Allen J. Scott
University of California, Los Angeles (USA)


The cognitive-cultural dimensions of contemporary capitalism are identified by reference to its leading sectors, basic technologies, labor relations systems, and market structures. Cognitive-cultural systems of production and work come to ground preeminently in large city-regions. This state of affairs is manifest in the diverse clusters of high-technology sectors, service functions, neo-artisanal manufacturing activities, and cultural-products industries that are commonly found in these regions. It is also manifest in the formation of a broad stratum of high-skill, cognitive-cultural employees in urban areas. Many of these employees are engaged in distinctive forms of work-based learning, creativity, and innovation. At the same time, the cognitive-cultural economy in contemporary cities is invariably complemented by large numbers of low-wage, low-skill jobs, and the individuals drawn into these jobs are often migrants from developing countries. The ideologicalpolitical ramifications of this situation are subject to analysis in the context of a critique of the currently fashionable idea of the “creative city.” I advance the claim that we need to go beyond advocacies about local economic development that prescribe the deployment of packages of selected amenities as a way of attracting elite workers into given urban areas. Instead, I propose that policy-makers should pay more attention to the dynamics of the cognitive-cultural production system as such, and that in the interests of shaping viable urban communities in contemporary capitalism we must be more resolute in attempts to rebuild sociability, solidarity, and democratic participation.

Keywords: capitalism, cognitive-cultural economy, creative cities, local economic development, Urbanization.