Peter J. Taylor, Pengfei Ni, Ben Derudder, Michael Hoyler, Jin Huang and Frank Witlox (eds.): Global Urban Analysis. A Survey of Cities in Globalization. London 2010.
Since the publishing of Saskia Sassen’s ‘The Global City’ 20 years ago (Sassen 1991), global or world city analysis has been challenged by two major criticisms. The first, which was particularly popular in the 1990s, pointed out a lack of adequate data (see, for example, Short et al. 1996). More recently it has become something of a mantra that global city research is inadequate for the understanding of non-core cities (see, for example, Robinson 2006).
While the first objection was effectively countered by the empirical work of the GaWC group (until recently based at Loughborough University) which produced voluminous data on the contours of the world city network (see, for example, Taylor 2004), with regard to the second critique, case studies have shown that cities in poorer countries are also on the world city map (see, for example, Parnreiter 2010). ‘Global Urban Analysis’, a book resulting from a cooperation between the GaWC group and the Chinese ‘Global Urban Competitiveness Project’, undergoes empirical efforts to further consolidate global city research. It provides the largest data set on cities and their connections in the global economy. Based on the analysis of the locations of the Forbes Global 2000 headquarters (with a specific focus on advanced producer service firms), of business hotels and events, and of science parks, ‘Global Urban Analysis’ identifies 525 cities, ranging from Aberdeen and Abidjan to Zhuhai and Zurich, as critical sites for the organisation and control of the world economy. First, these cities are assessed and ranked in terms of their importance for various functions (financial and legal services, accountancy, advertising, and management consultancy) which results in global, regional and national ‘global network connectivity’ rankings. At the global level, for example, London, New York and Hong Kong turn out to be the most connected cities, followed by Paris, Singapore and Tokyo. In Europe, Milan, Madrid, Brussels and, surprisingly, Warsaw come next to London and Paris, while Frankfurt as 12th on the scale is the highest-ranked German city. In financial services, however, Frankfurt’s connectivity is much higher – here, the city ranks fifth, while Berlin is quite central in the network of accountancy firms. While these data sets are an improved, enlarged and updated version of already existing information, the second empirical analysis represents a novelty in global city research. ‘Global Urban Analysis’ displays the geographical orientations of the intercity connections of the studied cities in two dimensions. The first is ‘localism’, defined as the relative concentration of a city’s connections to other cities either within a region/country or beyond it. In Germany, for example, Frankfurt is the only city with a majority of ‘non-local’ connections. The second studied dimension is ‘traditional’ vs. ‘new globalism’, that is, the strength of inter-city linkages with New York and London on the one hand, and with Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai on the other. One result of this analysis is the observation that the leading European cities are on the whole more strongly connected to the traditional centres New York and London, while cities in other regions (e.g. Japanese, Indian and Latin American cities) are more oriented towards the ‘Big Three’ Chinese cities. ‘Global Urban Analysis’, with its four ‘global’, nine ‘regional’ and 22 ‘national/subregional’ chapters, 184 tables and 30 figures, is an amazingly rich resource for economic and urban geographers and for all those interested in the urban backbone of the world economy. Due to the amount of information it contains, the book is not easy to read all at once even though it is written in a comprehensive style. ‘Global Urban Analysis’ is rather a book to work with – as an indispensable reference it helps to understand the geography of the world economy. Unfortunately, it is an expensive book, and students are lucky if their university libraries provide it.
Parnreiter, C. 2010: Global Cities in Global Commodity Chains. Towards a Geography of Governance in the World Economy. Global Networks 10 (1): 35-53
Robinson, J. 2006: Ordinary Cities: Between Modernity and Development. London
Sassen, S. 1991: The Global City. New York et al.
Short, J.R., Y. Kim, M. Kuus and H. Wells 1996: The Dirty Little Secret of World Cities Research: Data Problems in Comparative Analysis. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 20 (4): 697-717
Taylor, P. 2004: World City Network. A Global Urban Analysis. London