The Political Economy of Capital Cities by Heike Mayer, Fritz Sager, David Kaufmann, and Martin Warland (London and New York, Routledge, 2018)
Reviewed by: Sabina E. Deitrick, University of Pittsburgh
“Not all capital cities are alike,” Sir Peter Hall began a chapter on capital cities in a 2006 volume by David Gordon. The Political Economy of Capital Cities begins with this same premise and addresses many important economic development issues for a specific set of capital cities in Europe and North America identified as smaller cities in their nation’s economic landscape. These so-called ‘secondary’ capital cities have fulfilled different roles historically but are joined together in that they truly are – at least until most recently – second tier economic centers in their own nations and especially when compared to global capital cities.
Bern, The Hague, Ottawa, and Washington, D.C. are the study capitals of this interesting and compelling volume. Analyzing and comparing the histories, political-institutional settings, and economic characteristics of these cities create the conditions for understanding why it’s important not to overlook secondary capitals and their economic geographies.
The four capital cities shared common aspects in that all were chosen as national capitals to balance power and proximity in federalist systems but differed when selected by their economic and physical importance at the time. Despite differences in history, the authors build their case that these secondary capital cities have become knowledge-based economies that now drive regional innovation systems. They find that, over decades, the forces for the new political economy of secondary capital cities are characterized by changing relations between public demand and private supply, led by knowledge-driven private firms and innovation. The benefits of location and the ability of firms to enter into regional innovation networks through interactions and embedded knowledge with the public sector has changed the economic geography of Washington, D.C., Ottawa, The Hague, and Bern in today’s national and global economies.
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