What about Los Angeles?

Admit LA to the alpha-city club

“North Atlantic prejudice has denied Los Angeles the global status it deserves.” (my emphasis)


The answer to this Financial Times (FT) op-ed piece is really very simple. The mistake from the journalist is when he says: “The notion of a global or “alpha” city is vague…”. No, it isn’t vague at all and, of course, has nothing to do with the extraordinary claim of ‘prejudice’! The global city and ‘alpha city’ have a very precise definition as international financial centres (IFCs) and as corporate service complexes. The lesser role L.A. plays in those economic sectors on a North American and global basis in comparison to New York and London is why it is ranked lower than them. Paradoxically, if you want to adopt a broader or different definition of a global city beyond banking, international finance and corporate service functions then L.A. would of course be ‘up there’ as a ‘global destination’ and center of entertainment but the definition of a global or alpha city would be very different and potentially so vague that it would be meaningless.

To fully understand why this is an all too common error (and to understand several other errors) see my 2013 research paper:

Smith RG (2013) “The ordinary city trap”, Environment and Planning A, 45 (10), October, 2290–2304

The Ordinary City Trap


Forthcoming Research Seminar Presentation on:

Why skyscrapers after Covid-19?’

Smith RG (2021) ‘Why skyscrapers after Covid-19?’, Vol. 134 (December), Futures: The journal of policy, planning and futures studies: https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1dnO%7E3jdJdMmG
Free access available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8451974/

I will be talking on Wednesday December 8th @2pm in the Research Seminar Series for the Department of Geography at Swansea University about my proof-of-concept paper recently published in the journal Futures and how that paper is the basis for an application for research funding to undertake empirical research on skyscrapers in a way which spans the so-called ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ world.