Global cities

Authored by: Ursula Rao

The Routledge Handbook of Transregional Studies

Print publication date:  November  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138718364
eBook ISBN: 9780429438233
Adobe ISBN:


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Global or world cities 1 are hubs for the coordination of global economic flows. This thesis is at the core of a debate that emerged in the mid-1980s (Friedman 1986; Knox and Taylor 1995; Sassen 2000) about the changing world capitalist system (Wallerstein 1984). With the outsourcing of industry to low labour-wage countries and export processing zones, the traditional centres of capitalist production undergo major change. Industrial decline is counteracted by the growth of the financial markets and the centralization of management. World cities serve as headquarters, coordinate financial transactions, and channel transnational flows into regions. The number and centrality of functions they fulfil will determine their position in the hierarchy of cities as ‘basing points’ of global capital (Friedman 1986). Global cities are internally heterogeneous and sharply divided. A growing number of well-paid managers and professionals are serviced by a fleet of low-paid unskilled workers. The growth and professionalization of the high-end service industry is coupled with the informalization of reproductive services. Migrants and women frequently fill badly paid and insecure positions as cleaners, nannies, and cooks (Sassen-Koob 1982).

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