Mon Feb 16, 2004

The World City System

The latest issue of the American Journal of Sociology [subscription required] has a number of interesting articles, but given the, ahem, cosmopolitan nature of the crew here at CT, a paper by Alderson and Beckfield on Power and Position in the City World System [also pdf] caught my eye. They examine power relations between three and a half thousand cities in a network analysis, operationalizing ties with a measure of HQ and branch locations of the world’s 500 largest corporations. The authors develop a blockmodel to identify clusters of regularly equivalent cities. Roughly, members of regular equivalence sets have similar relations to members of other equivalent sets, so equivalent cities stand in the same relations to other groups of cities.

As you might expect, the core of the city world system is the block made up of London, New York, Paris and Tokyo, and these four cities are much more powerful than any of the others. But outside this core group, the analysis suggests some patterns that aren’t visible from less formal approaches. Outside the “L-N-P-T” block, there are six other “Primary” blocks:[1] Amsterdam, Basel, Atlanta, Caracas, Cologne and … Bristol. Chris will be delighted.

fn1. These are “cliques whose members are involved in high levels of relations with outsiders. More specifically, they are blocks with greater than expected ingroup preference (their cliquishness), but also greater than expected outdegree and indegree.”