In this book-sized expansion of his Wicker Park case study, Lloyd goes a bit deeper into the qualitative analysis, particularly in his interviews, of the neo-bohemian lifestyle, and expands on his “artist as useful labor” theory.
“…neo-bohemia is not a reified natural area but rather a mode of contingent and embedded spatial practices” (245).
Constituent to this theory is the fact that neo-bohemias are antithetical to David Brooks’ (2001) “bourgeois bohemians,” or “BoBos,” whose consumer practices only track with postindustrial neoliberal capitalism practices. Instead, neo-bohemians exhibit an “elective affinity” (241) between their artistic, do-it-yourself ethos and neoliberal capitalism’s entrepreneurial impulses. The artist, then, is useful labor in this Internet-based, image-conscious economy. Just as neo-bohemia’s residents understand themselves through identification in and with their communities, and their own “subcultural capital” (243) provides them access to status and money, art has become the “MacGuffin for [contemporary] postindustrial economic activities” (244).
Using Wicker Park as a case study, Lloyd asks, what benefits exist in creative neighborhoods to artists? And how “does the space of neo-bohemia operate in the organization and deployment of labor power?” (345). Neo-bohemias are to Lloyd more important in the transition into the postmodern condition than were the Murgerian (1851) bohemias of modernity.
Neo-bohemias take acute advantage of post-industrial spaces and neighborhoods, the implications of which are pronounced. The neo-bohemia is not a rejection or negation of capitalism but magnifies capital interests (as exemplified in gentrification), and the development and agglomeration of new industries, many digital media. Creative industry members collaborate and cluster, thus largely bearing the cost of their own production. Their local ecology draws together residence, work, and showroom/performance spaces, creating manifest and identifiable settings for identification by “extra-local corporate interest, who recruit talent and co-opt cultural productions from these settings at their discretion” (348).
Lloyd identifies material benefits (e.g. cheap live/work space, creative exposure, local/flexible/desirable employment) and symbolic supports (e.g. identification as artist). However, there are conflicts and contradictions. Wicker Park is not like Park and Burgess’ (1921) community ecology because it’s deeply embedded in the mode of capitalist production, and the competitive dynamics are certainly shaped by forces of global capital accumulation. Moreover, gentrification may increase the cost of living, but that contributes to the creation of the new and desirable employment opportunities. Per Irwin (1977), some have to move out: “subcultural articulations have limited ‘carrying capacities’ that can be overwhelmed by an access of participants clamoring for inclusion” (367). Of note: those most upset about gentrification were the newest arrivals to the neighborhood (Huebner, 1994), illustrating Rosaldo’s (1989) “imperialist nostalgia.”
Finally, the underlying contradiction. For Logan and Molotch (1987 [2007 in this blog]), the growth machine players have no local interests. Theirs are telegraphed, profits-only considerations of entrepreneurs and the like. Here, the entrepreneur is also a resident.
Sharon Zukin, PhD Political Science from Columbia University, is Professor of Sociology at Brooklyn College and at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is an expert in consumer society and consumer culture (particularly shopping and urban change), gentrification, arts and economic development, and ethnic diversity.
In tracking the emergence of loft living in 1980s lower Manhattan, Zukin tells a larger story about gentrification and the diminution of manufacturing in the postindustrial city, asserting that we are “at a historic turning point in urban political economy” (176). She opens by arguing that loft living does not, in fact, encourage mixed use, nor is the city benefited by industry’s exodus or robust developer subsidies. The loft terrain, instead, is the site of the annihilation of manufacturing and generation of social group conflict.
Loft conversion happened because of the confluence of three things:
- The “loft lifestyle,” a mélange of the democratization of art (thus, increasing its commercialization and the associated lifestyle), the domestication of the “industrial aesthetic,” overall changes in perceptions towards artists, and the personal and state patronage provided them.
- An eager investment climate, wherein the smaller developers were pulled toward the attractive profit margins and larger developers pushed from the ballooning costs of their traditional endeavors.
- State intervention, each technique testament to the state’s role of speculator in response to deindustrialization and revalorization, as well as institutionalization of codification, socialization of consumption, and socialization of failure.
The Artistic Mode of Production (AMP): (1) assists in the evolution of productive urban space to nonproductive, (2) changes the local labor market, (3) decreases people’s expectations, (4) obscures current and pressing concerns by focusing on “picturesque” (180) historical aspects, and (5) makes a conversion back to industrial use nigh-on impossible. Thus, the three issues to consider in evaluating the AMP’s impact on the urban political economy: the base, the costs, and the contradictions.
Zukin draws four conclusions: (1) investors, not consumers, are the agents of change; (2) agents at all levels of investment are involved (“investment hierarchies” ); (3) negotiations regarding the urban terrain bespeak groups’ curious concepts of property rights; and (4) arts patrons and middle class historic preservationists play critical mediating roles.