Beyond the Global City Concept and the Myth of ‘Command and Control’


  • An earlier version of this article was presented as a keynote address to the Russian city of Kazan in September 2011. I would like to thank the organizers and audience for their interest and questions. Thanks are due to Dave Clarke and Marcus Doel for their helpful comments.


The article argues that the lack of convincing empirical evidence for the global economy as being subject to ‘command and control’ results from that contention being a neo-Marxist myth. First, imagining the global economy as being subject to ‘highly concentrated command’ through the function of some major cities as ‘strategic sites’ for the production of ‘command and control’ is traced back through several neo-Marxist authors to narrate its genesis, and to argue that the lack of evidence for that proposition is a consequence of those antecedents envisioning capitalism as a totalizing structure, thus making the assumption that it is subject to control and coordination from a distance. Second, Taylor's interlocking world city network model is forensically examined to explain that it is fallacious because it is a structuralism that, bedevilled by a sorites paradox, contains the further problem of containing no credible evidence for the existence of ‘command centres’. Finally, the article moves beyond neo-Marxism's key concepts by juxtaposing their assumptions with ethnographic results from social studies of finance, a manoeuvre which forges an understanding of cities as socio-technical assemblages and eventful multiplicities, beyond, inter alia, the baseless assumption that the global economy is subject to ‘command and control’.