Academic journal article The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

International Sister-Cities: Bridging the Global-Local Divide

Academic journal article The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

International Sister-Cities: Bridging the Global-Local Divide

Article excerpt


ABSTRACT. With the demise of the sharp urban-rural divide as a framework for urban analyses, debates have arisen regarding the utility of the city as a theoretically significant construct. Recently however, the growing emphasis on globalization has brought the analysis of global cities into sharp focus. The countervailing trend emphasizes the significance of "the local." International sister-cities provide a site of analysis which illustrates the global-local interface and yet delves deeper. Initially conceived as a post-war means of developing friendships and cultural ties, sister-cities were based on similarities such as name or economic function. More recently, greater recognition has been given to the economic foundations and benefits of these connections. Providing an extension to an integrated approach to the study of sister-cities based on the multifold relationship between culture and commerce, this paper adds a further dimension by focusing on simultaneously operating multi-level entrepreneurial part nerships necessary to sustain active sister-city relationships. Drawing on New Zealand examples of twinning arrangements, it is demonstrated that the emergence and development of embedded partnership ties is vital to deriving sustainable economic and social benefits. While the global outreach of the sister-cities phenomenon appears to transcend the geographic confines of cities, strong locality considerations and local activism nevertheless predominate. A novel feature of this paper is the conceptualization of a hybrid form of entrepreneurialism, "municipal-community entrepreneurship," which is argued as a valuable facilitator of the economic and social vibrancy of cities.



WITH THE DEMISE OF THE URBAN-RURAL DIVIDE as a framework for urban analyses, debates arose regarding the utility of the city as a theoretically significant category of analysis (Castells 1977, 1978, 1983; Saunders 1986). Of late however, analyses of the city and the urban condition have emerged with renewed vigor (Dear 2000; Zukin 1995). A particular current focus has been one on the global processes that that have shaped the role of such major global cities as London, Tokyo and New York in a new global economy (Sassen 1996). A countervailing trend has been one that focuses on the significance of the local, tracing "urban diversity to internal force and the tactics used by local actors" (Fainstein 1996, p. 170). International sister-cities, the topic of this paper, illustrate the global-local interface. Yet the intricate workings of each sister-city relationship belie the superficiality of a simple, global-local divide. In fact, one purpose of this paper is to show through the sister-city example that the glo bal-local dichotomy is a nebulous one requiring in-depth analysis of contextual uniqueness.

An examination of sister-cities must begin with the politics of locality and a recognition of the individualized operations of specific cities, then move on to an examination of how these particularities are used as a basis for forging city to city links across the globe. Specific to the phenomenon of sister-cities is that these links are made for a range of identifiable purposes and largely outside the auspices of any central government involvement.

A common trend in local government in developed countries, particularly since the 1980s, has been greater activism in promoting local economic development and employment growth. New Zealand has not been an exception (Lancaster 1993). This shift from "managerialism to entrepreneurialism" (Harvey 1989a) has increasingly resulted in local government being involved in enterprise initiatives and the searching out of other proactive means of promoting their particular sites or cities as desirable locations for economic and social activity. An important feature of this new entrepreneurialism is the element of "public-private partnership" that works "to lure highly mobile and flexible production, financial and consumption flows into its space" (Harvey 1989b, p. …

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