etc.
However, according to Barry Commoner (1971), there are four laws of ecology that
humans cannot escape, no matter what they do to the environment.
Mainstream approaches to the environment are often dominated by the
assumption that the natural world exists for humans to exploit and use as they see fit
and with little regard for the consequences. John Bellamy Foster (2002) argues that
this assumption is particularly strong in Western cultures (e.g. North America,
Western Europe) and stretches back several centuries. The reason that global
environmental change causes such concern nowadays is because the Earth is a finite
space with finite resources – the environment and its resources are scarce, in this
sense – while human population has expanded considerably in a very short period of
time, in geological timescales at least. For example, a hundred years ago the world’s
population was below two billion people, and yet there now are over seven billion
people on the planet, all of whom need resources to survive (e.g. food, housing, water,
tools, energy etc.). It is important to note that these population concerns are not new.
In the nineteenth century an Anglican priest from Britain called Thomas Malthus
argued that the world simply could not sustain the massive rise in the British
population following industrialization; in his view, the world was overpopulated and
this would lead to famines, poverty, disease and wars as humans fought over the
finite resources (Robbins et al. 2010). While Malthus’ views have been disproved by
subsequent events, such as the huge growth in the world’s population, it still holds a
strong popular and political appeal for its simplicity – that is, environmental
problems result from too many people chasing too few resources and producing
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increasing levels of pollution and waste. This appeal is still evident in the revival of
environmentalism since the 1960s and 1970s.
Recent environmental awareness and campaigns have led to growing international
concern with global environmental change. The global environment has become a
major focus of international policy debate and intervention over the last few decades
(see Table 9.1), especially around the issue of climate change (see Example below). It
is important to note, however, that these agreements and arrangements are not
always successful. In part, these moves to resolve environmental problems stem
from continuing fears about the limits of the natural world. For example, the Club of
Rome, a global think tank, produced an influential report in 1972 called Limits to
Growth in which they set out to examine the physical limits of continuing economic
growth. The report’s conclusions were that ‘resource scarcities would push prices up
and slow down the possibilities for future growth’ and that ‘the resource base itself
would collapse’ (Jackson 2009: 7). Similar concerns motivated the establishment of
the World Commission on Environment and Development by the UN in 1983. This
Commission produced a report called Our Common Future in 1987 – more commonly
known as the Brundtland Report – in which they set out to define ‘sustainable
development’ in an attempt to make capitalism and environmental sustainability
compatible with one another.
Timeline of major global environmental events and agreements
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Date Events and agreements
1968 UNESCO Biosphere Conference
1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment
Limits to Growth report published by Club of Rome
1980 IUCN launches World Conservation Strategy
1987 Our Common Future report (aka Brundtland Report) published by World Commission on
Environment and Development
1992 Rio Summit on Environment and Development
UN Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) created
1997 Kyoto Protocols established
2000 UN launches Millennium Development Goals
2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development
2009 Copenhagen UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP)
2011 Canada withdraws from the Kyoto Protocols
2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals established
Source: adapted and updated from Millington and Pickerill (2005: 156)
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Solving environmental problems with capitalism Now, it is important to note that the
Anthropocene is not simply about the general impact of humans on nature (and vice
versa), especially where this assumes these impacts result from overpopulation. It is
about the specific impact of capitalism on nature and what this means for the
environment (Smith 1984 [2008]). A good way to illustrate this impact is through the
concept of ‘the commons’ (Ostrom 1990) – see Chapters 1, 16 and 18 for more
discussion of the commons. We can define nature and the environment as part of the
commons; this means it is something held in common by all peoples, since no-one
created it, and it has certain characteristics that ‘make it difficult to fully enclose and
partition, making it possible for non-owners to enjoy resource benefits and owners to
sustain costs from the actions of others’ (Robbins et al. 2010: 52). Capitalism entails
certain logics, processes and practices that erode the commons, meaning that our
common environmental heritage faces particular pressures to adjust to capitalist
imperatives. For example, since anyone can use the commons (e.g. graze common
land) without cost, this means that some people can exploit the commons (e.g. overgraze common land) without anyone else being able to stop them. This leads to
something Garrett Hardin (1968) called ‘the tragedy of the commons’. Hardin argued
that it is in the interest of each person to use as much of the common resource as
they can for their own benefit, leading ultimately to the destruction of that common
resource as everyone over-uses the resource.
These ideas, that there are limits to growth and numerous tragedies of the
commons, have provided theoretical and normative support for the claim that
capitalist markets and business are best able to provide solutions to various
environmental problems (Bellamy Foster 2002). In particular, neoclassical
economists argue that the market can and should be used to resolve environmental
problems because it is the most efficient way to price and value the cost of
environmental deterioration, degradation and destruction (Robbins et al. 2010). This
has been described as ‘market environmentalism’ by a number of scholars (see
Bailey 2007). The starting point for solving environmental problems with markets
and business is understanding why there are environmental problems in the first
place. For neoclassical economists and their ilk this requires an understanding of
externalities as examples of market failure. Closely related to the tragedy of the
commons, an externality is the effect of economic activity on everyone not directly
involved in that activity – an example is the pollution or waste from factories.
Neoclassical economists argue that environmental problems are simply externalities
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that can and should be incorporated into capitalist relations through a range of
market and business solutions we outline below.
This form of environmentalism involves promoting three main market and
business solutions to environmental problems, all of which are based on neoclassical
economic assumptions (Coe et al. 2007; Leonard 2010; Robbins et al. 2010). These
include privatization, commodification and marketization. We critique these three
solutions in the next section, but for now we simply define them as the following:
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• Privatization: this process involves turning the environment and natural resources into
private property through changes to the law and regulations. The rationale behind this
process is the assumption that only private owners (e.g. business) have an incentive to
protect their property because it is valuable to them.
• Commodification: this process involves creating commodities out of the environment for
sale or new technologies to improve resource efficiencies. The rationale here is the
assumption that profit motivates everyone and that the market will efficiently determine
how much everyone values the environment through their purchasing choices, and this
will drive innovations to solve environmental problems.
• Marketization: this process involves the creation of new markets to achieve environmental
goals (e.g. reducing greenhouse gas emissions). It is based on the assumption that markets
are the most efficient mechanism to achieve these goals because markets promote new
ideas and products through competitive pressures.
What these three processes illustrate is the emphasis on the market and business
as the determinants of the value – or, more precisely, price – of natural resources and
the environment, which ignores the environmental costs of many human activities –
e.g. pollution, biodiversity loss, deforestation etc. (Coe et al. 2007). For example,
while humans can extract oil from different places around the world, its extraction in
some of those places, like Alberta, Canada (see Case Study), entails significant
environmental consequences, now and in the future, that we cannot accurately
calculate. This explains why its use, wherever it is extracted, has had and continues to
have a significant impact on the world’s atmosphere which we have not been able to
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resolve (see Example below).
Environmental justice and political ecology Like most scholarly debates, we can
approach global environmental change from several different and distinct
theoretical standpoints. For example, it is possible to conceptualize something like
sustainable development on a continuum from weak sustainability to strong
sustainability (Hopwood et al. 2005), where the former reflects a more business- and
technology-centred view of the world and the latter a more egalitarian- and
ecological-centred one. Where people sit on the continuum reflects not only their
attitude to nature and the use of natural resources, it also reflects their attitude to
issues of social justice, equality, redistribution and forms of social action (see Table
9.2). For example, who benefits from the extraction of natural resources and suffers
from the resulting waste from production processes are ecological and socioeconomic issues, not one or the other. They reflect an important distinction between
environmental problems that involve the over-use of natural resources and those that
involve the over-burdening of ecological systems, or sinks, with waste outputs (Dicken
2011). Over-use by one group of people deprives others of access to that resource,
while over-burdening the environment with pollution and waste always entails
decisions about where those negative outputs go and which groups will be most
impacted. Understanding these human-environment interactions is critical for
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understanding environmental justice and injustice.
Two views of sustainability
Characteristics Weak sustainability
Social justice
Social action
Strong sustainability
Can solve environmental
Causes environmental and socio-economic
problems through markets
inequality and injustice
Provides solutions to problems
Cause of problems as much as solution
Nature as resources for human useInherent value in nature and ecological
Largely irrelevant
Entwined with environmental problems
Market-based, individual
Collective, democratic decision-making
consumer choice
Green capitalism (e.g. ‘green’
Deep ecology
Source: adapted from Hopwood et al. (2005)
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Our aim here is to outline and illustrate one alternative approach that is critical of
neoclassical economics and the solutions business and economists propose to solve
environmental problems – as outlined in the above section. The approach we discuss
is called political ecology and it seeks to combine insights from political economy –
see the Introduction – with ‘an understanding that nature and society are produced
together in a political economy that includes humans and non-humans’ (Robbins et
al. 2010: 6). What this means is that to understand the environment involves
understanding (1) human socio-economic relations, systems, processes, practices,
knowledge claims and so forth – especially those related to business – and (2)
ecological processes, systems, forces etc. The main strength of the political ecology
approach is that it enables us to analyse the relationship between global
environmental change and socio-economic change, especially where this raises
normative questions about who is and who should be most affected by environmental
problems and who is and who should contribute most to their resolution. Political
ecology, therefore, provides a powerful tool to critique the claims of neoclassical
economists when it comes to finding solutions to environmental problems, as we
demonstrate below.
Rethinking environmental problems At the end of the previous section we identified
three ways that the markets and business seek to resolve environmental problems.
From a political ecology perspective, these solutions are deeply problematic for the
following reasons:
• Privatization: this implies that there can and should be no commons, and that
environmental protection depends upon turning all of nature into private property.
• Commodification: this depends on finding techno-fixes to turn nature into commodities
(e.g. how do we commodify a beautiful landscape?) or to improve resource efficiencies. The
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latter is subject to something called Jevons’ Paradox.
• Marketization: the creation of markets leads to the fragmentation of responses to
environmental problems since it is left to individual businesses and consumers to drive
First, transforming the environmental commons into private property involves
changing laws and regulations in a country or globally; we want to emphasize that it
is not an automatic or spontaneous process that magically happens when capitalist
markets are unleashed. Since the environment is not created by humans it can be
considered as another example of Karl Polanyi’s fictitious commodity – see the
Introduction. This is an important point because it means that any transfer of the
environmental commons to a private individual or business is, effectively, a ‘gift’ of
the state to that person or business (Bellamy Foster 2002). Two things are important
to note here. First, privatization is legitimated by a range of theories and claims,
including Garrett Hardin’s notion of the tragedy of the commons. Second, nature has
to be turned into a resource since resources are social categories, not natural ones; as
Bridge (2009) puts it, resources are ‘a primary social category through which we
organize our relationships with the non-human world’. From a political ecology
perspective this means that we have to examine how the state turns nature into a
resource and property, how it assigns or sells that resource, and how different
resources entail different processes of privatization because of their different
biophysical characteristics (see Table 9.3). Taken to the extreme, privatization
implies the total conversion of nature into private property, which raises serious
concerns about the potential for it to inflate conflicts over resource use between
countries – e.g. Global North versus Global South – and between social actors – e.g.
multinational corporations versus local social movements.
Classifying resources
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Source: adapted from Bradshaw (2008)
Second, mainstream approaches to environmental problems have gradually
incorporated a wider range of factors in their models since the 1970s, moving away
from a simple focus on population growth and resource use. For example, in the
1970s the ecologist Paul R. Ehrlich and others came up with something called the
IPAT formula (Jackson 2009). This formula seeks to explain environmental problems
as the outcome of three interacting elements:
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I (environmental impacts) = P (population) × A (affluence, or consumption) × T
The IPAT formula avoids the assumption that population drives environmental
problems, and highlights the role of consumption and technology – or what we
define as the commodification of nature. It is important to incorporate these two
factors because different countries consume different amounts of resources and
create different types of new technology. However, from a political ecology
perspective consumption and technology can simply reinforce environmental
problems and environmental injustice. On the one hand, the commodification of
nature produces new types of goods and services; for example, it might be possible to
turn certain environmental elements (e.g. landscapes) into commodities for sale.
However, this then limits access to the environment since consumption depends on
a consumer’s ability to pay. On the other hand, commodification might produce new
technologies that improve resource efficiencies, a techno-fix; for example, new types
of car that use less fuel. However, these efficiencies often entail Jevons’ Paradox,
which results from improvements in relative resource usage leading to increases in
absolute resource usage so that more resources end up being used overall (Robbins
et al. 2010). What these two issues illustrate is that commodification does not resolve
environmental problems, it merely shifts them around or reinforces the original
problem; for example, commodifying nature may mean certain groups end up losing
their access to nature and natural resources (Castree 2003), while new technologies
may end up increasing the overall use of natural resources (Leonard 2010).
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Finally, the mainstream emphasis on market and business solutions to
environmental problems – or ‘market environmentalism’ (Bailey 2007) – results in a
number of problematic consequences. After the global financial crisis starting in
2007/08, policy-makers around the world proposed a Green New Deal to get us out of
recession and address global environmental problems at the same time; an example
of this policy proposal was the UNEP’s Green New Deal (Jackson 2009). The
underlying aim was to transition to a more sustainable version of capitalism, based
on the assumption that replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy would solve
environmental problems like climate change. While there is some potential in this
proposal, it was never implemented. Why it was not pursued illustrates the problems
with market environmentalism more generally. It is based on the assumption that
the market will automatically and spontaneously promote new products and services
if the cost of environmental problems is incorporated into existing prices of products
and services. There are several criticisms we can make of this approach if we take a
political ecology perspective (Bellamy Foster 2002). First, market environmentalism
is based on a tension between individual, atomistic decision-making on the one hand
(e.g. consumer choice), and collective, coordinated action on the other (e.g. enforcing
environmental costs). Second, there is a lack of political agency as any collective
action tends to be arrogated to international institutions (e.g. UN, WTO etc.) making
‘technical’ decisions about whether something meets certain criteria, rather than
democratic deliberation amongst national electorates. Finally, the response to
environmental problems is left in the hands of individual consumers and businesses
as they make decisions about what to spend their money on. This reinforces existing
inequalities in access to and use of resources and environmental benefits, since
wealthier consumers can demand and receive better environmental conditions than
poorer consumers. What these criticisms should show is that environmental
problems are deeply bound up with human socio-economic institutions, practices
and knowledge claims – we cannot separate one from another. Trying to reduce all
actions to economic calculations misses the complexity of nature–society
We now turn to one example of a major environmental problem in order to
illustrate the complexity in nature–society relations we stressed in the previous
section. We focus on anthropogenic climate change because it is probably the biggest
environmental problem facing the world today and will have significant implications
for our futures. We can only provide a brief outline of climate change, and its causes
and effects, here; we suggest reading Robbins et al. (2010: Ch. 9) for a more detailed
discussion. Put simply, anthropogenic climate change is caused by the release of
greenhouse gases (GHGs), especially carbon dioxide (CO2), into the atmosphere as
the result of burning fossil fuels (e.g. oil, natural gas, coal). The release of CO2 into
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the atmosphere is not a problem per se, since this constitutes part of the carbon
cycle; what is a problem is the rising CO2 content of the atmosphere that has built up
as humans have burned more and more carbon – it is now at over 400 parts per
million (ppm). This means that it is important to understand both GHG emissions
and the GHG content in the atmosphere when discussing climate change. This is
because the GHG build-up in the atmosphere contributes to the greenhouse effect
which regulates global temperatures.
The build up of CO2 and other GHGs from human activity has led to an increase in
global temperatures of around 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1880 (see Figure 9.1), and
will lead to global temperatures rising between one and four degrees by 2100
(Robbins et al. 2010). While this does not sound dramatic, the rise obscures the fact
that some parts of the world will experience far more significant shifts in
temperature than others, resulting in major changes in the environment. For
example, predicted effects include drought, floods, declining sea ice and glaciers, sea
level rises, amongst others. This is why at the 2015 Paris UN Climate Change
Conference countries around the world agreed to limit global temperature rises to
below 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, to limit temperature rises to below 1.5 degrees
means that the world can only release a certain amount of CO2 into the atmosphere
before 2050, which we currently are not on target to meet. What is more, there are
major economic constraints on achieving this goal because to limit our CO2
emissions means ‘burning less than half of the oil, coal and gas in currently
commercial reserves’ (Berners-Lee and Clark 2013). Contrary to what many fear about
resource scarcities, especially when it comes to peak oil (Bridge 2013), our real
problem is too many fossil fuel resources and too much economic and financial
reliance on those resources. For example, if the world agrees to limit the burning of
those fossil resources, then that would wipe out the wealth of fossil fuel businesses,
governments reliant on fossil fuel incomes and individuals whose pensions and
savings are invested in those fossil fuel companies. According to McKibben (2012) it
would mean wiping out US$20 trillion of wealth, which ‘makes the housing bubble
look small by comparison’.
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It might seem sensible, in light of the potential catastrophe looming large in our
near future, that governments, businesses and people around the world agree on
ways to mitigate (i.e. stop) and adapt to climate change. This has not happened, nor is
it likely to happen in the near future. Why this has not happened is an interesting, if
depressing, example of how partisan government, business and personal interests
and ideologies can scupper collective attempts to find solutions for global problems.
There is a growing literature on how conservative think tanks, politicians and
business people, as well as certain businesses, have financed a campaign of climate
change denial (e.g. McCright and Dunlap 2010; Oreskes and Conway 2010). This
campaign against climate change has been very successful at convincing people that
climate change is not happening, is not a big deal or is simply an environmentalist
conspiracy to bring down capitalism (Klein 2014). It is, therefore, not surprising that
governments around the world have found it difficult to agree on a plan of action,
especially as the main polluter – the USA – is witness to the most vociferous climate
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denial. Instead, we are left with more versions of market environmentalism, such as
carbon trading (Robbins et al. 2010). However, there are numerous problems with
carbon trading which Lohmann (2010) outlines in his work. In particular, Lohmann
argues that it is, once again, another example of governments simply giving away
resources to businesses, and then letting the market decide the value of carbon
emissions – it does not, therefore, necessarily lead to a significant (if any) reduction
in the emission of GHGs. Moreover, Lohmann highlights the global disparities and
inequalities that result from carbon trading, especially in terms of the Global North
simply buying more carbon credits, thereby stunting socio-economic development in
the Global South.
In this chapter we sought to raise several issues to do with global environmental
change. First, we discussed the environment and how environmental problems are
framed in neoclassical economics and then resolved in capitalism. We presented
three key processes used to solve environmental problems: privatization,
commodification and marketization. Second, we sought to question this mainstream
perspective by introducing the concept of environmental justice and political ecology
as an approach to understanding the interaction between humans and the
environment. We then criticized the three mainstream solutions to environmental
problems by highlighting several tensions, inconsistencies or problematic normative
assumptions. Finally, we finished the chapter by examining climate change as a
specific environmental problem which persists despite the need for an urgent
response and despite several years of awareness of it as a problem and numerous
global conferences, treaties and so on. We suggested that climate change is unlikely
to be resolved precisely because it is being addressed through market-based
measures like carbon trading.
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• Ch. 2, Bellamy Foster, J. (2002) Ecology Against Capitalism, New York, Monthly Review Press.
• Ch. 5, Jackson, T. (2009) Prosperity without Growth, London, Earthscan.
• McKibben, B. (2012) ‘Global warming’s terrifying new math’, Rolling Stone, 19 July.
(accessed September 2016).
• Millington, A. and Pickerell, J. (2005) ‘Environment and environmentalism’, in P. Daniels,
M. Bradshaw, D. Shaw and J. Sidaway (eds), An Introduction to Human Geography (2nd
Edition), Harlow, Pearson, pp.145–167.
• Ch. 4, Robbins, P., Hintz, J. and Moore, S. (2010) Environment and Society, Oxford, WileyBlackwell.
Bailey, I. (2007) ‘Market environmentalism, new environmental policy instruments, and climate policy in the
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Created from york on 2022-01-05 18:03:07.
Instructor: Patrick Clark
SOSC 1340
March 30th, 2022

In 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes argued that people would overcome the “economic
problem” (meeting their basic subsistence needs) due to advances in technology.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated processes of automation and renewed discussions of postwork, paralleling the issues discussed by Keynes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been “…a health crisis combined with an economic recession, triggering
both supply disruption and demand contraction.” (Tejani and Fukuda-Parr, 2021, p. 650). However, the
pandemic has had differential impacts on work and social life, including gendered impacts….across the
sites of both production and social reproduction, and identifies gendered institutions where social
norms and weak bargaining power lead to unequal outcomes for women.” (Tejani and Fukuda-Parr,
2021, p. 653)

The approach of the broad area of research and theory that falls under feminist economics is a central
entry point and methodological approach to the study of business and society and rethinking work and
social reproduction and the relationship between these two.

Feminist economics has presented a major challenge to the core of the marginalist/ rational choice/
methodological individualism of orthodox conventional visions of economics and is an important
starting point when thinking through the questions posed by Keynes in 1930 and the future of work
going forward.
The Origins of Capitalism for Keynes
■ “The modern age opened, I think, with the accumulation of capital which began in the sixteenth
century. I believe—for reasons with which I must not encumber the present argument—that this
was initially due to the rise of prices, and the profits to which that led, which resulted from the
treasure of gold and silver which Spain brought from the New World into the Old. From that time
until to-day the power of accumulation by compound interest, which seems to have been
sleeping for many generations, was reborn and renewed its strength. And the power of
compound interest over two hundred years is such as to stagger the imagination…From the
sixteenth century, with a cumulative crescendo after the eighteenth, the great age of science and
technical inventions began, which since the beginning of the nineteenth century has been in full
flood—coal, steam, electricity, petrol, steel, rubber, cotton, the chemical industries, automatic
machinery and the methods of mass production, wireless, printing, Newton, Darwin, and
Einstein…” (Keynes, 2010, p. 19-20)
■ “In spite of an enormous growth in the population of the world, which it has been necessary to
equip with houses and machines, the average standard of life in Europe and the United States has
been raised, I think, about fourfold. The growth of capital has been on a scale which is far beyond a
hundred-fold of what any previous age had known. And from now on we need not expect so great
an increase of population.” (Keynes, 2010, p. 20)
■ “If capital increases, say, 2 per cent per annum, the capital equipment of the world will have
increased by a half in twenty years, and seven and a half times in a hundred years. Think of this in
terms of material things—houses, transport, and the like.” (Keynes, 1930, p. 20)
Solving the “Economic Problem”?
■ “….if instead of looking into the future, we look into the past—we find that the economic
problem, the struggle for subsistence, always has been hitherto the primary, most
pressing problem of the human race only of the human race, but of the whole of the
biological kingdom from the beginnings of life in its most primitive forms.” (Keynes, 2010,
p. 21-22)
■ “…we have been expressly evolved by nature—with all our impulses and deepest
instincts—for the purpose of solving the economic problem. If the economic problem is
solved, mankind will be deprived of its traditional purpose.” (Keynes, 2010, p. 22)
■ “I draw the conclusion that, assuming no important wars and no important increase in
population, the economic problem may be solved, or be at least within sight of solution,
within a hundred years. This means that the economic problem is not—if we look into the
future—the permanent problem of the human race.” (Keynes, 2010, p. 21)
■ “The pace at which we can reach our destination of economic bliss will be governed by
four things—our power to control population, our determination to avoid wars and civil
dissensions, our willingness to entrust to science the direction of those matters which are
properly the concern of science, and the rate of accumulation as fixed by the margin
between our production and our consumption; of which the last will easily look after itself,
given the first three.” (Keynes, 2010, p. 25-26)
John Maynard Keynes
■ “The big debate about the future of
work, explained”, Vox, 2017,
“Technological Unemployment”
■ “…technical improvements in manufacture and transport have been proceeding at a greater
rate in the last ten years than ever before in history. In the United States factory output per
head was 40 per cent greater in 1925 than in 1919. In Europe we are held back by temporary
obstacles, but even so it is safe to say that technical efficiency is increasing by more than 1 per
cent per annum compound. There is evidence that the revolutionary technical changes, which
have so far chiefly affected industry, may soon be attacking agriculture. We may be on the eve
of improvements in the efficiency of food production as great as those which have already
taken place in mining, manufacture, and transport. In quite a few years—in our own lifetimes I
mean—we may be able to perform all the operations of agriculture, mining, and manufacture
with a quarter of the human effort to which we have been accustomed.” (Kenyes, 2010, p. 20)
■ “For the moment the very rapidity of these changes is hurting us and bringing difficult
problems to solve. Those countries are suffering relatively which are not in the vanguard of
progress. We are being afflicted with a new disease of which some readers may not yet have
heard the name, but of which they will hear a great deal in the years to come— namely,
technological unemployment. This means unemployment due to our discovery of means of
economising the use of labour outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for
labour.” (Keynes, 2010, p. 20-21)
Post-Work? Post Homo Economicus?
■ “…purposiveness means that we are more concerned with the remote future results of our actions
than with their own quality or their immediate effects on our own environment. The ‘purposive’
man is always trying to secure a spurious and delusive immortality for his acts by pushing his interest
in them forward into time. He does not love his cat, but his cat’s kittens; nor, in truth, the kittens, but
only the kittens’ kittens, and so on forward forever to the end of cat-dom. For him jam is not jam
unless it is a case of jam to-morrow and never jam to-day.” (Keynes, 2010, p. 24)
■ “…for the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem—how
to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and
compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.” (Keynes, 2010, p.
■ “I see us free, therefore, to return to some of the most sure and certain principles of religion and
traditional virtue—that avarice is a vice, that the exaction of usury is a misdemeanour, and the love
of money is detestable, that those walk most truly in the paths of virtue and sane wisdom who take
least thought for the morrow. We shall once more value ends above means and prefer the good to
the useful. We shall honour those who can teach us how to pluck the hour and the day virtuously
and well, the delightful people who are capable of taking direct enjoyment in things, the lilies of
the field who toil not, neither do they spin.” (Keynes, 2010, p. 25)
Source: Max-Neef, 1995, p. 116
■ “…having detected among people in
rich countries a growing feeling that
they were part of an overall
deteriorating system that affected
them both at the personal and
collective levels, we were led to
propose a “Threshold Hypothesis”
stating that: for every society there
seems to be a period in which
economic growth (as conventionally
measured) brings about an
improvement in the quality of life,
but only up to a point–the threshold
point–beyond which, if there is
more economic growth, quality of
life may begin to deteriorate.” (MaxNeef, 1995, p. 117)
The “Gendered” Nature of Work
■ The gendered nature of work and social life- “The gendered architecture spanning the
household, educational institutions, firms and markets means that the multiple
disadvantages that women face before they enter the labour market are often amplified
within it. Thus we find that the pandemic’s effects both illustrate and deepen the
vulnerabilities of women that arise from their position at the lowest wage end of the GVCs,
and the social norms that define gender roles in the household and in the labour market.”
(Tejani and Fukuda-Parr, 2021, p. 663)
■ “…working from home will involve greater micro-surveillance through technological tools to
ensure that levels of productivity do not decline (Thompson 2020; Bhattacharya 2020). This
can result in work intensification and self-exploitation, especially as the boundaries
between home and the workplace become increasingly fuzzy. For women who must spend
even more hours on unpaid work during the pandemic, the demands are particularly
onerous and lead to longer days. Although working from home may enable women to
combine paid and unpaid work more flexibly, reports indicate that many are simply not
able to stay in the labour force because of their increased workload during the pandemic
(Bhattacharya 2020). As working from home becomes the new normal, greater confinement
and seclusion for women who may already face restrictions on mobility are a concern.”
(Tejani and Fukuda-Parr, 2021, p. 659)
From “Economics” to
Feminist Economics
■ The orthodox or consensus perspective in the contemporary discipline of economics is
based on what is called “methodological individualism” or “rational choice”.
■ Rational choice- Not concerned with where people’s preferences come from but,
following from marginalism, the decision-making process by which they come to one
given decision over another one.
■ Methodologically, contemporary economics is concerned with how resources can be
used most efficiently and employs mathematical modelling to predict how individuals’
independent decisions play out within markets.
■ By contrast, feminist economics has a different starting point which is rooted in
understanding the multi-dimensional nature of the economy.
Social Reproduction
■ The orthodox or consensus perspective in the contemporary discipline of economics is based
on what is called “methodological individualism” or “rational choice”.
■ Rational choice- Not concerned with where people’s preferences come from but, following
from marginalism, the decision-making process by which they come to one given decision
over another one.
■ Methodologically, contemporary economics is concerned with how resources can be used
most efficiently and employs mathematical modelling to predict how individuals’
independent decisions play out within markets.
■ The work of Marilyn Waring and other feminist economists questions conventional or
orthodox economic thinking has led to a questioning of the way we think about work,
progress and how to measure economic value, “Marilyn Waring on Women and Economics
Show Two”,
Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
and the UNSA
■ “United Nations System of National Accounts (UNSNA) was instigated in 1953, with the aim
of enabling comparisons to be made between national economies and serving as a guide to
countries developing their own accounting systems. In the UNSNA, national economies are
defined in terms of market transactions; consumption, investment, and saving measures are
given in addition to income and production totals. A vast amount of work performed by
women is or household consumption or unpaid work in the informal economy is not
counted by these measures.” (Waring, 2003, p. 36)
■ “Out of a breathtaking conceptual ignorance, and undoubted Western bias, the UNSNA fails
to grasp there is no demarcation for women in the subsistence household between
production inside or outside the consumption boundaries. Just picture the following. A
woman wakes; she breastfeeds her four-month-old child (unproductive inactive primary
production, consumed by a member of the household). There is no accurate way of
ascribing value to this activity, even in the proposed ‘satellite accounts’. (The satellite
accounts are the ‘add on’ compromise that will include unpaid work. They have to be
separate so as not to disturb what the experts call the ‘internal integrity and international
comparability of the current accounting framework’.) There is no market price for breast
milk, so the satellite accounts will price that food at its nearest replacement equivalent.”
(Waring, 2003, p. 36)
Rethinking Economic Accounting
■ “United Nations System of National Accounts (UNSNA) was instigated
in 1953, with the aim of enabling comparisons to be made between
national economies and serving as a guide to countries developing
their own accounting systems. In the UNSNA, national economies are
defined in terms of market transactions; consumption, investment,
and saving measures are given in addition to income and production
totals. A vast amount of work performed by women is or household
consumption or unpaid work in the informal economy is not counted
by these measures.” (Waring, 2003, p. 36)
■ “Out of a breathtaking conceptual ignorance, and undoubted Western
bias, the UNSNA fails to grasp there is no demarcation for women in
the subsistence household between production inside or outside the
consumption boundaries.” (Waring, 2003, p. 36)
The “Productive” vs. “Unproductive”
Activities Boundary
■ “Just picture the following. A woman wakes; she breastfeeds her fourmonth-old child (unproductive inactive primary production, consumed
by a member of the household). There is no accurate way of ascribing
value to this activity, even in the proposed ‘satellite accounts’. (The
satellite accounts are the ‘add on’ compromise that will include unpaid
work. They have to be separate so as not to disturb what the experts call
the ‘internal integrity and international comparability of the current
accounting framework’.) There is no market price for breast milk, so the
satellite accounts will price that food at its nearest replacement
equivalent.” (Waring, 2003, p. 36)
Rethinking Economic Accounting
■ Genuine Progress Indicators (GPI)- “Time-use has figured prominently in
the work to establish Genuine Progress Indicators (GPI) in Nova Scotia.”
(Waring, 2003, p. 39)…The GPI indices distinguish direct contributions to
economic welfare from defensive and intermediate expenditures, and
from activities that produce an actual decline in well-being. Natural
resource accounts include fisheries, soil and agriculture, forestry, wildlife,
and greenhouse gas emissions. There are data on the costs of crime,
income distribution, and transportation cost analysis. Monetary values
are estimated where possible, but in the GPI it is not necessary that all
components should have a financial value attributed to them. (Waring,
2003, p. 39)
■ “Mark Anielski: Genuine Progress Indicator for Edmonton”, Pembina
Institute, 2010,
“The love of money as a possession—as distinguished from
the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and
realities of life—will be recognised for what it is, a
somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal,
semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a
shudder to the specialists in mental disease. All kinds of
social customs and economic practices, affecting the
distribution of wealth and of economic rewards and
penalties, which we now maintain at all costs, however
distasteful and unjust they may be in themselves, because
they are tremendously useful in promoting the
accumulation of capital, we shall then be free, at last, to
discard.” (Keynes, 2010, p. 23-24)
Discussion Questions
■ Why did Keynes make the case that in the 2030s people will no longer work a
full work week? What did he argue the implications of this would be?
■ What does the “technological unemployment” described by Keynes consist of
and what did he argue the implications would be?
■ How has the global COVID-19 pandemic exposed the ways in which
“productive” work and “reproductive” work, or “social reproduction”, are
interdependent in new ways?
■ In what ways is work “gendered” and what implications does this have for
business and society?
■ Do you think that the importance or significance of “productive work” and
“social reproduction” varies across different societies/ countries or between
social classes or groups within countries?
Maynard Keynes, J. (2010) [1930] Chapter 1 “Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren” in Pecchi, L. & Piga, G.
(Eds.). (2010). Revisiting Keynes: Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren (17-26). MIT Press.
Max-Neef, M. 1995. Economic growth and quality of life: a threshold hypothesis. Ecological Economics 15(2): 115118
Tejani, S. and S. Fukuda-Parr. (2021). Gender and COVID-19: Workers in global value chains. International Labour
Review 160(4): 649-664
Waring, M. (2003). Counting for Something! Recognising Women’s Contribution to the Global Economy through
Alternative Accounting Systems. Gender and Development 11(1), 35-43.
Waring, M. 2012. Feminists transforming economic power. Development 55(3): 269-272
Images from Wikimedia Commons,
Cities and the Creative Class
Richard Florida∗
Carnegie Mellon University
Cities and regions have long captured the imagination of sociologists, economists,
and urbanists. From Alfred Marshall to Robert Park and Jane Jacobs, cities have
been seen as cauldrons of diversity and difference and as fonts for creativity and
innovation. Yet until recently, social scientists concerned with regional growth and
development have focused mainly on the role of firms in cities, and particularly on
how these firms make location decisions and to what extent they concentrate together
in agglomerations or clusters. This short article summarizes recent advances in our
thinking about cities and communities, and does so particularly in light of themes
advanced in my recently published book, The Rise of the Creative Class, which focuses
on diversity and creativity as basic drivers of innovation and regional and national
growth. This line of work further suggests the need for some conceptual refocusing
and broadening to account for the location decisions of people as opposed to those of
firms as sources of regional and national economic growth. In doing so, this article
hopes to spur wider commentary and debate on the critical functions of cities and
regions in 21st-century creative capitalism.
“Great cities have always been melting pots of races and cultures. Out of the vivid
and subtle interactions of which they have been the centers, there have come the
newer breeds and the newer social types.”
Park, Burgess, and McKenzie (1925)
From the seminal work of Alfred Marshall to the 1920 studies by Robert Park to the
pioneering writings of Jane Jacobs, cities have captured the imagination of sociologists,
economists, and urbanists. For Park and especially for Jacobs, cities were cauldrons of diversity and difference, creativity and innovation. Yet over the last several decades, scholars have somehow forgotten this basic, underlying theme of urbanism. For the past two
decades, I have conducted research on the social and economic functions of cities and regions. Generally speaking, the conventional wisdom in my field of regional development
has been that companies, firms, and industries drive regional innovation and growth, and
thus an almost exclusive focus in the literature on the location and, more recently, the
clustering of firms and industries. From a policy perspective, this basic conceptual approach has undergirded policies that seek to spur growth by offering firms financial
incentives and the like. More recently, scholars such as Robert Putnam have focused
on the social functions of neighborhoods, communities, and cities, while others, such as
the urban sociologist Terry Clark and the economist Edward Glasear, have turned their
∗ Correspondence
should be addressed to Richard Florida, H. John Heinz School of Public Policy and Management, Carnegie Mellon University, 4800 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213;
City & Community 2:1 March 2003
C American Sociological Association, 1307 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005-4701

attention toward human capital, consumption, and cities as lifestyle and entertainment
This short article summarizes recent advances in our thinking about cities and communities, and does so particularly in light of themes advanced in my recently published book
The Rise of the Creative Class (Florida, 2002). In doing so, I hope to spur wider commentary
and debate on the critical functions of cities and regions in 21st-century creative capitalism.
Perhaps the greatest of all the modern myths about cities is “geography is dead.” With the
Internet and modern telecommunication and transportation systems, the thinking goes, it
is no longer necessary for people who work together to be together, so they won’t be. But this
end of geography theme has been with us since the turn of the 19th century, when experts
predicted that technologies from telegraph and the telephone to the automobile and the
airplane would essentially kill off cities. In his widely read 1998 book, New Rules for the
New Economy, Kelly wrote, “The New Economy operates in a ‘space’ rather than a place,
and over time more and more economic transactions will migrate to this new space” (1998,
pp. 94–95). Kelly then qualifies this to some degree, writing that: “Geography and real
estate, however, will remain, well . . . real. Cities will flourish, and the value of a distinctive
place, such as a wilderness area, or a charming hill village, will only increase.” Still, he
reiterates that “People will inhabit places, but increasingly the economy inhabits a space.”
Never has a myth been easier to deflate. Not only do people remain highly concentrated,
the economy itself—the high-tech, knowledge-based, and creative-content industries that
drive so much of economic growth—continues to concentrate in specific places from Austin
and Silicon Valley to New York City and Hollywood, just as the automobile industry once
concentrated in Detroit. Students of urban and regional growth, from Robert Park (1925)
and Jane Jacobs (1961, 1969, 1984) to Wilbur Thompson (1965), have long pointed to the
role of places as incubators of creativity, innovation, and new industries (see also Ullman,
1958). In addition, the death-of-place prognostications contradict the qualitative research
I have conducted analyzing the role of place in an individual’s location decisions. From the
countless interviews, the focus groups I’ve observed, and the statistical research I’ve done,
it is apparent that place and community are more critical factors than ever before. And
it appears that place, rather than being an abstract “space” as Kelly suggests, is essential
to economic life. The economy itself increasingly takes form around real concentrations of
people in real places.
Many researchers, sociologists, and academics have theorized on the continued importance
of place in economic and social life. An increasingly influential view suggests that place
remains important as a locus of economic activity because of the tendency of firms to cluster together. This view builds on the influential theories of the economist Alfred Marshall,
who argued that firms cluster in “agglomerations” to gain productive efficiencies. The contemporary variant of this view, advanced by Harvard Business School professor Michael
Porter, has many proponents in academia and in the practice of economic development
(Porter, 1998, 2000a, 200b). It is clear that similar firms tend to cluster. Examples of this
sort of agglomeration include not only Detroit and Silicon Valley, but the maquiladora
electronics and auto-parts districts in Mexico, the clustering of disk-drive makers in
Singapore and of flat-panel-display producers in Japan, and the garment district and
Broadway theatre district in New York City.
The question is not whether firms cluster but why. Several answers have been offered.
Some experts believe that clustering captures efficiencies generated from tight linkages
between firms. Others say it has to do with the positive benefits of co-location, or what they
call “spillovers.” Still others claim it is because certain kinds of activity require face-to-face
contact (Feldman, 2000; Jaffe, 1989; Audretsch and Feldman, 1996; Audretsch, 1989). But
these are only partial answers. More importantly, companies cluster in order to draw from
concentrations of talented people who power innovation and economic growth. The ability
to rapidly mobilize talent from such a concentration of people is a tremendous source of
competitive advantage for companies in our time-driven economy of the creative age.
An alternative view is based on Robert Putnam’s social capital theory. From his perspective, regional economic growth is associated with tight-knit communities where people and
firms form and share strong ties (Putnam, 2000). In his widely read book Bowling Alone,
he makes a compelling argument that many aspects of community life declined precipitously over the last half of the 20th century (Putnam, 2000; see also Putnam, 1993, 1996).
Putnam gets his title from his finding that from 1980–1993, league bowling declined by
40 percent, whereas the number of individual bowlers rose by 10 percent. This, he argues,
is just one indicator of a broader and more disturbing trend. Across the nation, people are
less inclined to be part of civic groups: voter turnout is down, so is church attendance and
union membership, and people are less and less inclined to volunteer. All of this stems from
what Putnam sees as a long-term decline in social capital.
By this, he means that people have become increasingly disconnected from one another
and from their communities. Putman finds this disengagement in the declining participation in churches, political parties, and recreational leagues, not to mention the loosening
of familial bonds. Through painstakingly detailed empirical research, he documents the
decline in social capital in civic and social life. For Putman, declining social capital means
that society becomes less trustful and less civic-minded. Putnam believes a healthy, civicminded community is essential to prosperity.
Although initially Putnam’s theory resonated with me, my own research indicates a
different trend. The people in my focus groups and interviews rarely wished for the kinds
of community connectedness Putnam talks about. If anything, it appeared they were
trying to get away from those kinds of environments. To a certain extent, participants
acknowledged the importance of community, but they did not want it to be invasive or
to prevent them from pursuing their own lives. Rather, they desired what I have come
term “quasi-anonymity.” In the terms of modern sociology, these people prefer weak ties
to strong.
This leads me to an even more basic observation. The kinds of communities that we
both desire and that generate economic prosperity are very different than those of the
past. Social structures that were important in earlier years now work against prosperity.
Traditional notions of what it means to be a close, cohesive community and society tend
to inhibit economic growth and innovation. Where strong ties among people were once
important, weak ties are now more effective. Those social structures that historically
embraced closeness may now appear restricting and invasive. These older communities
are being exchanged for more inclusive and socially diverse arrangements. These trends
are also what the statistics seem to bear out.
All of this raises deep questions that run to the very core of community and society. The
life we think of as a key to America’s golden age—strong ties between families and friends,
close neighborhoods, and those attributes that come along with such communities, such as
civic clubs and vibrant electoral politics, to name a few—is giving way to weaker tied yet
more diverse communities. These newer communities are also more effective at generating
economic growth and attracting high technology to a region. In the main, the ways that
communities create economic growth has been transformed.
Historically, strong-tied communities were thought to be beneficial. However, there are
some theorists that argue the disadvantages of such tight bonds. Indeed, social capital
can and often does cut both ways: it can reinforce belonging and community, but it can
just as easily shut out newcomers, raise barriers to entry, and retard innovation. Adam
Smith long ago noted this dilemma in his Wealth of Nations, lashing out at merchants who
formed tightly knit cliques for precisely such reasons: “People of the same trade seldom
meet together, even for merriment or diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy
against the public” (Smith, 1776). Mancur Olson later applied much the same thinking
to show how tightly knit communities can insulate themselves from outside pressure and
sow the seeds of their own demise (Olson, 1971, 1986). Or, as Portes and Landout put it,
“The same strong ties that help members of a group often enable it to exclude outsiders”
(Portes and Landout, 1996).
Places with dense ties and high levels of traditional social capital provide advantages to
insiders and thus promote stability, while places with looser networks and weaker ties are
more open to newcomers and thus promote novel combinations of resources and ideas.1
Over the past decade or so, a potentially more powerful theory for city and regional
growth has emerged. This theory postulates that people are the motor force behind regional growth. Its proponents thus refer to it as the “human capital” theory of regional
Economists and geographers have always accepted that economic growth is regional—
that it is driven by, and spreads from, specific regions, cities, or even neighborhoods. The
traditional view, however, is that places grow either because they are located on transportation routes or because they have natural resources that encourage firms to locate
there. According to this conventional view, the economic importance of a place is tied to
the efficiency with which one can make things and do business. Governments employ this
theory when they use tax breaks and highway construction to attract business. But these
cost-related factors are no longer as crucial to success.
The proponents of the human capital theory argue that the key to regional growth
lies not in reducing the costs of doing business, but in endowments of highly-educated
and productive people. The human capital theory—like many theories of cities and urban
areas—owes a debt to Jane Jacobs. Decades ago, Jacobs noted the ability of cities to attract
creative people and thus spur economic growth (Jacobs, 1984). The Nobel-prize-winning
economist Robert Lucas sees the productivity effects that come from the clustering of
human capital as the critical factor in regional economic growth, referring to this as a “Jane
Jacobs externality.” Building on Jacobs’s seminal insight, Lucas contends that cities would
be economically unfeasible if not for the productivity effects associated with endowments
of human capital, writing that:
If we postulate only the usual list of economic forces, cities should fly apart. The
theory of production contains nothing to hold a city together. A city is simply a
collection of factors of production—capital, people and land—and land is always
far cheaper outside cities than inside. . . . It seems to me that the “force” we need
to postulate to account for the central role of cities in economic life is of exactly
the same character as the “external human capital.” . . . What can people be paying
Manhattan or downtown Chicago rents for, if not for being near other people? (Lucas,
1988, pp. 38–39)
Studies of national growth find a clear connection between the economic success of nations and their human capital, as measured by the level of education. This connection has
also been found in regional studies of the United States. In a series of studies, Harvard
University economist Edward Glaeser and his collaborators have found considerable empirical evidence that human capital is the central factor in regional growth (Glaeser, 1998,
pp. 139–160; see also Glaeser, 2000; Rauch, 1993, pp. 380–400; Simon, 1998, pp. 223–243;
Simon and Nardinelli, 1996, pp. 384–413, Mathur, 1999, pp. 203–216). According to Glaeser,
such clustering of human capital is the ultimate source of regional agglomerations of firms:
firms concentrate to reap the advantages that stem from common labor pools, not, according to Glaeser, to tap the advantages from linked networks of customers and suppliers as is
more typically argued. Research by one of Glaeser’s graduate students, Spencer Glendon,
shows that a good deal of city growth over the 20th century can be traced to those cities’
levels of human capital at the beginning of the century (Glendon, 1998). Places with a
greater number of talented people grew faster and were better able to attract more talent.
The human capital theory establishes that creative people are the driving force in regional
economic growth. From that perspective, economic growth will occur in places that have
highly educated people. But in treating human capital as a stock or endowment, this
theory begs the question: Why do creative people cluster in certain places? In a world
where people are highly mobile, why do they choose some cities over others and for what
Although economists and social scientists have paid a lot of attention to how companies decide where to locate, they have virtually ignored how people do so. This is
the fundamental question I have tried to answer. In my interviews and focus groups,
the same answer kept coming back: people said that economic and lifestyle considerations both matter, and so does the mix of both factors. In reality, people were not
making the career decisions or geographic moves that the standard theories said they
should: They were not slavishly following jobs to places. Instead, it appeared that highlyeducated individuals were drawn to places that were inclusive and diverse. Not only
did my qualitative research indicate this trend, but the statistical analysis proved the
Gradually, I came to see my perspective, the creative capital theory, as distinct from
the human capital theory. From my perspective, creative people power regional economic
growth and these people prefer places that are innovative, diverse, and tolerant. My theory
thus differs from the human capital theory in two respects: (1) it identifies a type of
human capital, creative people, as being key to economic growth; and (2) it identifies the
underlying factors that shape the location decisions of these people, instead of merely
saying that regions are blessed with certain endowments of them.
To begin with, creative capital begins most fundamentally with the people I call the
“creative class.” The distinguishing characteristic of the creative class is that its members
engage in work whose function is to “create meaningful new forms.” The super-creative
core of this new class includes scientists and engineers, university professors, poets and
novelists, artists, entertainers, actors, designers, and architects, as well as the “thought
leadership” of modern society: nonfiction writers, editors, cultural figures, think-tank researchers, analysts, and other opinion-makers. Members of this super-creative core produce
new forms or designs that are readily transferable and broadly useful, such as designing a
product that can be widely made, sold, and used; coming up with a theorem or strategy
that can be applied in many cases; or composing music that can be performed again and
Beyond this core group, the creative class also includes “creative professionals” who work
in a wide range of knowledge-based occupations in high-tech sectors, financial services,
the legal and health-care professions, and business management. These people engage
in creative problem-solving, drawing on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific
problems. Doing so typically requires a high degree of formal education and thus a high
level of human capital. People who do this kind of work may sometimes come up with
methods or products that turn out to be widely useful, but that is not part of the basic job
description. What they are required to do regularly is think on their own. They apply or
combine standard approaches in unique ways to fit the situation, exercise a great deal of
judgment, and at times must independently try new ideas and innovations.
According to my estimates, the creative class now includes some 38.3 million Americans,
roughly 30 percent of the entire U.S. workforce—up from just 10 percent at the turn of
the 20th century and less than 20 percent as recently as 1980. However, it is important
to point out that my theory recognizes creativity as a fundamental and intrinsic human
characteristic. In a very real sense, all human beings are creative and all are potentially
members of the creative class. It is just that 38 million people—roughly 30 percent of the
workforce—are fortunate enough to be paid to use their creativity in their work.
In my research I have discovered a number of trends that are indicative of the new
geography of creativity. These are some of the patterns of the creative class:
! The creative class is moving away from traditional corporate communities, working
class centers, and even many Sunbelt regions to a set of places I call “creative centers.”
! The creative centers tend to be the economic winners of our age. Not only do they have
high concentrations of creative-class people, they have high concentrations of creative
economic outcomes, in the form of innovations and high-tech industry growth. They
also show strong signs of overall regional vitality, such as increases in regional employment and population.
! The creative centers are not thriving due to traditional economic reasons such as
access to natural resources or transportation routes. Nor are they thriving because
their local governments have gone bankrupt in the process of giving tax breaks and
other incentives to lure business. They are succeeding largely because creative people
want to live there. The companies follow the people—or, in many cases, are started by
them. Creative centers provide the integrated ecosystem or habitat where all forms
of creativity—artistic and cultural, technological and economic—can take root and
! Creative people are not moving to these places for traditional reasons. The physical
attractions that most cities focus on—sports stadiums, freeways, urban malls, and
tourism-and-entertainment districts that resemble theme parks—are irrelevant, insufficient, or actually unattractive to many creative-class people. What they look for
in communities are abundant high-quality experiences, an openness to diversity of
all kinds, and, above all else, the opportunity to validate their identities as creative
These shifts are giving rise to powerful migratory trends and an emerging new economic
geography. In the leading creative centers, the creative class makes up more than 35 percent
of the workforce, regions such as the greater Washington, DC, region, the Raleigh-Durham
area, Boston, and Austin. But despite their considerable advantages, large regions have not
cornered the market as creative-class locations. In fact, a number of smaller regions have
some of the highest creative-class concentrations in the nation—notably college towns
such as East Lansing, Michigan, and Madison, Wisconsin.
At the other end of the spectrum are regions that are being bypassed by the creative
class. Among large regions, Las Vegas, Grand Rapids, and Memphis harbor the smallest
concentrations of the creative class. Members of the creative class have nearly abandoned a
wide range of smaller regions in the outskirts of the South and Midwest. In small metropolitan areas such as Victoria, Texas, and Jackson, Tennessee, the creative class comprises less
than 15 percent of the workforce. The leading centers for the working class among large
regions are Greensboro, North Carolina, and Memphis, Tennessee, where the working class
makes up more than 30 percent of the workforce. Several smaller regions in the South
and Midwest are veritable working-class enclaves with 40 to 50 percent or more of their
workforce in the traditional industrial occupations. These places have some of the most
minuscule concentrations of the creative class in the nation. They are symptomatic of a
general lack of overlap between the major creative-class centers and those of the working
class. Of the 26 large cities where the working class comprises more than one-quarter of
the population, only one, Houston, ranks among the top 10 destinations for the creative
Las Vegas has the highest concentration of the service class among large cities, 58 percent, while West Palm Beach, Orlando, and Miami also have around half of their total
workforce in the service class. These regions rank near the bottom of the list for the creative class. The service class makes up more than half the workforce in nearly 50 small and
medium-size regions across the country. Few of them boast any significant concentrations
of the creative class, save as vacationers, and offer little prospect for upward mobility.
They include resort towns such as Honolulu and Cape Cod. But they also include places
like Shreveport, Louisiana, and Pittsfield, Massachusetts. For these places that are not
tourist destinations, the economic and social future is troubling to contemplate.
Places that are home to large concentrations of the creative class tend to rank highly
as centers of innovation and high-tech industry. Three of the top five large creative-class
regions are among the top five high-tech regions. Three of the top five large creativeclass regions are also among the top five most innovative regions (measured as patents
granted per capita). And, the same five large regions that top the list on the Talent Index (measured as the percentage of people with a bachelor’s degree or above) also have
the highest creative-class concentration: Washington, DC, Boston, Austin, the Research
Triangle, and San Francisco. The statistical correlations comparing creative-class locations to rates of patenting and high-tech industry are uniformly positive and statistically
The key to understanding the new economic geography of creativity and its effects on
economic outcomes lies in what I call the 3Ts of economic development: technology, talent,
and tolerance. Creativity and members of the creative class take root in places that possess
all three of these critical factors. Each is a necessary but by itself insufficient condition.
To attract creative people, generate innovation, and stimulate economic development,
a place must have all three. I define tolerance as openness, inclusiveness, and diversity
to all ethnicities, races, and walks of life. Talent is defined as those with a bachelor’s
degree and above. And technology is a function of both innovation and high-technology
concentrations in a region. My focus group and interview results indicate that talented
individuals are drawn to places that offer tolerant work and social environments. The
statistical analysis validates not only the focus group results, but also indicates strong
relationships between technology, tolerance, and talent.
The 3Ts explain why cities such as Baltimore, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh fail to grow
despite their deep reservoirs of technology and world-class universities: they are unwilling
to be sufficiently tolerant and open to attract and retain top creative talent. The interdependence of the 3Ts also explains why cities such as Miami and New Orleans do not
make the grade even though they are lifestyle meccas: they lack the required technology
base. The most successful places—the San Francisco Bay area, Boston, Washington, DC,
Austin, and Seattle—put all 3Ts together. They are truly creative places.
My colleagues and I have conducted a great deal of statistical research to test the
creative capital theory by looking at the way these 3Ts work together to power economic growth. We found that talent or creative capital is attracted to places that score
high on our basic indicators of diversity—the Gay, Bohemian, and other indexes. It
is not because high-tech industries are populated by great numbers of bohemians and
gay people; rather, artists, musicians, gay people, and members of the creative class in
general prefer places that are open and diverse. Such low entry barriers are especially
important because, today, places grow not just through higher birth rates (in fact virtually
all U.S. cities are declining on this measure), but by their ability to attract people from the
As we have already seen, human capital theorists have shown that economic growth
is closely associated with concentrations of highly-educated people. But few studies have
specifically looked at the relationship between talent and technology, between clusters of
educated and creative people and concentrations of innovation and high-tech industry.
Using our measure of the creative class and the basic Talent Index, we examined these
relationships for the 49 regions with more than one million people and for all 206 regions for
which data are available. As well as some well-known technology centers, smaller college
and university towns rank high on the Talent Index—places such as Santa Fe, Madison,
Champaign-Urbana, State College, and Bloomington, Indiana. When I look at the subregional level, Ann Arbor (part of the Detroit region) and Boulder (part of the Denver
region) rank first and third, respectively.
These findings show that both innovation and high-tech industry are strongly associated
with locations of the creative class and of talent in general. Consider that 13 of the top 20
high-tech regions also rank among the top 20 creative-class centers, as do 14 of the top 20
regions for high-tech industry. Furthermore, an astounding 17 of the top 20 Talent Index
regions also rank in the top 20 of the creative class. The statistical correlations between
Talent Index and the creative-class centers are understandably among the strongest of
any variables in my analysis because creative-class people tend to have high levels of
education. But the correlations between the Talent Index and working-class regions are
just the opposite—negative and highly significant—suggesting that working-class regions
possess among the lowest levels of human capital.2
Thus, the creative capital theory says that regional growth comes from the 3Ts of economic development, and to spur innovation and economic growth a region must have all
three of them.
Economists have long argued that diversity is important to economic performance, but
they have usually meant the diversity of firms or industries. The economist John Quigley,
for instance, argues that regional economies benefit from the location of a diverse set of
firms and industries (Quigley, 1998, pp. 127–138). Jacobs long ago highlighted the role
of diversity of both firms and people in powering innovation and city growth. As Jacobs
saw it, great cities are places where people from virtually any background are welcome to
turn their energy and ideas into innovations and wealth (Jacobs, 1961, 1969, 1984; see also
Andersson, 1985, pp. 5–20; Desrochers, 2001).
This raises an interesting question. Does living in an open and diverse environment help
to make talented and creative people even more productive; or do its members simply
cluster around one another and thus drive up these places’ creativity only as a byproduct?
I believe both are going on, but the former is more important. Places that are open and
possess low entry barriers for people gain creativity advantage from their ability to attract
people from a wide range of backgrounds. All else being equal, more open and diverse
places are likely to attract greater numbers of talented and creative people—the sort of
people who power innovation and growth.
A large number of studies point to the role of immigrants in economic development. In
The Global Me, the Wall Street Journal reporter Pascal Zachary argues that openness to
immigration is the cornerstone of innovation and economic growth. He contends that
America’s successful economic performance is directly linked to its openness to innovative
and energetic people from around the world, and attributes the decline of once prospering
countries, such as Japan and Germany, to the homogeneity of their populations (Zachary,
My team and I examined the relationships between immigration or percent foreign born
and high-tech industry. Inspired by the Milken Institute study, we dubbed this the Melting
Pot Index. The effect of openness to immigration on regions is mixed. Four out of the top
10 regions on the Melting Pot Index are also among the nation’s top 10 high-technology
areas; and seven of the top 10 are in the top 25 high-tech regions. The Melting Pot Index is positively associated with the Tech-Pole Index statistically. Clearly as University
of California at Berkeley researcher Annalee Saxenian argues, immigration is associated
with high-tech industry (Saxenian, 1999). However, immigration is not strongly associated
with innovation. The Melting Pot Index is not statistically correlated with the Innovation
Index, measured as rates of patenting. Although it is positively associated with population
growth, it is not correlated with job growth. Furthermore, places that are open to immigration do not necessarily number among the leading creative-class centers. Even though 12
of the top 20 Melting Pot regions number in the top 20 centers for the creative class, there is
no significant statistical relationship between the Melting Pot Index and the creative class.
Immigrants may be important to regional growth, but there are other types of diversity
that prove even more important statisically. In the late 1990s, the Urban Institute’s Gary
Gates, along with the economists Dan Black, Seth Sanders, and Lowell Taylor, used information from the U.S. Census of Population to figure out where gay couples located. He
discovered that particular cities were favorites among the gay population.
The U.S. Census Bureau collects detailed information on the American population, but
until the 2000 Census it did not ask people to identify their sexual orientation. The 1990
Census allowed couples that were not married to identify as “unmarried partners,” different
from “roommates” or “unrelated adults.” By determining which unmarried partners were
of the same sex, Gates identified gay and lesbian couples. The Gay Index divides the
percentage of coupled gay men and women in a region by the percentage of the population
that lives there and thus permits a ranking of regions by their gay populations. Gates later
updated the index to include the year 2000.
The results of our statistical analysis on the gay population are squarely in line with
the creative capital theory. The Gay Index is a very strong predictor of a region’s hightech industry concentration. Six of the top 10 1990 and five of the top 10 2000 Gay
Index regions also rank among the nation’s top 10 high-tech regions. In virtually all of
our statistical analyses, the Gay Index did better any than other individual measure of
diversity as a predictor of high-tech industry. Gays not only predict the concentration of
high-tech industry, they also predict its growth. Four of the regions that rank in the top
10 for high-technology growth from 1990–1998 also rank in the top 10 on the Gay Index
in both 1990 and 2000. In addition, the correlation between the Gay Index (measured in
1990) and the Tech-Pole Index calculated for 1990–2000 increases over time. This suggests
that the benefits of diversity may actually compound.
There are several reasons why the Gay Index is a good measure for diversity. As a group,
gays have been subject to a particularly high level of discrimination. Attempts by gays to
integrate into the mainstream of society have met substantial opposition. To some extent,
homosexuality represents the last frontier of diversity in our society, and thus a place that
welcomes the gay community welcomes all kinds of people.
As early as the 1920 studies by Robert Park, sociologists have observed the link between
successful cities and the prevalence of bohemian culture (Park et al., 1925). Working with
my Carnegie Mellon team, I developed a new measure called the Bohemian Index, which
uses Census occupation data to measure the number of writers, designers, musicians, actors,
directors, painters, sculptors, photographers, and dancers in a region. The Bohemian Index
is an improvement over traditional measures of amenities because it directly counts the
producers of the amenities using reliable Census data. In addition to large regions, such
as San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, and Los Angeles, smaller communities such as Boulder
and Fort Collins, Colorado; Sarasota, Florida; Santa Barbara, California; and Madison,
Wisconsin, rank rather highly when all regions are taken into account.
The Bohemian Index turns out to be an amazingly strong predictor of everything from
a region’s high-technology base to its overall population and employment growth. Five of
the top 10 and 12 of the top 20 Bohemian Index regions number among the nation’s top
20 high-technology regions. Eleven of the top 20 Bohemian Index regions number among
the top 20 most innovative regions. The Bohemian Index is also a strong predictor of
both regional employment and population growth. A region’s Bohemian presence in 1990
predicts both its high-tech industry concentration and its employment and population
growth between 1990 and 2000. This provides strong support for the view that places that
provide a broad creative environment are the ones that flourish in the Creative Age.
Robert Cushing of the University of Texas has undertaken to systematically test the three
major theories of regional growth: social capital, human capital, and creative capital.
His findings are startling. In a nutshell, Cushing finds that social capital theory provide
little explanation for regional growth. Both the human capital and creative capital
theories are much better at accounting for such growth. Furthermore, he finds that
creative communities and social capital communities are moving in opposite directions. Creative communities are centers of diversity, innovation, and economic growth;
social capital communities are not.
Cushing went to great pains to replicate Putnam’s data sources. He looked at the surveys
conducted by a team that, under Putnam’s direction, did extensive telephone interviewing
in 40 cities to gauge the depth and breadth of social capital. Based on the data, Putnam
measured 13 different kinds of social capital and gave each region a score for attributes
like “political involvement,” “civic leadership,” “faith-based institutions,” “protest
politics,” and “giving and volunteering.” Using Putnam’s own data, Cushing found very
little evidence of a decline in volunteering. Rather, he found that volunteering was up in
recent years. People were more likely to engage in volunteer activity in the late 1990s than
they were in the 1970s. Volunteering by men was 5.8 percent higher in the five-year period
1993–1998 than it had been in the period 1975–1980. Volunteering by women was up by
7.6 percent. A variety of statistical tests confirmed these results, but Cushing did not stop
there. He then combined this information on social capital trends with independent data
on high-tech industry, innovation, human capital, and diversity. He added the Milken
Institute’s Tech-Pole Index, the Innovation Index, and measures of talent, diversity,
and creativity (the Talent Index, the Gay Index, and the Bohemian Index). He grouped
the regions according to the Tech-Pole Index and the Innovation Index (their ability to
produce patents).
Cushing found that regions ranked high on the Milken Tech-Pole Index and Innovation Index ranked low on 11 of Putnam’s 13 measures of social capital. High-tech regions
scored below average on almost every measure of social capital. High-tech regions had less
trust, less reliance on faith-based institutions, fewer clubs, less volunteering, less interest
in traditional politics, and less civic leadership. The two measures of social capital where
these regions excelled were “protest politics” and “diversity of friendships.” Regions low
on the Tech-Pole Index and the Innovation Index were exactly the opposite. They scored
high on 11 of the 13 Putnam measures but below average on protest politics and diversity. Cushing then threw into the mix individual wages, income distribution, population
growth, numbers of college-educated residents, and scientists and engineers. He found that
the high-tech regions had higher incomes, more growth, more income inequality, and more
scientists, engineers, and professions than their low-tech, but higher social capital counterparts. When Cushing compared the Gay and Bohemian Indexes to Putnam’s measures of
social capital in the 40 regions surveyed in 2000, the same basic pattern emerged: Regions
high on these two diversity indexes were low on 11 of 13 of Putnam’s categories of social
capital. In Cushing’s words, “conventional political involvement and social capital seem
to relate negatively to technological development and higher economic growth.” Based
on this analysis, Cushing identified four distinct types of communities. The analysis is
Cushing’s; the labe…
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SOLUTION: SOSC 1340 York University Glossary Terms Definition Discussion

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