A World in Emergence

A World in Emergence

Cities and Regions in the 21st Century

Allen J. Scott

Beginning with the recent history of capitalism and urbanization and moving into a thorough and complex discussion of the modern city, this book outlines the dynamics of what the author calls the third wave of urbanization, characterized by global capitalism’s increasing turn to forms of production revolving around technology-intensive artifacts, financial services, and creative commodities such as film, music, and fashion. The author explores how this shift toward a cognitive and cultural economy has caused dramatic changes in the modern economic landscape in general and in the form and function of world cities in particular. Armed with cutting-edge research and decades of expertise, Allen J. Scott breaks new ground in identifying and explaining how the cities of the past are being reshaped into a complex system of global economic spaces marked by intense relationships of competition and cooperation.

Chapter 6: Human capital and the urban hierarchy

Allen J. Scott

Subjects: economics and finance, regional economics, urban economics, geography, cities, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory, urban and regional studies, cities, urban economics, urban studies


In previous chapters, I have alluded to the increasing imbrication of national urban hierarchies within a composite global system. This does not mean that national urban hierarchies no longer have any significance or interest, or that the dynamics shaping the hierarchical order of cities in individual countries have ceased to operate. In fact, significant economic variations across the urban hierarchies of different countries can almost always be observed, and urban systems in the 21st century are no exception to this. Systematic variations between cities at different levels of the urban hierarchy are notably observable in the United States, and the present chapter is focused on this particular case, which presents a rich and subtly modulated illustration of how diverse categories of human capital vary as a function of city size. More specifically, we inquire in this chapter into the ways in which different types of cognitive, cultural, and practical human capital interact with one another across the US urban hierarchy, and how this helps us understand certain aspects of the dynamics of urbanization in the 21st century. We want to know, in particular, how the transition in US metropolitan areas from a more traditional 20th century manufacturing base to an expanding 21st century cognitive–cultural economy is reflected in and associated with changes in their human capital endowments. All of this feeds into a broader theoretical question, namely: what is the relationship between the production system and forms of human capital in any given city, and what kinds of causal relationships between these two sets of phenomena might be invoked in order to understand general processes of urban growth and development?

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