Extraordinary Cities
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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.
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Chapter 6: Making the modern world- system: Western Europe’s great creative interlude

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

Peter J. Taylor


In a thorough review and evaluation of how scholars from different traditions have identified the distinctiveness of capitalist or modern societies, Wallerstein (1992, pp. 566–80) finds among myriad conflicting ideas that: The one thing that seems unquestionable, and unquestioned, is the hyperbolic growth curves – in production, population, and the accumulation of capital – that have been a continuing reality from the sixteenth century. (p. 580) This is an excellent starting point for considering the modern worldsystem from the perspective of this book because I argue that such growth can only be generated by dynamic networks of vibrant cities. Thus I would add the urbanization hyperbolic growth curve to Wallerstein’s three curves as the one that links the process together. In this chapter I deal with two substantive issues. First, Europe is considered as the world region where modernity was created; where Normal History was superseded. What does a focus on cities add to the myriad treatments of Europe as midwife of modernity? Or, as more commonly phrased, what was the role of cities in the transition from feudalism to capitalism? I hope to clarify some key mechanisms of transition through my commercial city/guardian state toolkits.

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