Global cities

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The Global City: introducing a Concept

Professor of Sociology University of Chicago

EACH PHASE IN THE LONG history ofthe world economy raises specific questions about the particular conditions that make it possible. One ofthe key properties ofthe current phase is the ascendance of information technologies and the associated increase in the mobility and liquidity of capital.There have long been cross-border economic processes—flows of capital, labor, goods, raw materials, tourists. But to a large extent these took place within the inter-state system, where the key articulators were national states. The international economic system was ensconced largely in this inter-state system. This has changed rather dramatically over the last decade as a result of privatization,deregulation, the opening up of national economies to foreign firms, and the growing participation of national economic actors in global markets. It is in this context that we see a re-scaling of what are the strategic territories that articulate the new system. With the partial unbundling or at least weakening of the national as a spatial unit due to privatization and deregulation and theassociated strengthening of globalization come conditions for the ascendance of other spatial units or scales. Among these are the sub-national, notably cities and regions; crossborder regions encompassing two or more sub-national entities; and supra-national entities, i.e. global digitalized markets and free trade blocs. The dynamics and processes that get terrritorialized at these diverse scales can inprinciple be regional, national or global. I locate the emergence of global cities in this context and against this range of instantiations of strategic scales and spatial units.' In the case of global cities, the dynamics and processes that get territorialized are global. 27

SASKIA SASSEN is the Ralph Lewis Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago, and Centennial Visiting Professorat the London School of Economics. Her new book is Denationalization: Territory, Authority and Rights in a Global Digital Age (Piinccton University Press 2005). Copyright © 2005 by the Brown Journal of World Affairs



The globalization of economic activity entails a new type of organizationalstructure. To capture this theoretically and empirically requires, correspondingly, a new type of conceptual architecture.^ Constructs such as the global city and the global-city region are, in my reading, important elements in this new conceptual architecture. The activity of naming these elements is part of the conceptual work. There are other closely linked terms which could conceivably havebeen used: world cities,"* "supervilles,"^ informational city.^ Thus, choosing how to name a configuration has its own substantive rationality. When I first chose to use global city/T did so knowingly—it was an attempt to name a difference: the specificity oFthe global as it gets structured in the contemporary period. I did not chose the obvious alternative, world city, because it had precisely theopposite attribute: it referred to a type of city which we have seen over the centuries/ in earlier periods in Asia^ and in European colonial centers.^ In this regard, it can be said that most of today's major global cities are also world cities, but that there may well be some global cities today that are not world cities in the full, rich sense of that term. This is partly an empirical question;further, as the global economy expands and incorporates additional cities into the various networks, it is quite possible that the answer to that particular question will vary. Thus, the fact that Miami has developed global city functions beginning in the late 1980s does not make it a world city in that older sense ofthe term.'"

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