Monday, July 21, 2008

Creative Class vs. Knowledge Class

I am now studying the culture and way of life of the class that makes its living from the control of knowledge. The question arises: what shall we call it?

I have been using "knowledge class." There is a decent pedigree for this term. When scholars started talking about this class they simply called it the "new class." By the '70s they had started calling it the knowledge class. This term carried into the '80s or early '90s. Since then, though, it seems to have fallen into disfavor.

I think the main reason that it fell into a bad odor was that it became a term of abuse used by neo-conservative intellectuals to talk about liberal cultural producers, professors, and technocrats. (This was back when "neo-con" meant former liberals turned social conservatives on domestic policy, not foreign policy imperialists.) The irony of using knowledge class as a term of abuse is that the people hurling the insults were themselves members of the knowledge class.

I have had a Google alert for any use of "knowledge class" for the past half year. Most of what I get are false hits ("my Theory of Knowledge class met on Friday," or "I went to Bible Knowledge class Wednesday night"). The handful of references in the sense I mean have either been backwards-looking references to Peter Berger's work, one use of the term by neo-con columnist Charles Krauthammer (who read the same books I did 20 years ago), or citations of my own blog posts.

On the other hand, the term "creative class" seems to have some currency now. Richard Florida seems to publish a book each year with "creative class" in the title. Others are following the lead of his quite interesting research (including Bill Bishop in The Big Sort, which I wrote about last week). There are others tending the same grove, who have offered similar terms -- The Creatives, for example.

My mother doesn't like "knowledge class" as a term. She thinks it implies that other people have no knowledge. I have tried to make the case that sociologists start from Marx' criteria that a class is defined by its relations to the means of production. This cuts no ice with mom. And for similar reasons, I don't think she will like "creative class," for what it appears to imply about the creativity of those not in that class.

Nonetheless, there really is a class that makes its living from the control of knowledge. There really is a class that creates new stuff. And as our economy turns more and more on knowledge, this class, whatever we call it, grows in importance.

So, for the foreseeable, I will be studying "the creative class."


SPorcupine said...

The third estate thought of itself as representing the real French people.

The proletariat allegedly would become the universal class.

Your mom speaks with authority when she demands respect for the knowledge and creativity of all

She wouldn't, by any chance, relate to the means of production by organizing knowledge and generating creative outcomes? She's not a librarian, or a quilt designer, or anything like that, right?

Cahya said...

An interesting article.
See you and have a nice blogging.

mary said...

Great exposition on the "Knowledge Class". THANKS!