Conference paper
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There is an ascendant academic argument that key economic processes are increasingly built at the scale of the city and, in turn, that successful urban economies are increasingly detached from their traditional hinterlands. Cities, in this city-centric global economy, are argued to be immersed in and driven by globalised networks and connections. The process of a city becoming global, then, means that traditional territorial networks and linkages are variously dislodged, transformed and abandoned. While this argument is intuitively persuasive, it has tended to be underpinned by generalised analyses that are thin on their treatment of change drivers and on the new ways that cities now function. The temptation is for the emergence of a post-national metro-centric global economy to be assumed and for this assumption to direct the nature of urban economy inquiry. Drawing on the example of Sydney, in this paper we argue for the need to develop more grounded theoretical understandings of what drives contemporary accumulation and distribution processes in a global city. We sketch what might be learned—theoretically and empirically—from tracing the ‘reach’ of Sydney’s economy through changing patterns of materials, information and financial flows to produce a spatialised political economy of the city. We argue that this grounded understanding will leave us better positioned, first, to understand Sydney’s connection to a global urban hierarchy, second, to critically assess claims regarding the nature of that hierarchy and, third, to devise management strategies aimed to produce more efficient, equitable and sustainable urban outcomes.


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