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Article Summary

Brenner, Neil (1999). Globalisation as Reterritorialisation: The Re-scaling of Urban Governance in the European Union, Urban Studies 369(3):431-451.

Brenner examines globalization as a process of merging and reconfiguring territories. Brenner recognizes that while capital is flowing faster and further, globalizing forces cannot change the fact that much of a territorys organization is fixed in place geographically. Building on the fixed nature of urban, regional, state, and national agglomerations, Brenner investigates the re-scaling of territories as intrinsic to this round of globalization. Building a competitive global position, ie. capturing global capital flows, relies heavily on re-scaling cities, states, and politics across all levels.

Central to Brenners analysis is the historic nature of capitalism as a geographic force. In short, he summarizes capital as a relentless re-shaper of territories that has recently undergone a shift from a predominately state scale to the competitive global scale. Brenner argues that this change in geographical scaffolding forces states and cities to act on two distinct fronts simultaneously. Brenner calls the ability to act locally as well as globally glocalization.

As a force, glocalization primarily acts on the state. It requires states to build local capacities that benefit a broader supranational structure. Brenner interprets glocalization as a re-scaling of state power. Upward re-scaling involves transferring many tasks to the supranational level. Downward re-scaling devolves many state programs to the regional and local institutions. While this seemingly is a hollowing-out of the state, Brenner finds that at the urban-regional level, state power is actually created. Regulating new economic space and managing the disjuncture between world cities and the urban areas that host them essentially re-scales state government into state governance.

As states use larger supranational structures to gain the industrial and administrative efficiency necessary to attract and generate capital in a global environment, they must also understand the role of their world cities. A world city is a space of global accumulation (Friedmann 1995) that no state can fully control. Through their key role in global capital flows, world cities are re-scaling beyond the power of the state. In many ways global cities compete against one another and coexist as nodes in a global network outside the control of the state.

The cost for gaining global competitiveness is often the states autonomy. This precondition for contemporary capital accumulation is creating an economic disjuncture between the world city and the territorial economy of its host state. In the European Union, it is becoming clear that geo-economic power is moving away from the state level and to the world cities. While Brenner recognizes that politics is becoming problematic between cities and states, his conception of the state as a platform of economic growth allows for this and calls for new concepts of scale that account for reterritorialisation and the social relations in glocalized areas.