The following is an abridged version of the preface to The Rise of the Creative Class, Revisited, out this month from Basic Books.
It’s been ten years since I published – and a bit longer than that since I wrote – The Rise of the Creative Class. It would be an understatement to say that a lot has changed since then. We’ve see a whole series of world-shattering events—from the collapse of the tech bubble and 9/11, to the economic and ﬁnancial meltdown of 2008, any one of which might have been suﬃcient to derail or reverse the changes in America’s class structure and the economic cultural and social trends I described in that book.
Instead, they have only become more deeply ensconced. At a time when the U.S. unemployment rate topped 10 percent, the rate of unemployment for the Creative Class did not hit even 5 percent. By late 2011, the social media site LinkedIn reported that the word most used by its members to describe themselves was "creative." As TechCrunch put it: "In a time of high unemployment, when traditional skills can be outsourced or automated, creative skills remain highly sought after and highly valuable. We all want to be part of the Creative Class of programmers, designers, and information workers. The term used to mean artists and writers. Today, it means job stability." The Creative Class has become truly global, numbering between one-third to nearly one-half of the workforce in the advanced nations of North America, Europe, Asia, and around the world.
The Rise of the Creative Class was never about the new, the trendy or the faddish. It was—and is—my attempt to explain the key forces that have been transforming our economy and culture over the past several decades. Our world, it seemed to me, was changing as dramatically as it had since the early days of the Industrial Revolution. It wasn’t just the Internet, or the rise of new technologies, or even globalization that were upending our jobs, lives, and communities, though all those things were important. Beneath the surface, unnoticed by many, was something truly tectonic: the rise of creativity as a fundamental economic force, and the rise of a new social class, the Creative Class.
Spanning science and technology, arts, media, and culture, traditional knowledge workers, and the professions, this new class made up nearly one-third of the workforce across the United States and considerably more than that in many communities. It was the rise of this new class and of creativity as an economic force that was the underlying factor powering so many of the seemingly unrelated and epiphenomenal trends we had been witnessing; from advent of whole new industries and businesses, to changes in the way we lived, worked, and consumed, extending even into the rhythms, patterns, desires, and expectations that governed our daily lives.
So much of what seemed shockingly new and outlandish when the book was originally published has come to be viewed as the norm. My ideas that the talented were beginning to favor cities over suburbs, that urban centers were challenging suburban industrial park nerdistans as locations for high-tech industry, that older cities were starting to regain some of the ground they’d lost to Sun Belt boomtowns, were widely derided when I ﬁrst began to write about them. Ten years later, they are taken for granted.