Scott, Allen J. (ed) Global City-Regions: Trends, Theory, Policy.
This impressive compilation is an edited collection of papers presented to an international conference on global city-regions hosted by the School of Public Policy and Social Research at UCLA in October, 1999. Geographer Allen Scott is that school's director for the Center for Globalization and Policy Research.
Global city-regions, those phenomena which used to be known as 'world cities,' are now defined as a new regionalism, sub-national regional social formations, or "dense nodes of human labor and communal life." To all these authors, place remains important. The central issue to be explored is the stressful impact of a 'new global city-centric capitalism' in transforming local political, social and economic organization and mobilization. The central thesis is that a general system of global city-regions is emerging and, in the process, often traditional policy problems of urban life like income inequality have been dramatically exacerbated.
The essays, by 25 mostly internationally-recognized scholars, are grouped into eight subsets. The first includes the three short plenary addresses. Japanese management consultant Kenichi Ohmae thoughtfully explores how and why specific city-regions may make it onto any CEO locations short-list of investing opportunities as well as other practical implications for governments and corporations of a new economy rooted in transportation, telecommunications and financial institutions. Perhaps strangely, I found the hall dozen pages by James D. Wolfensohn, raised in Australia and now the ninth President of the World Bank, to be most touching. He addresses the potential for the empowerment of the people of the slums and, in sketching the need for funding initiatives for cities in transitional economies, he reveals a deeper understanding that access to such basic amenities as reliable potable water and sewage disposal is more likely to show people that they matter than do the grandest of top-down national development plans. Lastly, then Premier Lucien Bouchard adds ritual tub-thumping for the new economic focus and old cultural diversity of Montreal and Quebec.
In their thoughtful introductory theme paper for the conference (chapter 1) Professor Scott and his colleagues set the volume's broader stage by arguing that we ought not, today, to try to understand the world urbanization process by looking through the prism of national city systems but instead by thinking about an international 'mosaic of interrelated city-regions.'
Sections are then arranged to focus on global city-regions as a new geographic phenomenon, their competitive economic advantages, the political and economic challenges they present in the developing world, social inequalities and immigrant niches in these specific urban agglomerations, questions of citizenship and globalization and matters pertaining to the local governance of a few selected global cities.
Individual authorities quite naturally pursue quite distinct questions. For example, Sir Peter Hall, who was among the first to draw attention to 'world cities' in 1966, continues to expand and refine his workable definition of global cities, this time embracing and advancing the inventory of the Loughborough Group (69-72). In a strong essay, Thomas J. Courchene advances the case that it was the geo-economic realities reflected in NAFTA which forced the provincial hand on Megacity (and the other major realignments) to build the potential for export competitiveness. The longer term eye was of Toronto as a global city-region based upon a reorientation away from the east-west national policy to its newly more natural north-south axis.
Susan Fainstein, Professor of Urban Planning (SUNJ--Rutgers), explores the data behind the global-city paradox: in these wealthy agglomerations the exceptionally wealthy live cheek-by-jowl with dense populations of the very poor. Across rive city-regions, her analysis is clear even as it unveils findings which are not. What is constant is that the wealthy few have become wealthier even as the poor have become more such and, as well, "in all five regions there is a correlation between low income and membership in marginal ethnic or racial groups" (294). Engin Isin's sensitive historical treatment of the rise of Islamic politics (primarily in Istanbul) appreciates that it operates today at the practical level of poverty, consumption, transportation and neighbourhood protection--not jihad--whose alternative forms of identity and citizenship may be best understood as representing a series of postmodern contradictions. Michael Keating is also present as is Saskia Sassen. And so on.
The anthology has an extensive index, which has been carefully assembled, and helpfully, there are also 33 figures and 44 tables scattered throughout the text. Generally the excellent reference sections for most chapters are extensive, supportive and inclusive of quite recent research.
Because the personalities here are so prominent their central arguments are well-known. But, possibly due to this, Global City-Regions is a robust, contemporary and engaging exploration of this rather important subject.
Professor of Political Science
University of Alberta
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|Publication:||Canadian Journal of Urban Research|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2003|
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