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Please read at least two articles!!! really important! otherwise I won't give good feedback.

You don't need to read all, but at least read it roughly and find some useful information.  

no more than four double spaced pages, 12-pt font, with 1” margins.

So far, we have read scholars who have used the concept of the global city (including world cities, world-class cities) in a number of different ways. Some have argued for the value of concept as an analytical framework (Sassen, Friedman and Goetz), some have argued that it is detrimental (Robinson, McDonald), and others have used it to name a local cultural concept (Ghertner). 

            Drawing on at least two of the authors that we have read so far make an argument for or against the usefulness of the global city concept for the analysis of contemporary urban space.  To do this you must draw on the authors to define what is meant by “global city.” Using this definition, you will then explain why this understanding is, or isn’t, useful.  If you are arguing that it is useful explain what it is useful for understanding.  If you are arguing that it isn’t explain why and if there is a better concept. 

Structure tip:  Social science papers, especially short ones like this, can be very blunt and state the argument of the paper very quickly.  A possible first sentence could be “In this paper I will argue that the concept of the global city is useful as a…..” or “In this paper I will argue that the concept of the global city is not useful because it….”  The rest of your essay should present evidence from the readings for your argument.

no more than four double spaced pages, 12-pt font, with 1” margins.

Do not include a bibliography and only use texts that we have read in class.

Please cite the authors that you use using the last name, date, and page number if quoting from the text. For example, “One way to understand global cities is as containing the “control functions” of the world economy (Sassen 2005: 32).”

The Global City: introducing a Concept


Professor of Sociology University of Chicago

EACH PHASE IN THE LONG history o f t h e world economy raises specific questions about

the particular conditions that make it possible. O n e 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 pro-

cesses—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.

T h e 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, 27

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 the associated

strengthening of globalization come conditions for the ascendance of other spatial

units or scales. Among these are the sub-national, notably cities and regions; cross-

border regions encompassing two or more sub-national entities; and supra-national

entities, i.e. global digitalized markets and free trade blocs. T h e dynamics and processes

that get terrritorialized at these diverse scales can in principle be regional, national or


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 dy-

namics and processes that get territorialized are global.

SASKIA SASSEN is the Ralph Lewis Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago, and Centennial Visiting Professor at 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 organizational structure.

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 activ-

ity of naming these elements is part of the conceptual work. There are other closely

linked terms which could conceivably have been used: world cities,"* "supervilles,"^ in-

formational city.̂ Thus, choosing how to name a configuration has its own substantive


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 the

opposite 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 incorpo-

rates 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.'"


There are seven hypotheses through which I organized the data and the theorization of

the global city model. I will discuss each of these briefly as a way of producing a more

precise representation.

First, the geographic dispersal of economic activities that marks globalization,

along with the simultaneous integration of such geographically dispersed activities, is a

key factor feeding the growth and importance of central corporate functions. The more

dispersed a firm's operations across different countries, the more complex and strategic

its central functions—that is, the work of managing, coordinating, servicing, financing

a firm's network of operations.

Second, these central functions become so complex that increasingly the head-

quarters of large global firms outsource them: they buy a share of their central func-

tions from highly specialized service firms—accounting, legal, public relations, pro-

gramming, telecommunications, and other such services. While even ten years ago the


The Global City: Introducing a Concept

key site for the production of these central headquarter functions was the headquarters

of a firm, today there is a second key site: the specialized service firms contracted by

headquarters to produce some of these central functions or components of them. This

is especially the case with firms involved in global markets and non-routine operations.

But increasingly the headquarters of all large firms are buying more of such inputs

rather than producing them in-house.

Third, those specialized service firms engaged in the most complex and global-

ized markets are subject to agglomeration economies. The complexity ofthe services

they need to produce, the uncertainty of the markets they are involved with either

directly or through the headquarters for which they are producing the services, and the

growing importance of speed in all these transactions, is a mix of conditions that con-

stitutes a new agglomeration dynamic. The mix of firms, talents, and expertise from a

broad range of specialized fields makes a certain type of urban environment function as

an information center. Being in a city becomes synonymous with being in an extremely

intense and dense information loop.

A fourth hypothesis, derived from the preceding one, is that the more headquar-

ters outsource their most complex, unstandardized functions, particularly those sub-

ject to uncertain and changing markets, the freer they are to opt for any location,

because less work actually done in the headquarters is subject to agglomeration econo- 29

mies. This further underlines that the key sector specifying the distinctive production

advantages of global cities is the highly specialized and networked services sector. In

developing this hypothesis I was responding to a very common notion that the number

of headquarters is what specifies a global city. Empirically it may still be the case in

many countries that the leading business center is also the leading concentration of

headquarters, but this may well be because there is an absence of alternative locational

options. But in countries with a well-developed infrastructure outside the leading busi-

ness center, there are likely to be multiple locational options for such headquarters.

Fifth, these specialized service firms need to provide a global service which has

meant a global network of affiliates or some other form of partnership, and as a result

we have seen a strengthening of cross border city-to-city transactions and networks. At

the limit, this may well be the beginning ofthe formation of transnational urban sys-

tems. The growth of global markets for finance and specialized services, the need for

transnational servicing networks due to sharp increases in international investment,

the reduced role ofthe government in the regulation of international economic activ-

ity, and the corresponding ascendance of other institutional arenas—notably global

markets and corporate headquarters—all point to the existence of a series of transnational

networks of cities.



A related hypothesis for research is that the economic fortunes of these cities

become increasingly disconnected from their broader hinterlands or even their na-

tional economies. We can see here the formation, at least incipient, of transnational

urban systems. To a large extent major business centers in the world today draw their

importance from these transnational networks. There is no such thing as a single global

city—and in this sense there is a sharp contrast with the erstwhile capitals of empires.

A sixth hypothesis, is that the growing numbers of high-level professionals and

high profit making specialized service firms have the effect of raising the degree of

spatial and socio-economic inequality evident in these cities. The strategic role of these

specialized services as inputs raises the value of top level professionals and their num-

bers. Further, the fact that talent can matter enormously for the quality of these strate-

gic outputs and, given the importance of speed, proven talent is an added value, the

structure of rewards is likely to experience rapid increases. Types of activities and work-

ers lacking these attributes, whether manufacturing or industrial services, are likely to

get caught in the opposite cycle.

A seventh hypothesis, is that one result ofthe dynamics described in hypothesis

six, is the growing informalizarion of a range of economic activities which find their

effective demand in these cities, yet have profit rates that do not allow them to compete

for various resources with the high-profit making firms at the top of the system. 311

Informalizing part of or all production and distribution activities, including services, is

one way of surviving under these conditions.


In the first four hypotheses, I attempted to qualify what was emerging in the 1980s as

a dominant discourse on globalization, technology, and cities which posited the end of

cities as important economic units or scales. I saw a tendency in that account to take

the existence of a global economic system as a given, a function of the power of

transnational corporations and global communications.

My counter argument is that the capabilities for global operation, coordination,

and control contained in the new information technologies and in the power of

transnational corporations need to be acrualized. By focusing on the production of

these capabilities we add a neglected dimension to the familiar issue of the power of

large corporations and the capacity ofthe new technologies to neutralize distance and

place. A focus on the production of these capabilities shifts the emphasis to the practices

that constitute what we call economic globalization and global control.


The Global City: Introducing a Concept

Further, a focus on

practices draws the categories

of place and work process

into the analysis of economic

globalization. These are two

categories easily overlooked

in accounts centered on the

hypermobility of capital and

the power of transnational.

Developing categories such

as place and work process

does not negate the central-

ity of hypermobility and

power. Rather, it brings to

the fore the fact that many

ofthe resources necessary for

global economic activities are

not hypermobile and are, in-

deed, deeply embedded in

place, notably places such as OL ^ f u i L- i t

global cities, global-city re- video stills from "The Paraculture," under production

gions, and export processing at ZKM by Hilary Koob-Sassen (Germany, 2003-4).


This entails a whole in-

frastructure of activities, firms, and jobs which are necessary to run the advanced cor-

porate economy. These industries are typically conceptualized in terms of the

hypermobility of their outputs and the high levels of expertise of their professionals

rather than in terms of the production or work process involved and the requisite

infrastructure of facilities and non-expert jobs that are also part of these industries.

Focusing on the work process brings with it an emphasis on economic and spatial

polarization because ofthe disproportionate concentration of very high and very low

income jobs in these major global city sectors. Emphasizing place, infrastructure, and

non-expert jobs matters precisely because so much ofthe focus has been on the neutral-

ization of geography and place made possible by the new technologies.

The growth of networked cross-border dynamics among global cities includes a

broad range of domains: political, cultural, social, and criminal. There are cross-border

transactions among immigrant communities and communities of origin, and a greater

intensity in the use of these networks once they become established, including for




economic activities. We also see greater cross-border networks for cultural purposes, as

in the growth of international markets for art and a transnational class of curators; and

for non-formal political purposes, as in the growth of transnational networks of activ-

ists around environmental causes, human rights, and so on. These are largely city-to-

city cross-border networks, or, at least, it appears at this time to be simpler to capture

the existence and modalities of these networks at the city level. The same can be said for

the new cross border criminal networks.

Recapturing the geography of places involved in globalization allows us to recap-

ture people, workers, communities, and more specifically, the many different work

cultures, besides the corporate culture, involved in the work of globalization. It also

brings with it an enormous research agenda, one that goes beyond the by now familiar

focus on cross-border flows of goods, capital, and information.

Finally, by emphasizing the fact that global processes are at least partly embedded

in national territories, such a focus introduces new variables in current conceptions

about economic globalization and the shrinking regulatory role ofthe state." That is to

say, the space economy for major new transnational economic processes diverges in

significant ways from the duality global/national presupposed in many analyses ofthe

global economy. The duality, national versus global, suggests two mutually exclusive

spaces—where one begins the other ends. O n e ofthe outcomes of a global city analysis

is that it makes evident that the global materializes by necessity in specific places, and

institutional arrangements, a good number of which, if not most, are located in na-

tional territories.


The geography of globalization contains both a dynamic of dispersal and of centraliza-

tion. The massive trends towards the spatial dispersal of economic activities at the

metropolitan, national, and global level which we associate with globalization have

contributed to a demand for new forms of territorial centralization of top-level man-

agement and control functions. Insofar as these flinctions benefit from agglomeration

economies even in the face of telematic integration of a firm's globally dispersed manu-

facturing and service operations, they tend to locate in cities. This raises a question as

to why they should benefit from agglomertion economies, especially since globalized

economic sectors tend to be intensive users ofthe new telecommunications and com-

puter technologies, and increasingly produce a partly de-materialized output, such as

financial instruments and specialized services. There is growing evidence that business

networks are a crucial variable that is to be distinguished from technical networks.

Such business networks have been crucial long before the current technologies were


The Global City: Introducing a Concept

developed. Business networks benefit from agglomeration economies and hence thrive

in cities even today when simultaneous global communication is possible. Elsewhere I

examine this issue and find that the key variable contributing to the spatial concentra-

tion of central functions and associated agglomeration economies is the extent to which

this dispersal occurs under conditions of concentration in control, ownership, and

profit appropriation.'^

This dynamic of simultaneous Inside countrjes, the leading financial geographic dispersal and concentra-

tion is one of the key elements in " i i t e r s today conceiitrate 3 greater the organizational architecture of the share of national financial activity than global economic system Let me first ^^^^ ^^^ ^^^ internationally, give some empirical referents and

then examine some of the itnpiica- citJes in the glohal North concentrate well tions for theorizing the impact of gver half of the global Capital market. globalization and the new technolo-

gies on cities.

T h e rapid growth of affiliates illustrates the dynamic of simultaneous geographic

dispersal and concentration of a firm's operations. By 1999 firms had well over half a

million affiliates outside their home countries accoutitine for USS 11 trillion in sales, a 33

very significant figure if we consider that global trade stood at US$ 8 trillion. Firms

with large numbers of geographically dispersed factories and service outlets face mas-

sive new needs for central coordination and servicing, especially when their affiliates

involve foreign countries with different legal and accounting systems.

Another instance today of this negotiation between a global cross-border dy-

namic and territorially specific site is that of the global financial markets. T h e orders of

magnitude in these transactions have risen sharply, as illustrated by the US$ 192 tril-

lion for 2002 in traded derivatives, a major component of the global economy and one

that dwarfs the value of global trade which stood at US$ 8 trillion. These transactions

are partly embedded in electronic systems that make possible the instantaneous trans-

mission of money and information around the globe. Much attention has gone to this

capacity for instantaneous transmission of the new technologies. But the other half of

the story is the extent to which the global financial markets are located in an expanding

network of cities, with a disproportionate concentration in cities of the global North.

Indeed, the degrees of concentration internationally and within countries are unex-

pectedly high for an increasingly globalized and digitized economic sector. Inside coun-

tries, the leading financial centers today concentrate a greater share of national finan-

cial activity than even ten years ago, and internationally, cities in the global North

concentrate well over half of the glohal capital market. This is a subject 1 discuss em-



pirically in a later section.

One ofthe components ofthe global capital market is stock markets. The late

1980s and early 1990s saw the addition of markets such as Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo,

Mexico City, Bangkok, Taipei, Moscow, and growing numbers of non-national firms

listed in most of these markets. The growing number of stock markets has contributed

to raise the capital that can be mobilized through these markets, reflected in the sharp

worldwide growth of stock market capitalization which reached over US$ 24 trillion in

2000 and USS 36 trillion in 2001. This globally integrated stock market which makes

possible the circulation of publicly listed shares around the globe in seconds is embed-

ded in a grid of very material, physical, strategic places.

The specific forms assumed by globalization over the last decade have created

particular organizational requirements. The emergence of global markets for finance

and specialized services, the growth of investment as a major type of international

transaction, all have contributed to the expansion in command functions and in the

demand for specialized services for firms.'^

By central functions I do not only mean top level headquarters; I am referring to

all the top level financial, legal, accounting, managerial, executive, planning functions

necessary to run a corporate organization operating in more than one country, and

increasingly in several countries. These central functions are partly embedded in head-

quarters, but also in good part in what has been called the corporate services complex,

that is, the network of financial, legal, accounting, advertising firms that handle the

complexities of operating in more than one national legal system, national accounting

system, advertising culture, etc. and do so under conditions of rapid innovations in all

these fields. Such services have become so specialized and complex that headquarters

increasingly buy them from specialized firms rather than producing them in-house.

These agglomerations of firms producing central functions for the management and

coordination of global economic systems, are disproportionately concentrated in the

highly developed countries—particularly, though not exclusively, in global cities. Such

concentrations of functions represent a strategic factor in the organization ofthe global

economy, and they are situated in an expanding network of global cities.'^

It is important analytically to unbundle strategic functions for the global economy

or for global operation, and the overall corporate economy of a country. These global

control and command functions are partly embedded in national corporate structures,

but also constitute a distinct corporate subsecror. This subsector can he conceived as

part of a network that connects global cities across the world through firms' affiliates or

other representative offices.'^ For the purposes of certain kinds of inquiry this distinc-

tion may not matter; for the purposes of understanding the global economy, it does.


The Global City: Introducing a Concept

This distinction also matters for questions of regulation, notably regulation of

cross-border activities. If the strategic central functions—both those produced in cor-

porate headquarters and those produced in the specialized corporate services sector—

are located in a network of major financial and business centers, the question of regulat-

ing what amounts to a key part of the global economy will entail a different type of

effort from what would be the case if the strategic management and coordination func-

tions were as distributed geographically as the factories, service outlets, and affiliates

generally. We can also read this as a strategic geography for political activisms that seek

accountability from major corporate actors, among others concerning environmental

standards and workplace standards.

National and global markets as well as globally integrated organizations require

central places where the work of globalization gets done. Finance and advanced corpo-

rate services are industries producing the organizational commodities necessary for the

implementation and management of global economic systems. Cities are preferred sites

for the production of these services, particularly the most innovative, speculative, inter-

nationalized service sectors. Further, leading firms in information industries require a

vast physical infrastructure containing strategic nodes with hyper-concentration of fa-

cilities; we need to distinguish between the capacity for global transmission/comtnuni-

cation and the material conditions that make this possible. Finally, even the most ad-

vanced information industries have a production process that is at least partly place-

bound because of the combination of resources it requires even when the outputs are


Theoretically, this addresses two key issues in current debates and scholarship.

One of these is the complex articulation between capital fixity and capital mobility, and

the other is the position of cities in a global economy. Elsewhere I have developed the

thesis that capital mobility cannot be reduced simply to that which moves nor can it be

reduced co the technologies that facilitate movement. Rather, multiple components of

what we keep thinking of as capital fixity are actually components of capital mobility.

This conceptualization allows us to reposition the role of cities in an increasingly glo-

balizing world, in that they contain the resources that enable firms and markets to have

global operations. '̂ The mobility of capital, whether in rhe form of investments, trade

or overseas affiliates, needs to be managed, serviced, coordinated. These are often rather

place-bound, yet are key components of capital mobility. Finally, states, place-bound

institutional orders—have played an often crucial role in producing regulatory envi-

ronments that facilitate the implementation of cross-border operations for their na-

tional and for foreign firms, investors, and markets.'^



In brief, a focus on cities makes it possible to recognize the anchoring of multiple

cross-border dynamics in a network of places, prominent among which are cities, par-

ticularly global cities or rhose wirh global city funcrions. This in turn anchors various

features of globalization in the specific conditions and histories of these cities, in their

variable articulations wirh their national economies and wirh various world economies

across time and place.'^ This optic on globalization contributes to identifying a com-

plex organizational architecture which cuts across borders, and is both partly de-terri-

torialized and partly spatially concentrated in cities. Further, it creates an enormous

research agenda in tbat every particular national or urban economy has its specific and

inherited modes of articulating with current global circuits. Once we have more infor-

mation about this variance we may also be able to establish whether position in the

global hierarchy makes a dijfference and the various ways in which it might do so.


Cities have historically provided national economies, polities, and societies with some-

thing we can tbink of as centrality. In terms of their economic function, cities provide

agglomeration economies, massive concentrations of information on the latest devel-

opments, a marketplace. Tbe question here is: how do the new technologies of com-

munication alter the role of centrality and hence of cities as economic entities.

As earlier sections have indicated, centrality remains a key Feature of today's glo-

hal economy. But today there is no longer a simple, straightforward relation between

centrality and such geographic entities as the downtown, or the central business district

{CBD}. In the past, and up to quite recently in Fact, the center was synonymous with

the downtown or the C B D . Today, partly as a result oFthe new communication tech-

nologies, the spatial correlates oFthe center can assume several geographic Forms, rang-

ing From the C B D to a new global grid oF cities.

Simply, one can identify three Forms assumed by centrality today.'' First, while

there is no longer a simple straightForward relation between centrality and such geo-

graphic entities as tbe downrown, as was the case in the past, the C B D remains a key

Form oF centrality. But the C B D in major international business centers is one pro-

foundly reconfigured by technological and economic change.

Second, the center can extend into a metropolitan area in the form oFa grid oF

nodes oF intense business activity, a case well illustrated by recent developments in

cities as diverse as Buenos Aires^" and Paris."' O n e might ask whether a spatial organi-

zation characterized by dense strategic nodes spread over a broader region does or does

not constitute a new Form of organizing the territory oFthe "center," rather than, as in

the more conventional view, an instance oF suburbanization or geographic dispersal.


Global Gity: Introducing a Concept

Insofar as these various nodes are articulated through cyber-routes or digital highways,

they represent a new geographic correlate oFthe most advanced type of "center." The

places that fall outside tbis new grid oF

digital highways, however, are

peripheraiized. This regional grid oF Ttiere is little doubt that connectJng to

nodes represents, in my analysis, a re- g|o(3a| cJrcuJtS fiaS brOUght WJtb Jt Z constitution of tbe concept of region.

Far From neutralizing geography, the Significant level of development…[and]

regional grid is likely to be embedded e c o n o m j c dynamism. But tbe question in conventional forms oFcommunica- , . i-. • . • •

. . r u ^ I of inequality bas not been engaged. tions infrastructure, notably rapid rail n J O O

and highways connecting to airports.

Ironically perhaps, conventional inFrastructure are likely to maximize tbe economic

benefits derived from telematics. I think this is an important issue that has been lost