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This classic work chronicles how New York, London, and Tokyo became command centers for the global economy and in the process underwent a series of massive and parallel changes. What distinguishes Sassen's theoretical framework is the emphasis on the formation of cross-border dynamics through which these cities and the growing number of other global cities begin to form strategic transnational networks. All the core data in this new edition have been updated, while the preface and epilogue discuss the relevant trends in globalization since the book originally came out in 1991.
Reviewed Work(s): The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo. by Saskia Sassen
Review by: Frank J. Macchiarola
Political Science Quarterly,
Vol. 107, No. 2 (Summer, 1992), pp. 370-371
Published by: The Academy of Political Science
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lina, but Iowa and Pennsylvania and almost anywhere he stumped. He had a
growing radio audience, "becoming almost a regular on NBC" (p. 308). Raymond
Moley of Roosevelt's Brains Trust said, "I have never known a mind that moved
with more clarity, decisiveness, and force" (p. 309).
Long's relentless, comprehensive distortion of democratic processes and obses-
sion with personal power converted Louisiana into "a full-fledged dictatorship"
(p. 277). Nonetheless, there was "much he had done for Louisiana" as governor
(p. 227). Construction of roads and bridges (and the labor employed in doing so)
were joined by improvements in public education (mostly for whites), in night
literacy classes (mostly benefiting blacks), in Louisiana State University (where
his interest went even beyond the football team), and in hospitals (again benefiting
mostly whites). But mixed motives -or, more accurately, undiluted ambition-
and dubious results characterized most that he undertook as both governor and
U.S. senator. In the end, the questions hang. Could the promises and the conse-
quences possibly have been worth the violations of popular democracy? Would
the probable results have been worth the probable costs had Long lived longer?
Hair's well written, valuable, comprehensive biography will surely lead most, if
not all, to say no.
Vanderbilt University
The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo by Saskia Sassen. Princeton, NJ,
Princeton University Press, 1991. 397 pp. $39.50.
The thesis of The Global City is that New York City, London, and Tokyo,
long-time centers of business and finance, have become very different kinds
of cities in terms of their basic characteristics and the roles they now play in
international economic affairs. In earlier periods these cities served as sites for
corporate headquarters, major commercial banking, and manufacturing. These
activities have either relocated or diminished in importance and notwithstanding
the changes-corporate headquarters move-outs, the decline of the power of
commercial banks, and massive reductions in the size of the industrial sector in
urban areas - Saskia Sassen sees New York, London, and Tokyo as being in an
ascendant position with respect to world economics. She sees these cities as
significantly well situated in terms of the trends and transformations that are
occurring; in fact, she sees these cities as becoming important well beyond the
economics of their respective nation-states.
These cities have emerged despite the fact that economic activities continue
to be globally dispersed with regional centers seeing job growth and increased
economic significance. Sassen contends that a number of forces have enhanced
central functions at a time of enormous dispersal of production. These three cities
retain their advantage as commercial centers with more control needed at central
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sites even as important activities are further dispersed. While this process means
fewer employees on central assignment - with back office activities moving out -
it also means considerable support for the fewer who work at these places. There
is the need for increased control of the global assembly line, with small firms
staffed by technically competent experts. The global city becomes the place where
specialty skills are increasingly found. These firms have various niches that sup-
port the corporate governance function. Once seen as the traditional law, ac-
counting, and advertising firms, they are newer companies whose employees cut
across academic disciplines and help give state-of-the-art advantages to highly
competitive business. The growth of these enterprises has been most striking in
places like New York, London, and Tokyo. These enterprises are true production
centers providing the kind of services that are part of the new needs for successful
business. Their contribution is observed, analyzed, and reported skillfully by
Sassen. This is the knowledge business and it forms the core of strength for the
global cities.
Sassen's analysis is quite powerful as she demonstrates how New York, Lon-
don, and Tokyo have managed to grow and prosper. The real issue for these
cities, however, rests in the implications that this growth has for the social and
economic conditions within the cities themselves. Economically, the results are
basically positive for the emerging global city. The diversification of business and
the intensity of competition make the city an important place in which to do
business. The well educated, technically proficient employee and entrepreneur
stimulate the local economy and attract new activity to the global city. The
business district grows; old neighborhoods are transformed into exciting places
for new city leaders. Particularly true for New York, Tokyo, and London, Sassen
also shows the phenomenon has been at work in regional cities like Osaka and
Los Angeles. She gives the global city description quite sparingly.
It is in the area of the social order that is developing within the global city
that Sassen's data is the most disturbing. She does not analyze the political
consequences of the changes that she has tracked. The data, however, strongly
suggest that there ought to be some political difficulties. Sassen asks a basic
question: has all this progress resulted in a better situation for marginal city
residents? She answers the question for New York, London, and Tokyo in the
same way: no! She sees an increasing disparity between the condition of the rich
and the poor in these cities, with about two in five of new jobs being for the rich
and almost three in five of new jobs for the poor. Clearly the implications for
the middle class are profound.
Sassen's work in explaining change while in its midst is quite fine. These are
insights that build around a keen understanding of the significant swirl that
describes our economy today. These insights are well researched and well pre-
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
Yeshiva University
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