GaWC Research Bulletin 38

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This Research Bulletin has been published in Hérodote, 105 (2nd March), (2001), 10-25.

Please refer to the published version when quoting the paper.


World Cities in a World System*

R. Fossaert

From the region close to Birmingham - a city as renowned as its cousins Manchester and Liverpool during the great age of the British Empire and which has suffered, like they have, the effects of the shifting of the axis of the world system in the twentieth century - comes now a stimulating study of world cities i.e. those cities which play a driving role in the present world system. This research is led by the Globalisation and World Cities Research Group (GaWC) which publishes its work on the Internet as Bulletins prior to publication.1 The Department of Geography at the University of Loughborough - 150km to the north-east of Birmingham - is the linchpin of this research which also has input from other universities and disciplines. Amongst the leaders of this research project, Professors J.V.Beaverstock, D.R.F. Walker and P.J.Taylor play a notable role. I shall for purposes of simplification make exclusive reference to the latter, in addition this will allow me to focus on his works which are - in my opinion - of the most significance, as the reader will be able to judge further on.2


Taylor and his team take as their starting point the observations of Castells on the advanced services from which societies in the process of rapid computerisation draw a large share of their resources.3 By locating the cities where these services come from, by observing the permanent international links that their productive businesses maintain from city to city - with the help of subsidiary companies or alliances, by deciphering the diverse variants of the network formed in this way, GaWC throws some light on the functioning of cities which irrigate the world system by offering the most advanced services to the centres of production and exchange.

The services referred to have been selected following a succession of approaches. In the first instance, the press of major cities was considered and the management of large businesses. Daily newspapers of these major cities which abound with business information were analysed to judge about which cities their local readership were informed. In addition, the role of highly-qualified migrants from these chosen cities was also taken into account - although they are difficult to track - the specialised press and enquiries with personnel management of international firms being the only sources available - access being difficult regarding the latter.

In contrast, some international services of first-rank importance have been deliberately ignored, when, as in the case of air links it is difficult to discriminate between everyday consumption such as tourism or the travels of individuals, and the benefits of services which are indispensable to businesses with a worldwide vocation. The above approaches have been judged to be too qualitative both to provide an image of world cities which can be periodically measured and to determine the networks that these cities form.

Consequently, attention is brought to bear on four categories of services of which multinational firms are the significant users and whose production is guaranteed by businesses which have themselves spread their networks of subsidiaries and participation to all the cities where their customers wish to find them. Accounting (and auditing), advertising, finance (banking included), and insurance have thus become central reference points, it being understood that in these diverse branches, commercial, tax and financial law are fully represented. Within these diverse categories specialised knowledge, useful to customers, can be adapted to legal, fiscal and even the most varied type of cultural context - which is precisely one of the essential demands of businesses in the course of globalisation.

Forty-six business producers of advanced services introduced during 1997-1998 in fifty-five world cities have in the end been retained as a representative panel, starting out from an initial selection of businesses in 142 cities from an initial 263. The whittling-down process has been operated by eliminating businesses not making use of agencies in at least 15 cities, which limits the matrix of potential connections to 46 (businesses) in 55 cities, that is to say 2530 locations. It is due to these that the networks managed by the producers of advanced services and the networks of the interconnections of the cities can be measured with calculations justified by statistical theory. While not going into these investigations - detailed by GaWC Bulletins, I will note that the services considered are obviously heterogeneous to the extent that taken together they do not reveal a network of formal coherence which would be comparable to that of a national or international economic accounting.

Nevertheless, this is a similar area to that where the Index of human development4 published by the UN Programme for Development subjects the Index of National GDP5 to a very rigorous scrutiny. Allowing for a few minor variations, GaWC has operated in a similar fashion, whilst detailing stage by stage in its Bulletins the methodology it has used, it has not concealed its hesitations or occasional regrets. Its results are therefore based on a reasoned approach, as well as on the available facts, and on the statistical techniques that have permitted its activities. The total corpus of their research - provisional, because the research is ongoing - permits one to typify the diverse network of advanced service providers and to hierarchize, more or less, the cities with a worldwide vocation which were observed in 1997.

As regards service providers, GaWC details diverse models. Thus, the strategy of American law firms is to maintain a lobby in Washington DC and a financial antenna in New York, whilst the London subsidiary is the centre for international activities. In contrast, British law firms focus on European cities and on the financial areas of Tokyo and Singapore - agencies are rarely found in the USA. A final example; advertising firms take an interest in many sectors of the European market but rarely compete with their American and Japanese counterparts on their own turf.

As regards the hierarchy of world cities, it is ordered according to a simple criteria. The producers of the four branches of the services previously cited are arranged into three classes according to their global size. The leading class is given a value of 3, thus a city where the four main branches are represented by businesses of this class gains a score of 12 e.g. Paris. Similarly, a city in which there are first class businesses in two of the branches and two other branches containing service providers of average class receive in total a score of 10, which is, in another example, the case for Frankfurt.

This classification continues on down to the cities where the four branches of services are only represented by businesses belonging to the final class (worth 1) which gives them a score of 4, as is the case in 1997-1998 - as I remember - for Berlin, Hamburg and Shanghai. Below a score of 4, cities are not considered to have reached a sufficient level of world influence, which, amongst others, is the case for Birmingham and Rotterdam.

The world cities are divided into three groups according to their score. The alpha group scores between 12 and 10, whilst in the gamma group, the final group, scores range between 6 and 4. Thus, those world cities which truly have a world role; London, New York, Paris and Tokyo, appear in the alpha group, followed closely by Chicago, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Milan and Singapore. The following category or beta group - designated as containing major world cities - opens with San Francisco, Sydney, Toronto and Zurich (score9), followed by Brussels, Madrid, Mexico City and Sao Paolo (score8) with Moscow and Seoul closing the category with a score of 7.

Figure 1: The world according to GaWC


Next comes the first section of the gamma group (those with a score of 6): Amsterdam, Boston, Caracas, Dallas, Dusseldorf, Geneva, Houston, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Melbourne, Osaka, Prague, Santiago, Taipei, and in an irony of alphabetical order - Washington.6 That Washington is in this list - making it less of a world city than Moscow - and that Rotterdam is not ranked amongst cities which already have world status should not lead one to a hasty conclusion, for it is not a question of intrinsic defects in the survey, rather that it has clear limits. It is better to judge it by its benefits, before wondering how one can overcome its limitations.

Cities with global influence, identified as those with measurable advanced services, up to the present time, only feature in one state out of six. Obviously there is a greater density of them in North America and Europe than elsewhere, even than in East/South East Asia where they are spread out from Tokyo to Singapore.

Their classification establishes a clear hierarchy, as well as regional configurations. Take Miami as an example. Its position hardly corresponds to its role in the North American subsystem, rather it results from its financial pre-eminence with regard to Latin America. In contrast, the exclusion of Rotterdam, one of the major ports in the world and a major port of entry for the oil consumed in Europe, shows that this important commercial city is relatively underdeveloped as regards the services firms look for in order to develop on a worldwide scale. Detailed studies on a city or subsystem basis abound in the GaWC Bulletins alongside works concerning the overall world network.

The information gathered in this way is of great value and will become even more so as investigations carried out at regular intervals will permit one to observe the transformations of the networks of world cities and how business clients use their services. However, these investigation will encounter practical difficulties which will only be overcome by the use of skilful methodological precautions.

The example of firms observed will be of necessity disturbed by the appearance of new businesses, as well as by the disappearance of companies which had previously been considered (due to decline, absorption by another group or the break-up into several groups). Another risk will be of the elimination of one of the four branches of activity retained by the 1997-1998 study, for example by an increasing interpenetration of banking and insurance activities. On the other hand, one might hope that new categories of firms with a worldwide vocation will broaden the field of study towards services which help in the location and de-location of firms (marketing, 'political' risk evaluation etc) or who approach more closely still the strategies of multinational enterprises. Disturbances in the examples to be identified will change the significance from one enquiry to the other, whenever they are held, from 'who does what in terms of services on a worldwide scale?' towards 'how does the geography of their world network evolve?'

Already it appears that the world network of cities resembles national networks which have been studied for a long time: it is one of the essential reference points of the multiple transformations which affect the area where it (the network) is spread out. In contrast to previous decades where the economic movement of globalisation appeared to be transmitted from one state to another, then as a process of internationalisation affecting one branch of the economy after the other (for example the chemical industry following the automobile,etc) it appears henceforth as the work of multinational firms, fed in particular by the network of world cities and whose choices are changing, varied even capricious. Again it would be desirable to extend the enquiry beyond the advanced services to include the firms served by them, notwithstanding the confidentiality which is held dear by business. In effect, the direct exploration of the uncharted continent formed by the multinational firms themselves is an objective which university research ought to try and base on the co-operation of states and certain international agencies, such as the UN Conference for Commerce and Development. This vast group of businesses on the move, hungry for stock-exchange and commercial publicity, jealously guarding its banking secrets and its use of havens (for tax or other reasons) is to-day the main motor of the world economy, the mechanism through which the mode of capitalist production is spread. The advanced services do permit one, admittedly, to get close to these firms, but only to a certain extent and from a particular angle. They reveal nothing of inter-banking operations and their stock-exchange repercussions, thanks to which the capital flow spreads out or falls back, on the whim of multinational groups, dependent on their technical and market perspectives. They reveal nothing either about the criteria (market, salary, tax, security, etc) which determine the geographic preferences of these firms. Nothing, in the end of the way in which their resources, waiting for investments of fixed capital, are mixed with capital which floats from one country to the other, according to the fluctuations of currencies and monetary policies.

The services looked at constitute the judicial, tax, commercial and financial circle around the multinational firms, but they are not their very essence. The cities where these services bring their collaborations together are admittedly not a simple conjunctive tissue which would surround the vital organs of capitalism. They are for the latter a valuable auxiliary motor, but nothing more. As the example of Rotterdam underlines, it is from other cities of worldwide importance where commodity capital flows strongly.

On a more general level, the network which generates the international flow of capital will be increasingly understood as one gets nearer the heart of the capitalist system: the strategies of multinational businesses, including those of the banks that serve them and of those of the most innovative or profitable firms, these latter deriving their profits from products which will become increasingly scarce - such as oil, or in the future, water.


Looked at form another angle, the study of world cities is shown to be of great value in order to make clearer some of the geographical workings of the present world. Ten years ago, I outlined the hypothesis that, in spite of the common features which marked it out as the economic and military superpower that is the United States, the submission of other states to its controls and sanctions, the expansion of multinational firms most often of American, European and Japanese origin, and the adaptation of the principal international agencies to this structural dissymmetry, the world could not be represented by a simple scheme where a 'centre' dominated the world 'periphery', dependent upon a fluctuating receptive'semi-periphery' which was not entering this dichotomy.7 In fact, the contemporary world system seemed to me to contain under its worldwide structure polarised by American predominance, a dozen 'world sub-systems' - or, better expressed, 'regional' systems, each one of which was characterised by a specific set of balances and tensions between states, by different cultural heritages in spite of a shared modern veneer and by a geographic area markedly unequal in its wealth of mountains, oceans, fertile land and other natural resources, which has been diversely developed through centuries or millennia of public amenities - through fixed capital invested in the towns, roads, countryside - each sub-system being formed individually by a clear demographic differential, by an urban heritage unequal in terms of amenities and by an ideological (=cultural) activity strongly diverse in scope.

As the network of world cities studied by GaWC only deals with a part of the planet, I had to reduce to a few zones the comparison I made and to modify somewhat my old model in order to take account of the obvious effects of an additional decade of globalisation. The rectification essentially involves the UK which GaWC study showed to be a staging-post of the United States in its dealings with other countries, it is also the headquarters of many businesses operating within Great Britain and in the former British dominions (Australia, South Africa and Canada). In addition, there is the ambiguous membership of the UK to the EU. From this a 'British' Zone (Zone 2) is constituted.

Figure 2: World Cities and 'regional' systems 

11 cities; total score: 77; average score: 7
GDP(ppa) / per head: $ 25000
  ZONE 4 - N.-E. ASIA
5 cities; total score: 32; average score: 6,4
GDP(ppa) / per head: $ 11 to 20000 
5 cities; total score: 32; average score: 6,4
GDP(ppa) / per head: $ 5600 to 7600
(Chile: 12400
16 cities; total score: 105; average score: 6,6
GDP(ppa) / per head: $18 to 21000
(Spain: 14100
ZONE 8 - CHINA (+ H.-K.)
5 cities; total score: 19; average score: 6,33
GDP(ppa) / per head: $ 3800 (?)
6 cities; total score: 47; average score: 7,8
GDP(ppa) / per head: $ 18 to 20000
(South Africa: 4300
5 cities; total score: 19; average score: 3,8
GDP(ppa) / per head: $ 2300 to 8000
(Singapore: 22700
5 cities; total score: 26; average score: 5,2
GDP(ppa) / per head: $ 6500 to 9000
Russia: ( x


The facts assembled by the map here permits one to examine zone-by-zone the impact of advanced services, that is to say the number of world cities that they include and their total and average score per city, to which is added an evaluation of GDP per capita. Expressed in dollars this is a very modest instrument of international comparison. On the other hand, appropriate qualifying statistics permit one to measure it (for the year 1998) in dollar purchasing power parities. The data used for this purpose is generally of a suitable quality, the main exception being those from China whose statistical apparatus is ill-equipped to evaluate GDP, and is shakier still regarding the prices necessary for the calculation of the purchasing power parities.

Zones 1 to 4 which come under the 'centre' have quite homogeneous average scores, as do the zones a notch below where the American (Zone 5) or Western European (Zone 6) influence is clear, however, for the latter, the Russian economic collapse of 1998 throws some doubt on the figures . After several years of a very large presence of advanced services, they have taken part in the division of a Russian cake which has so far disappointed the multinationals. Except for these well-characterised zones, the geography of world cities reveals that their growth is far from a direct function of local prosperity, very much to the contrary, their distribution bears witness to a profound contradiction between the growth of multinational firms and the viscosities of the societies they penetrate.

Amongst the 'old tigers' of Japan, Korea and Taiwan (Zone 4), average scores per city are comparable to those of the American or European 'centres' but few cities are involved from those societies judged by the USA as not being sufficiently welcoming. The situation is clearer still amongst the 'young tigers' of South East Asia where Singapore attracts many of the advanced services saving the neighbouring states from giving them too accommodating a welcome.

The events of the 'Asian Crisis' of 1997 and the rejection of the purges that the IMF believed necessary (in particular in rich Malaysia and huge Indonesia) attest to the obstinate refusal of an open-door policy. There is only an apparent contrast with China (Zone 8) where the average score is admittedly close to that of Latin America, because Hong Kong counts for even more than Singapore does in the South East. In fact, China is still only partially opened-up. Moreover, the inclusion of cities where in 1997-1998 there only existed some traces of globalisation (scores below 4) hardly includes any from the immense Afro-Asian wilderness. Thus India sees itself credited with two modestly promising cities whilst the five cities of the same type spotted in the Near and Middle East are all located near to the oil producing Arab nations, except for Teheran. There remains the poor nations of Africa (outside of Johannesburg belonging to Zone 2) where there are only two cities showing slight potential.

Admittedly, the brief comparisons sketched out above, will be considerably enriched when the field of enquiry of GaWC is expanded to several successive periods and perhaps also, as has been desired, takes in a broader sample, getting ever closer to the core of multinational firms. However, they (the comparisons) are sufficient - it seems to me - to suggest that the study of world cities as a network of advanced services, would gain in being coupled with a control study of 'regional' viscosities. In other words the marriage of a geography of networks and flows to a geography still aware of the clear capacities of states and to a history which gives to their interlacing the depth of field in which one can see cultural inertias, would permit one - I hope - to spare geography from the theological wars between the proponents of the international as inter-state and the apostles of a transnational irrigated by flows which have no frontiers. Then there would be a new possibility of creating a 'problematic shared by all the social sciences' that Braudel hoped for half a century ago.

One comes to see the world system losing its elephantine figure when the capillarity that the network of world cities establishes in it becomes clear, it being understood that this network of advanced service cities is itself only a prototype, which can be enhanced by the study of other vascularisations; state, military, stock-exchange, IT, informational, associative (in the way of non-governmental organizations) and of a thousand other networks still. In other words, when the world system begins to lose the economic posture that Braudel has perhaps taken by his overvaluation of the 'world economy' (or Weltwirtschaft) that he analysed so well in his sphere.

When Moscow outclasses Washington amongst world cities, evidently it is because the implosion of state socialism has led to a horde of advanced services establishing themselves in Moscow, however, also because Washington, a world city above all others in the military-political order, only functions in the economic order as a catalyst for interest groups. The observation is of a general nature. The fact that the structural transformations of the economy seem to be the main characteristic of the present world system, does not signify that the formation of a truly world market is the ultima ratio of our history, nor even the main motivation of medium and long term events and movements which are going to give emphasis to it in the following decades. There is no guarantee that world cities in a political sense - including the enormous military bases spread throughout the world will not be of greater importance. There is no guarantee either that the centre of gravity of the present mutations is not to be looked for in 'ideological' world cities whether they be in the marketplace such as the centres of cinema or television production from Hollywood to Atlanta and from Cairo to Bombay and Hong Kong or whether they be religious, like all the present day Jerusalems, either those fought over or antagonistic, or those of an educative nature or of some other construction still, in a world where Huntington has believed he can predict a 'clash of civilisations'8, but where, in any case, a less simplistic observation shows that the development of the world market seems to have met more and more resistance, even to the extent of political-cultural counter-offensives: the unequal viscosity of the zones previously examined bears witness to this. It is a good and prudent method that pays equal attention to the economic, political and to the ideological (or cultural).


There is no doubt that Taylor is convinced of the necessity of such a tri-functional approach, judging by his masterly work on The Way the Modern World Works9. In this work he, in effect, enhances the viewpoint of Braudel on the world systems which were centred successively on Amsterdam, London and New York. For each of these cities, as for the countries they governed and the regions of the world they influenced, Taylor draws up a general overview of their economic activity, political action and cultural evolution, all being considered without any a priori determinism favouring one or the other of these three levels of analysis. In order to judge it from a major perspective, I will only note the way in which he recognizes the cultural evolution of these three hegemonic societies.

To this end, he devotes great attention to the ideological repercussions of the economic exploits of these can-do societies in a no can-do world, in other words of these effective societies in a world which was still ill-adapted. Similarly, he does not neglect any of the cultural echoes that the political success of these same societies provoked, such as the maturation of a system of international law which advances from the jus genitum promoted by Grotius of Holland, to the freedom of the high seas promoted by Imperial England, to its multiformed flowering when the policies of the dominant USA are based on international treaties rather than on the 'big stick' that it also knows how to use. When it concerns structures and ideological activities considered in their clear entirety, Taylor is interested, admittedly, in the approaches of specialised ideological apparatus10, but even more in the broad movements which reveal themselves in the depths of popular culture, that is to say, in the daily life of everybody - or - at the very least in the life of a large minority by which society as a whole is, in the end, led. Thus, for example, he underlines the somewhat peaceful co-existence that was more or less made to hold sway in the United Provinces which contrasts singularly with the wars of religion which devastated France and even more so Germany. As religion gives way to commerce there follows a strong development of a bourgeois and urban lifestyle and living conditions to which the mercantile class attach themselves. New tastes which become ever more a part of daily life to the point of this flowering of portraits where the scenes of everyday life become works of art in place of mythological or religious allegories, whilst versions/prints of these pictures soon reach the more popular dwellings/living conditions.

In the following stage, that of English pre-eminence - the industrial revolution, the rejection of annexations in Europe itself, the manifest preference for indirect rule in countries where the English protectorate succeeds other European colonisers and the building of a massive empire stretching to the Indies are examined closely, as is the diffusion of English political institutions in the territories where British emigration is abundant. However, he is interested as much in the cultural transformations taking place in Great Britain and which extend beyond to a greater or lesser degree towards the entire world. London becomes a sanctuary for political refugees from all countries, whilst the English universities open themselves to the elite of all continents. The English novel is imitated everywhere. The comfortable lifestyle of the British bourgeoisie is envied and imitated with the help of clubs, societies and Masonic lodges. The process of Europeanisation which sweeps the world is most often borne by English economic and cultural models.

When American primacy becomes obvious after 1945, it is, in its turn, analyzed in terms of an upset of interests, values and lifestyles given impetus from the new American centre. All the characteristics of this Americanisation of the global system, gone into great detail by Taylor, are well known, in industrial, banking, political and cultural matters, that it seems to me to be of little value to emphasize them here, except to note the very great attention he devotes to the observations of Gramsci from the 1930's11, regarding the joint development of revenues and consumption (Fordism), the maturation of a new popular culture (literature, radio and cinema, later continued by television) and the diffusion of new lifestyles of which the automobile, comfortable living conditions and supermarket become the linchpins, at the expense of the cities.

Primacy, preponderance and other pre-eminences that I just evoked are no strangers to the vocabulary used by Taylor, but when it concerns a clarification of these manifestations by a precise concept, it is to hegemony that he turns, in the rigorous sense that Gramsci gave it.

Taylor has indeed perfectly understood the approach of the latter, thanks to this he surpasses Braudel as regards those aspects of the world system which the world economy and classical analysis of international relations cannot fully understand. Gramsci takes into consideration all sorts of specialised devices, but he pays greater attention still to the widespread common culture in society, from where come his frequent references to living conditions, city, refined or ordinary lifestyles, in short, to everything that makes up daily life. Indeed, it is by rooting themselves in this breeding ground of social life that innovations lose their unfamiliarity and take on a durable everyday quality.

Taylor treats equally the great innovations of the three hegemonic cities (and societies) that he studies and the massive transformations of the standards and lifestyles, because hegemony is manifest through all these channels. Each hegemonic society in a world system points the way in the technical-economic order likewise in the political and cultural orientation of world affairs. It expresses its particular interests in a universal way, by converting them into general principles and into models offered to all other countries. It spreads new needs and new consumer goods, so well that it serves as an example - for a time - of the new modernity. By foreshadowing the future to which the world system seems promised, it makes its effective pre-eminence seem natural in the trade and diplomatic order and even more difficultly in the realm of ideas.

One sees Taylor fully internationalise the Gramscian theory. Gramsci who lived in an Italy that had scarcely been unified for half a century and who was more concerned with the construction of an Internationale than with seeing an Italian nation mature, had as his first concern that of understanding the success of fascism and the failures of socialism and of youthful communism in Italy. For this reason, ideological (or cultural) hegemony often seemed to him the counterpart of political domination: a domination constrains social classes; a hegemony convinces them to accept the established order. In other words, a society maintains its coherence, in spite of the transformations which work on it, by the joint effect of state constraint and the consent of the population to the established order. A consent which is maintained by ideological means of which common culture is the sediment and which in the case of Italy, owed a lot to the 'solid bastions of civil society', including the omnipresent Church, than to a weak state alongside a newly-formed nation, which was finding difficulty in incorporating regions which not so long ago had been independent for centuries.

By shifting the centre of gravity of the (Gramscian) reflection towards the global system, Taylor helps one to understand how the preponderance of an hegemonic society, admittedly supported by its economic and military capacities, relies upon another mechanism which becomes decisive in the long term ; the respect and the envy which its performance arouses. On the scale of the world system, a consent to the established international order is married with the multiform preponderance of the main power and to the modernity, examples of which are displayed in its cities and major regions. In short, hegemonic structures are the sources of modernity so long as their world system lasts.

It is still necessary to question the nature and length of this modernity which would serve to define the so-called modern world system the development of which was begun by Europe from the 'long sixteenth century' and which would continue to the point where it encompassed the entire planet up to the end of the twentieth century. Taylor is aware of this problem. Three years after The Way the Modern World Works whose reference to the singular seems to see him won over to the dominant orthodoxy, he published Modernities the plural of which is certainly better suited to the Geohistorical interpretation12 which this work sets out to be. For those who doubt the uniqueness of 'modern times', the reading of this book is stimulating because Taylor debates in it for all that he is worth to replace 'the' modernity, pons asinorum of so many sociologies with undefined historico-geographic contours, by a conception of social modernisation where the historic and geographic can find their reference points.

In substance, his approach leads him to distinguish several modernities and to explore their relations with successive hegemonies that he has previously detailed conforming to the Braudelian reference points. At the end of this research whose stages I will not discuss, Taylor seems to me to come very close to a conclusion that he does not explicitly underline and which I am going to evoke in my own terms without it seems to me betraying him.

This conclusion is that modernity and even modernization as established by West European scholarly usage, is only a commodity of language permitting one to allude to a whole series of social processes, to multiple sudden new developments, whether one might not wish to go into their detail or whether one might wish to erase some of their aspects, such as capitalism or imperialism. In effect, the main processes ( which are complex, winding, rebounding) that modernity subsumes are the difficult formation of democratic -bourgeois states, the long capitalist industrial revolution jumping from one technological innovation to another and the cultural revolution which spring forth at the same time, as the press, universal education and the growth of the media spread their effects.

Three huge processes (one political, the other economic and the third cultural) whose multiple tributaries do not cease to intertwine their courses in a geographic area expanded by colonisations, pushed back by the Russian and Chinese revolutions, expanded once more by decolonisation and made global by the implosion of state socialism. If such is the case, the research of social scientists, freed from all reference to 'a' perennial and quintessential modernity can describe any macrosociological reality (a world system, an historic period, a territorial space, etc) according to its own features and intrinsic virtues. Thus it follows from this, cities, might have been for a time hegemonic centres; to call them 'modern' can only have a comparative bearing in space as in time.

One lesson to be drawn from the works of Taylor on world systems, modernizations and world cities: is that an investigation bears fruit in a theoretical sense when it takes on well-calibrated facts (such as the geography of 'advanced services' linked to urban networks) to which the more general concepts have to abide by, so long as other still better-founded investigations do not broaden or relax their scope. If the research of GaWC directed by Taylor and his co-researchers can be broadened along the lines that I believed it is possible to suggest, but also according to many of the ways I have not observed, there is no doubt that the geohistorical interpretation (as Taylor says) of the phenomena that I am pleased to call 'macrosociological'13 will gain in theoretical robustness and therefore in a practical utility.



* Translated from the French by Sean Duffy.

1. The address of GaWC is

2. A great number of bibliographies - too often limited to the Anglo-Saxon world - appear alongside the research published in the Bulletin of GaWC. Those authors who very often re-appear are: M.Castells The Rise of the Network Society, Oxford, Blackwell, 1996, edition francaise : La societe en reseaux, 3 vol. Fayard, 1998, J. Friedmann, The world city hypothesis, Development and Change, no 17 (1995) and S.Sassen The Global City, Princeton University Press (1991) and Cities in a World Economy, Pine Forge Press, London 1994.

3. Op Cit Volume I Chapter VI.

4. The justification of such methods of collection is gone into in great detail by Amartya Sen, in On Economic Inequality (Oxford and New York, 1973) and in Inequality Revisited (Oxford, 1992).

5. The GDP or Gross National Product assesses the net annual production of a given country.

6. The gamma group goes on to include Bangkok, Peking, Montreal, Rome, Stockholm and Warsaw, followed just below by Atlanta, Barcelona, Berlin, Budapest, Buenos Aires, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Miami, Minneapolis, Munich and Shanghai. As for the large group of cities which only have some indices of potential world status, with a score less than 4, their list can be found in the Bulletin (page citylist.html) on the site indicated by note 1. 

7. See Le monde au 21e siecle, Fayard, Paris, 1991.

8. Samuel P. Huntington - The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order, Simon & Schuster, 1997.

9. Peter J. Taylor - The Way the Modern World Works - World Hegemony to World Impasse, ed. Wiley, 1996

10. Churches, schools, media and all other productive institutions of high - or low - culture.

11. See his Prison Notebooks (published after 1945).

12. Peter J. Taylor Modernities: A Geohistorical Interpretation, Polity Press, 1999.

13. Use of this term is justified by a diverse number of works which one can consult on


Edited and posted on the web on 30th January 2001

Note: This Research Bulletin has been published in Hérodote, 105 (2nd March), (2001), 10-25