IGU Urban Commission, Tel Aviv, 2010


Department of Geography, University of Lausanne, Switzerland


Evolution of multinational firms’ networks into the World cities’ system: 2007-2010

The multinational firms networks (MNF) constitute a large issue for world cities development as the processes characterizing firms and cities, interact in a feedback loop. At the meso-level of cities, size effect of cities is a very strong explanation of the intensity of their integration inside MNF networks because they offer best agglomeration economies (Rozenblat, 1993, 1997, 2004; Fujita, Thisse, 2000, Glaeser & al., 2007). At the macro level of the cities’ system, patterns of hierarchies, groups of specialized cities are developing in a systemic way and diffusions of innovations and cycles occur more or less rapidly in the whole system (Rozenblat, Pumain, 2006). Moreover, at micro-level, the enterprises manage their activities in networks (Powell, 1990; Grabher, 2006), organizing activities through network economies between cities in an international division of labor, developing “global value chains” (Gereffi, 1996; Sturgeon, Gereffi, 2008) in order to have access to market and to keep control on innovations.

For cities, the issue is not only to strongly concentrate locations of MNF but also to be well positioned into the global value chain of enterprises occupying the best powerful positions. The position of a city depends on the intensity of relations, but it also depends on the diversity of connected cities, and on which cities they are linked to, establishing relations of dominance or dependence. “Strength of weak ties” (Granovetter, 1982), “Preferential attachment” (Barabasi, 2000), “closure and structural holes” (Burt, 2005) are concepts which are developed in sociology or physics, but could be transferred in Geography in order to define organizational patterns of urban systems in the global value chain.

In order to define these processes of cities’ positioning in MNF networks, one can focus on the three different interacting levels: 1- the micro-level of firms, insisting on their individual behavior in the global value chain dimension; 2- the agglomeration economies processes at the meso level of cities; 3- the macro-processes occurring at the urban system level. Starting from the 600,000 subsidiaries of the 3,000 largest groups for 2007 and 700,000 for 2010, the paper will precise at micro, meso and macro levels the signification of the abovementioned concepts for cities positions and dynamics.


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