Introduction: (counter) trends in global cities since the 21st century’s first major crisis

Publication date:
Eva Garcia-Chueca, Senior Research Fellow and Scientific Coordinator and Lorenzo Vidal, Researcher, Global Cities Programme, CIDOB

The concept of “global cities” became popular in the 1990s to account for the strategic role of major urban centres in articulating the effervescent neoliberal globalisation of capitalism. In what Joseph Stiglitz (2003) called the “roaring nineties” – a decade of apparent optimism and free market bonanza – certain cities emerged as key spaces for territorialising global processes. As Saskia Sassen discussed in The Global City (1991), these cities acquired capabilities for global operation, coordination and control of the flows of capital and of a transnationalised workforce.

More than two decades on, the transnational space anchored in global cities has changed substantially. The urban populace has since increased by more than 25% and now encompasses the majority of the world’s population; a global crisis has swept away the mirage of continuous finance-led economic expansion and sparked a popular reaction and suspicion towards the promises of globalisation; whilst the prospects of widespread ecological catastrophe have become more real.