When Bohemia Becomes a Business: City Lights, Columbus Avenue, and a Future for San Francisco

This article offers a study of the now clichéd Bohemian Index. I explore how Richard Florida’s arguments flatten, homogenize and commercialize the radicalism and resistance of the cities validated through his criteria. Activism becomes a brand. San Francisco is important in such research because of its political and literary history, with North Beach’s iconography tethered to the Beat Generation. The best known ‘Left Coast City’ in the world, San Francisco reveals the political paradoxes of creative industries and the city imaging literature. Bohemia creates an attractive city of coffee and conversation. San Francisco is a diverse economy, with developed service, tourist and hospitality industries. It is facing seismic challenges, as is the home state. In a credit crunch, the economies based around lifestyle capitalism and service industries suffer as international infrastructural and public sector funding retracts. My article proposes no causal relationship between bohemia and economic development through either tourism or the creative industries. Instead, the complexity of ‘Bohemia’ as a concept, trope and brand is revealed, spilling beyond the seemingly predictable, mappable and trackable Bohemian Index.

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