Re-Doing the Map: Major Cities and Everywhere Else

Paul Salmonse, an American ex-pat who’s just moved to Berlin, has a great post up about how the urban core of Berlin feels more like the urban core of New York (or any other big city) than more rural parts of Germany.

This is one of the most interesting consequences of globalization — the increased interconnectedness and cultural homogeneity of "global cities" due to broadband internet and cheap air travel, among other things. As Paul points out, an American from Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York is likely to feel as or more at home in central Paris, Tokyo, or Moscow as he would in a small or mid-size town in the U.S.

All these global cities contain a tremendous amount of diversity. This is their commonality: you can eat any kind of cuisine, shop at any kind of store, see every ethnic group represented, consume high quality culture like art and concerts. As Tyler Cowen has argued, globalization has increased diversity within big cities even if comparative diversity has decreased. (Sure, Paris might seem more like San Francisco comparatively speaking, but the cultural diversity within each city has increased thanks to trade and markets.)

International travelers know that it is often easier to fly from global city to global city versus global city to small town. It took just as long for me to fly from San Francisco to upstate New York as it did to fly from San Francisco directly to Tokyo. Los Angeles to Stevens Point, Wisconsin (small airport in midwest) was only a tad shorter after connections and layovers than San Francisco to Frankfurt.

The question, then, related to my review of Sam Huntington’s book, is whether citizens of global cities feel more of an allegiance to their cities, cosmopolitan lifestyle, and globetrotting co-patriots than to their home country and suburban or rural residents, and whether the resulting decrease in nationalism and connectedness to vast swaths of the country’s population should be a cause for concern.


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