This article discusses cities in globalisation through the notions of networks and relations. The article argues for a conceptual understanding of a city as a social entity and in contrast to the understanding of a city as a place or a territory. The focus is to discuss relations between globalisation and city dynamics. The research question is developed from an economic geography framework; however, the discussion transcends disciplinary boundaries, and work in sociology and economic sociology offers important contributions to the argument.
There is a strong overlap between the development of the idea of the network society and relational thinking of societies. What has been coined as the ‘relational economic geography’ approach emphasises the importance of social and organisational relations and networks, involving interpersonal and interorganisational connections and networks. Proponents of the concept of relational space reject the notions of territorial integrity and bounded territorial regions. Instead, they utilise concepts such as porosity, permeability, unboundedness, space of flows and relational connectivity.
The article also considers methods and data for empirical studies on cities in globalisation. The observation and construction of data on networks may be difficult. Typically, networks are not stable or physical entities to measure or envision, neither do they have stable boundaries. What may be observed are the components generating, developing and reproducing relations and flows. Jane Jacobs’ (1984) idea about the role of dynamic cities in expanding economic life put relations and connections in the centre, and the theory asserts that some cities are innovative, leading and dynamic while others are secondary and relatively static. This idea has been important in the task of developing an appropriate match between the concept of cities as networks and the methodology through which these are studied within the framework of the Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network (GaWC). The different angles of analysis and which are developed and pursued in this research network, clearly illustrate that the single cities have different positions. The conceptual understanding stresses the unstable character and processes that will continuously involve changes in how globalising cities are positioned.
Oslo: Novus forlag , 2009. no 1-2, 1-16 p.