This week, the Urban History Association’s Kenneth Jackson Award Committee provides their comments on Jerome Hodos’ Second Cities, winner of the award for Best Book in North American Urban History published in 2011.
With meticulous attention to a long view of historical process and a sociological eye for theoretical frameworks that illuminate complex social phenomenon, Second Cities: Globalization and Local Politics in Manchester and Philadelphia, by Jerome I. Hodos, has offered an exciting and insightful analysis of the central role cities and urban spaces have played, and continue to play, in the complicated drama called “globalization.”
Hodos removes the contemporary buzz from the word, globalization, and he demonstrates how old, and how central to modern human existence, is humanity’s connectedness though, and awareness of, the world as a single place. Even as humans are able to transport themselves, digital information, money and financing systems, and material goods, at remarkably fast rates, and from decentralized spaces, Hodos shows, in a subtle analysis and with wonderfully straightforward prose, that cities continue to matter. In fact, Hodos skillfully proves that “globalization is a profoundly urban process.”
Probably the most wonderful contribution of this book is the way it forces readers to examine the history and social impact of globalization in places outside the usual suspect cities of New York, London, and Tokyo, or cities such as Shanghai, Mumbai, Dubai and Singapore that, in the past decade or so, have increasingly become economic weathervanes by which to note the emerging directions of the global economy. Instead, Hodos skillfully proves the importance of “second cities,” places like Philadelphia and Manchester, where people actively seek to “hold down the global,” to capture some of the worldwide flows of capital, people, ideas, culture and networks, for themselves. By looking at urban places further down the list of impactful global cities, Hodos reminds readers that globalization is indeed a dynamic process, and that all the time people are jockeying for new positions within an expanding global system of trade, travel, and technology.
“Globalization is about the establishment of new connections as much as it is about the disruption of old ones,” Hodos argues. He adeptly proves that some of the best places in which to witness this process are “second cities,” places that do not necessarily experience or participate in globalization the same way as larger, trendier, or more economically robust cities, but nonetheless reveal important lessons about the trajectory of globalization, and the centrality of cities and urbanity to this process.