Globalization and the Left

Globalization and the Left

Cities, or rather networks of cities, are becoming a key site for engaging global corporate power. Global cities are particularly important because they are where the core elements of the global economy are located, in strategic concentrations of resources, infrastructures, structures, human talent, and the specialized know-how that is crucial for the management, coordination, and servicing of the global economic system. This network of global cities constitutes a strategic space for politics precisely because it is a strategic space for the global economy.

The demonstrations by the anti-globalization network have signaled some of this, but we now need to build on what they have “demonstrated”—that global corporate power can be engaged directly in certain types of places. We can see the potential for developing a place-specific politics with a global span.

Recognizing these possibilities requires understanding something about the global economy that is usually left out of the picture. I argue elsewhere (in The Global City) that the emphasis on hypermobility, global communications, and the neutralization of place and distance in the mainstream account of globalization needs to be balanced with a focus on the work behind command functions, on the actual work process in the leading information industries (finance and specialized services), and on global marketplaces. This understanding incorporates the material facilities underlying globalization and the massive concentrations of place-bound resources that are part of the story. Unlike the mainstream account, it does not take the existence of a global economic system as a given, a function of the power of transnational corporations and global communications.

Because globalization is a complex, multi-scalar and multi-sited politico-economic system, developing an alternative politics will take a variety of efforts and institutions. What I am describing is, then, just one element in a broad range of initiatives. Further, because other participants in this symposium address the challenges to agencies such as the IMF, the World Bank, and WTO, I focus on a less noted type of effect in political and institution-building. This type of work is centered in cities, networks of cities, and non-formal political actors. In this case, the practical idea the editors ask for can be found in the fact that such city-based networks enable a cross-border politics of non-formal, political actors.

The capabilities for global operation, coordination, and control resulting from the new information technologies and from the power of transnational corporations need to be produced, managed, and serviced. Looking at it this way, we recover the material conditions, production sites, and place-boundedness that are also part of globalization and the information economy. Global cities are places where we can engage global corporate power, and go beyond demonstrating against it, because th...