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World Cities Primary sources: Mike Savage & Alan Warde Saskia Sassen Uneven urban development division of labor is fundamental to industrial capitalism within firms & factories within cities & regions between cities & regions

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world cities

World Cities

Primary sources:

Mike Savage & Alan Warde

Saskia Sassen

uneven urban development
Uneven urban development
  • division of labor is fundamental to industrial capitalism
    • within firms & factories
    • within cities & regions
    • between cities & regions
  • Division of labor at a large scale (“world system”) accounts for uneven urban development

“The dynamics of the world system affect the way that cities develop and decline. A recognition of this belies a linear historical view of urban differentiation—where different urban forms are reflections of the specific period which any given city has reached in an evolutionary urban cycle—implying instead that spatial dynamics of the world system profoundly shape urban form.”

Savage & Warde, p.268


“Information technologies, often thought of as neutralizing geography, actually contribute to spatial concentration. They make possible the geographic dispersal and simultaneous integration of many activities. But the particular conditions under which such facilities are available have promoted centralization of the most advanced users in the most advanced telecommunications centers.”

Saskia Sassen, p.209

a typology of cities
A Typology of Cities
  • Global Cities (World Cities)
  • Declining Industrial Cities
  • New Industrial Districts
  • Third World Cities
  • Socialist Cities
world cities of various ranks
World Cities of Various Ranks

J.V. Beaverstock, R.G. Smith and P.J. Taylor: A Roster of World Cities

world cities10
World Cities
  • Maintain an economic hinterland that reaches beyond the borders of the state
  • Acts as a control point for international flows of capital and information
  • Attract the headquarters of transnational corporations and producer services companies
  • Attract wide range of workers leading to extreme income gaps

Henry Wagner:

tokyo yokohama japan
Tokyo-Yokohama, Japan

Thanks to YWAM:

third world cities
Third World Cities
  • Generally third world countries have a city that is much larger than the rest of the cities in the country …called a “primate city”
  • why do they form?
    • colonialism (infrastructure development, especially railroads & ports)
    • post-colonial investment by outsiders
    • political and economic instability related directly or indirectly to external manipulation
    • population pressure related to external involvement
  • Massive influx of people to the primate city leads to squatter settlements and grossly inadequate services
poor children in calcutta
Poor Children in Calcutta

dimensions of the problem
Dimensions of the problem
  • 31% of the world population now lives in areas classified as “slums” by the UN
  • In the least developed countries (most of sub-saharan Africa plus various Asian countries such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh) 78% of the population lives in slums

Some 400 to 600 million people on the planet (more than the population of the US) are squatters, i.e. no legal claim to the land they live on



thanks to:

rickshaw drivers delhi
Rickshaw Drivers, Delhi

Workers in the “informal sector”


“There is a whole infrastructure of low-wage, non-professional jobs and activities that constitutes a crucial part of the so-called corporate economy.”

“Many of the devalued sectors of the urban economy actually fulfill crucial functions for the center, …”

Saskia Sassen, p.211

who works in the informal sector
Who works in the “informal sector”?
  • Cleaners
  • Tradespersons
  • Cooks & dishwashers
  • Tailors & seamstresses
  • Manual assembly
  • Construction workers
  • Many other jobs
  • All unregistered, off the books, untaxed, and often staffed with illegal immigrants
how important is the informal sector
How important is the informal sector?
  • New York City sweatshops in 1981: 3000
  • Sweatshop workers: some 50,000
  • Homeworkers in garment industry: perhaps 10,000
  • Saskia Sassen, “New York City’s Informal Economy,” paper presented at the Conference on Comparative Ethnicity, Los Angeles, 1988.
declining industrial cities
Declining Industrial Cities
  • cities that grew and matured early in the industrial era (1840s-1920s)
  • some have declined and restructured, others are still in decline
  • most have landscapes marked with the relics of industry: abandoned canals, empty warehouses, collapsing factory buildings, heaps of toxic waste, collapsing underground tanks, etc.

Nostalgic …

… or haunted?


Thanks to Tim Edensor:


Thanks to Tim Edensor:


Thanks to Tim Edensor:


Thanks to Tim Edensor:


The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit:

“…peripheralization processes are occurring inside areas that were once conceived of as ‘core’ areas—whether at the global, regional, or urban level—and … alongside the sharpening of peripheralization processes, centrality has also become sharper at all three levels.”

Saskia Sassen, p.210

new industrial districts
New Industrial Districts
  • Not primarily associated with cities
    • may be limited to a particular district of a city
    • may lie outside the municipal jurisdiction of a city, or at the boundary of several jurisdictions
    • may include several cities
  • Activity centers around complexes of office buildings and retail spaces generally close to one or more freeways
  • strict separation of housing and other landuses
silicon valley route 128
Silicon Valley & Route 128
  • Both looked equally promising in the 1970s
  • Overseas competition in 1980s & after
  • Silicon Valley proved to have greater staying power
  • SV now generates over twice as much revenue as Rt 128
  • Why?
    • Dense social networks
    • Open labor markets
    • Experimentation & entrepreneurship
    • Regional production complex vs autonomous firms
    • Anti-hierarchical and de-centralized firms
    • Tolerance of spin-offs & returning former employees
what went wrong with rt 128
What went wrong with Rt. 128?
  • Conservative corporate mindset
    • Secrecy & security
    • Lack of shared knowledge
    • Lack of standards
    • Family-based social world
    • Vertically-integrated companies
  • Source: Annalee Saxenian
cyberabad hyderabad india
“Cyberabad” (Hyderabad India)

Hyderabad has facilities of IBM, Dell, Microsoft, General Electric and Oracle, & over 200 other software companies

Thanks to:

andhra pradesh indian state where hyderabad is located
Andhra Pradesh: (Indian state where Hyderabad is located)
  • Average household income $600
  • Percent of households with electricity 50%
  • Literacy 50%
  • Percent of population that has at least a high school education 8%
  • Annual number of university graduates in science & engineering: 100,000!
  • A polarized labor force
  • Data Source: Kyle Eischen, San Jose Mercury News, March 19, 2000
cities in socialist countries
Cities in Socialist Countries
  • Just emerging from centralized government management that inhibited urban growth
  • Picture varied; prospects not clear


new international division of labor
New International Division of Labor
  • During “industrial era” leading countries engaged in industry using materials from poor regions
  • During “post-industrial era” leading countries have specialized in services and finance
  • Poor countries now provide raw materials and industrial labor that benefit consumers in wealthy countries
  • Each of the three main world cities is associated with an economic hinterland, though their ties are global
why is industry growing in poor countries
Why is Industry Growing in Poor Countries?
  • wages are lower
  • unions are weak or non-existent
  • standards for workplace safety and workers’ rights are lower
  • pollution controls are weaker and environmentalism is less developed
  • transportation and communication have become relatively cheap (so the benefits of off-shore production outweigh the costs)
  • So corporations based in rich countries seek out untapped resources and labor pools in poor countries
economic restructuring
Economic Restructuring
  • Over time, the basis of a region’s economy undergoes transformation
    • agriculture → industry
    • industry → services
  • Such changes occur in cycles or waves
  • Locally, the type of jobs in the job market changes
  • This also reflects changes in distant job markets and growing interdependence
why is the dependency of rich countries on poor countries hard to perceive
Why is the dependency of rich countries on poor countries hard to perceive?
  • Third World cities are not simply “behind” First World cities
  • Looking beyond our borders appears to be looking back in time; in fact, everything that happens now is interrelated somehow
  • Structural inequality is masked by the giving of aid and the politics of foreign intervention
  • Our pity or scorn may provide a means of disassociating ourselves from the system that benefits us
  • The global capitalist system has created “uneven” urban development
  • The differences between cities reflect an international division of labor in which corporate management locates production and extraction far away from markets in order to maximize profits