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Varieties of Capital Cities

The Competitiveness Challenge for Secondary Capitals David Kaufmann, KPM Center for Public Management, University of Bern, Switzerland
The political and symbolic centrality of capital cities has been challenged by increasing economic globalization. This is especially true of secondary capital cities; capital cities which, while being the seat of national political power, are not the primary economic city of their nation state. David Kaufmann examines the unique challenges that these cities face entering globalised, inter-urban competition while not possessing a competitive political economy.
Extent: 256 pp
Hardback Price: $125.00 Web: $112.50
Publication Date: 2018
ISBN: 978 1 78811 642 8
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The political and symbolic centrality of capital cities has been challenged by increasing economic globalization. This is especially true of secondary capital cities; capital cities which, while being the seat of national political power, are not the primary economic city of their nation state. David Kaufmann examines the unique challenges that these cities face entering globalized, inter-urban competition while not possessing a competitive political economy.

Varieties of Capital Cities offers empirically rich case studies of four secondary capital cities: Bern, Ottawa, The Hague, and Washington, DC. Analysed with an innovative research framework, this book shows through its clearly structured analysis, that while the pressures facing these cities are the same, the mechanisms they employ to cope with them are very different. They have formulated a wide variety of policies to supplement their capital function with economically promising profiles, even though they cannot escape their destinies as government cities.

This book is an impressive contribution to an area of study largely neglected by urban studies, political science, and economic geography. With vital lessons for urban policy makers, the interested practitioner will find a pool of inspiration for their urban strategies. Students and scholars of these subjects will find this book interesting, and will also find it invaluable as a lesson for how to develop and execute comparative case studies.


‘Varieties of Capital Cities provides a thorough and sweeping assessment of the ways four leading capital cities struggle to control their economic destinies through public locational policies. In a trenchant analysis of the economic, governmental and social forces that influence national capital enclaves, Kaufmann vividly highlights how and why local politics matters in shaping where they are headed in our globalizing urban world. This volume constitutes a major contribution to the study of comparative urban economic development and public policy.’
– Paul Kantor, Fordham University, US

‘The urban world is ours and also the object of Varieties of Capital Cities, an analysis of secondary capital cities, a crucial unit in our understanding of this urban planet. David Kaufmann analyses, interrogates, reflects on four cases of secondary capital cities, those capitals that are not the economic powerhouse of their county. The detailed case studies of Bern, Ottawa, The Hague and Washington, DC are wonderful examples of how to do case studies. Kaufmann spent several months in each of the four capitals, interviewing, reading documents but also just getting a feeling for the cities. For all these reasons, Varieties of Capital Cities is a book you want to own.’
– Caroline Andrew, University of Ottawa, Canada

‘Drawing on very rich and detailed case studies in Bern, Ottawa, The Hague and Washington D.C., this book examines locational policies by secondary capital cities. Beyond fascinating empirical insights, David Kaufmann’s rigorous analysis also offers new theoretical guidance for the study of urban strategies in the face of global competition. Emphasising the “game-changing” role of local tax systems, his study buttresses the importance of hard institutional variables in cross-national urban research. I strongly recommend it to scholars interested in urban economic development policies more generally.’
– Daniel Kübler, University of Zurich, Switzerland
Contents: Preface and acknowledgements 1. Introduction: the competitiveness challenge for secondary capital cities 2. How to study locational policies in secondary capital cities: an interdisciplinary analytical framework 3. The cases under scrutiny 4. Bern: the government city 5. Ottawa: the fragmented city 6. The Hague: the international government city 7. Washington, D.C.: the capital of the free world 8. Comparing locational policies in secondary capital cities 9. Conclusion: understanding the variety of locational policies in secondary capital cities Appendix: Data and Methodology References Index