As my geography students learn, for the first time in human history more than half the world's people now live in cities, a proportion that is expected to increase to 70% by 2050. As nation-states struggle to govern, will city-states stage a comeback? This article looks at the issues posed by changing flows of money, people, and information.
"This is the crux of the problem: nation-states rely on control. If they can’t control information, crime, businesses, borders or the money supply, then they will cease to deliver what citizens demand of them. ... The trends that are pinching the nation-state are helping the city-state. In a highly connected, quasi-borderless world, cities are centres of commerce, growth, innovation, technology and finance. ... As today’s centres of urban global capitalism, major cities are more similar to each other than the provinces of their own nation-states. ... [Nation-states] evolved during a time of industrialisation, centralised ‘command and control’ bureaucracies and national loyalty. Modern technology tends in the opposite direction: it’s distributed, decentralised and uncontrollable. If our political arrangements are a mirror of the modes of production and assumptions of the time, the future doesn’t look rosy for this 19th-century relic."
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