International Handbook of Globalization and World Cities
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International Handbook of Globalization and World Cities

Edited by Ben Derudder, Michael Hoyler, Peter J. Taylor and Frank Witlox

This Handbook offers an unrivalled overview of current research into how globalization is affecting the external relations and internal structures of major cities in the world.
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Chapter 40: More than an Ordinary City: The Role of Mexico City in Global Commodity Chains

Christof Parnreiter


Christof Parnreiter INTRODUCTION Accounts of big cities in poorer countries are commonly informed by the megacity discourse, whose first leitmotif is that megacities have, due to the size of their populations, more problems than other cities. They are, therefore, supposed to be ‘major global risk areas, . . . particularly prone to supply crisis, social disorganization, political conflicts, and natural disasters’ (Megacity Task Force, International Geographical Union, 2010). Mike Davis (2006, p. 138) simply contends that the poor megacities are ‘stinking mountains of shit’. Yet such assessments are problematic because authors expounding on the problems of megacities provide neither evidence nor compelling theoretical arguments for their claim that bigger cities face more or more serious problems than smaller ones. In fact, this notion is empirically difficult to sustain. Everybody knows, for example, that the megacity Mexico City does in many, if not all, aspects better than the non-megacity Ciudad Juárez on the Mexico–U.S. border, while it is equally recognized that the many disparities between the two megacities of Mexico City and New York do not stem from the difference in population size. Regarding the theoretical grounding of the claim that ‘mass matters’ (IGU Megacity Taskforce), it is striking that the mainstream literature on megacities has not seriously engaged either with Simmel’s stimulating thinking that size makes a difference to the mental life of city dwellers (Simmel 2006 [1903]) nor with Jacobs’ (1970) contention that cities are economically vibrant because of the necessity to resolve the many problems resulting from size and...

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