Coursework "London: A Global City"

Date: Nov 23, 2018


This coursework explores London as a global city. In light of this, it investigates Saskia Sassen’s proposal on global cities and its criticisms. Moreover, this paper evaluates the significance of London as a site of production, consumption and service. It is noteworthy that the paper also presents London as a place and compares it with other global cities. Lastly, the implications of those cities not classified as global are discussed. The paper presents a critical observation of London as a global city and strives to provide a sociological analysis of the same. These objectives are illustrated below.

Saskia Sassen’s Proposal on Global Cities

Sassen defined a global city as the one that acts as a force for global finance and attracts massive trade inflows and outflows (Sassen, 2001). Sassen’s proposal describes the main characteristics of a global city. First, a global city is highly economically independent and has extended its economic activities beyond its regional boundaries and operates them in different countries. Second, a global city has superior infrastructure in terms of technology, transport, health and architecture. Third, a global city has renowned cultural characteristics, i.e. cultural monuments and institutions. Fourth, a global city has a strong political influence not only within its jurisdiction, but also on global events and affairs. Fifth, it should have a massive media center, for instance, the BBC in London, Apart from these characteristics, it is noteworthy that global cities are characterized by extensive immigration and social class polarization in terms of income earnings and occupation among the immigrants and the city’s residents. In light of this, the immigrants are only interested in affordable as opposed to luxury goods. Sassen proposes that the extensive immigration into the global cities is partly due to foreign direct investment into the developing countries and the meager wages paid by investors to the host country’s residents (Sassen, 2001). A global city also hosts the head-offices of various transnational corporations. Sassen argues that managerial power and control of transnational corporations is found in those global headquarters. However, according to (Jones, 2002), this is not true. He argues that managerial control and powers are diffused throughout a transnational complex, hence, it is decentralized and not centered on the global headquarters.

London: a Site of Production, Consumption and Service

London is considered a global city because it possesses all the characteristics that have been discussed in the section above. Moreover, the city is considered as a production, consumption and service site (Pearce, 1989). The fact that London’s economy is ranked as the sixth largest in the category of city economies propels it to be a strong production site. First, the city is home to major manufacturing and production plants, such as Ford Dagenham, which is a world renowned diesel engine manufacturer, Warburton, Nestle and Fuller’s Brewery, which are food and manufacturing plants located in London, and Tate and Lyle sugar and syrup refinery. Second, the city’s banking services contribute largely to it being a production site for financial services. It is home to the global headquarters of Barclays bank- a global bank. In relation to this, the city also houses the global headquarters of Citigroup and the worldwide news services BBC and Reuters, both of which create employment and contribute significantly to the city’s economy

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(Baum, 1999). Lastly, the city’s tourism industry supports it as a production site with the city receiving millions of international tourists annually (two major attractions are the Palace of Westminster and the Tower of London). The city is also a consumption site because it is home to a population of over eight million residents. According to the 2011 Census in the UK the immigrant population in London was at three million. This population consumes the products and services that are produced by the various industries in the city. London is also a service site. Some of the city’s service industries have include banking, news and media services, tourism, legal services( the city is home to respectable law firms), airline services- the British airways a world class airline (Hamnett, 2003).

London as a Place

London is the capital city of England and the United Kingdom. It is home to a population of approximately eight million people and a robust metropolitan economy. It is a global city and one on the world’s leading cities in financial banking. The city has advanced road networks and transportation, it is home to the world’s largest city airport and a world class airline- British Airways; the city also attracts extensive tourism activity owing to its rich cultural heritage (performed arts, paintings, monuments, etc). Moreover, the city is a renowned educational and health magnet (Chen, Orum & Paulsen. 2013). In spite of this, the city faces various challenges which include high crime rate, kidnapping and murder cases, inflation, housing challenges and a high cost of living. Conversely, the transformation of London from a simple town in history to what it has become today can be explained from a sociological perspective using the macro-sociological theory of Karl Marx and Friedich Engels. The theory holds that communities in the traditional societies were simple and basic in their way of life, however, as time went by they realized better and improved forms of technology. As a result, there was a gradual change from their simple way of life to civilization. During this process the people developed an interest in politics, economics, human rights and specialization. This social evolution was only complete when capitalism changed to socialism. However, with development came social inequality and conflict (Jayapalan, 2002).

A Comparison of London with other Global Cities

Other cities that make the list of global cities include New York and Tokyo (Sassen, 2000). In light of this, there are numerous world cities, but for the purposes of this paper those two cities will be discussed.

City London New York Tokyo
Global city characteristics
Population 8.1 million
Capital city of Britain and the United Kingdom
8.3 million 13.1 million
World’s metropolitan economy ranking Sixth Second First
GDP $ 565 billion in 2008 $1.28 trillion in 2010 $1.4 trillion
Production manufacturing and production plants:
Ford Dagenham,
Warburtons and Nestle
Financial production
News and Media
Real estate
Financial: The New York Stock Exchange
Manufacturing: book printing and electronic equipment
Financial center
Tokyo stock exchange
Agriculture: horticulture, vegetables.
Technology and innovation
Service Industry Financial banking
News and Media
Financial services
Culture: historical and modern architecture
Sports: baseball, sumo, karate.
Investment banking
Present International headquarters The BBC
Barclays Bank
The United Nations
Sony music entertainment
Atlantic express
Olympus corporation
Challenges Crime
High cost of living
Inadequate housing
Fog due to the port of New York
High crime rate
Natural impediments: earthquakes
High cost of living

The Main Implications of Non-Global Cities

Non-global cities are simply cities that have not arrived at certain parameters for them to be classified as global cities. These parameters are similar to those discussed in this paper and include economic prowess, technological advancements, foreign direct investments, high urban agglomeration, industrial prowess, advanced modes of transportation; roads, railways, airports and the headquarters of international corporations. Hence, the implications for non-global cities are that they learn from their counterparts. Perhaps the major setbacks that hinder non-global cities from achieving their full potential for instance, in parts of Asia and Africa, are corruption, poor policies, political instability, poorly managed industries that are politically manipulated and poor governance (Squire& Faneli, 2008).

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In conclusion, this paper has discussed London as a global city. The characteristics that classify it a global city have been highlighted. Moreover, the paper has looked at Sassen’s global city proposal and its critique by Andrew Jones. The paper has evaluated London as a production, consumption and service site and presented the city as a place highlighting its strongholds and challenges. A comparison has been made between London and other global cities such as Tokyo and New York. Lastly, the paper has highlighted the major implications of non-global cities proposing suggestions on how they can become global cities.


Drawing from this study, the following recommendations can be made:

  • London’s government should formulate ways of dealing with the various challenges it faces, especially crime and the high cost of living.
  • London should undertake foreign direct investment in new non-global cities as a way of expanding its regional and economic boundaries.

The non-global cities governments formulate and implement policies that favor globalization

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