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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