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The Rise of the City State and the New Hanseatic League

August 20, 2010

Singapore, Courtesy of Foreign Policy

Parag Khanna has a fascinating think piece in the newest Foreign Policy. He says the age of nations is over:

The 21st century will not be dominated by America or China, Brazil or India, but by the city. In an age that appears increasingly unmanageable, cities rather than states are becoming the islands of governance on which the future world order will be built. This new world is not — and will not be — one global village, so much as a network of different ones…

Neither 19th-century balance-of-power politics nor 20th-century power blocs are useful in understanding this new world. Instead, we have to look back nearly a thousand years, to the medieval age in which cities such as Cairo and Hangzhou were the centers of global gravity, expanding their influence confidently outward in a borderless world. When Marco Polo set forth from Venice along the emergent Silk Road, he extolled the virtues not of empires, but of the cities that made them great. He admired the vineyards of Kashgar and the material abundance of Xi’an, and even foretold — correctly — that no one would believe his account of Chengdu’s merchant wealth. It’s worth remembering that only in Europe were the Middle Ages dark — they were the apogee of Arab, Muslim, and Chinese glory.

Read the whole thing, as Kling says. HT to Reason’s Hit and Run.

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7 Comments
  1. kurt9 permalink
    August 20, 2010 5:24 pm

    Bruce Sterling’s cyberpunk novel “Schizmatrix”, which was published back in 1985, depicts a future society based on city-states. Admittedly his novel takes place in space with each space colony being an independent city-state. However, the scenario can be applied to our own future here on Earth.

  2. August 21, 2010 12:33 pm

    Wasn’t Poul Anderson also inspired by the Hanseatic League in his science fiction? I recall his Polesotechnic had a number of parallels. Kevin J. Anderson’s Saga of Seven Suns also gives a lead role to the Terran Hanseatic League.

    Best,

    Mark Frazier
    @openworld

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