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world city

  A term coined by Patrick Geddes (1915) for \'certain great cities in which a quite disproportionate part of the world\'s most important business is conducted\' (Hall, 1984, p. 1). Hall identified eight such cities, centres of both economic and political power (though he later referred to them as \'giant metropolises\').

Within the global organization of the capitalist world-economy, world cities have been presented as the major foci. Friedmann\'s (1986) seminal paper, presented as \'a framework for research … neither a theory nor a universal generalization about cities, but a starting point for political inquiry\' linked urbanization processes to global economic forces through a \'series of loosely joined statements\' or \'interrelated theses\':

The form and extent of a city\'s integration with the world economy, and the functions assigned to the city in the new spatial division of labour, will be decisive for any structural changes occurring within it.

Key cities throughout the world are used by global capital as \'basing points\' in the spatial organization and articulation of production and markets. The resulting linkages make it possible to arrange world cities into a complex spatial hierarchy .

The global control functions of world cities are directly reflected in the structure and dynamics of their production sectors and employment.

World cities are major sites for the concentration and accumulation of international capital.

World cities are points of destination for large numbers of both domestic and/or international migrants.

World city formation brings into focus the major contradictions of industrial capitalism — among them spatial and class polarization.

World city growth generates social costs at rates that tend to exceed the fiscal capacity of the state.

Much research has been undertaken in the context of these theses, focusing especially on identification of hierarchies of world cities and (largely through comparative studies) the degree of social and economic polarization in the largest (especially London and New York): much of this is summarized in Knox and Taylor (1996).

Ten years after his original statement, Friedmann (1996) reviewed the subsequent literature, and concluded that there were \'five agreements\' regarding the \'conceptual object\' — the world city:

World cities articulate regional, national, and international economies into a global economy. They serve as the organizing nodes of a global economic system.

A space of global capital accumulation exists, but it is smaller than the world as a whole. Major world regions and their populations are, at present, virtually excluded from this space, living in a permanent subsistence economy .

World cities are large urbanized spaces of intense economic and social interact ion.

World cities can be arranged hierarchically, roughly in accord with the economic power they command. They are cities through which regional, national, and international economies are articulated within the global capitalist system of accumulation. A city\'s ability to attract global investments ultimately determines its rank in the order of world cities.

The controlling world city strata constitute a social class that has been called the transnational capitalist class. Its interests are the smooth functioning of the global system of accumulation; its culture is cosmopolitan; and its ideology is consumerist. Its presence gives rise to often severe conflict between itself and the subaltern classes who have more locally defined territorial interests and whose rise into the transnational class is blocked.

These agreements are woven together into what Friedmann terms a meta-narrative, which is able

to synthesize what would otherwise be disparate and diverging researches — into labour markets, information technology, international migration, cultural studies, city-building processes, industrial location, social class formation, massive disempowerment, and urban politics.

For the future, the relationships between these economic centres of a global economy and the system of territorial nation-states will be a major elements of the world geopolitical system. (See also geopolitics, globalization.) (RJJ)

References and Suggested Reading Geddes, P. 1915: Cities in evolution. London: Benn. Friedmann, J. 1986: The world city hypothesis. Development and Change 17 (1): 69-84. Friedmann, J. 1996: Where we stand: a decade of world city research. In P.L. Knox and P.J. Taylor, eds, World cities in a world system. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hall, P. 1984: The world cities, 3rd edn. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. Knox, P.L. and Taylor, P.J., eds, 1996: World cities in a world system. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sassen, S. 1993: The global city. New York, London, Tokyo. Princeton: Princeton University Press.



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