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Creative Cities And Economic Development

P. Hall
Published 1999 · Political Science, Economics

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It is a great honour to come to Glasgow to honour the memory of Donald Robertson, particularly since I remember him for his well-known dictum that planes  ew between Glasgow and London in both directions. He was not only a pioneer of urban and regional economics in this country; he was a great political economist in the old and true sense of the word, an economist who thought that his subject should have a lot to say about policy in the real world, and he was proud to be what John Kenneth Galbraith has called a hyphenated economist. More than that, he believed that his very special skills should be employed in helping the economic development of Scotland. He was one of the most distinguished members of a small but very special group of Scots economists who worked in that tradition. I like to think that he, and they, have played a role in Scotland’s present prosperity, even if it does mean that your Highlands and Islands lose their Objective One status, at which possibly Donald Robertson might have rejoiced. On such an occasion, one must try to say something original and relevant, and that is both easy and difŽ cult. It is easy, because I propose to discuss the central theses of a book recently published, which has been preoccupying my mind for many years. Its concern is with the economic signiŽ cance of cultural creativity, and the relation of that creativity to the other more familiar kind that generates technological innovation and thus new industrial lines of production. One might summarise it, in a Glasgow context, by asking what Charles Rennie Mackintosh and James Watt have in common. The hard part is that, on re ection, I am far from sure that I have a satisfactory answer. In work like this, one is inevitably reminded of the Reverend Casaubon, in George Eliot’s Middlemarch, who laboured mightily to produce a key to all mythologies, and ended up with nothing except a set of card indexes. Maybe all who try to write history suffer from a similar syndrome: A. J. P. Taylor’s wife felt exactly the same about him (Taylor, 1987, vol. I, p. 54). But whatever the degree of failure, I would argue that the question remains important, because practical men—the ones whom Keynes believed to be the slaves of some defunct economist—seem to be obsessed by the question of what are now called cultural (or creative) industries. Nearly 70 years ago, in a marvellous essay, Keynes predicted that eventually the world might reach the position where we no longer need to care about the basic economic problem of survival that has plagued the human race since beginning of time, but are able at last to do only the things we Ž nd agreeable and pleasurable. He unforgettably wrote:
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