Tag Archives: place branding as rhetoric cum growth strategy

Scott, A. (1997). The cultural economy of cities. _International journal of urban and regional research_, 21(2): 323–339.

Allen J. Scott, PhD Geography from Northwestern University, is Distinguished Professor of Public Policy and Geography at UCLA. He has spent the last several years focusing on industrialization organization and location, urbanization, the cultural economy of cities, and economic development.

In this paper he explores “the intertwined effects of capitalist production processes and the ever-increasing cultural content of outputs, and the ways in which these effects make themselves felt in the growth and development of particular place” (325). Moreover, he asserts that these effects will be complex and far ranging, exhibiting both Adorno’s (2001) bleak assessment of the flattening culture industry and a more optimistic one.

Scott opens, explaining place and culture are inextricably liked and not without tensions: place is “always a locus of dense human relationships” (324) and culture is incident to “place specific characteristics” (ibid) that distinguishes localities from one another. The postfordist cultural product economy affirms the supply side’s differentiation marketing strategy and the demand side’s fad-driven consumption. The net effect: flexible, specialized production by small firms enabled by technological breakthroughs and networked organization.

The most important upshot for this “productive-cum-competitive regime” (327) discussion: “large metropolitan areas…[are] rapidly becoming the master hubs of cultural production in a postfordist global economic order” (327).

There are three main points of the cultural economy:

  1. it comprises a wide variety of manufacturing and service activities
  2. its employment signifies its sheer size, which seems to be growing
  3. much of the cultural economy is located in major city centers.

Scott then explains the cultural-products industries can be summed up in the following five technological-organizational dimensions:

  1. the technologies and labor processes involve larger amounts of human handiwork and computer technologies
  2. production is generally arranged in small- and medium-sized, dense networks
  3. multifaceted industrial complexes arise from the smaller networks, which in turn require labor pools, thus reducing the risks for both workers and employers
  4. the complexes of cultural products industries are “invariably replete with external economies” (333), which leads to “the hypothesis that innovation…is likely to be a geometric function of the size and the relevant reference group
  5. agglomeration encourages new institutional infrastructures which can assist the local economy.

Finally, while cultural economies are densely agglomerated in their home cities, they are likewise global actors, “embedded in far-flung global networks of transactions” (334). Their success is thus dependent on local penetration and foreign, cultural access. Multinational corporations are no an essential ingredient in cultural production circulation.

“[G]eographically differentiated cultural production nodes are liable to be the rule rather than the exception” (335).

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Filed under Annotated Bibliographies, Cultural Economy, Minor Field, Research Fields

Zukin, S. (2011). Reconstructing the authenticity of place. _Theory and Society_, 40(2): 161.

In this article, Zukin asserts the importance of looking at both economic motives and cultural strategies of urban and rural placemaking. There are “three necessary and sufficient factors that create both a structural and institutional base for modern settlements to develop distinctive, contrasting cultures” (161).

  1. People must be free to choose where they live.
  2. A local history, appealing to outsiders, must exist “through the social construction of either a material or a symbolic landscape” (162).
  3. Local entrepreneurs must market these attractive elements while suppressing others.

Under these conditions it is possible for residents to “engage in the reflexive creation of a spatial habitus” (162). Place branding is a powerful rhetoric that becomes a growth strategy, articulating zoning and other laws that ban traditional income engines in favor of making the areas more attractive to newcomers. Sometimes these makeovers are unsuccessful, if attempted, because if a local economy is not already diverse it’s less likely locals will band together around a new growth scenario.

Rural gentrification in such places as Vermont and Utah read a lot like city-district gentrification narratives. Newcomer entrepreneurs help develop a new place identity through creation of new art spaces, boutiques, restaurants, etc. In some cases a new place identity highlights historical elements “and present itself as respectful of the community’s authenticity — social and cultural networks of new producers and consumers create, nurture, and often capitalize on a completely new sense of place” (164). And so Williamsburg’s grittiness translates into high rents.

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Filed under Annotated Bibliographies, Community Development, Cultural Economy, Major Field, Minor Field, Research Fields