From the 1980s European and North American cities engaged in a process of ‘urban regeneration’ involving the displacement of manufacturing by finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE), cultural and creative industries, and tourism. Henceforth developed economies would produce ‘creative’ or ‘knowledge’ intensive services and developing countries would provide outsourced manufacturing along global supply chains. In Australia the dismantling of trade barriers and the entry into global markets was also based on positioning of manufacture as backward and protectionist; in particular the resources boom has strongly contributed to the anti-manufacturing case. In Shanghai, the economic capital of the world’s leading manufacturing nation, ambitions to become a global, cosmopolitan city have been linked to a similar agenda. Being an advanced global city means re-locating ‘dirty’ manufacture out in the far suburbs or to the country’s huge interior. In its place will be FIRE, business services, up-market retail, creative industries and a swathe of ‘iconic’ art and cultural ‘precincts’ in a familiar model of ‘culture-led regeneration’.
This opposition between manufacture and creative industries has caused many problems. Firstly, the disappearance of manufacturing from European, North American and Australian cities has not been followed by employment in creative industries, which remain at around 6/8 percent of total employment and highly concentrated in a few large metropolitan centres. In addition, they have not provided significant access to employment to those in disadvantaged social, gender or ethnic groups who traditionally worked in manufacture. Second, this opposition downplays the craft and technical skills involved in manufacture in favour of creative conception and design, leaving a ‘disembodied’ creativity. This tends to socially exclude those in possession of these skills, dispenses with some key local assets and, in fact, make many of these creative industries less able to innovate. Third, there are consequences for place when all of its material culture is produced elsewhere; that is, when identities based on making things are replaced by those derived from consuming things . Fourth, though manufacture has long been associated with an immediate environmental impact, the almost total replacement of local for imported material products has more damaging, though less visible results. A rethinking of the relationship between ‘making’ and ‘creating’ is necessary if we are to overcome the problems stated above.
The papers presented at the 2015 State of Australian Cities National Conference (SOAC 7) were organised into seven broad themes but all shared, to varying degrees, a common focus on the ways in which high quality academic research can be used in the development and implementation of policy. The relationship between empirical evidence and theoretical developments that are presented as part of our scholarly endeavours and policy processes is rarely clear and straightforward. Sometimes, perhaps because of the fortuitous alignment of various factors, our research has a direct and positive impact on policy. Sometimes it takes longer to be noticed and have influence and, sometimes, there is no little or no evidence of impact beyond or even with the academy. And while there are things we can do to promote the existence of our work and to present it in more accessible formats to people we believe to be influential, ultimately the appreciation and application of our work lies in the hands of others.
This paper is one of 164 papers that have each been reviewed and refereed by our peers and revised accordingly. While they each will have been presented briefly at the SOAC conference, they can now be read or re-read at your leisure. We hope they will stimulate further debate and discussion and form a platform for further research.
Adapted from the SOAC 7 conference proceedings introduction by Paul Burton and Heather Shearer
The State of Australian Cities (SOAC) national conferences have been held biennially since 2003 to support interdisciplinary policy-related urban research.
SOAC 7 was held in the City of Gold Coast from 9-11 December 2015. The conference featured leading national and local politicians and policy makers who shared their views on some of the current challenges facing cities and how these might be overcome in the future.