GaWC Project 14

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Amsterdam in the World City Network

Funded by AME (Amsterdam Study Centre for the Metropolitan Environment) (2000)

Researcher: P.J. Taylor


Introduction: what we don't know about Amsterdam

Amsterdam is such a well researched topic that it should be a difficult task to find a new research perspective on the city. Not so, given the current processes of knowledge production with their state-centric attributional bias (Taylor, 2001a) we can be sure that the question of how Amsterdam relates to the rest of the world-economy is under-researched. For instance, we know very little about how the city relates to other world cities for the simple reason that inter-city relations hardly feature in the world city literature (Taylor, 1999). Thus what we don’t know about Amsterdam is not primarily a result of research neglect on this one specific city, it is a broader effect of the nature of social science (Taylor, 1996, 1997a). But there is a particular irony in this case: we probably know more about 17th century Amsterdam’s connections with the rest of the world than we do for the contemporary city!


  1. Theoretical: Amsterdam will be considered within the world city network as conceptualised in Taylor (2001b). This is a three-tier network where the sub-nodal level, corporate service firms, are the prime agents in the network formation. Thus Amsterdam will be treated as a ‘global service centre’ in this project.
  2. Empirical: there will be no data collection specific to this project. Although some preliminary work can be done using the data on 46 firms (from project 7), the main work will involve using the "GaWC 100" (from project 10).

Analysing the world city network: where is Amsterdam?

In all analyses, Amsterdam will be compared with its ‘peer-cities’. These are defined in two ways. Peer Group I will be a selection of cities at a similar level within the network (to be identified). Peer Group II will be the other Randstadt cities: Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht.

Three types of analysis are planned.

  1. Egocentric analysis to define the site and situation of Amsterdam. This will involve, first, a simple aggregation of GaWC 100 presences /quality of service as an initial measure of the importance of the city (site), and, second, a computation of Amsterdam’s global connectivity to all other cities in the data (situation).
  2. Similarity analysis to relate Amsterdam to other cities. This will involve additional interpretation of analysis from project 10: principal components analysis to find clusters of cities with similar profiles of GaWC 100 firms.
  3. Distance analysis to locate Amsterdam within ‘world service space’. Again, this will involve further interpretation of analysis from project 10: multidimensional scaling will define different abstract spaces within which Amsterdam can be located.

The results from these analyses will provide a unique set of findings on Amsterdam’s position in the world city network.

Implications for policy

Cities in general and Amsterdam in particular have been the recipients of much urban and national planning. Whither these activities under conditions of contemporary globalization as reflected in our results?

There are four important issues to consider.

  1. Co-operation: since we have specified a world city network, it follows that the prime process is co-operation. This co-operation is generated through the firms who have offices in many cities. Hence they are not interested in inter-city competition but rather they want all cities in which they have invested to be successful (Taylor, 2001b). This problematises the large literature on city competitiveness that focuses upon the public sector and its ‘booster’ policies. It is not that the latter are irrelevant but they must be seen in perspective as relatively minor processes in world city network formation.
  2. States: there will be competition, however, between sectors on taxation/expenditure within states that is important. Firms within world cities have a vested interest in a low-tax, capital-friendly economic regime with targeted investment on growth factors. Singapore might be the exemplar here since city = state. More generally, the national economy outside the world city can be viewed as a liability. For example, this is often seen as the position of London vis a vis the north of England (Taylor, 1997b).
  3. Whose city?: all world cities are much more than service centres, how do the latter functions fit into the rest of the city? Since corporate services are a key cutting edge of the contemporary world-economy, they will dominate much urban change, at least in the short term. Cities will want to develop with these services but how can they achieve a ‘good city’ for the majority of their citizens? Offices for rich corporate service employees and playgrounds for the rich nearby with all their externalities create a social polarization that negates the ‘good city’.
  4. New politics: much of this discussion derives from a traditional politics of place being confronted by a new politics of flows. Power is operating in new forms at different scales so that local and national politicians can be sidelined. The obvious solution is to think in terms of combining network and place in the form of new city leagues (Taylor 2001c). There is very little evidence of such development (but see Morata (1997) on a Barcelona-led grouping) although the world city region concept incorporates multiple cities, albeit adjacent to one another. Amsterdam is, of course, part of the most famous example of such a region, the Randstadt. But such a combining of cities assumes propinquity to be the main variable defining a city league; in this electronic age it is not clear why this should be the case. In fact neighbour cities might be the one area where inter-city competition is an important process.

All the points listed above will be discussed with colleagues at AME as part of an on-going discussion of the politics of world city network formation.


Morata, F. (1997) ‘The Euro-region and the C-6 network: the new politics of sub-national co-operation in the western Mediterranean area’, in Keating, M. and Loughlin, J. (eds.) The Political Economy of Regionalism, London: Frank Cass, 292-305

Taylor P J (1996) ‘Embedded statism and the social sciences’ Environment and Planning A 28, 1917-28

Taylor P J (1997a) ‘ Hierarchical tendencies amongst world cities’, Cities 14, 323-32

Taylor, P J (1997b) "Is the United Kingdom big enough for both London and England?", Environment and Planning A 29, 766-70

Taylor, P J (1999) "So-called 'world cities': the evidential structure within a literature" Environment and Planning A 31, 1901-04

Taylor P J (2001a) ‘Metageographical moments: a geohistorical interpretation of embedded statism and globalization’ in B Denemark and M Tetreault (eds.) Odysseys London: Routledge

Taylor P J (2001b) ‘Specification of the world city network’, Geographical Analysis (in press)

Taylor P J (2000c) ‘Relocating the demos?’ in J Anderson (ed.) Transnational Democracy: political Spaces and Border Crossings. London: Routledge

For results of this project, see
Peter J. Taylor (2002): Amsterdam in a World City Network.