On the one hand literature speaks about “globalisation”, “informational society”, “telecommunication”… all of which can really make you think time and space increasingly looses relevance – and “city”, characterized by time and space consequently as well. On the other hand urbanization progresses and “global cities” are the motor of economic growth. A contradiction at first sight. Looking at the development of cities over time the relevance of city as a physical place and the virtual net that impacts the structures are going well together.
Structure and organization
The fordistic city was a place of productive uniformity. A place of industrial mass-production that is centrally organized like Fords factories were. There was and in some cases still is a strong municipality, most people have work or are engaged in an active social network. Hierarchy is strictly centralized internally. Labor intensive production was downtown. The city center locates the city’s high administration offices as well as locations for mass consumption, e.g. shown in the department stores of the 1950s that you still find in many european cities today.
Impact of technology
Hartmut Haeussermann writes in “Was bleibt von der europäischen Stadt”, VS Verlag, 2011, pg. 27 “Wir erleben das Ende der industriellen Verstädterung” (we witness the end of the industrial urbanization). City as a political entity, organizational unit for economy and social formation looses its relevance as technology gains maturity. Technological gains impact on efficiency of production processes and entailed new forms of global management. What was lost in hardware production was partly compensated by the emerging service-industry. “Just-in-time delivery” and “lean production” as well as transnational enterprises were the consequent development. Production moved to either low-cost-countries or at least to the edges of a city while global headquarters remained downtown. Reasons given are probably a) to expressed symbolic dominance and b) because most legal, financial and marketing experts continued being there.
The downtown central business district developed price- and offering wise to a quite unpleasant spot for an ordinary living. People as well as small- and medium businesses moved outside town to so called “edge-cities”. Technology- and office parks emerged and suburbs with own infrastructure. Individual mobility connects live in- and outside downtown.
The biggest growth for “high street” retail is in the shopping malls at the periphery. This decentralization combined with the growing relevance of ICT and its possibilities to “live” anonymously, independent of time and space can – to close the loop to Haeussermanns question – support the loss of european urbanism. In order to maintain attractiveness in the global competition for financial investments and quality of live city management has to close ranks of the societal factor.
City management today
The decentralization encourages multi-local identities and behavior. This development is supported by the growing importance and maturity of ICT that slackens social bindings to a physical space. New community-dynamics arise. And last but not least informal processes based on ICT impact planning processes and political action.
“Governance” is the term that describes the loss of outer souvereignity and inner hierachy that are dominated by social behavior and transnational interdependencies (transnational Verhandlungsbeziehungen). It is a transformational process where state action ends and private interest begins. City management today should be a cross-resort and strategic management of city resources with the help of modern technologies and communication processes – all before the background of increasing global economic volatility and structural changes. In western Europe cities transfer into knowledge- and service economies competing for financial investments and specialized labor force in a global context. An obvious sign is the migration and multicultural mixture of big cities. Some cities market themselves as being specialized in a particular area in order to secure a crossroads position in the global economic net. Problem is, what happens, if this expert field is loosing ground (e.g. Arnstadt /near Erfurt, Germany – location for solar power experts faces tough times as the market is breaking down).