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Free Thinking : The world

From New Delhi, writer Rana Dasgupta

Is The Boom In The Smaller Cities?

  • Rana Dasgupta
  • 19 Oct 06, 06:15 PM

Look at this article from Newsweek earlier this year, which basically states that current growth - in population and productivity - is coming not from the established cities of the world, but from more flexible secondary cities.


Great cities like London, New York and Tokyo loom large in our imaginations. They are the places people still associate with fortune, fame and the future. They can dominate national economies, and politics. The last half century has been their era, as the number of cities with more than 10 million people grew from two to 20, as now famous names like Rio, Mexico City and Mumbai joined the list. But with all respect to the many science-fiction novelists who have envisioned a future of increasingly dominant urban giants, their day is over. The typical growth rate of the population within a megacity has slowed from more than 8 percent in the '80s to less than half that over the last five years, and their number is expected to stagnate in the next quarter century. Instead, the coming years will belong to a smaller, far humbler relation—the Second City.

Large countries with big populations could definitely do with more distributed growth, and the role of second-tier cities is therefore very important to think about. But this article misses the point that today's metropolises lie at the centre of vast, sometimes transnational, systems of labour, distribution etc - and that the "secondary cities" it mentions are often not alternative and exterior, but fully part of such metropolitan systems.

Ghaziabad, for instance, the Indian "boom town" it mentions, may bear a different name from Delhi, and even lie in a different state, but it is fully part of the Delhi metropolitan zone, whose apartment blocks, warehouses, wholesale markets, truck stops and factories continue unbroken for hours as you drive out of Delhi proper.

Once again, I would refer readers to Mike Davis for a sense of how such massive metropolitan zones operate. At a time such as this, when cities are so dominant in world systems, it is important to think about the main metropolitan hubs as global force fields, rather than simply as delimited geographical zones.


  1. At 02:22 PM on 20 Oct 2006, Roberto Carlos Alvarez-Galloso,CPUR wrote:

    As more people leave overcrowded cities and move to secondary cities, the trend will continue.

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