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GeoJournal

, Volume 51, Issue 1–2, pp 73–81 | Cite as

The European system of capital cities

  • Paul Claval
Article

Abstract

Capital cities reflect the nature and organization of the states they control. Their functional role is higher in centralized systems, societies where the state is the source of all legitimacy, and countries using Continental Law. It is lower in federal systems, pillarized societies and countries, which are ruled according to a Common Law. The symbolic status of capital cities is higher when the state is the source of all legitimacy, lower in consociationalist societies. Theses processes were responsible for the development of two types of political capital cities and one type of economic and cultural capital cities during the nineteenth century. A partial standardization of the functions and statuses of capital cities occurred later. The European Union is neither a state nor a super-state since its main responsibilities are still in the economic field, it lacks a huge administrative bureaucracy and does not have definitive territorial limits. The European Union has officially three capital cities, Strasbourg, Luxembourg and Brussels. The really important one is Brussels. Its functions are nevertheless quite different from those of national capital cities during the first half of the twentieth century. European capital cities are thriving because most of them managed to become economic metropolises. The result is that the European Union has a complex and rapidly evolving system of capital cities.

boundary capital city centralization common law continental law federalism globalization metropolization pillarized society state symbolism 

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Claval
    • 1
  1. 1.Université de Paris-SorbonneFrance

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