Contention and Trust in Cities and States

pp 211-226


Cities and states in geohistory

  • Edward W. SojaAffiliated withDepartment of Urban Planning, School of Public Affairs, University of California-Los Angeles Email author 

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In his last major work, Charles Tilly presents a schematic history of the development of cities, states, and trust networks over the past five millennia. I reconfigure his “look across history” from a more assertively spatial perspective, pushing back the starting point of the geohistory of cities another 5,000 years to what is presented as the first of three “urban revolutions.” From this geohistorical viewpoint, cities and states do not emerge together de novo in Sumeria but the state is seen as being generated from earlier urbanization processes or what can be described as the stimulus of urban agglomeration. The generative power of cities or urban spatial causality, rarely addressed in the social science literature, is being re-discovered today as a primary source of societal development, technological innovation, and cultural creativity. In my schematic geohistory, the stimulus of urban agglomeration is traced over 10,000 years from its early role in the development of full-scale agriculture and the remarkable artistic creativity emanating from úatalh­yük, the largest of the earliest urban settlements; through the formation of politically charged city-states and city-based empires; to the city-generated Industrial Revolution and the origins of urban industrial capitalism; ending in a look at the contemporary reconfiguration of cities and states and the shift from metropolitan to regional urbanization.