Book Review (Cooke and Lazzeretti 2010)

Creative Cities, Cultural Clusters and Local Economic Development

Creative Cities, Cultural Clusters and Local Economic Development

Edited by Philip Cooke, University Centre for Advanced Studies, University of Wales, Cardiff, UK and Luciana Lazzeretti, University of Florence, Italy

Series: New Horizons in Regional Science, Edward Elgar: Cheltenham (UK), pp.366, Price; £85.00

Review by Roberta Comunian, School of Geography, Southampton University (24 May 2010)

Opening a trend in the emerging economic geography literature on the role of creative industries in local economic development (see recently published O’Connor and Kong, 2009; Pratt and Jeffcut, 2009) the book ‘Creative cities, cultural clusters and local economic development’ edited by Philip Cooke and Luciana Lazzeretti aims to clarify the contemporary debate about the value of creative production in our economies.

The editors take a strong position in their opening chapter, by explaining that the book is not concerned with the cultural economy in general – which they associate with publicly subsidised arts and cultural activities. It specifically focuses on the ‘creative industries’, which they conceptualised as the money making sector of the cultural economy, the ones comprising economic market oriented activities. Slightly biased towards the need to prove that this is a large and successful economic sector, they mention examples like Google or the iPod while not mentioning many of the creative industries sectors which – simply looking at the latest DCMS economic bulletin document in UK – seem to struggle to grow, but are still a crucial component of that market-driven creative economy.

The authors in the introduction recognise the interrelation between the publicly-funded and market-oriented cultural economy – especially when defining the creative cities. However, not withstanding this urban focus, the rest of the theoretical frameworks introduced by the editors seems to express the need to ‘re-connect- urban and rural through ‘learning platforms’ (Eliasson, 2000) which enable to break the geographical barriers between the cluster and its surroundings.

The new framework is structured using and cross-referencing three theories: (i) the ‘world of production’ of Storper (1997); (ii) the ‘related variety’ approach; and (iii) the ‘regional innovation system’ approach. While these theories are in general interesting and useful, the editors fail to link them successfully with the creative cities and cultural clusters approach, which is at the core of the book. The examples used here are mainly related to the agro-food and tourism sector and fits awkwardly with the creative knowledge innovation focus of the book. Furthermore, the framework developed and the theories presented do not really inform the following fourteen chapters and no cross-references are made with the case studies and research presented by the other contributors.

A noticeable shortcoming for an introduction which aims to outline the current knowledge in the field, is the lack of referencing and engagement with another important framework, the ‘creative class’ (Florida, 2002). While the theory has been highly criticised, it still represents a framework adopted in cities around the world and it would have provided further opportunities for the editors to position their interpretation and understanding of the creative cities and cultural clusters against / alongside the mainstream research and policy interpretations.

The book is structured in two sections (although their focus is not quite so distinct): “Cultural Districts, Cultural Clusters and Local Economic Development” and “Knowledge, Creative Industries and Local Economic Development”. The first part includes a few general contributions such as the one of Phil Cooke exploring the issue of scale in creative cluster literature, Luciana Lazzaretti considering a model to understand cultural districts, Tommaso Cinti, and Mark Lorenzen with Lars Frederiksen considering issues of localisation and globalization. These chapters further clarify the definitional perspectives and models of understanding of creative production in specific geographical contexts. These theoretical chapters are alternated with more empirical case studies, such as the chapters by Kebir and Crevoiseir on Swiss watch making, Cuccia et al on local craft in Naples, and Maria Luisa Palma Martos and Luis Palma Martos on fixed book prices in Spain.

Similarly, in the second part of the book, there is a variety of contributions which present specific case studies of local development based on creative industries and policies. Costa considers the relevance of creative city discourses in Portugal, while Smith and Warfield consider its relevance to Vancour and Canadian policies. Similarly, Ai Yun addresses the role of creative city policies in Singapore. Trullen and Boix explore knowledge-driven economic growth in the metropolitan area of Barcelona, while Belussi and Sedita consider the project and professional networks of ‘event management’ in the Veneto region in Italy. The last chapter of the book, by Capone provides an overview on the distribution of creative industries in Italy.

The book seems to have been mainly designed for an academic use and audiences as there are no attempts to take the ‘novice’ reader through the issues and perspectives on the topic. In an academic context, the chapters of the book provide a solid contribution to the field. However, overall the book does not push the comparative perspective too far, as none of the contributions is comparative in nature and an overall framework is not consistent across the chapters.

While the case studies provide interesting approaches and insights to the topic, there is not much attention towards the overall policy and theoretical implications that these contributions can make to the literature. In this respect, the book fails to successfully make a coherent argument in favour of culture-led economic development and results somewhat anecdotal in reference to its potential impact. In particular, while drafting very different landscapes of culture, case studies and economic development, the reader is left alone in making sense of the real potential of the creative cities, cultural clusters for local economic development.

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References

Eliasson G (2000), “Development in industrial technology and production competence requirements and the platform theory of on-the-job learning”, in G. Eliasson (ed.), New Emerging Industries, New Jobs and New Demands for Competence, Stockholm: KTH and Thessaloniki: CEDEFOP

Florida R (2002) The rise of the creative class, Basic Books: New York O’Connor J and Kong L (2009) Creative Economies, Creative Cities: Asian-European Perspectives, GeoJournal Library

Pratt AC and Jeffcutt P (2009) Creativity and Innovation and the Cultural Economy, Routledge Studies in Global Competition, Routledge

Storper M (2007) The Regional World: Territorial Development in a global economy, London: Guilford