شهر جهانی با تصویر کاذب: اسطوره` مدیریت جهانی "در شرکت های خدمات فراملی
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|16491||2002||16 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Geoforum, Volume 33, Issue 3, August 2002, Pages 335–350
The `global city hypothesis' proposed by Saskia Sassen – and subsequently developed by Manuel Castells and others in the theory of a globalized urban network – has in recent years formed the basis for the argument that power and control in transnational firms (TNCs) is primarily situated in global head-offices. Such offices are located in key urban centres such as London, New York or Tokyo where global managerial power is ultimately wielded and where senior managers make strategic decisions about transnational business activity. This paper takes issue with this theoretical legacy, arguing that the idea of strong centralised managerial power and control in contemporary TNCs is far more complex than this literature suggests. It explores how managerial control in some of the supposedly most globalized of business service industries – investment banking and management consultancy – cannot be understood as being centralised in global headquarter offices, and nor does it purely reside with a few senior managers at the top of the transnational organisation. Rather, it argues that managerial control in TNCs is diffused throughout a transnational network of management-level employees, and that strategic power in transnational firms resides with a larger and more dispersed group of actors than has been previously suggested. These arguments are developed through analysis of qualitative research into the managerial strategies and practices of senior business practitioners in the transnational investment banking and management consultancy industries. In presenting qualitative data from interviews with senior management in transnational corporate head offices, the paper thus examines the decision-making process of global management practice and unpacks the complex context in which transnational corporate strategy develops in such firms.
The combination of spatial dispersal and global integration has created a new strategic role for major cities. Beyond their long history as centres for international trade and banking, these cities now function… as highly concentrated command points in the organisation of the world economy…. (Sassen, 2001, p. 3) Every year, a budget is put together, which is reviewed by the management committee… But at a strategic level – and although that management committee will talk about various decisions – in the business management perspective, the reality is that it is decentralised down to front-line product managers and the heads of geographies. (Managing Director, Equities & New Issues, UKBank3, London) A decade ago, Saskia Sassen argued in her influential book The Global City (1991) that three cities resided at the top of the global urban hierarchy in the 1990s: London, New York and Tokyo. For Sassen, these were the `global cities' that performed distinctive and, at the time of writing, novel functions in the contemporary world economy. She argued they corresponded to `concentrated command points in the world economy' which were `the key locations for financial and specialised service firms' (ibid.: 3). As the extract quoted above highlights, the `global city' in Sassen's original conception was becoming an increasingly concentrated locus of power and control in an increasingly globalized world economy, measured by the growing concentration of transnational corporate head office in these cities. Thus, the global city was the new urban phenomena of the later 1980s and 1990s where the processes of globalization were coming to generate a new kind of urban built environment ( King, 1990; Fainstein et al., 1992; Clark, 1996; Crahan and Vourvoulias-Bush, 1997), new kinds of advanced service sector industries and new roles for urban centres in the world ( Budd and Whimster, 1992; Smith and Timberlake, 1995). Ten years later, of course, the terms `global city' and `global cities' are now widely accepted and widely cited, having become a ubiquitous feature of academic writing on globalization (e.g. Castells, 1996; Short and Kim, 1999), urban studies (Hill and Feagin, 1987; Feagin, 1988; Phillips, 1996; Murray and Perrera, 1996) and the global economy (e.g. Ward, 1994; Knox and Taylor, 1995; Dicken, 1998). Furthermore, the idea of the global city is now firmly embedded in policy discourses concerned with urban planning, regional and national economies and even social inequality (Fisher and Kling, 1993; Eade, 1997; Isin, 2000). The `global city thesis' has become a central tenet of contemporary urban studies and is perceived by many to be a fundamental theoretical building block in theorising and understanding globalization as a phenomena more generally (Holton, 1998; Beck, 1999; Lechner and Boli, 2000; Beynon and Dunkerley, 2000). Recently, Sassen herself has published a second edition of The Global City (2001), extending and developing her original arguments and building a more encompassing theoretical argument about the nature of cities in the contemporary world. Yet the proposition of this paper is that there has been little critical engagement in the literature with the epistemological foundations of the `global city' as a concept. Since the publication of The Global City, the vast literature which has grown up in an attempt to theorise global cities has been remarkably unquestioning of the foundations of Sassen's thesis. Few contributors, perhaps save in part for Sassen herself (cf. Sassen, 1997 and Sassen, 2000), have engaged with the epistemological issues surrounding the global city concept, choosing rather to seek to develop more sophisticated theoretical understandings of global cities (e.g. Castells, 1996; Lo and Yeung, 1998; Short and Kim, 1999). Rather, the critical debate surrounding the `global city thesis' has largely focused on the how global cities might be better defined and which cities might be included in this categorisation ( Abu-Leghod, 1999; Taylor and Walker, 2001). Elsewhere in the literature, the `debate' around the `global city thesis' has taken the form of argument as to whether the global city concept is applicable to more than the few key centres than Sassen first suggested. More recent work has in this light argued that the global city might be better conceived as a network of globalized urban centres ( Smith and Timberlake, 1995; Savitch, 1996) rather than being restricted to London, New York or Tokyo. Such arguments have been reflected in Sassen own refinement and development of her earlier arguments in the latest edition of The Global City. My contention is that the nature of the critical response to theories of the global city or cities has been too narrow in epistemological scope. In this paper, I want to make a different kind of contribution to the global city debate, and one that is far more questioning of the underlying tenets and assumptions encapsulated in Sassen's and others' arguments. Crucially, the central argument is that there has been too little critical thought given to the limitations of the `global city thesis' as a whole. Urban theorists, geographers and other social scientists have largely accepted the thesis in so far as the literature implicitly accepts the cornerstones of Sassen's definition of the global city: that global cities are key command and control points in the global economy, that they are the key location for transnational corporate head-offices, the location of specialised producer services and also the primary markets for these specialised services and financial products (see Sassen, 2001, pp. 3–11). It is these key definitional elements that are the focus of the critical engagement here. There are three interrelated critical prongs to this critique. In combination, all three call into question the utility of the `global city thesis' as a framework for understanding and theorising economic activity in the contemporary global economy. This is not to argue that Sassen's thesis is somehow `wrong', nor that it is not a helpful and insightful theoretical perspective to make use of in certain debates. From an urban studies perspective, for example, there can be little doubt of the importance and utility of Sassen's arguments to policy makers tackling questions of social restructuring and transformation in large cities. Rather, my suggestion is that the `global city thesis' is misleading and limiting when it is used – as it has – to construct theories of the contemporary world economy in general, and the nature of transnational business activity more specifically. In that sense, although relevant to some debates within urban studies, a global city approach is not the most useful framework for those who wish to better theorise the global economy. The first prong to my critique rests with the contention is that the `global city thesis' is founded in a restrictive spatial epistemology of place. The concept of the global city imbues places and spaces with indirect agency in a way that obfuscates where, in particular, corporate power and control are located in the global economy. Indeed, the issue of location is a central epistemological problem. In constructing the global city network as the controlling `mesh' of urban centres, power in the global economy is often measured and implicitly assumed to be contained in corporate head or key branch offices. This is a problematic approach to theorising power and control in the global economy since the physical spaces of head office, whilst (in part) the spatial setting for the operationalisation of corporate power, do not contain corporate power. Head offices are the location in which key decision-making social actors make decisions and carry out a series of managerial business practices that constitute command and control functions. However, the physical location is to all intents and purposes an arbitrary physical context in which these practices take place in so far that the social actors involved are the primary agents of power, not the spaces and places in which they are situated. Thus, my argument is that the place or location of command and control functions is not a good epistemological focus for theories of the global economy. To understand the nature of transnational corporate power and control, building theories around a spatially centred epistemology of place/location is unproductive. Rather, there needs to be a theoretical emphasis on the nature of the social practices that constitute transnational corporate power, along with the organisational and institutional context in which these practices occur. In that sense, two of Sassen's key definitional aspects to the global city – as locations of head office and command and control functions – are not in fact, as a consequence of their emphasis on location, useful in helping to understanding the global economy. Second, and following on from this, as well as questioning the utility of place-based theory of power in the global economy (urban centres, head-offices), I also want to suggest that the idea of centralised `global management' – of command and control functions – in transnational producer service firms is itself questionable. Drawing on research into the nature of transnational managerial power and control in two of the sectors that Sassen's identifies as definitional features of the global city – investment banking and management consultancy – I argue that power and control in transnational business activity needs to be understood in much more spatially diffused terms. Rather, as the second extract from an interview with a senior manager in a leading UK investment bank indicates, I suggest that power and control in transnational producer service firms emerges and is wielded throughout the wider context of transnational business activity. Transnational control might therefore be better understood as a much more diffuse concept, spread between a decentralised network of social actors across the transnational context of producer service TNCs. As a consequence, it is inaccurate and restrictive to represent the control functions of TNCs as being limited exclusively to the urban spaces of global cities. Third, the outcome of these two preceding critical points is to argue that in constructing theories of corporate power in the contemporary global economy a more useful epistemological framework is one which focuses on the nature of networked social practices of corporate power and managerial control rather than the space, place and location. Global cities may be the locations of head office Board rooms, and they may be the locational base of senior management per se, but these kinds of indicators provide little insight into the nature of corporate power in the global economy. Thus, I will develop a different epistemological approach towards theorising transnational corporate power that centres around the idea of the transnational social context of command and control functions in transnational firms. The rest of the paper develops these arguments in depth through a series of sequential steps. In the next section, I expand my critique of the global city concept as it stands in the existing social scientific, geographical and urban studies literature in order to elaborate the basis for my critique. In engaging with the work of Sassen and others, I outline – in the concept of transnational social context – an alternative approach to theorising power and control in the contemporary global economy that draws on the legacy of `actor-network theory'. The third section then seeks to support my contentions concerning the nature of transnational corporate power by presenting qualitative research with senior business managers in investment banks and management consultancy firms. Based on over 45 in-depth interviews, I examine two interrelated features of corporate power-control in contemporary producer service TNCs. This third section discusses the first feature: the formation, operation and function of management hierarchies in these transnational producer service firms. The research presented here reveals how management hierarchies and systems in transnational investment banks and management consultancy firms do not correspond to highly centralised systems of control centred around head-offices in the global city. Rather, what emerges from the interview-based research is a partially decentralised and more diffuse structure of command and control than is supposed in the conventional `global city thesis'. The fourth section then goes on to discuss the second feature of transnational corporate command and control in these business service sectors: the actualization of power and control through a range of social practices across the TNC's transnational context. The research presented is concerned with the social practices and interpersonal relationships that I argue constitute managerial power within the transnational firm. In that way, it offers an insight into how command and control functions are diffused through the transnational social context of the firm in a manner which is not strongly related to physical locations and places. Thus, the research in this section reinforces the argument for a different epistemological approach to understanding the nature of corporate power in the global economy from that developed in a global city approach. Finally, the fifth part of the paper draws out some conclusions from the research and discusses implications for the future direction of the global city debate and research into power and control in the global economy.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
The wider goal of this paper has been to critically engage with the way in which human geographers, urban theorists and other social scientists think about and theorise the contemporary global economy. In so doing, I have taken up a series of critical objections to the way in which the `global city thesis' has been developed as a framework through which to do this. The outcome of this critique, grounded in the research I have presented, is to show how the `global city thesis' is misconceived – at least insofar as it over-simplifies the nature of command and control in the very transnational firms that define these new urban forms as `global'. The idea of centralised `global management' where the world economy is run from a few key urban centres is an over-simplistic myth. In reality, as my exploration of corporate power within investment banks and management consultancies reveals, the nature of command and control is a far more complex and diffused process than the simple theoretical story of centralised control in the global city. This was illustrated through the research into transnational producer service firms where power and control in the transnational context is not well theorised as being concentrated in a few head offices in certain urban centres. Contrary to the view expressed in much of the literature concerned with global cities (Sassen, 1991 and Sassen, 2001; Knox and Taylor, 1995; Castells, 1996), I argued that there exists a more diffuse structure to transnational management functions. In the case of service sectors such as investment banking and management consultancy, this diffuse form of managerial control is entwined with the way in which managerial power is exercised in relation to the informational nature of producer service business. Furthermore, the informational nature of business activity in these sectors presents severe limitations on the degree to which these transnational companies can ever truly `centralise' command and control functions in the ways that writers such as Sassen discuss. Certainly it is true that head offices are the physical bases for senior management – the key personnel who make strategic choices and oversee transnational business activities. However, the amount of direct interventative control they can and do exercise is in reality quite limited. This is a result of the `information dense' nature of producer service business activity whose success depends on the quality of informational content. Key decisions are thus too embroiled in client relationships and localised knowledge for senior managers to take a strong interventionist approach from a head office perspective. Therefore, to understand how a significant majority of managerial decisions are made, theories need to be developed in the context of the transnational managerial hierarchy within these companies. Key control functions are often negotiated outcomes of group decisions, and the group is not generally just located in the head office. In that sense, it is more useful to describe transnational control as `diffuse hierarchical control' as opposed to a more simplistic notion of centralisation. The outcome of these findings is to point to the limitations of the kind of epistemological approach encapsulated in the global city literature. I have argued through the paper that the `global city thesis' continues to be based in a restrictive spatial epistemology that prioritises the significance of place and location in the kinds of theories produced. This needs rethinking. Whilst the physical spaces of head offices and global cities as places are an undeniable element of the context in which transnational corporate power is wield, from an epistemological perspective location and place are unhelpful starting points for theorising the global economy. Instead, I have proposed an epistemological approach that, drawing on the legacy of actor-network theory, theorises power in the global economy by focusing on the nature of social practices, networks and relations. It is these aspects of the transnational social context of global business activity that constitute power in the global economy, and hence which shape the future development of transnational firms and the global economy that they form part of. It needs to be pointed out, however, that the research presented here is limited in the extent to which it has thus far traced the architecture of these relational networks of actors that form transnational social context. In order to explore and understand the nature of power and control in the global economy further, future research need to be extended beyond those based in head offices to managers scattered through this diffuse global network of control. Finally, what I think this kind of work reveals in general is that if economic geographers and social scientists are going to effectively understand the nature of transnational business activity – and economic globalization more generally – then there is a need for more research that takes the social practices of business activity within transnational firms as its focus. An increasingly large literature now discusses the socially embedded (see Grahber, 1993; Ingham, 1996; Thrift and Olds, 1996; Yeung, 2000) nature of economic activity and the significance of social relations within firms (e.g. Pryke and Lee, 1995; McDowell, 1997; Thrift, 2000), yet surprisingly little work has taken up this agenda when considering TNCs. What I hope this paper has shown is that the debate about the nature of power and control in the contemporary global economy needs to move away from the kind of location-centred epistemology prevalent in the global city literature. If insightful theories of the global economy in the 21st century are to be developed, then an epistemological framework sensitive to the complex social context of the business environment in which TNCs operate is urgently needed.