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Global Cities: the New Urban Reality (November 2015): General and Reference Works

By Jane Marcus-Delgado

General and Reference Works

As a rapidly developing area of urban studies, global cities research has benefited tremendously from the rich and fruitful dialogue of its early thinkers—many of whom remain actively engaged in scholarship on the subject.  This section addresses volumes that bring together the foremost works in the field, in so doing providing an excellent point of departure for novices to its study.

As founder, in 1998, of the Globalization and World Cities Research Network, Peter Taylor, a professor of human geography at Northumbria University, UK, has arguably provided more accessibility to the subject than any other global city researcher in the past few decades.  His website GaWC: Globalization and World Cities Research Network and his edited volume Global Cities: Critical Concepts in Urban Studies, the latter mentioned in the first section of this essay, together offer an exhaustive assemblage of historical and contemporary works from across the disciplines and serve as a comprehensive overview of scholarship in the field.  Both deserve fleshing out.

Global Cities comprises four volumes: Cities in Globalization, The Business of Global Cities, Infrastructures for Cities in Globalization, and Planning and Governance of Cities in Globalization.  The chronological table in the first volume lists articles found in the entire collection, serving as a concise list of the major scholarly writings on the subject.  By reading the chronology, students new to the field can view a snapshot of the major authors and themes in the field’s trajectory and a complete list of the publications (chiefly journals) in which the pieces originally appeared.  In the initial volume, Taylor introduces the set, presenting the general concept of global cities and disaggregating data used to measure their relative size and strength.  He also sheds light on the relevance of global city research to a variety of disciplines, including economics, political science, and environmental studies as well as globalization studies in general.  Volume 2 introduces readers to the centrality of business—firms, financial relations, manufacturing, workers, regulators, and institutions—to the study of global cities.  It also offers a historical overview and highlights “foundation studies” (i.e., seminal contributions to the field).  These include Castells’s The Urban Question; Sassen’s Cities in a World Economy; and N. J. Thrift’s “The Fixers: The Urban Geography of International Economic Disorder,” one of the essays in Global Restructuring and Territorial Development, edited by Jeffrey Henderson and Manuel Castells.  Volume 3 examines challenges globalization poses to urban infrastructure such as telecommunications and the Internet, port services, airports, and sea flows.  This volume also includes rankings of connectivity and accessibility and measures degrees to which cities are integrated into the globalized arena.  The fourth volume focuses on challenges that globalization poses to city governance and city planning; it will likely be of greatest interest to political scientists and public administrators.

Taylor’s extensive corpus of printed works on global cities is well matched by his state-of-the-art electronic resource, GaWC, a self-described online think tank.  The website offers interactive resources, publications, information about conferences and events worldwide, and access to a diverse array of data.  GaWC Research Bulletins provide access to publication-ready articles on relations between and among global cities.

Other organizations provide clear, reliable online information on global cities, with an eye toward economic competition and market-based advantages.  One is the Japan-based Mori Memorial Foundation, which maintains the Global Power City Index website, where one can find data on rankings, by year, of the major world cities according to a range of variables.  Cities’ strengths are determined by measures such as economic power, environmental quality, and cultural interaction.[1]  Another is the Brookings Institution’s Global Cities Initiative.  Its stated purpose is to help urban leaders in the United States make their cities more competitive in the global marketplace.  In 2013, the site expanded its scope to include cities in the other nations of North America, with the aim of promoting trade and other economic relations.

Another useful introduction to research on the global city, including its principal theories and scholars, is Neil Brenner and Roger Keil’s anthology The Global Cities Reader (mentioned above).  This volume is especially handy for classroom use, and its editors have included clear, well-organized introductions to each of its seven thematic sections.  Like Taylor’s Global Cities collection, The Global Cities Reader includes a historical framework and a conceptual outline of global city research.  Each section of the book is preceded by a clear, cogent introduction.  Though much smaller in scale than Taylor’s set, Brenner and Keil’s reader provides access to a similar scope of writings, theories, and analysts.  Especially helpful are the historical and contemporary case studies and the attention to cities of the Global South, immigration, and local versus globalized identities and cultures.  Other concise introductory works are Mark Abrahamson’s Global Cities and—for more general and historical perspectives—John Reader’s Cities, Ash Amin and Nigel Thrift’s Cities: Reimagining the Urban, and John Rennie Short’s Global Metropolitan: Globalizing Cities in a Capitalist World.

[1] The Mori Memorial Foundation, together with the Institute for Urban Strategies, publishes an annual yearbook, The Global Power City Index, with input from the major scholars in global cities research worldwide.  It is available through

Works Cited: Websites

Works Cited: Books and Journals