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Thearticle “World cities, or a world of ordinary cities?” waswritten by Jenifer Robinson and published in 2006. The main focus ofthe article is the discussion of the changes that have taken place inthe field of urban studies. Robinson argues that scholars havestopped focusing on the distinction between the Western cities fromthose that were classified as the socialist and the third world. Thepost colonial urban theory help scholars address different aspects,including the migrant communities coming from poor nations, diversemobility of the elites, and global finance capital, among others. Themodern cities have become cosmopolitan areas, which has forced thescholars to shift their focus from the consideration of the amount ofwealth to the diversity of the specific urban site. The shift offocus is an indication of the post colonial urban theory thatencourages people to become sensitive to the diversity of the cityexperiences and avoid giving privilege to some metropolitan areas.

Althoughscholars have embarked on the concept of inclusiveness,developmentalism still pervades the urban studies. Robinson expressesconcerns that the consideration of different levels of developmentthat have been achieved by different cities will result in theirclassification on the basis of outdated criterion. Thisclassification will result in the distinction between the third worldand developed cities. Although this type of hierarchy has becomeunpopular, it is likely to lead to the classification of cities intotwo groups, including imitators and exemplars. The hierarchy that isbased on the development that each of the cities have achievedrequires them to climb up the rankings in order to be part of theglobal action.

Robinsonargues that more urban studies are needed in order to produce thepost-colonial theory that is relevant to the concept of world cities.This argument leads to a notion that all cities should be consideredas ordinary. Urban areas are classified as global cities when theyplay the role of articulating international, regional, and nationaleconomies in the world affairs. The new post-colonial urban theorywas proposed following a discovery that some cities were serving asthe nodes from where the global economic systems were organized.Consequently, the local hinterlands and poor cities were left out ofthe space created by global capitalism. This weakness was addressedby the concept of the ordinary cities.

Theidea of global cities was coined by Saskia Sassen and its takesaccount of the distinctive features that are associated with thecurrent status of the world economy. Sassen held that the worldeconomy is spatially developed and it requires an organization thatis integrated and locally developed, which can only happen in theglobal cities. One of the key trends documented in the article isthat most of the transnational companies no longer maintain theirheadquarters in the major cities. However, companies (such as banks)that increase the capacity of firms to internationalize theiroperations have retained their businesses in the major cities.

Theclassification of the world and global cities has focused on alimited range of economic activities, which has left out many of theurban areas. According to Robinson, the national standing, culturalfunctions, and location of state as well as interstate agencies aresome of the key factors considered in the classification of citieswhen suing the economic framework. The process of ranking cities onthe basis of their influence is based on a league-table approach thatresults in underrepresentation of some of the urban areas. Theranking has influenced some policy makers to an extent of believingthat it is possible and a good thing to help their cities move up thehierarchy.

Theglobal and the world cities approaches are founded on theoreticalconstructs that create unrealistic ambitions on the part of urbanareas that fail to meet the criteria. The unrealistic ambitions aredeveloped when the world starts to see the urban areas included inthe hierarchy of the world cities as the pinnacles of economic andsocial development. The world cities approach tends to limit theimagination in the developing urban areas by restricting their agendato the criterion that has been set by those that are included in thehierarchy.

Theuse of economic progress as the basis for ranking the world citiesleaves some urban areas off the map. However, it is undeniable thatthe economic progress of the cities determines their relevance in theglobal market. According to Robinson inequalities, power relations,and poverty are some of the key factors that shape the global links.Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia, is one of the urban areas thathave lost relevance in the modern global economy following thedecline in the market for copper.

Robinsonproposes that the idea of “ordinary cities” can help the scholarsconsider different ways in which urban areas in the less developedcountries interface with the world economy as well as their social,historical, and cultural legacies. This approach can result in theconsideration of cities as assemblages of wider processes. Byacknowledging the fact that cities are distinct, irrespective of theeconomic status, the stakeholders will create a platform on whichthey can learn from each other.

Robinsonconcludes that the establishment of hierarchical relations thatresult in ranking of cities on the basis of their relevance to theglobal economy has a damaging effect that impacts the less developedcountries. An ordinary approach is quite fair and it leads to theestablishment of productive connections. It ensures that all citiesare included in the global economy since it is based on a wide rangeof factors. The ordinary approach, unlike the “cities of the world”strategy, helps the stakeholders avoid paying more attention to a fewsectors of the economy to the detriment of others.


Robinson,J. (2006). WorldCities or a World of Ordinary Cities?&quot by Jennifer Robinson from&quotOrdinary Cities: Between Modernity and Development.