Introduction: German Cities Between Globalization and Unification

in German Politics and Society

For more than a century, Germany has had a well-balanced system

of cities showcasing considerable variety in their social and physical

make-up. It has lacked spectacular global cities like New York,

Tokyo, or London. Instead, western cities include industrial cities

like those in the Rhine-Ruhr Valley and cities shaped by universities

and research (Göttingen or Freiburg), media and publishing (Hamburg),

culture and high-technology sectors (Munich), banking and

finance (Frankfurt/Main), wholesale trade and insurance (Cologne

and Düsseldorf), as well as government and administration (Berlin,

Bonn, and most state capitals). Dramatic social or economic crises

that generate debates about urban decline have not happened.

Thanks in part to effective urban governments, no German city has

come close to the near-collapse of American rustbelt cities during

the early 1980s, or the fiscal meltdown of New York City in the

1970s. Crime has been consistently lower and less violent, and the

American racial divide has no equivalent in German cities. East German

cities, while more unevenly developed, have been no less stable.

East Berlin was the dominant center, linked to the industrial

cities in the North (Rostock) and South (Leipzig, Halle, Dresden) by

a rather creaky infrastructure.

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