Global cities as market civilisation

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Building upon interdisciplinary efforts to understand the origins, logic and significance of global cities, this article argues that global cities should be seen as a critical component and outcome of a political project to generate a global market society. Global cities should be seen as the successful implementation of free-market political philosophy, constructed and defended by a particular historical configuration of international society. The historical transformation of urban form signaled by the 'global city' concept is tightly bound to the neoliberal restructuring of the world economy in the 1970s, underpinned by US hegemonic power. The first part of this article argues that the distinctive historical origin of global cities has shaped their current trajectories and draws the horizon of their future prospects.

Having established the connection between liberal world order and global cities, the second part of the article argues that the contemporary form of the global city is under threat from two sources. The first threat is internal to the global city form itself. Global cities have internalized the contradictory forces of market liberalism. They have registered astonishing economic growth over the last four decades, and generated vast material and intellectual resources. But, at the same time, they have become deeply divided and polarized in ways that threaten the urban fabric. The second source of threat comes from the possible weakening or collapse of liberal world order, with the accelerating decline of US hegemony. Drawing on aspects of Karl Polanyi’s analysis of the nineteenth-century ‘great transformation’, the article argues that a number of future trajectories for the global city can be identified in the contemporary moment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-461
Number of pages25
JournalGlobal Society
Issue number4
Early online date14 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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