The ‘Cultural Turn’ in Australian Regional Economic Development Discourse: Neoliberalising Creativity?

Authors


Dr. Chris Gibson, Geography Program, Faculty of the Built Environment, University of New South Wales, New South Wales 2052, Australia. E-mail: cgibson@unsw.edu.au

Abstract

Regional economic policy-makers are increasingly interested in the contribution of creativity to the economic performance of regions and, more generally, in its power to transform the images and identities of places. This has constituted a ‘cultural turn’, of sorts, away from an emphasis on macro-scale projects and employment schemes, towards an interest in the creative industries, entrepreneurial culture and innovation. This paper discusses how recent discourses of the role of ‘creativity’ in regions have drawn upon, and contributed to, particular forms of neoliberalisation. Its focus is the recent application of a statistical measure — Richard Florida's (2002) ‘creativity index’— to quantify spatial variations in creativity between Australia's regions. Our critique is not of the creativity index per se, but of its role in subsuming creativity within a neoliberal regional economic development discourse. In this discourse, creativity is linked to the primacy of global markets, and is a factor in place competition, attracting footloose capital and ‘creative class’ migrants to struggling regions. Creativity is positioned as a central determinant of regional ‘success’ and forms a remedy for those places, and subjects, that currently ‘lack’ innovation. Our paper critiques these interpretations, and concludes by suggesting that neoliberal discourses ignore the varied ways in which ‘alternative creativities’ might underpin other articulations of the future of Australia's regions.

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