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Globalization and the City

Andreas Exenberger
Philipp Strobl
Günter Bischof
et al.

São Paulo: Big, Bigger, Global? The Development of a Megacity in the Global South

Tobias Töpfer

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  • 1 See (accessed 1 Apr 2012) a (...)

1São Paulo is the biggest city in Brazil and, with its metropolitan region, one of the largest agglomerations worldwide. Economically speaking, being responsible for 12% of the national Brazilian GDP and double the GDP per capita of Brazil, it is the leading national metropolis.1 However, if we look at the city from an international viewpoint, will the classification be the same? In order to answer this question, we will first consider the two terms “global city” and “megacity”, the first of which has strong economic connotations, whereas the latter is mainly defined by population size. Although the question of how to classify São Paulo depends on current indicators, a brief look at the (economic) history of the city will help us understand its present state. Obviously, demographic and economic developments have correlated for a long time. By analyzing the position of São Paulo in the worldwide city network with the help of demographic and economic indicators, we can find evidence for its being both a megacity and a global city. However, scholars do not necessarily agree, especially with regard to the classification of São Paulo as a global city. Due to the high degree of fragmentation in the urban structure, we must apply more comprehensive concepts to describe the city of São Paulo.

Global City Versus Megacity – Some Theoretical Remarks

  • 2 Hall (1977), 1.
  • 3 Hall (1977), 1-2.

2While terms like “global city” and “megacity” are used frequently, they are not new concepts in the scientific discourse. Urban planner Peter Hall anticipated the discussion in his 1966 publication The World Cities. He starts with the question: “By what characteristics do we distinguish the world cities from other great centers of population and wealth?”2 He already observed the need for characteristics other than population size. In the course of his analysis, Hall identifies potential characterizing features, such as national governments and/or international authorities localized in these metropolises and extraordinary trade activities, a leading finance and banking industry, as well as important social and cultural services as indicators of world cities.3

  • 4 Friedmann (2006), 67-68.
  • 5 Wood (2011), 898.
  • 6 Sassen (1994), 19-20.

3The end of the 1980s marks the beginning of a broader discussion about the question of what a global city is and how it should be characterized. Whereas Hall still stresses the cosmo political character as a central feature of world cities, the more recent approaches focus mainly on globally important economic features. In 1986, another urban planner, John Friedmann, presents the “World City Hypothesis”, which is all “about the spatial organization of the new international division of labor. […] It helps us to understand what happens in the major global cities of the world economy and what much political conflict in these cities is about.”4 Although focusing on economic criteria in the first hypothesis, he follows it with the hypothesis concerning social and demographic characteristics. Other scholars reduce the main criterion to define global cities to their significance in the global economy. However, within this framework, the focus has shifted from the secondary sector towards the service sector and more precisely to business-oriented services.5 This modification is central to understanding sociologist Saskia Sassen’s approach to the global city. She considers global cities “sites for the advanced services and telecommunications facilities necessary for the implementation and management of global economic operations. They also tend to concentrate the headquarters of firms, especially firms that operate in more than one country. […] Rather than becoming obsolete because of the dispersal made possible by information technologies, cities instead concentrate command functions. To this role I have added two additional functions: (1) cities are postindustrial production sites for the leading industries of this period, finance and specialized services; and (2) cities are transnational marketplaces where firms and governments can buy financial instruments and specialized services.”6

  • 7 Wehrhahn (2004), 40-41.
  • 8 Taylor (2010).

4So-called transnational marketplaces and their related activities mark the importance of global cities as nodes in a worldwide network. The interactions between global and other cities are at least as important as their significance as locations for service firms.7 This assumption complicates the empirical analysis of global cities even more, an aspect hardly dealt with in the above approaches. The so called Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC), directed by Peter Taylor at the University of Loughborough, is dedicated to identifying inter-city relations and connectivity in the network empirically. Taking Sassen’s approach as their point of departure, Taylor and his colleagues elaborate on the complex interlocking network model to measure the inter-office working flow of service firms in the areas of accounting, advertising, law and financial services. Assuming that the firms are the crucial network makers rather than the cities themselves, these areas define global cities and classify them in three groups: Alpha, Beta and Gamma.8

  • 9 Friedmann (2006), 67-68.
  • 10 Sassen (1994), 100-113.
  • 11 Parnreiter (2006).

5Although the most common criteria for global cities are the economic ones mentioned above, certain scholars include some social characteristics in their definition of global cities. The sixth point of Friedmann’s “World City Hypothesis” deals with “the major contradictions of industrial capitalism – among them spatial and class polarization”9 caused by the city’s formation. Sassen stresses the growth of the informal sector and a general splitting of the labor market between the low-paid workers in the support services and the high-paid employees in the advanced service economy.10 The members of the latter group interact with each other primarily at the global level, whereas the mass of the population has more local roots.11

  • 12 Bronger (2004), 14 and 78.
  • 13 For example, UN-DESA (1991) and (...)
  • 14 UNPD (2010).
  • 15 Bronger (2004), 20.

6Unlike the relatively broad variety of possible definitions – and their attendant empirical analyses – of global cities, the dominant criterion to define megacities is their concentration of population. However, scholars do not agree on the number of inhabitants necessary to constitute a megacity. Bronger considers cities with more than 5 million inhabitants as megacities, but he also highlights the problem of minimum size, especially when evaluating size over time.12 The United Nations raised the threshold as a result of these developments. During the 1980s and early 1990s, the series “Population Growth and Policies in Megacities” established that a minimum of 8 million inhabitants makes a city a megacity,13 while scholars today define megacities as agglomerations of more than 10 million inhabitants.14 Besides population size, other quantitative criteria, such as a monocentric agglomeration and a density of population above 2,000 inhabitants per square kilometer, are used to define a megacity.15

  • 16 Kraas (2011), 880 (translation by the author).
  • 17 Parnreiter (2009), 372.

7The geographer Frauke Kraas adds characteristics other than demographics to her description of megacities: “intensive expansion, suburbanization and densification processes, often high functional dominance as primate city, ecological overload phenomena, infrastructural deficits, diversification of intra-urban center structures, as well as the emergence of polarized and fragmentized societies with a high proportion of informal processes”.16 Kraas considers these criteria more meaningful than the exclusive use of population numbers, an argument answering Parnreiter’s critique of approaches that tend to draw qualitative conclusions from mere quantitative criteria. Nevertheless, according to Parnreiter, “[t] he critical point is, however, that it is nowhere explicitly discussed and justified, a) why a purely quantitative term is charged with (mostly) negative connotations, and b) why, after this change of meaning, the term ‘megacity’ is applied mainly with reference to big cities in poorer countries”.17

  • 18 Robinson (2005), 757-760.

8Approaches that define the global city in mostly economic terms have received their share of criticism as well. Robinson questions whether it is appropriate, in the light of globalizations’many facets, to focus mainly on finance and producer services and on whether analyzing these factors can reliably determine a city’s position in the global network. Scholars who do so neglect national and local processes, as well as their politics.18 Nevertheless, both approaches to defining global and megacities are still en vogue and apply to São Paulo.

São Paulo – Development of a Metropolis

  • 19 Census of 2010, online at: (access (...)
  • 20 Ab’Sáber (2004), 30, 78 and 97.
  • 21 Porto (1992), 9-22; Bernecker et al. (2000), 54.
  • 22 Bernecker et al. (2000), 180-184.
  • 23 Novy (2001), 171-172.
  • 24 Novy (2001), 174-176.
  • 25 Novy (2001), 184-186; Deák/Schiffer (2007), 106-107; Coy/Schmitt (2007), 33.

9To contextualize the position of São Paulo in the city network, we need to look at its history and development. São Paulo, today a metropolis with 11.2 million inhabitants living in the municipality and 19.7 million in the metropolitan region19, was founded in 1554 by Jesuits with the objective to Christianize the indigenous local population. As a result, São Paulo is located in the hinterland – approximately 70 kilometers from the coast – on the plateau Planalto Atlântico Brasileiro, roughly 750 meters above sea level, separated by a steep slope from the coastal area.20 In 1560, it was declared as vila, and in the early eighteenth century, São Paulo received the town charter. However, nothing changed: São Paulo remained a village. In the seventeenth century, it served as jumping-off point for the so-called bandeirantes, conquerors who participated in slave and gold-hunting expeditions, which contributed to the expansion of the Portuguese sphere of influence beyond the Tordesillas line. Additionally, during this period, the bandeirantes and São Paulo played a certain role in the Brazilian economy at the time, providing indigenous slaves for the sugar plantations.21 During the gold rush in the eighteenth century, São Paulo served as a transfer site for mules and food to supply the mining regions in Minas Gerais. The coffee boom that followed, still export-oriented, influenced the development of São Paulo significantly. In the mid-1830s, Brazil became the world’s leading coffee producer, and a few years later, the dominating exporter, too. In the first decades of this economic cycle, the province of Rio de Janeiro dominated production, and the port of Rio de Janeiro controlled the coffee export. Due to problems with soil exhaustion and erosion, the cultivation soon shifted towards the province of São Paulo, which became the major coffee producer. Given the distance to the port of Rio de Janeiro, the port of Santos gained more and more significance, not least because the new railroad connections between the hinterland and the port facilitated transportation.22 The city of São Paulo served as the central transfer site. Coffee was transported by train, and the railway-network was centralized in São Paulo. Additionally, the city functioned as a trading center for the distribution of imported goods.23 São Paulo, and especially the so-called coffee barons with their mansions in the city, gained wealth. At the turn of the twentieth century, unlike the landowners in other regions of Brazil, they started to invest their profits in a budding industry. Besides, increased import taxes – an early form of import-substitution – stimulated industrialization. Industries that produced food and consumer goods emerged first, but the economy soon diversified to include a capital goods industry, e. g. smaller cement and steel works24. Paper and chemical industries followed, and automotive production began with the first car factory in 1959. In the 1960s, São Paulo became the national leading center of automotive, electrical and pharmaceutical industries. Industrial production started to decentralize from the 1970s and 1980s, but still the important control functions remained in São Paulo, and so its economy shifted from a predominantly industrial model to providing commercial, financial and other services. Nevertheless, the agglomeration of São Paulo and its hinterland remain the dominant industrial region in South America.25

10This brief sketch of São Paulo’s history reveals no compelling historical evidence to assume that São Paulo would become a megacity or global city. Up to the late nineteenth century, it had none of the classical prerequisites, such as strategic localization (e. g. port), cultural significance, prominent position in the world economy or political power. A first relevant indicator for megacities – population size – emerges at the end of the nineteenth century.

  • 26 Souza (2004), 40.
  • 27 Bernecker et al. (2000), 191-192.
  • 28 Novy (2001), 179.
  • 29 Kohlhepp (1994), 57.
  • 30 UNPD (2010); UN-DESA (2013).

11The strong population growth that accompanied the coffee boom can be divided into three phases, according to dominant causes: immigration, internal migration and natural population growth. Up until the 1870s, the population growth of the city remained very modest. In the early years of this decade, the city counted around 30,000 inhabitants.26 Immigration started in the 1870s, caused by the need for workers in coffee cultivation connected with the abolition of slavery (finally in 1888). Shortly afterwards, the emerging industry needed an increasing number of workers. The largest immigrant group came from Italy, followed by Portuguese, Spanish and other Europeans.27 Two other important groups came from Japan and West Asia. The immigrants contributed to the most rapid relative growth of São Paulo at the end of the nineteenth century: Between 1890 and 1900, the city’s population grew 14% annually. In 1930, the “law of the two third” changed migration patterns as it obligated the industry to limit foreign workers to one third of the total workforce. This law stimulated internal migration mainly from the northeast of the country and hindered immigration.28 Up to the 1970s, the share of migration in total population growth remained higher than 50%,29 while the annual growth rate remained during these decades at about 5%, resulting in a significant population increase. The third and still ongoing phase is dominated by a relatively modest population development, caused mainly by natural population growth. The annual growth rate dropped to 0.75% in the first decade of the twenty-first century. The development of population in the metropolitan region was similar, and according to the UN prospects, the growth rate will still decrease moderately in the future, time-delayed mirroring the development in the municipality.30

São Paulo as a Megacity

  • 31 Souza (2004), 40, and (accessed 1 Apr 2012).
  • 32 See (accessed 1 Apr 2012).
  • 33 UNPD (2010); São Paulo is third largest after Tokyo and Delhi.
  • 34 See (accessed 1 Apr 2012).

12Although growth rates are dropping both in the municipality and in the metropolitan region, population numbers are very high. By the mid-1930s, the municipality exceeded 1 million inhabitants. The city passed the lowest threshold for megacities, 5 million inhabitants, in the 1960s; it reached the current UN threshold (10 million) the late 1990s.31 The metropolitan region of São Paulo, consisting of 39 municipalities, had more than 17 million inhabitants in 2000.32 According to the UN, in 2009, the metropolitan region of São Paulo is the third largest urban agglomeration worldwide.33 The metropolitan region is dominated by the municipality of São Paulo, which makes its structure monocentrical. In 2010, the population density was around 7,400 inhabitants per square kilometer in the municipality and still 2,480 in the whole agglomeration.34 So, in terms of numbers, there is no doubt that São Paulo is a megacity. However, as mentioned before, the classification does not solely depend on quantitative features but rests on qualitative characteristics as well.

  • 35 The Gini coefficient is a measure for the income inequality in a population of a determined territo (...)
  • 36 UN-HABITAT (2010a), 64 and 77.
  • 37 SEMPLA (2007), 51; Coy (2007), 59-60; Wehrhahn (2009), 103.
  • 38 Coy (2007), 62-63; Borsdorf/Coy (2009), 346-348.
  • 39 Deák/Schiffer (2007), 102-103; Rolnik/Klintowitz (2011), 89-105.
  • 40 Ross (2004), 203-216.

13Polarization and fragmentation are nothing new in Brazilian cities; socioeconomic disparities are deeply rooted in Brazilian society. The Gini coefficient,35 a measurement of such disparities, is 0.58 for all Brazilian cities and still 0.50 for São Paulo (2007). Although the latter coefficient decreased by 11% from 1990 to 2007, it is still considered very high by the UN.36 These disparities are reflected in the city’s sociospatial polarization on the level of the municipality. High-income families live mainly in the districts bordering the city center in the south-southwest. While they are still close to the city center, the current location of the city’s affluent neighborhoods resulted from a continuous shift of the upper class residential area, a process that began in the 1920s and has accelerated since the 1950s. The districts dominated by low-income households are located mainly at the northern, southern, and eastern periphery of the city and far away from the city center.37 While the city’s macrostructure is polarized, as result of fragmentation the urban fabric consists of a microstructure of small citadels and ghettos. The citadels may be gated communities, condomínios verticais, and sophisticated shopping centers, equipped with fences, walls, watchtowers and security staff. The ghettos may consist of favelas, informal shanty towns especially in the suburbs, and cortiços, inner-city slums. All these urban fragments are characterized by a quite homogeneous internal socio-economic structure and sharp disruption to their neighborhoods.38 Besides the lack of adequate housing and the related infrastructure, such as water supply and sewerage maintenance, these areas do not have a sufficient transportation infrastructure.39 The subway network is still very small and does not service the heavily populated east zone of the city sufficiently. In contrast, the new lines have been constructed in the wealthier districts in the southwest, although people there usually prefer private cars to public transport. The steadily increasing number of vehicles causes traffic jams and contributes to severe air pollution, which is a constant problem especially during the dry winter months. In the summer, heavy rains, coupled with soil sealing, often cause floods and landslides.40

  • 41 UN-HABITAT (2010b), 51 and 53.

14Furthermore, informality does not only concern housing the urban poor but also employing them. Due to structural changes in the economy, the demand for a diversely skilled labor force has been satisfied for some time; a significant proportion of the population depends on opportunities in the informal sector for their survival. Low-skilled workers with little formal education are affected more than others; they earn a living in commerce and repair, followed by construction and manufacturing.41

São Paulo as a Global City

  • 42 The remaining 0.2% fall upon mining and agriculture; all this data is taken from: http://infocidade (...)
  • 43 Villaça (2011), 49-51.
  • 44 Coy (2007), 60.

15The distribution of informal workers among the economic sectors parallels the distribution of formal employees in the city of São Paulo. In 2010, most of the formal jobholders work in the service sector (64.5%) and in commerce (17.8%). Only 17.5% work in the secondary sector, industry and construction.42 This relationship between the three economic sectors shows São Paulo’s shift from an industrial city to a service city. The service sector employs both low skilled workers and highly qualified professionals. The latter may work in the FIRE-sector (finance, insurance, real estate) and other corporate-oriented services such as information technology and R&D, as well as in one of the many headquarters of national companies in the city. However, these headquarters and companies that offer sophisticated services are located exclusively in the aforementioned area southwest of the city center.43 As a result, several new centralities have emerged in this region. Office towers with their typical, internationally-known architecture characterize these often mono-functional areas. This tendency already started in the 1960s with the transformation of Paulista Avenue from an aristocratic residential area, characterized by the mansions of the coffee barons, to a commercial/banking district and the site of the first office towers. During the last few decades, new commercial administration centers arose in the Brigadeiro Faria Lima Avenue, Engenheiro Luis Carlos Berrini Avenue and currently near the Pinheiros River. In terms of real estate, this area is the most expensive and the most profitable neighborhood in the city. Fragments such as these house the steering and control section of the national economy and are strongly integrated in the world economy. Nevertheless, they are not much integrated in the local structures and do not represent the diversity of urban centers.44

  • 45 Parnreiter (2009), 375-376.
  • 46 See (accessed 1 Apr 2012).
  • 47 Parnreiter (2009), 373-375.
  • 48 Taylor (2010).
  • 49 Quoted from: (accessed 1 Apr 2012).
  • 50 In 2010, two cities (New York and London) were categorized Alpha ++, eight Alpha +, 18 Alpha and 19 (...)

16These urban fragments house not only the headquarters of national enterprises but also the branch offices of international companies. These corporations conduct national and international business from these locations. Parnreiter uses the location of “Fortune Global 500” companies (those with the largest revenue) as an investigation tool to measure the global significance of a city and its power to control worldwide economic activities. By mapping these company headquarters and by eliminating all companies with less than 0.5% of revenues and profits from the list for the year 2008, Parnreiter reveals a strong concentration in the cities of the triad (the U. S., Europe, and Japan). The only mapped headquarter in Latin America belongs to the parastatal oil company Petrobras in Rio de Janeiro.45 If we go by the 2011 list and do not eliminate any company, the map modifies slightly, showing three companies with headquarters within the municipality of São Paulo and one more in the metropolitan area. Two of them are banks, one produces and sells food and the fourth trades in fuels.46 Another way to analyze global connectivity – especially from a financial point of view – is considering the stock exchange. Parnreiter uses the capitalization at the major stock exchanges as a share of the capitalization worldwide to determine the global position of the local stock exchange. He considers the locations of stock exchanges with more than 0.5% of the worldwide capitalization in 1990 and 2009. The stock exchange of São Paulo, the BM & F Bovespa, appears with a share of 2.4% of the worldwide capitalization – a substantial increase compared to the value of 0.1% in 1990. This value is quite low compared to the stock exchanges of New York, Tokyo and London – and even Mumbai and Shanghai. Nevertheless, the São Paulo stock exchange is the most important in Latin America in terms of capitalization.47 Furthermore, Parnreiter also considers GaWC results of inter-office working flows of large service companies such as accounting, advertising, banking, law, and management consultants. According to the most recent results of 2010,48 São Paulo is classified as Alpha, i. e. as a “very important world city that links major economic regions and states into the world economy”.49 São Paulo’s classification has been stable since the first comparable study (2000: Alpha; 2004: Alpha; 2008: Alpha –; 2010: Alpha).50 Overall, the three indicators presented here, all of which describe typical economic characteristics that define global cities, suggest that São Paulo is a global city.


  • 51 Borja (1994), cited in: Fix (2007), 162 (translation by the author).
  • 52 Sassen (1994), 4 and 5.
  • 53 Abrahamson (2004), 105.
  • 54 Wehrhahn (2004), 45 and 46 (translation by the author).
  • 55 Borsdorf/Coy (2009), 342.

17Because the most frequently used indicator to define a city as a megacity is its population size, there is little debate about the evaluation of São Paulo as a megacity. Things are different when we ask whether the city should be classified as a global city. From the beginning, the theoretical discussion presented here has included attempts to categorize individual cities. For São Paulo, the Spanish urban planner Jordi Borja postulates in 1994 that “São Paulo has the vocation to become global”.51 In the same year, Sassen considers São Paulo a “major international financial and business center […]”.52 Ten years later, the sociologist Mark Abrahamson emphasizes that São Paulo “moved further than any other urban area form the periphery toward the center of the world economy. São Paulo became a notable, if not leading global city”. But immediately he adds to his statement: “However, its economic gains were accompanied by a stretching of the already large differences between the city’s rich and powerful residents and its poor and powerless ones.”53 In the same year, Wehrhahn, analyzing the Latin American metropolises including São Paulo, refrains from a clear statement: “The question whether Latin American metropolises may already be called global cities needs a differentiated answer.” Even more limiting than Abrahamson, he concludes: “However, a power position, which would allow exercising steering functions with effects on other (global) cities, cannot be seen in Latin American metropolises.”54 In 2009, Borsdorf and Coy assess the situation quite similarly: “Inclusion in this ‘ exclusive club’of the global cities has not been uncontroversial for any of the megacities of the South, but there are several candidates, including Singapore, Mumbai, São Paulo, Mexico City and some of the Chinese megacities.”55

  • 56 Fix (2007), 161-168.
  • 57 Jacobi (2007), 292.

18The urban planner Mariana Fix goes beyond simply classifying São Paulo as a global city, attemps which started generally in the 1990s, and investigates the reasons behind a local global-city-discourse. She concludes that this discourse mainly serves to defend the status of the city in a globalized world and to endure in competition with other cities. She sees São Paulo as a globalized enclave, an expanded central area rather than a global city as a whole.56 Jacobi links aspects of a global city with aspects of a megacity when he focuses on the correlations: “[…] [I] n the developing countries the myth of the global city may work as an instrument to impose the logic of the urban market on realities, thereby exacerbating social inequality, the precariousness of jobs and social segregation.”57

  • 58 Scholz (2005), 4-11. The often observable and empirically supported contradictions caused by global (...)
  • 59 Scholz (2004), 225-229.
  • 60 Caldeira (2000).

19At least the two last assumptions agree on an observed tendency in cities like São Paulo: local fragmentation. The city’s structure consists of little fragments that form a heterogeneous city and parallel processes contribute to the formation of such fragments. The geographer Fred Scholz explains these structures and processes in his article “Theory of Fragmenting Development”.58 The present fragmenting development leads to the spatial pattern of global fragmentation. This concept structures the spatial units into three general categories: acting global places, affected global or globalized places and the new periphery. According to Scholz, the first two categories can be described as islands and the latter as the ocean surrounding them. Scholz also adapts this model to the case of the global or globalized cities, arguing that the fragmentation does not only affect spatial units on a macro but also on a micro level. A globalized city thus consists of globally integrated fragments and a large periphery.59 These patterns can be observed in São Paulo as well. If we consider just the globally integrated quadrant southwest of the city center, it becomes obvious that it does not only consist of office towers and exclusive residential areas or fortified residential enclaves60, but also of service providers like shopping centers, as well as favelas, where the socioeconomic disadvantaged groups live. Exclusive gated communities (e.g. Alphaville), mass production zones (e.g. automotive plants in the ABCD-Cities southeast of São Paulo) and leisure enclaves (e. g. Jockey and country clubs) are other globalized fragments in the city. However, the so-called new periphery, with its favelas, cortiços and large social housing projects, constitutes a big part of the city.

  • 61 Wilheim (2007), 331-332.

20Like Scholz, Jorge Wilheim, urban planner and former secretary of the municipal planning department, focuses on the population of the different fragments: “Globalization did enhance a global urban network: a ‘virtual archipelago’ of islands on which modern urban consumers share similar habits and behaviors, consume similar products and services, communicate in computer-English, live an accelerated life of speedy decisions, and have a sufficient family income to thrive in this life-style. These islands of modern consumerism are surrounded by oceans of excluded ‘swimmers’ or ‘drowned’ people, that is, the realm of excluded people. In New York or Berlin, the islands might be large and the ocean small; in Mumbai and Lagos, the islands are small and the ocean large. Tiny Zurich is a global city, while huge Lagos is not. São Paulo might be considered half the way between Mumbai and New York. Somehow a little nearer to this latter […].”61

21As we have seen, the question of whether São Paulo is a global city or not is not easy to answer. Some parameters like the results of the World City Network analysis or the city’s modest but growing integration in the finance market suggest an affirmative answer. However, this approach disregards other aspects of the city or the agglomeration as a whole. We cannot draw conclusions about the entire city from its economic characteristics or from the characteristics of certain areas alone. So it is appropriate to call São Paulo a megacity with globally integrated fragments. But if we consider Scholz’s and Wilheim’s assumptions, the term “global city” applies to very few cities wholesale. Future research may analyze in more detail the existing concepts of global city and megacity and examine how they are related to each other and we will certainly gain a more precise understanding of a city’s spatial structures, when we combine these different approaches.



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1 See (accessed 1 Apr 2012) and (accessed 1 Apr 2012).

2 Hall (1977), 1.

3 Hall (1977), 1-2.

4 Friedmann (2006), 67-68.

5 Wood (2011), 898.

6 Sassen (1994), 19-20.

7 Wehrhahn (2004), 40-41.

8 Taylor (2010).

9 Friedmann (2006), 67-68.

10 Sassen (1994), 100-113.

11 Parnreiter (2006).

12 Bronger (2004), 14 and 78.

13 For example, UN-DESA (1991) and (accessed 1 Apr 2012).

14 UNPD (2010).

15 Bronger (2004), 20.

16 Kraas (2011), 880 (translation by the author).

17 Parnreiter (2009), 372.

18 Robinson (2005), 757-760.

19 Census of 2010, online at: (accessed 1 Apr 2012).

20 Ab’Sáber (2004), 30, 78 and 97.

21 Porto (1992), 9-22; Bernecker et al. (2000), 54.

22 Bernecker et al. (2000), 180-184.

23 Novy (2001), 171-172.

24 Novy (2001), 174-176.

25 Novy (2001), 184-186; Deák/Schiffer (2007), 106-107; Coy/Schmitt (2007), 33.

26 Souza (2004), 40.

27 Bernecker et al. (2000), 191-192.

28 Novy (2001), 179.

29 Kohlhepp (1994), 57.

30 UNPD (2010); UN-DESA (2013).

31 Souza (2004), 40, and (accessed 1 Apr 2012).

32 See (accessed 1 Apr 2012).

33 UNPD (2010); São Paulo is third largest after Tokyo and Delhi.

34 See (accessed 1 Apr 2012).

35 The Gini coefficient is a measure for the income inequality in a population of a determined territory. A value of 1 means the maximum unequal distribution and the value 0 the perfect equal distribution between all members of a given population; UN-HABITAT (2010a), 62.

36 UN-HABITAT (2010a), 64 and 77.

37 SEMPLA (2007), 51; Coy (2007), 59-60; Wehrhahn (2009), 103.

38 Coy (2007), 62-63; Borsdorf/Coy (2009), 346-348.

39 Deák/Schiffer (2007), 102-103; Rolnik/Klintowitz (2011), 89-105.

40 Ross (2004), 203-216.

41 UN-HABITAT (2010b), 51 and 53.

42 The remaining 0.2% fall upon mining and agriculture; all this data is taken from: (accessed 1 Apr 2012).

43 Villaça (2011), 49-51.

44 Coy (2007), 60.

45 Parnreiter (2009), 375-376.

46 See (accessed 1 Apr 2012).

47 Parnreiter (2009), 373-375.

48 Taylor (2010).

49 Quoted from: (accessed 1 Apr 2012).

50 In 2010, two cities (New York and London) were categorized Alpha ++, eight Alpha +, 18 Alpha and 19 Alpha –; see (accessed 1 Apr 2012).

51 Borja (1994), cited in: Fix (2007), 162 (translation by the author).

52 Sassen (1994), 4 and 5.

53 Abrahamson (2004), 105.

54 Wehrhahn (2004), 45 and 46 (translation by the author).

55 Borsdorf/Coy (2009), 342.

56 Fix (2007), 161-168.

57 Jacobi (2007), 292.

58 Scholz (2005), 4-11. The often observable and empirically supported contradictions caused by globalization are the starting point of the theory. They cause prosperity and integration on the one hand and poverty and exclusion on the other. According to the principles of global competition and neo-liberalism, the present socio-economic development will benefit only special groups in limited regions who gain wealth and succeed in maintaining this situation for a certain time. This kind of development will neither contribute to the development of entire countries, nor do so permanently, as the theory of “catch up development” said it would.

59 Scholz (2004), 225-229.

60 Caldeira (2000).

61 Wilheim (2007), 331-332.

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