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William George Jewsbury | A Critical Assessment of the Key Features of Sassen’s (1995) Account of Cities.

on Tue Aug 07, 2018 9:28 pm
William George Jewsbury | A Critical Assessment of the Key Features of Sassen’s (1995) Account of Cities.



Sassen (1995) assesses the changing spatiality of city organisational and productive infrastructures due to the altered intensities caused by globalization. Initially, Sassen asserts that successful world cities are defined through their proximate structural amalgamation of service, business, and financial infrastructures, which are centrally concentrated at a core for benefit of pooled resources. However, immense increases in international transactions and rapid technological communication advancement suggest that globalisation has served to neutralize the barriers of distance, creating a new geography at the centre. ‘Advanced telematics’ have altered communicable proximities and lessened the importance of geographical distance, creating a ‘time-space compression’ of economic and business interaction. Although such an account highlights the ‘concentration of global transmission over concentrations of built infrastructure’ (Sassen, 1995), therefore suggesting a lessening of the importance of proximity. Indeed, this may lead to what Sassen (1995) calls a ‘new production complex’, with an increase in locational options which enable the city’s congested and high cost core to be bypassed. Certain firms in routinized lines of activity, predominantly of regional and national markets, are often forced to the periphery for financial reasons, whilst the highly specialised and internationalized sectors of the ‘new finance and service complex’ concentrate in centralised nodes of networked connection. Sassen (1995) writes that, no matter how high the cost, this intense concentration appears to benefit major international business centres due to physical proximity of agglomeration economies and the presence of a highly innovative environment. The city’s core thus becomes a globalized node of financial market interconnection and service specialization, where innovate production processes occur, which require numerous intricate and skilled inputs from proximate, operationally involved professionals and urban elites.

Sassen (1995) asserts that the reinvented urban social order is influenced by, and largely reliant on, international connectedness. Evidently, the dynamics of financial globalisation allow new global cities to embed through spatial concentrations, and as ‘nodes’ of economic filtration. Sassen describes Miami, Toronto and Sydney as exemplars of cities fashioned from global economic dynamism rather than an inherited built infrastructure. Indeed, the new geographies of the city are not simple, with the spatial connection of the centre assuming numerous geographic forms. Similarly, ‘digital highways’ enable intense economic transactions, to disembody terrains of centrality as seen in the new developments of La Defence in Paris, or Docklands in London, which aim to recentralize peripheral areas. Here, financial market activities are largely operated through cyberspace (Sassen, 1995). However, in physicality such new developments become ‘nodes’ of commercial development and business activity, whilst simultaneously allowing marginalization of areas outside of world markets. This increases inter-urban poverty, thus distancing the disadvantaged even though they inhabit the same city and are paradoxically proximate. Sassen writes that those which fall ‘outside the new grid of digital highways are peripheralized’. Therefore, Sassen (1995) highlights several new geographies of global cities which arise from the increasing use of ‘advanced telematics’ that enable a decentralisation of certain production processes, whilst favouring a metropolitan ‘space of centrality’ or nodal grid of connected spaces, rather than the stringently central business districts of old.
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