Making connections: global production networks and world city networks

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This article offers a sympathetic critique of recent attempts to forge a dialogue between Global Commodity Chain (GCC) and World City Network (WCN) approaches to global economic change. While broadly supportive of the endeavour, we make three observations about this ongoing project. First, we question the utility of emphasizing the common roots of these approaches in World Systems Theory given that both have subsequently moved into new epistemological terrain and, additionally, that the language of core and periphery seems ever less pertinent to global economic realities. Second, we seek to highlight the potential dangers of essentializing the global system as one that is primarily shaped by certain kinds of connections – namely the intra-firm relationships of advanced producer service firms – between certain kinds of cities – namely the leading tiers of global cities. Third, we point to the need to expand the interpretations of relationality within global networks to include a wider variety of actors, particularly beyond the corporate realm, and to explore the dynamic power relations between those actors. We also discuss the methodological challenges of expanding the purview of research in this way. This commentary has been stimulated by the articles in the special issue of Global Networks on ‘World City Networks and Global Commodity Chains’.