Chicago Caught In a “Brutal” Reordering Of Global Cities

We’ve heard a lot in the past few weeks about Chicago and its place among global cities. On Thursday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel set forth his proposal for a “new Chicago” that involves a wide variety of infrastructure improvements, private funding and more debt.

Photo by Simonds via flickr

All that is supposed to put the city back among the list of the world’s best cities. But there are suggestions that Chicago actually needn’t bother.

Urbanist Richard Florida looks at why some cities lose and others win in a sweeping piece today on The Atlantic Cities. He notes that the world’s biggest cities have been dramatically reordered since 1950, when Chicago was the second biggest in the U.S. and eighth largest in the world.

Now, Chicago ranks third largest among American cities and 25th in the world. Florida suggests it probably doesn’t stand a chance to become more important, because it’s now part of the world’s tier of second and third-level cities. 

As Florida writes,

“Simulations by Robert Axtell of George Mason University show that the biggest, dominant cities can survive and thrive for a very long time. New York has been America’s largest city since its first census in 1790.  London has been the United Kingdom’s largest city for a very long time. Athens and Rome have remained influential long past their prime. 

But the competition and “churning” among smaller second- and third-tier cities is brutal. These cities rise and fall frequently. Early in the 20th century, rising industrial cities in the United States and Europe displaced once dominant mercantile centers. By the end of that century, many of those same industrial cities were being replaced by knowledge-based ones.”

 And, if Chicago is in this kind of quandary, the outlook for our traditional industrial cities, like Detroit, Milwaukee and Cleveland, might be even more dire on a global scale.
That doesn’t mean they have no role to place in the national or international economy. They just won’t be in the top ranks.
Read Florida’s story at The Atlantic Cities and tell us your reaction. Should Chicago give up?

One Reply to “Chicago Caught In a “Brutal” Reordering Of Global Cities”

  1. Are you kidding me? Anyone who would let Richard Florida and some simulation runners give you a complex about your place in the “global order” deserves to just quit now.  

    Sounds like more  Creative Class brainwashing to me.  Wow, I had no idea Richard Florida had so much power.
    This from a life-long Philadelphian, who isn’t going to listen to them tell me about Philly either!

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