Postrel vs. Florida (and a China in the works)

Dscn3619 China has a creativity crisis. 

Qin Xiaoying says so.  He argues that China’s culture industry has been shut out of the spectacular growth demonstrated by other industries in China.  This means it is falling behind the US and the UK, for whom "cultural products" are a major piece of the economy.  Mr. Xiaoing asks, "how can we turn China’s culture industry from a weakling into a major power?"

The struggle to create a cultural industry will be titanic because the barriers are formidable.  Mr. Xiaoying says, China’s thousands of years of "feudalistic authoritarianism [which] have stifled the promotion of individual personality."  And there are the lingering effects of the "Soviet-style, highly-centralized planned economy" that put "Chinese culture in a developmental straight jacket."

Mr. Xiaoying argues that three things are called for from the state: capital injection, policy support and protection.  To be this in the parochial terms of our own debate on the subject, the thing comes down to Virginia Postrel vs. Richard Florida

Richard Florida believes that "creatives" are a professional class who can be nurtured and enabled by interventions from the state.  This is one of the reasons he is so beloved of urban planners.  He promises them a role in the "innovation economy."

Now, I have never consulted Virginia Postrel on this question but I am pretty sure she would be unenthusastic about the Floridian vision.  I think she might say (and if she won’t, I will) that cultivating creativity through state support is a contradiction in terms.  Real creativity, creativity that is fully responsive to and engaging of, the cultural moment at hand, this comes from creatives flying by the seat of their pants, speaking to popular taste, and not from people funded by  government committee.

Creativity that is not tied to commerce doesn’t usually come to very much in the way of culture.  It speaks to a small constituency in orbit around a small elite.  That’s the way it looks to this Canadian.


Xiaoying, Qin.  2006.  Nuture creativity to propel culture industry.  China Daily.  September 16-17, p. 4. 

4 thoughts on “Postrel vs. Florida (and a China in the works)

  1. Matt

    What can the Chinese state do to boost the creative economy? Simple.

    Stop throwing creatives into prison for things that in a country with a viable creative economy would not even be considered offenses.

    Lots of folks seem to forget that China is still a horrifyingly oppressive totalitarian regime, an inch under that snazzy veneer of Western-style economic development.

  2. jens

    not sure if there is postrel vs florida debate in my house.
    creativity rises in all the unexpected places from all the unexpected people. and 80% of these people all move to the same places.

  3. Toni

    I happen to think the Chinese film industry is doing well for itself. But what do I know? Maybe they’re all made in Hong Kong.

  4. Frank

    How about “indirect” state supports, like the tax deduction? Tyler Cowen discusses this possible “third way” in his latest book.

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