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Richard Florida: The new urban crisis: how our cities are increasing inequality, deepening segregation, and failing the middle class—and what we can do about it: Basic Books, 2017, USD 20.00, 352pp, ISBN: 978-0-46-507974-2

The new urban crisis: how our cities are increasing F. Vergara-Perucich
Richard Florida: The new urban
crisis: how our cities are increasing
inequality, deepening segregation,
and failing the middle class—and
what we can do about it
Basic Books, 2017, USD 20.00, 352pp, ISBN:
Francisco Vergara-Perucich,
Departamento de Economia, Universidad Catolica del Norte, Av.
Angamos 0610, Antofagasta, Chile
Received: 21 July 2018 / Accepted: 18 September 2018
Richard Florida earned reputation in urban planning thanks to two
masterpieces: The Rise of the Creative Class (2002) and Cities and the
Creative Class (2005). These works gave Florida sufficient influence to
inspire urban policies in cities such as Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Iowa,
Denver, Michigan and Austin. His contributions become a phenomenon
labelled as the Floridization of cities related to fostering the installation of
creative industries in urban centres to revitalise these areas. He elaborated
methods for urban studies such as the coolness factor or the bohemia index
which have been used throughout the globe. After 15 years from
presenting his seminal work, Richard Florida (2017) published The New
Urban Crisis in which underlies an apology to those cities that
implemented Florida’s creative class’ through urban policy triggering
problems that, indeed, this book is addressing with new researches and
different approaches to pressing urban questions.
The aim of the book is presenting empirical evidence to sustain the
argument that the urban crisis is the central crisis of our era. Florida
illustrates the critical dimensions of the crisis by outlining strategies that
may serve to produce more inclusive urbanism. Between the lines of the
book lies a regret for the effects considered as consequences of the
implementation of the creative class, such as social segmentation in cities,
the gentrification, segregation and exclusion of middle-class families from
urban centres. In this volume, he critically investigates its causes.
The prologue delivers a critical assessment of his previous works, where
Florida admits his excessive optimism (naïveness perhaps) while believing
that the creative class automatically would revitalise cities as a whole.
Reading this new book discards the existence of some invisible hand (a la
Adam Smith) in urban development processes. Urbanisation processes are
not neutral and require strict regulations for ensuring the provision of what
Florida named as urbanism for all. The New Urban Crisis may serve as a
record of Richard Florida’s contradictions but also a track of his progress
as a prominent urbanist, shifting from an author that coins catchy ideas to
a critical urbanist dealing with complexities. This book discards the
generalisation of formulas in urbanism and calls for deepening the study
case research to understand better the complexity of urban tissue for,
eventually, create improvements in urban life.
The book is structured in ten chapters: eight are studies on particular urban
problems that inform the new urban crisis and the final chapter is a
purposeful reflection about possible changes in urban development for
addressing the urban crisis. The second chapter exposes how a global
competition between urban centres has been transformed into a power
game in which the winner-takes-all. As a consequence, the land is more
expensive in good cities which may have been caused by the competition
between members of the creative class. In Chapter three Florida
problematizes urban policies developed by and for the elites and focuses
on strategies to avoid the displacement of working classes and urban poor
from thriving areas. Chapter four reflects about gentrification as a
phenomenon with cultural roots whose causes that are out of reach of
urbanism only. Based on US evidence, Florida argues that gentrification
configures a new geography of classes as a consequence of the competition
for acquiring better urban spaces.
Chapter five gets into the arena of inequality and its spatial representation.
Throughout the following chapters Florida presented insightful evidence to
make his central statement: cities must be denser and urban sprawl must be
brought to a halt. This idea is one of the key proposals of the book
connecting with Florida’s previous works. He argues that creative class
policies would have better effects in denser cities. Thus, the dispossessed
would not be easily displaced from urban centres. Denser cities are
presented as a critical urban strategy for reducing inequality. Chapter six
reinforces this diagnosis by showing the effects on the middle-class of
unregulated market-driven urbanism. In chapter seven, these reflections
are mapped to show the advance of urban segregation in big cities. Chapter
eight explores urban sprawl through reviewing the urban typology of
suburbs, claiming that density would lead to more sustainable cities.
Chapter nine elaborates the problems of the rapid urbanisation in the world
with a particular focus on the global south, analysing the challenges of
implementing the New Urban Agenda in developing countries. Finally,
chapter ten closes with a set of strategies to tackle the new urban crisis. In
this final part, Florida reflects on more concrete approaches to solutions
such as taxes, living costs, budgeting, and scale of interventions. This final
chapter is a bit generic and sounds much like the New Urban Agenda.
Considering the abundant evidence presented in the other eight chapters,
this final one deserved a much more provocative set of proposals.
It is valuable the scientific stance of Richard Florida. He reckoned the
limitations of his primary hypothesis on the creative classes and, instead of
taking a defensive posture, he investigated on the causes of its failures and
reformulated the theory for dealing with the current scenario. There is
some sense of humility in The New Urban Crisis because Florida reflects
and changes the questions about uneven urban development to find
concrete paths to improve urban life for all. He still believes in the value
of the creative class as an engine for economic prosperity in cities but not
as an isolated strategy. Its successful implementation would require a
broader change in the way cities are planned, designed and developed. The
New Urban Crisis seems to be part of a broader reflection that advances
towards a forthcoming book (I hope) in which Florida would be wittier to
elaborate more suggesting ideas than those presented in chapter ten. While
the creative class was a seductive theory, The New Urban Crisis does not
offer ideas so stimulating as those of 2002 and focuses in deliver a robust
and rigorous description of this crisis. This work may serve as an excellent
introductory book for undergraduate students that are getting into urban
theory and its practical effects. The book is easy to read and uses
conventional methods for presenting the analysis, which facilitates its
understanding. However, it lacks the thought-provoking style that usually
characterises the work of Richard Florida.
Florida, R. (2002). The rise of the creative class: and how it’s
transforming work, leisure, community and everyday life. New York:
Basic Books.
Florida, R. (2005). Cities and the creative class. London: Routledge.
Florida, R. (2017). The new urban crisis: How our cities are increasing
inequality, deepening segregation, and failing the middle class—And
what we can do about it. New York: Basic Books.
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The new urban crisis: How our cities are increasing inequality, deepening segregation, and failing the middle class-And what we can do about it
  • R Florida
Florida, R. (2017). The new urban crisis: How our cities are increasing inequality, deepening segregation, and failing the middle class-And what we can do about it. New York: Basic Books. AQ2