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Less perspiration and more inspiration

The creative economy may be the new way of change in the profile of production in cities

Thatyana Esperanza / Fotoarena / FolhapressFashion as economyThatyana Esperanza / Fotoarena / Folhapress

Although the terms the economics of culture or the creative economy are not synonymous, they try and take account of the promising marriage between two fields: the economy and culture. Together they have brought about important transformations in the economy of towns and cities since they encompass activities whose main input is human creativity, and involve industrial sectors and services providers, like architecture, fashion, design, software, the editorial market, television, movies, video, the visual arts, music, advertising, cultural expression and scenic arts. It has been classified as the third biggest industry in the world, behind oil and arms; and everything is based on creativity. A survey carried out in 2008 by the Industry Federation of Rio de Janeiro, Firjan, estimated that the “new economy” has annual revenues of R$ 380 billion in Brazil (16.4% of GDP). Data from the World Bank indicate that the economics of culture already accounts for 7% of worldwide GDP. Not without reason did the new management of the Ministry of Culture find it appropriate to create a department dedicated to culture, headed up by sociologist Cláudia Leitão, who had carried out studies on the theme in the Research Group in Public Policies and Creative Industries at the State University of Ceará. But it took 17 years for the discussion to reach Brazil.

To make up for this delay, universities and professionals in the area of culture are rolling up their sleeves to disclose the concept, with initiatives like holding the “I International Creative Economy Seminar: New Prospects”, organized by the Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV) in Rio. At the same time, the Foundation of Administrative Development has just published a survey on the creative economy, which it carried out at the request of the government department of the São Paulo city administration, revealing the significant importance of the area in the São Paulo and national economies. According to the methodology used in the study for the city administration, formal creative employment has a 1.87% share of the total formal employment in Brazil as a whole; while in the Southeast Region it is 2.21%, 2.46%, in the State of São Paulo, and 3.47% in the municipality of São Paulo. Compared with other sectors considered to be important employers, the creative economy stands out not only because of its capacity to create jobs but also because of the quality of these jobs and the remuneration. From 2006 to 2009, the average annual rate of growth of formal employment in the sector reached 8.3% in the State of São Paulo and 9.1% in the municipality, while in the whole economy it was 5.5% in the State and 5.8% in the city.

In Rio, Manoel Marcondes Neto, an associate professor at the School of Administration and Finance of the State University of Rio de Janeiro (Uerj) and leader of the research group, Management and Marketing in Culture, with the CNPq, has also closely studied the numbers and has just launched Economia da cultura: contribuições para a construção do campo e histórico da gestão de organizações culturais no Brasil [The economics of culture: a contribution to constructing the field and history of the management of cultural organizations in Brazil] (Editora Ciência Moderna), alongside Lusia Angelete. “Economists don’t want to know this and artists are afraid when terms like economics or administration appear,” says the researcher. “There’s a lot of prejudice in the universities. Many maintain the Adornian rejection of the market production of cultural goods and services, which prevents them from recognizing that today the idea of culture as a ‘resource’ goes way beyond transforming culture into merchandise,” analyzes Paulo Miguez, a professor from the Federal University of Recôncavo da Bahia (UFRB) and author of the research study, Economia criativa: in busca de paradigmas [Creative economy: in search of paradigms], supported by Fapesb.

The theme is fundamental in the current discussion into the sustainability of Brazilian growth. “The creative economy is an interesting path, because of its capacity to create jobs, especially among young people who, if well-articulated and supported, become the drivers of innovation and expansion of the capacity of the production,” believes economist, Lídia Goldenstein, a former professor at Unicamp who is today working with this new field in her consultancy company. “Sustainability of the current growth must include strengthening the creative economy, because it can guarantee the generation of an innovative and robust environment, creating the tools for strengthening the manufacturing sector.” A recent study by economist, Aurílio Caiado, a researcher at the State Data Analysis System Foundation (Seade), seems to prove the hypothesis: 44.7% of the Brazilians employed in the creative sector are formally employed compared with 37% on average, overall. Salaries in the area are also 51% higher than the national average. “This may be the way to unlock the low investment in innovation by Brazilian companies and put an end to the dilemma of innovation that at times blames companies and at others the isolation of the universities. Brazil is an ideal environment for developing creative industries and raising the added value of the service and industrial sectors,” Lídia assesses.

G. Evangelista / Opção Brasil ImagensExample of a mixture between art and the urban spaceG. Evangelista / Opção Brasil Imagens

There are also those who, based on the development of the area, propose renewing the concept of economy for “iconomy.” “If economy has its origin in oikos, house, iconomy is based on icos, from which the word ‘icon’ is derived. What generates value today is not, as in the traditional economic models, the utility of the thing or the energy spent in building it, but a construction that combines the thing, the being and the symbol. Knowledge is always something symbolic and intangible. Assessment of the creative intangible refers directly to the concept of creative industries, of the creative economy. This is Capitalism 3.0; not just material, but ‘creative’,” argues economist Gilson Schwartz, academic director of Knowledge City, a project of the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of São Paulo (USP). According to Schwartz, one only has to look at the importance that sustainability has assumed, for example, in a company’s business: people will no longer value products that are not associated with sustainability, creativity and other intangible factors. In 2003, in the middle of research into innovation in digital inclusion models, Schwartz and the students he was supervising began a project into an alternative currency to answer the question: “If we need to measure the intangible and if the network in which we are working is a cultural network, what is the measure of expenditure in this environment?” In Rio Grande do Norte they printed and distributed currency that started to circulate in the tourism sector and among students. “Based on this we developed a model known as the knowledge currency: those who do not spend it will remain ignorant and will lose knowledge; those who spend it will gain even more knowledge,” he recounts.

“In 2009, in its ‘I Financial Inclusion Forum’, the Central Bank recognized the initiative and is today talking about social currency, i.e. means of payment created from below upwards, which is covered by local social capital. Creative currencies are currencies whose capital or ‘cover’ is cultural. They are the currencies of the creative economy,” observes the researcher. It is the same spirit that rules the work of the Department of Creative Economy, whose objective is to take advantage of cultural diversity to stimulate the generation of employment and income. According to the new department, the emphasis on local production may value regional initiatives in detriment to mass production, one of the strengths of the creative economy. The target is to treat culture as an industry, which would allow for the world of creation to be emancipated, freeing it from the controversial vices of the laws of state incentive. The process expands even more when one thinks of the concept of “creative cities,” which is generated from the creative economy. “The creative economy arose from the economics of culture and its attempts at organizing a measurable business field. This was the result of the ‘deindustrialization’ process of many economies, which lost their industrial activities because of the large fragmentation capacity of the production chain and the volatility of capital. ‘Creative cities’ are those that are recovering their economies through activities linked to creativity and are examples of how creation can bloom and have an impact on urban relationships,” explains economist, Ana Carla Fonseca Reis, a professor at FGV-SP and the Cândido Mendes University, and an adviser on creative economy for the UN. “Cities that intend to keep their economies booming have to offer culture, social integration and employment, even to retain qualified talent, which has led various governments to value creativity in the urban environment,” she states. According to Ms. Reis, at times when the economy is increasingly less industrial and more service-oriented, several countries looked at their national accounts to see where the competitive advantages of their economies would be and they invariably discovered that it was not a question of fighting over commodities, but creativity added to products and services. The examples are striking: London, Barcelona, Bilbao, Amsterdam and others, including even Bogotá.

“The process takes place on several levels: in the impact of generating employment, income and taxes; in adding value to traditional economic sectors (one only has to think of the competitiveness that fashion brings to the textile industry and the garment industry, or what design generates in various sectors); and in generating a favorable environment for an alternative look, for opening up to what is new,” explains Ana. No city is more creative than another, but the incidence of creative workers it is going to attract is what makes the difference and transform it into a center of creative skills-building. “Attracting creative and better qualified people is the most effective policy for regional development. Regions with quality of life, with a more developed cultural life and a diversified society, tend to attract qualified and creative people,” observed economist, André Golgher, from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) in his research on “creative cities.” Golgher relates this attraction to the concentration of qualified and creative people for the development of cities and regions. So the Federal District, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo have values that are higher than the national average, at 21.7%: (DF), 15.2% (RJ) and 14.7% (SP). On the other hand, in states like Alagoas, Maranhão and Piauí, the values are very much lower, at between 5.1% and 5.5%. Geographer, Valnei Pereira, from FAU-USP, in his research into creative cities goes further and states that cities can be recreated as a function of their creative economy, but need public policies that take advantage of these dynamics. So the urban space is no longer just an “unchanging physical dimension,” but is imbued with the “new cultural economics of the space.”

“Our cities became large, basically because of industry, which is an activity that is ending, obliging many of them to reinvent themselves in the 21st century. Technology and capital became easily transferable and what adds value to merchandise is no longer the production itself, but the concept of things,” analyzes economist, André Urani, a researcher at the Institute of Labor and Society Studies. But one needs to be doubly careful. “The institutional and political ideological apparatus of oligarchies must be overcome and we must invest in a model directed at small companies and the supply of services, which absorb creativity in their production processes, the model of a ‘quinary sector’,” he advises. In Rio de Janeiro, the 2016 Olympic Games is part of a great recovery movement of the city via the creative economy, in the molds of the concept of “creative cities.” “But a new dynamic is needed that puts projects in favor of cities and not the opposite. It’s necessary to go beyond the creation of infrastructure to reinforce a model of shared governance and an institutional arrangement that favors civil society and strengthens institutions,” is Ana’s assessment. “Creativity drives the search for new governance agreements between public, private and civil society; it raises alternative forms of funding that is aimed more at knowledge capital than at physical guarantees; it brings innovation to management of the city, and finally it engenders collaborative models in which all win, instead of competitive ones, in which one wins in the short term and everybody loses,” observes the researcher.