The concept of global city-regions can be traced back to the "world cities" idea of Hall (1966) and Friedmann and Wolff (1982), and to the "global cities" idea of Sassen (1991). We build here on these pioneering efforts, but in a way that tries to extend the meaning of the concept in economic, political and territorial terms, and above all by an effort to show how city-regions increasingly function as essential spatial nodes of the global economy and as distinctive political actors on the world stage. In fact, rather than being dissolved away as social and geographic objects by processes of globalization, city-regions are becoming increasingly central to modern life, and all the more so because globalization (in combination with various technological shifts) has reactivated their significance as bases of all forms of productive activity, no matter whether in manufacturing or services, in high-technology or low-technology sectors.
As these changes have begun to run their course, it has become increasingly apparent that that city in the narrow sense is less an appropriate or viable unit of local social organization than city-regions or regional networks of cities. One tangible expression of this idea can be observed in the forms of consolidation that are beginning to occur as adjacent units of local political organization search for region-wide coalitions as a means of dealing with the threats and the opportunities of globalization. In this process, we argue, global city-regions have emerged of late years as a new and critically important kind of geographic and institutional phenomenon on the world stage.
In what follows, I attempt to bring these remarks into closer conceptual focus. My discussion is driven by five main questions, i.e.,
1. Why are global city-regions growing rapidly precisely at a moment in history when some analysts are claiming that the end of geography is in sight, and that the world is turning into a placeless space of flows?
2. How have forms of economic and social organization in city-regions responded to globalization, and what new problems have been created as a consequence?
3. What main governance tasks do global city-regions face as they seek to preserve and enhance their wealth and well-being?
4. Is it possible for the less economically advanced parts of the world to harness the potential benefits of global city-region development to their own advantage, and what are the main drawbacks of such development for them?
5. How can we define the public interest in culturally heterogeneous global city-regions? In particular, how are traditional notions of democracy and citizenship being challenged by the emergence of global city-regions and in what ways can they be made more effective in this new context?
1. J. Friedmann and G. Wolff (1982) "World city formation: an agenda for research and action," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 6, 309 - 344.
2. P. G. Hall (1966) The World Cities, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. D. Held (1991) "Democracy, the nation-state, and the global system," in D. Held (ed.) Political Theory Today, Stanford: Stanford University Press.
3. S. Sassen (1991) The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo, Princeton: Princeton University Press.