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Systems of Cities and World-Systems: Settlement Size Hierarchies and Cycles of Political Centralization, 2000 BC-1988 AD

"Abstract: Cities have long grown, flourished and declined in a larger context in which interactions with other cities have been important. Sometimes cities co-evolve in networks of complementary interaction while in many other cases cities compete and fight with one another such that the success of one means the failure of others. We study changes in city-size hierarchies in eight world-systems in order to understand the causes and consequences of changes in the relative sizes of cities. The eight world-systems examined are Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Mesoamerican, West African, Indic, Far Eastern, Japanese and the Central world-system which eventually engulfed all the others. Do spatially hierarchical city systems correspond with highly exploitative and centralized empires? What are the relationships between urban growth and changes in the city size hierarchies? What are the similarities and differences in the patterns of city development in different world-systems? We discover that the trajectories of change in city size distributions and urban growth and decline sequences are quite similar for the Central and Far Eastern systems and we try to account for these striking simularities."

Author(s):  Chase-Dunn, Christopher; Willard , Alice
Format:  Article
Publisher:  Institute for Research on World-Systems
Source:  IROWS Working Paper #5