In an article for Foreign Policy, Parag Khanna argues that as mega-cities wield increasing political and economic power, the structures and sovereignty of the “countries” that contain them becomes less important. In other words, global power struggles will be less America vs. China vs. Russia and more London vs. Mumbai vs. Tokyo, with the people outside of the super-cities being of little consequence.
In an age that appears increasingly unmanageable, cities rather than states are becoming the islands of governance on which the future world order will be built. This new world is not — and will not be — one global village, so much as a network of different ones.
Time, technology, and population growth have massively accelerated the advent of this new urbanized era. Already, more than half the world lives in cities, and the percentage is growing rapidly. But just 100 cities account for 30 percent of the world’s economy, and almost all its innovation. Many are world capitals that have evolved and adapted through centuries of dominance: London, New York, Paris. New York City’s economy alone is larger than 46 of sub-Saharan Africa’s economies combined.
At the same time, a new category of megacities is emerging around the world, dwarfing anything that has come before. Many will pose challenges to the countries that give birth to them. For though no nation can succeed without at least one thriving urban anchor — and even then, a functioning Kabul or Sarajevo is still no guarantee of national survival — it’s also true that globalization allows major cities to pull away from their home states, a reality captured by the massive and potentially dangerous wealth gap between city and countryside in second-world countries such as Brazil, China, India, and Turkey.