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Globalization’s New Urban Form?

Edited by John Harrison and Michael Hoyler

By critically assessing the opportunities and challenges posed by planning and governing at the megaregional scale, this innovative book examines the latest conceptualizations of trans-metropolitan landscapes. In doing so, it seeks to uncover whether megaregions are a meaningful new spatial framework for the analysis of cities in globalization. Situated within the broader contours of global urban analysis, the book draws together a range of thought-provoking contributions from scholars engaged in the study of trans-metropolitan regions. It thereby provides multiple paths of access for those wishing to familiarize themselves with this topical area of global urban studies.
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Chapter 4: Beyond globalization: a historical urban development approach to understanding megaregions

Alex Schafran


Geographers are no more insusceptible to the cult of newness than fashion designers or gadget heads. Especially for those of us who follow the movements of economic activity or chart changes in urban growth patterns and linkages between places, there is constant temptation to look upon the horizon and declare a particular phenomenon ‘new’. Few phenomena have engendered such wide-eyed hysteria, and produced so many tangled neologisms, as globalization; a generally ill-defined uber-force which has somehow made very smart people forget their history. For as the geographer Richard Walker (1996, p. 60) noted during an earlier wave of ‘obsession with globalization’, not only does a focus on the ‘new’ often ignore history, it ‘runs the risk of erasing geography, setting back the clock to the days of featureless plains in location theory’. The study of megaregions and its variants – from Gottmann’s (1961) ‘megalopolis’ to ‘mega-city regions’ (Hall and Pain, 2006) and ‘megapolitan areas’ (Lang and Dhavale, 2005) – is not immune to the conceit of newness either. There is little doubt that the current size and scope of intertwined urbanization is unprecedented – these urban regions are undoubtedly larger than at any time in history, no doubt more complex and have a greater quantity and variety of movements, networks, connections and intertwined spaces. Yet the idea that either large conurbations of interconnected urban activity or sizable polycentric metropolitan regions are somehow entirely new is to ignore more than a century of urban history.

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