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Urbanisation and globalisation

The process of urbanisation is part and parcel of the process of globalisation.

Globalisation “refers to the widening, deepening and speeding up of global interconnectedness” and includes four socio-spatial dimensions

  • the stretching of social, political, and economic activities across borders;

  • the intensification of interconnectedness and of patterns of interaction and flows;

  • the speeding up of global interactions and processes;

  • the intertwining of the local and global in ways that local events may affect distant lands.

Interconnectedness is fuelled by the advances in information and communication technology of the past couple of decades. Transnational flows (of capital, goods, services, people, media images, ideas, or pollution) are key-indicators of globalisation. Transnational networks (of corporations, markets, governments, NGOs, criminal organisations, cultural communities) are its key-organising structures, and information and communication technologies its key-tools

Over the last 50 years, as globalisation has accelerated and intensified, cities have become privileged loci of economic activity, political power, and also of cultural policy and governance. Cities offer the necessary socio-spatial dimension that economic and cultural globalisation requires.

They bring together people, products, services, expertise, consumption, information, and communication into an intense and dense network.

Cities epitomise the double potential of globalisation: for both homogenisation (through the diffusion and prevalence of ‘Western’ lifestyles and a global culture of consumerism) and for diversity, for instance by exacerbating identity-related conflicts or local grievances, or through the opening up of new opportunities for cultural expression.

Cities allow for manifestations of the glocal-hybrid forms, styles, and patterns bringing together local and global elements and processes.

The combined effects of globalisation and urbanisation also favour the emergence of a new type of ‘city nationalism’ – a creation of city-imagined communities of people who feel they form a cultural and political community, who feel that they belong together.

Summing up:

Contemporary globalisation is a process of combined and uneven development. Combined because it draws together people, goods, and capital almost cancelling distance of time and space while ignoring existing disparities and inequalities. Uneven because it creates greater disparities and inequalities in resources, income, health, and cultural power than those that it initially brought together. Metropolitan areas – both of the type of megacities but also the simply large and diverse metropolises of the world become the privilege ‘theatres’ where globalisation plays out. Particularly in the cultural field, the size of the cities and their being ‘nodal points’ where people, capital, and goods cross make them the new protagonists of the cultural scene and thus propel them as protagonists into the governance of cultural issues, including of cultural heritage.

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This article is from the free online course:

Cultural Heritage and the City

European University Institute (EUI)

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