Saskia Sassen Page
1) Saskia Sassen, Ökonomie der Globalisierung
2) A Project: Global Cities and the Impact of Transnationalism and Telematics
Trends of globalization have made increasing impacts on the way cities operate in the world economy. Both the growing complexity of crossborder networks and telematic integration have contributed to the importance of major international business centres as strategic points for the coordination of economic transactions. One of the crucial aspects that requires both coordination of existing research and targeted new research has to do with the vast increase in the number, diversity, and size of cross-border networks and the strategic role played by these networks. It is no longer enough to keep on looking at individual cities and how they function in the global economy. The growth of cross-border networks, increased telematic integration, and the reassertion of cities as strategic points in these processes are creating a whole new research agenda. The two important tasks of this project are 1) to get more detailed information on the nature of the networks that connect cities across borders and 2) to help form a global network of scholars on this subject. The basic organizing strategy of this project will be to make use of the existing research and to support small research on a number of key issues. Some of the key issues that will be pursued in this project include: cities and crossborder networks, the geography of telecommunications infrastructure, the global city and the new territoriality.
Keywords: Globalization, cities, networks, trans-nationalism, telematics
Background and justification
Global economic and technological trends have had an increasing impact on the way cities operate in the world economy. The growing complexity of crossborder networks and telematic integration have contributed to reassert the importance of major international business centers as strategic points for the coordination of economic transactions and for the production and sale of highly specialized services. While this role was initially confined to the major centers, the increased integration of the world economy has also contributed to the development of these functions in cities that operate at the regional cross-border level rather than globally.
Much of the traditional analysis of the global economy has focused on the hypermobility of capital, the possibility of instantaneous transmission of information and money around the globe, and the centrality of information outputs to our economic system. This type of analysis emphasizes the neutralization of geography and of places. What is left out of this picture, however, is that even the most advanced information industries (e.g. finance) need a material infrastructure of buildings and work processes, and considerable agglomeration, in order to operate in global markets. Further, the globalization of economic activity has brought with it not only a vast dispersal of offices and factories, but also a growing importance of central functions to manage and coordinate such worldwide networks of activities.
To a large extent, these central functions are "produced" in major international business centers. When we bring in these types of variables into an analysis of the global economy, it becomes evident that cities now play a strategic role for the operation of global markets and for the "production" of central functions. This has engendered a whole new research literature over the last decade on world or global cities.
One of the crucial aspects that requires both coordination of existing research and targeted new research relates to the vast increase in the number, diversity and size of cross-border networks and the strategic role played by this far flung grid of cities in the articulation and operation of these networks.
It is no longer enough to keep on looking at individual cities and how they function in the global economy. The growth of cross-border networks, increased telematic integration, and the reassertion of cities as strategic points in these processes create a whole new research agenda. There is a rapidly growing research literature on cities from this perspective and a growing number of scholars in a wide number of countries.
Precisely because we have this rich new literature on major cities, we can launch a new phase of research and methodological development. The new technologies, and particularly telematics - advanced integration of telecommunications and computer networks - is a crucial instrument in this development.
It is no longer only a matter of ships and airplanes carrying cargo and businessmen. Today, it is also a set of electronic networks that carries information outputs, services and capital. Hence, one of the main objectives of this project is to bring together two different sets of scholars: experts on cities in the global economy and experts on telematics.
Moreover, with the end of the cold war and the sharp increase in deregulation and privatization, the role of the nation-state in the implementation and governance of the international economic system has changed significantly. We are seeing, to some extent, an emergent triangulation whereby sub-national entities are engaging directly with each other at the international level. This amounts to a new kind of international relations, one where national governments are joined by global cities and multinational corporations.
This research will produce academic publications, UNU/IAS Working Papers and possibly an edited volume.
Two important tasks of this project are 1) to get more detailed information on the nature of the networks that connect cities across borders and 2) to help form a global network of scholars on this subject. This is by necessity a collective research endeavor, and more so than in many other fields of inquiry, as we need to communicate and work with researchers in a number of countries.
The basic organizing strategy of the project will be to make use of the existing research and to support small research efforts on a number of issues that require additional information with which to gain greater closure on key questions.
We will proceed by forming a network of researchers in different parts of the world and to ask some of them to prepare short targeted research papers on the list of subjects described below. One illustration of this targeted research approach is to track the international flows coming in and out of cities such as Sao Paulo, for instance, in order to understand whether it is functioning as a base for firms that want to do business not only in Sao Paulo but also in other parts of Latin America.
Another example of this targeted research would be to discuss the new functions assumed by London in the last three years, illustrated by the fact that many of the major German and Dutch firms have now moved their international securities operations to London. Similarly, New York City has gained new functions in the context of globalization as illustrated by the Wall Street-based rescue operation of the financial markets in Mexico after the December 1994 crisis.
Some of these researchers will prepare papers based on recently completed research of their own or research in process; others will be asked to do new research. The purpose of this allocation of work is to raise the extent of our knowledge on the subject through the coordination of fragments of research, i.e. research on particular cities, so that the whole does indeed amount to more than the sum of the parts. Coordinating these fragments of research is thus a major component of the project.
The list of subjects, which can also be read as a tentative table of contents for the volume to be produced out of this effort, is as follows:
Cities and Cross-border Networks
This section will provide an updated overview of the worldwide set of networks and cities. David Meyer’s ten year long research on Hong Kong and its cross-border financial networks is a good example of the kind of research we want to use.
The Geography of Telecommunications Infrastructure
This section is related to the subject of cities and cross-border networks, but will focus more on the geography of telecommunications/technology infrastructure. Linda Garcia, a researcher with the now disbanded U.S. Office of Technology Assessment, is one of the leading experts in tracking the geography of this infrastructure, and a good example of a key component of this section. We will provide an overview of the latest information of current telematic networks and new projects under construction.
Whose City is it?
This section will focus more on social and political issues, including the new transnational professional class that connects global cities around the world as well as the new trans-national migrants, who have replaced the immigrants of an earlier period.
A major new subject for research is trans-nationality from below, that is, the variety of processes that are connecting cities across borders through small immigrant entrepreneurs, ethnic networks (such as the Chinese overseas networks and now the Indian overseas networks), formation of households which are transnational rather than national, etc.
The Global City and the New Territoriality
This section focuses on the notion that globalization, deregulation and privatization have contributed to an emergent triangulation where global cities are international actors alongside the national state and the international economic system. International relations increasingly are running also through these sub-national units. The territory of the national economy is partly being de-nationalized through globalization and global cities emerge as key sub-national units through which this happens.
Collaborating individuals and institutions
The project will be coordinated by Saskia Sassen (Professor, Columbia University). She has developed a tentative network of researchers including the following persons: David Meyer (Brown University), Sueli Schiffer (Department of Urban Planning, University of Sao Paulo), Linda Garcia, James Holston, Pierre Veltz (Ecole des Mines et Ponts), Yoshinobu Kumata (Tokyo Institute of Technology), Alexandro Portes, Lawrence Herzog, Peter Taylor and Paul Krugman.