In This Review

Global Political Cities: Actors and Arenas of Influence in International Affairs
Global Political Cities: Actors and Arenas of Influence in International Affairs
By Kent E. Calder
Brookings Institution Press, 2021, 286 pp

In this important study, Calder chronicles the rise and growing impact of large, globally connected cities that increasingly operate as independent political entities, shaping international policy agendas and carrying out core functions of political and economic life. Calder surveys these global cities, identifying the distinctive mix of political and functional characteristics that gives each one global reach and that forms what Calder calls a “penumbra of power.” These cities also foster grassroots movements for social justice and environmentalism. Mayors who have run them, such as New York City’s Michael Bloomberg and London’s Boris Johnson, have treated them as laboratories for innovation in areas such as transportation and public health. Calder shows that as nation-states grow more fragmented and struggle to carry out the basic tasks of government, global cities have found ways to set the international agenda and project influence by tackling the everyday problems of modern living. Nation-states will not disappear—but cities seem to be reasserting themselves, much as they did in the premodern era.