Monday, March 18, 2013

Rethinking Urban Geopolitics And Global Chicago

Last week, Chicago was dying. This week, Chicago is still ascendant as a global urban powerhouse. Saskia Sassen's version of a new geopolitical order:

Besides these global urban networks with their specific agendas, we can detect a second emergent development inside nation-states: a number of geopolitical urban vectors where much of global geopolitics plays out. These may well be more significant than the national government as such, partly because they account for much of the global economy. At some point these urban vectors might become more significant for our global geopolitics than the countries within which they exist. Here are what I see as dominant vectors.

1. Washington/New York/Chicago

2. Beijing/Hong Kong/Shanghai ...

... There are major cities not included in this list, notably London. It stands alone, and succeeds by itself. It is, in that regard, probably the ultimate world city in this period –a major city without an empire. That is an achievement.

Two caveats for consideration. First, Sassen is gazing into her crystal ball and imagining the 22nd century. Second, she lists seven "dominant vectors". Within the seven there is an implied hierarchy, with the most dominant vectors approximating Peter Taylor's world view.

I don't see an obvious rhyme or reason to Sassen's geopolitical construct. Politics/finance/?. Sassen offers some hints in Foreign Policy magazine. Check out page 20 of this report:

[Washington/New York/Chicago] are becoming more important geopolitically than the United States is as a country. Chicago is rising fast as a geopolitical actor – think of the state visit by Chinese president Hu Jintao in January 2011, when he stopped not just in Washington but also in Chicago.

I don't find such anecdotal evidence to be compelling. It smacks of civic boosterism. But why did Hu Jintao stop in Chicago? What other evidence do we have of Chicago rising fast as a geopolitical actor? The evidence I have seen suggests otherwise.

Lastly, I notice how Sassen struggles to account for London. Taylor labels it as an extraterritorial arm of US hegemony. The same goes for Hong Kong and China, the primary hegemonic challenger. I reckon Taylor's model has much more explanatory power than Sassen's does. Still, that doesn't mean Chicago is dying.

No comments: