Living in Global Cities

Living in a global city does not expose people to diverse cultures that enable them to develop well-rounded personalities and multicultural outlooks, but it is also vital into developing a “global” perspective within them. [WXwS1] Upon entrance of the 1990s, the notion of `global city’ was first brought into play by Saskia Sassen. In her first book on this subject, The Global City (1991), she analyzed New York, London and Tokyo as examples of cities which in the two last decades advanced to the status of global cities. Later, she includes other cities in this category like Miami, Toronto and Sydney, as pointed out in her subsequent book, Cities in a World Economy (1994).

Under certain circumstances, Sassen suggested that Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Zurich, Frankfurt, Mexico City and Sao Paulo may also be included in the category of global cities, because they fulfill the prerequisites for certain transnational economic transactions. For a better understanding of Sassen’s ideas, she defined global cities as “key sites for the advanced services and telecommunications facilities necessary for the implementation and management of global economic operations. They also tend to concentrate the headquarters of firms, especially firms that operate in more than one country” (1994, p.19).

When the global cities sprouted, new inequalities among these cities became at focus. Nations and their importance within traditional commercial and economic webs lost their privileged positions. The importance of national states started to shrink and certain “global cities” became more important in the globalized landscape than whole nations. A new combination of spatial dispersal and global integration created new strategic roles for major cities like New York, London and Tokyo:

Beyond their long history as centers of international trade and banking, these cities now function in four new ways: first, as highly concentrated command points in the organization of the world economy; second, as key locations for finance and for specialized service firms, which have replaced manufacturing as the leading economic sectors; third, as sites of production, including the production of innovations, in these leading industries; and fourth, as markets for the products and innovations produced (1991, p. 3-4).

As Manuel Castells proclaimed, “Global cities are the new pillars of the informational era” (1996, p. 9). These cities provide the full infrastructure needed by the world economy for the realization of international transactions. This includes good airports, hotels, telecommunications, media, Internet, banking, security, stock exchange, and so on.

The global cities have a significant number of qualified and efficient people able to supply and produce all necessary services. They are marketplaces able to absorb and recycle all financial flows and transactions. That is why it is important to remember that this hierarchy may change very fast under constantly changing economic conditions. These are the challenges of living in a global city where change is usually fast and people living it could develop that quick sense of adaptation to changes. [WXwS2]

Moreover, global cities also enable people to have an increase in accessibility of areas for socialization.[WXwS3]  Business is booming and the areas outside of a city are affected by it. As the distance away from a community increases, its influence on the surrounding countryside decreases. Many residents will feel that they are able to have the best of both worlds, to be centrally placed yet able to get away to their second home. In global cities, people are provided with parks and lots of things to do.

Although it is undeniable that living in global cities are expensive, but the price people pay will be diminished by the accessibility to virtually everything that modern people should have. The redistribution of population caused by suburbanization resulted to spatial and political segregation of social groups of the global cities. The upwardly mobile resident of the city— younger, wealthier, and better educated—took advantage of the automobile and the freeway to leave the central city.

The poorer, older, least-advantaged urbanites were left behind. The central cities and the suburbs became increasingly differentiated. Large areas within those cities now contain only the poor and minority groups (including women), a population little able to pay the rising costs of the social services that their numbers, neighborhoods, and condition require.

The corporate complex and the immigrant community today are probably two extreme modes in the formation and appropriation of urban space. The urban form represented by the global city function — the internationalized corporate services complex and the highly paid professional work force with its high-priced lifestyle — is the one habitually thought to constitute the essence of an advanced post-industrial economy.

The urban form represented by the immigrant community, or more specifically, the informal economy, is habitually seen as not belonging to an advanced economy, one to be found here only because it has been imported via immigration (Sassen, 1993). This phenomenon has increasingly segregated the poor and minorities, being trapped in global cities, without the possibility of nearby employment and are isolated by distance, immobility, and unawareness from the few remaining low-skill jobs, which are now largely in the suburbs.

Indeed, it is undeniable that there are huge problems when people choose to live in a global city like New York or San Francisco. However, people should also take part in the macro-structural changes in global economy.

The transformation of the industrial into the informational society and the changing emphasis on information rather than material production have produced profound structural changes affecting the organization of societies, their labor force strategies, and the power structures of the state. As we are all aware that globalization is a vital concept in our time, living in a global city will eventually expose people to a global culture that is essential to widening knowledge in helping our nation achieve its economic goals.


Castells, M. (1996). The Rise of Network Society, Oxford: Blackwell.

Sassen, S. (1991). The Global City. New York, London, Tokyo. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Sassen, S. (1993). Rebuilding the Global City: Economy, Ethnicity and Space. Social Justice, 20(3-4), 32+.

Sassen, S. 1994. Cities in a World Economy. Thousand Oaks, CA, London and New Delhi: Sage.



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