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Saskia Sassen: This is not the first collapse

18 October 2008 - Recent research shows that Amsterdam has risen to the top ten of global centres. The city is affected by the financial crisis, but then this is not the first collapse, argues Saskia Sassen, Lynd Professor of Sociology at Columbia University.

Part four of a series on Amsterdam and the Crisis

Sassen is part of a team of researchers that recently conducted a vast study on global cities, sponsored by Mastercard. In the 1980s, when globalisation took off, only New York and London functioned as global cities. By now, there are twenty major and fifty minor global cities.

According to the Mastercard study, the world's leading global cities are London; New York; Tokyo; Singapore; Chicago; Hong Kong; Paris; Frankfurt; Seoul and Amsterdam.

Amsterdam has risen to the tenth position of the list as a result of its stable economy, its high standard of living and its strong legal framework. As Sassen points out, "Amsterdam is more than a financial centre; it is also a platform for firms in a diversity of fields".

According to Sassen, the rise of Amsterdam is illustrative of two trends. First, the emergence of small cities, often in small countries, as significant platforms for global firms and markets. And second, the ascendancy of Asian and European cities at the expense American cities.

Sassen puts the impact of the current crisis into perspective. "L ike all other financial centres, [Amsterdam] is affected by this collapse of particular components of the financial sector; but we have had seven major collapses since the early 1980s worldwide as part of the new financial phase that is part of the current globalization, so this is not the first one".

Sassen has argued that the American government should invest its 700 billion dollar rescue fund in the real economy rather than use it to bail out banks. Investing in infrastructure would create new jobs and boost economic growth.

Whether such an approach would make sense in the Netherlands, Sassen cannot say. "I think it is a very smart thing in a country like the US because it has severely decaying infrastructure when it comes to various critical items: bridges, levees, train tracks, vast stretches of toxic land, etcetera. That is different from taxpayers footing a huge bill that the private sector had once accepted to pay".

Professor Saskia Sassen. Image: Infrastructure - construction of the North/South metro line. Photo Shirley de Jong


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