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Global Cities and Urban Theory

Global Cities and Urban Theory

First Edition

March 2017 | 200 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

Global Cities and Urban Theory provides an innovative set of approaches to understanding some of the world's major cities, working with concepts such as smart cities, volumetric urbanism, and critical accounting to illustrate the everyday agents and practices that place cities in the world. 

Donald McNeill draws on detailed discussions of major cities such as London, San Francisco, Paris and Singapore to provide a deep understanding of how urban theory can be grounded in the cultural economies of urban development. The book:

  • Reviews the insights of key thinkers such as Bruno Latour, Mike Davis, and Jane M. Jacobs in relation to specific cities.
  • Highlights methodological and epistemological notes on each theme.
  • Provides case studies of nine key global cities, examined in the context of specific material and spatial practices.
Essential reading for upper level students and researchers across urban studies, urban geography, urban sociology and urban policy.

Chapter 1: Centrality
Chapter 2: Flat Cities
Chapter 3: Global urban order(ing)
Chapter 4: Logistical territories
Chapter 5: Centres of calculation
Chapter 6: World-making

Donald McNeill’s book brings exceptional clarity to the core concerns of contemporary urban theory. Using a series of fascinating case studies and drawing extensively on politico-economic and actor network theories, the text demonstrates how cities are constitutive of, and constituted by, intersecting global process. In doing so, McNeill pushes forward the boundaries of critical urban studies by offering a systematic and crystal clear urban epistemology. With urban theory now at a turning point, this text should set the contours of debate as the emerging twenty-first century city is understood and theorized.

Mark Davidson
Associate Professor of Geography, Clark University

Donald McNeill has written a creative, innovative and authoritative analysis of the contemporary global city.    It provides an impressive critical understanding of what we call the global and the city by focusing on the key material objects and social processes involved in constituting the relations between them.    Global Cities provides an analysis of the key engineered sites of the cathedral of St. Peters, the airport and hotel, air conditioning and smart cities – amongst others - helping us to understand why some cities have been more influential than others in shaping global practices. 

Professor Simon Marvin
Director of the Urban Institute, University of Sheffield

As Donald McNeill notes early in this book, scholarship on global cities “has been widespread and varied”. McNeill weaves paths through theory and cities via architects, airports, factories, hotels, cathedrals, taxis, ports and myriad other sites of money, movement, power and marginality. It is a journey worth taking – and McNeill proves a splendid guide. 

James D. Sidaway
Professor of Political Geography, National University of Singapore

This book asks fundamental questions for urban research. What is a city? In what sense is a city ‘global’? McNeill examines key forms of cultural, economic, and political power and practice through which cities are composed as material concentrations, from religion and logistics to air-conditioning systems and smart cities. The result, in a discussion that ranges from Rome and Paris to Dubai and Sydney, is a powerful and innovative account of why and how particular spaces, practices and forms in the city curate globality.

Colin McFarlane
Professor of Urban Geography, Durham University

We may indeed have arrived at an ‘urban age’ but there is precious little critical insight about this important human development.  Global Cities and Urban Theory is therefore a very important arrival and should be widely read and discussed.  The book distills and advances Donald McNeill’s considerable ground breaking analyses of the global urban system, especially of the corporate and professional elites that seek to shape, indeed control, their destiny.  McNeill deploys a highly original and timely critique to challenge the assumptions and assertions of urban power.

Brendan Gleeson
Director of The University of Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute

Donald McNeill’s Global Cities and Urban Theory is a clear and concise book that provides a welcome addition to the global cities literature. The book provides a clear image of what constitutes the global and the city in the 21st-century global economy. This precision and lucidity make the book accessible to a broad audience of scholars and nonacademics who are interested in better understanding the key processes of globalization and urbanization.

Simone Franzi
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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