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Ephemeral Kingdoms, Eternal Cities

March 15, 2013

Saskia Sassen in The European Magazine:

big_df2594e84cThe great metropolises of the globe have outlived kingdoms and empires. The world’s oldest centers of political power will dominate the 22nd century. The influence of cities will eclipse the power of nation-states.

Our geopolitical space is getting crowded. Over the last three decades we have seen the addition and consolidation of significant new actors, such as the WTO and the International Criminal Court, and the strengthened role of older actors such as the IMF and civil society organizations. There are over a hundred other regulatory bodies that have emerged and aspire to govern our increasingly globalized economies, polities, criminalities, terrorisms, epidemics, environmental destructions.

None of these has fully replaced national governments. The latter continue to be the major actors, partly because they are far more complex in their all-encompassing functions and (at times at least) capabilities.

But now we see emerge a network of complex actors with multiple capabilities who find themselves at the forefront of many of our major challenges –from the environment to terrorism. They are cities, especially global cities. It is not that the diverse leaderships of cities want to compete with national states in our global geopolitical space. They don’t. They simply have had to address these major challenges because it is in cities where they become acute, urgent, empirical –one can act on them directly.

More and more cities are collaborating with each other, sharing experiences and discoveries of what works and what not in a rapidly growing range of global challenges. [More]

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