Extraordinary Cities

Extraordinary Cities

Millennia of Moral Syndromes, World-Systems and City/State Relations

Peter J. Taylor

In this innovative, ambitious and wide-ranging book, Peter Taylor demonstrates that cities are the epicenters of human advancement. In exploring cities as sites through which economies flourish, by harnessing the creative potential of myriad communication networks, the author considers cities from varying temporal and spatial perspectives. Four stories of cities are told: the origins of city networks; the domination of cities by world-empires; the genesis of a singular modern creative interval in which innovation culminates in today’s globalised cities; and finally, the need for cities to act as centres for human creativity to produce a more resilient global society in the current crisis century.

Chapter 4: Geographies of beginning creative interludes

Peter J. Taylor

Subjects: geography, cities, politics and public policy, international politics, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory, urban and regional studies, cities


The purpose of this chapter is to extend discussion of Western Asia’s great creative interlude in both space and time. Thus I deploy the ideas and interpretations from the two case studies of the previous chapter to new empirical contexts. The logic is straightforward: if my conceptual toolbox is generic, then my interpretations of Uruk and Çatalhöyük should be replicable in other times and places. The first two sections of the chapter deal with creative interludes in a range of times and places. First, I propose a global conjecture about ‘first cities’ as ‘first city networks’. This is a search for other examples of those large Neolithic (or otherwise early) settlements that orthodox thinking insists are merely ‘enormous villages’. I will interpret them as critical transitions from trading networks to city networks. I consider it unnecessary for this search to be exhaustive, since the great majority of large Neolithic settlements will likely never be discovered. Certainly outside semi-arid regions they are unlikely to survive recognizably through the long-term ravages of time and, in addition, many sites will have been subsequently built over making such early traces inaccessible. My aim is merely to show that the precocious city-dwellers of Western Asia are by no means unique among early peoples across the world. This is the final discussion that insists Jacobs’ contrarian city–agriculture thesis should be entertained as a credible patterning of these little known times and places.

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