Landscapes of Global Capital
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Arthur Anderson01-99

Saskia Sassen (1991) uses the term "global cities" to refer to the core capitalist cities of the planet -- New York, London, Tokyo, Los Angeles. Sassen is quick to note that there are also "regional" global cities which structurally resemble one another - Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney, Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco, Vancouver, Buenos Aires, etc. Manuel Castells refers to these as "megacities" -- vast concentrations of resources cut off from local populations but centrally connected to globally integrated markets. Castells sees these megacities as the "nodes of the global economy, concentrating the directional, productive, and managerial upper functions all over the planet: the control of the media; the real politics of power; and the symbolic capacity to create and diffuse meanings" (Castells, 1996: 403-04).

Advertisers -- those who help steer the symbolic apparatus that Castells refers to above -- have adopted their own tightly abbreviated signifiers of the generic global city. Their most photogenic signifier draws on the supermodern imagery of corporate skyscrapers and the skylines they give shape to. City skyline imagery symbolically captures the nodal concentration of "managerial upper functions" that Castells and Sassen refer to, even as it disconnects this invisible managerial class from the lives of local populations.

Skyscrapers have become highly visible icons of contemporary capitalism. When supplemented by traffic metaphors that are turned to refer to the rapid movement of data as well as people, the city defined by skyscrapers emerges as a spatial hub for a distributed economy.

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Cultural Geography
The Architecture of Capital

Skyscapes of capital < Previous

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Robert Goldman, Stephen Papson, Noah Kersey