Urbanization in History: A Process of Dynamic Interactions

By A. M. Van Der Woude; Akira Hayami et al. | Go to book overview

Given that urban primacy is neither functional to underdevelopment, nor directly (functionally) associated with the transition to capitalist relations of production, we cannot expect the primate-city pattern to disappear in all economies, once capitalist relations of production have become uniformly established. Examples from Latin America (such as Chile and Argentina), as well as other fully capitalist economies ( Japan) give clear evidence of this.62 For all these reasons I would argue that the development pattern of urban primacy can only be understood historically. This is not to say that no developmental patterns exist: population primacy is historically associated with a pre-existing pattern of infrastructural primacy; infrastructural primacy is associated with a particular pattern of linkage between state and economy; and population primacy is historically linked to late development, to colonialism, and to state-led capitalist growth.


5. Conclusion

The conclusions we can reach on the basis of the comparisons made above are twofold. The first is methodological: that we cannot assume a one-to-one correspondence between urban population and urban infrastructure. If we want to explain variable urban forms in terms of urban infrastructure, we must look at the actual distribution of urban infrastructure. And if we want to explain variable urban forms in terms of population size, we must consider the forces that affect the distribution of population. The second conclusion has more substance: urban primacy does not fit into a functional developmental pattern, but is associated with a particular historical pattern of development. Yet there does appear to be some general developmental patterning to the forms of city-size distribution, and understanding this patterning helps us understand urban primacy. Let me begin with the methodological conclusions.

Though work on the relation between urban infrastructure and urban population is limited, it now seems clear that, in order to assert anything about the nature of the system one must provide independent evidence to show that the infrastructural patterns parallel the population patterns. One should also have evidence concerning the actual connections between the cities assumed to be part of a system. While a complete study of this sort may be difficult to carry out, especially on historical cases, some checking on the apparent development of urban functions in the largest cities (as measured by population, on which historical evidence is also rather thin) is certainly

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62
Koichi Mera has argued that there are few, if any, 'disproportional' costs associated with urban primacy, basing his argument on information from modern Japan. K. Mera, "'On the Urban Agglomeration and Economic Efficiency'", Economic Development and Cultural Change, 21 ( 1973), 309-24. I accept this general proposition, though physical limits to the functional size of a city may be present with existing technology.

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