What makes Berlin a so-called 'world' city?

Term Paper, 2004

14 Pages, Grade: 1,3



List of figures

1. Preface

2. The term “world city”

3. Is Berlin more or less globally important than in previous periods?

4. What sets Berlin apart from other large urban centres?

5. Is Berlin in size a good measure of a world city?
5.1 Population and density
5.2 Area

6. Conclusion: Can Berlin be regarded as a world city?



Fig. 1: The GaWC Inventory of World Cities

Fig. 2: The Bundeskanzleramt

Fig. 3: Schloss Charlottenburg

Fig. 4: Area, population and residents per km2

1. Preface

Within the last centuries, the whole planet stood out by several phases of population growth. Due to that exponential growth in general and the fact that people tend to settle down in bigger urban areas, it is also due to historic and especially economic developments. Hence, the agglomerations in big cities meant and still mean for particular countries special centres, which are characterised by demographic and functional primacy in comparison to other national and international cities. However, and very important for analysing a metropolis, is the fact that the increasing globalisation led to an enlargement of the cruising range of a city towards the developing hinterlands as the “globalization has had dramatic effects on the working of urban systems” (Cochrane and Jonas, 1999, 145).

Characteristics of such cities, which are of high significance for concerned countries and the global world, have been discussed differently by several authors and associations in the past and some of them will be mentioned in this work.

To what extent Berlin can be seen as a so-called world city, requires answering several questions.

First of all it is vital to define the term “world city” in order to be able to rank special cities like Berlin in the entire network of global cities.

Secondly, it is important to find out, whether Berlin is nowadays, in comparison to previous periods, more or less globally important.

Thirdly, there is the question of what sets Berlin apart from other European and international urban centres. Is it its position as the German capital, its importance as economical place or are there any historic and cultural features that make the city a global one?

Also, the capital in its size according to population, its growth and its density and the area is important to look at because this statistical data is very useful to measure cities like Berlin and compare it with other global players within the city network.

Finally, taking all the answers of the set questions into consideration, there will be a conclusion which explains whether Berlin can be regarded as a global city and which describes the future challenges the German capital will have to face if it wants to maintain its potential position as one of the leading cities in Europe.

2. The term “world city”

“World cities are major sites for the concentration and accumulation of international capital” (King, 1990, 30). This is just one of many definitions of the term “world city” which often can be found as “global city” in the literature, too and which has been discussed for several years by now. Quite a lot of authors have asked themselves what should make a major place a global city. According to their economic position John Friedmann explains that “world cities articulate regional, national and international economies into a global economy. They serve as the organising nodes of a global economic system” (Knox and Taylor, 1995, 25). That is, a lot of analyses so far have looked mainly at economic characteristics of special places to define it as global or world city. Here, however, the question arises, whether this is the only criterion that gives a city the primacy role. World cities of course act as special economic junctions combining the places of a lot of multinational concerns, transportation hubs, financials centres and associations and several headquarters of international institutions and corporations.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

The Globalization and World Cities Study Group for example avails itself of six different criteria like accountancy, advertising, banking/finance, insurance, law, and management consultancy (Taylor, 2003) and categorizes all major cities of the world in three parts: Alpha, Beta and Gamma cities. As you can see in Fig. 1, Berlin, the city we will look at in this work, is mentioned as a Gamma city within the global network and lacks behind the both German and European financial centre, the city of Frankfurt, which has been ranked as an Alpha world city.

3. Is Berlin more or less globally important than in previous periods?

Berlin has experienced several stages of development. Being the capital of Prussia and the capital of the Deutsche Reich under its chancellor Bismarck since 1871, Berlin began to become a world city as “the forms of government, the ways of life and the character of the Prussians were to a large extent imposed upon the rest of Germany” (Hibbert, 1996, 215). The consequence was an enormous economic growth and building boom which made Berlin becoming a metropolitan city, by the end of the 19th century with 2,7 million inhabitants the biggest industrial city of the continent (Berlin.de, 2004). Massive buildings like the Opera “Unter den Linden” and other famous monuments still remember the era of Bismarck. The interwar years made Berlin one of the most dynamic centres in Europe and it was regarded as “’the fastest city in the world’ – a very lively place in science, education and manufacturing, but also in areas like the media or entertainment” (Kulke & Ellger, 2003), a reputation, however, that was completely destroyed by the upcoming dictatorship of Hitler. Berlin survived as the capital during the Second World War and was finally divided into two completely separate parts, East and West Berlin in 1961 which made it the symbol of the Cold War. Thus, the Eastern part remained Capital of the German Democratic Republic and was still important as it was one of the main escape solutions during the Cold War. At the end of 1989 the Mauer, the 47km long wall which divided Berlin, heavily patrolled and monitored, was opened. This was an event that was one of the best and most emotional days in the history of Berlin (McCarthy and Danta, 2003). Being reunited and the new capital of Germany since 1991, it is still the question of many geographers and historians whether Berlin is on its way to achieve its old status as world city. One might think that the time after the reunification was followed by increases both in economy and population but quite the contrary happened. Financial help of the state was reduced and caused severe economic problems for Berlin. The following deindustrialisation and difficulties of the service sector increased the number of unemployed people and shortened Berlin’s income from taxes tremendously. Hence, when asking about the global importance of the German capital nowadays, you have to say that, at least according to the economic and financial position, it is less important for the global world than in previous periods (ibid). However, there are some other criteria which might help Berlin to win its importance again in the near future and which will be looked at in the next chapters.


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What makes Berlin a so-called 'world' city?
University of Hull
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Johannes Weber (Author), 2004, What makes Berlin a so-called 'world' city?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/69932


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