Course Title: Competitiveness and economic change in urban Europe
Dates: 03/10/2006-14/11/2006
Professor:  Montserrat Pareja (University of Barcelona, Spain), Robert Kloosterman (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Course Summary:
In this course, the links between changing conditions for urban competitiveness on the one hand and urban spatial dynamics on the other are explored. We want to present the state of the art in urban and economic geographic research concerning questions of urban competitiveness. The first session will offer the overall framework for the course, highlighting the key issues in the current debate. In the four subsequent sessions, some of these key issues will be studied in more detail. Three partly overlapping segments of the emerging creative knowledge economy are discussed: finance, knowledge-intensive business services, and the cultural and creative industries. In the fifth session, the focus is on the specific role that migrant entrepreneurship can play in the creative knowledge economy. The sixth session presents two cities rising rapidly on the European rankings since the early 1990s: Barcelona and Warsaw. This comparison also offers the opportunity to highlight the very different development paths of cities in different parts of Europe. The course will be rounded off by Allen Scott, who will broaden the perspective to global city-regions, the most privileged agglomerations of capital and labour across the globe.

a) Theoretical knowledge on a high level of the knowledge-based economy and its urban geography including a demonstration of overview as well as reflections on the relations between theory and practice.
b) The placement of literature/texts in the correct professional/theoretical context.
c) Discussion and perspectives on the contents of a text/literature in relation to peripheral/bordering texts/literature.




Title of Lecture

Abstract & Readings



R. Kloosterman (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands), E, Engelem (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Introduction: competitiveness and economic change in urban Europe


In the new world of post-industrialized capitalism, competition between nation-states is increasingly overwhelmed by competition between cities, as is testified by the increasing popularity of concepts like ‘Global Cities’, ‘World Cities’, ‘Creative Cities’ and ‘Knowledge Cities’. While cities are subject to similar exogenous pressures, their responses appear to be highly idiosyncratic, for being informed by historical legacies and resources, which cannot easily be replicated. As such, the convergence that is being suggested by many urban studies concepts needs to be replaced by a more chequered perspective on the metropolitan future that is based on notions of economic specialization and a global division of labour. In this session the case of Amsterdam and its financial and cultural industries is used to demonstrate the fruitfulness of a long term historical approach, combined with a clear sensibility for the institutional underpinnings of these long term developments.


Kloosterman, R. & B. Lambregts, Between Accumulation and Concentration of Capital: Comparing the Long-Term Trajectories of the Dutch Randstad and London Urban Systems, unpublished paper

Engelen, E. (forthcoming) Different Faces of Financialization? The Fate of Amsterdam seen from an Institutional Perspective, unpublished paper.




E. Engelen (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands)

The internationalization of finance and the meaning of ‘place’


Since the mid 1970s deregulation and liberalization have unleashed a torrent of financial flows and streams that seems to have transformed the ‘places’ of yesterday into the ‘spaces’ of tomorrow. This session discusses the way in which European financial geographies are currently reconfiguring, asking both which mechanisms are underlying this reconfiguration as well as what it implies for secondary European financial centres like Amsterdam. In particular, it focuses on the linkages between scale and scope, or liquidity and financial innovation, in order to explain why different financial centres in Europe are affected differently by financial innovation.


Clark, G.L. (2005) Money flows like Mercury. The Geography of Global Finance. Geografiska Annaler 87 B: 99-112.

Engelen, E. (forthcoming) Amsterdamned? The Uncertain Future of a Secondary Financial Center. Environment & Planning A.



L. Winther (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)

Cities and the knowledge-based economy


The session will provide theoretical and empirical insights on cities and the knowledge-based economy as a foundation for discussions of urban economic growth. The knowledge-based economy is based on the production, distribution and use of knowledge and information and the recognition that the production systems are characterised by increasing knowledge intensity in the 20th century. The knowledge-based economy has often been used analysing high-tech industries, but we need a broader understanding of the knowledge-based economy to emphasise and discuss why knowledge is important in the modern urban economy as an output in terms of innovation and new technology and as an input of the production process.


David, P. A. and Foray, D. (2002) An Introduction to the Economy of the Knowledge Society. International Social Science Journal, 54(171): 9-23

Simmie, J. (2005) Innovation and Space: A Critical Review of the Literature. Regional Studies, 39(6): 789-804

Van der Laan, L. (1999) Labour Markets in Europe at the Edge of a New Century: Knowledge Economy and Transitional Labour. TESG, 90(4): 427-431



M. Bontje, S. Musterd (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Urban conditions for creative knowledge


While low-cost production and services increasingly leave European cities towards China and India, many European cities see a mix of creativity, innovation and knowledge as the economic recipe to survive global economic competition. Richard Florida’s work on the ‘creative class’ received a warm welcome among policy makers in many European cities. Is the future for European cities really mainly dependent on their ability to attract creative and innovative talent? If it is, which cities will be successful and why? Can policy make a difference or is it mainly a question of market forces?


Florida, R. (2002) The economic geography of talent. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 92 (4): 743-755.

Scott, A. (1997) The cultural economy of cities. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 21 (2): 327-339.

Musterd, S. (2004) Amsterdam as a creative cultural knowledge city: some conditions. Built Environment 30 (3): 225-234.



R. Kloosterman, A.M.C. Brandellero (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Migrant entrepreneurship


Migrant entrepreneurs are changing the landscape of many cities such as London, Paris, Berlin, New York and Amsterdam. Starting your own business constitutes a distinct trajectory of incorporation for immigrants. Self-employment requires different resources, depends on different opportunities and provides a different set of chances for social (and spatial) mobility compared to employment. This session focuses on the issues of how immigrant entrepreneurs are inserted in the overall socio-economic structure of the cities, how their (partly specific) resources are linked to opportunities for small businesses, and also addresses the question what scope self-employment might offer for social mobility.


R.C. Kloosterman & J. Rath (2001), Immigrant entrepreneurs in advanced economies: mixed embeddedness further explored. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 2001, 27(2): 189-201.

D.W. Light (2004), From migrant enclaves to mainstream: Reconceptualizing informal economic behavior. Theory and Society 33 (6): 705-737.



M. Pareja (University of Barcelona, Spain) , G. Weclawowicz (Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland)

Barcelona and Warsaw: two emerging European centres


The political transformation in Central and Eastern Europe after 1989 from a socialist to a liberal-democratic regime went along with a transformation from a plan economy to a capitalist market economy. The eastward extension of the EU in 2004 gave an additional impulse to those political, economic and societal transformation processes. In the 1970s, a similar transformation took place in Southern Europe where dictatorial regimes (Spain, Portugal, Greece) were overthrown and traded for democratic regimes. The Southern European countries, most of all Spain, experienced a remarkable modernization of their economies after joining the EU in the 1980s; a perspective that the Central and East European countries now hope for as well.

Two of the cities climbing most rapidly on the European city competitiveness rankings in recent years will be the focus of this session: Barcelona as a representative of Southern Europe, Warsaw representing Central and Eastern Europe. Barcelona’s development strategy since the late 1980s used large events and tourism to encourage urban regeneration and economic modernization. Warsaw’s redevelopment follows a different track, including amongst others the development of an American-style Central Business District. In this session, both the differences and the parallels in Barcelona’s and Warsaw’s recent economic and urban development will be explored and discussed within the wider context of transformations in Southern, Central and Eastern Europe.


Garcia, M. & N. Claver (2003) Barcelona: governing coalitions, visitors, and the changing city center. In: L.M. Hoffman, S.S. Fainstein & D.R. Judd (eds.), Cities and visitors: regulating people, markets, and city space, pp. 113-125. Malden, MA (etc.): Blackwell.

Marshall, T. (2000) Urban planning and governance: is there a Barcelona model? In: International Planning Studies 5 (3), pp. 299-319.

Weclawowicz, G. (2004) Where the grass is greener in Poland: regional and intra-urban inequalities, in: R. Lee & D.M. Smith (eds.), Geographies and moralities, international perspectives on development, justice and peace, pp.  62-78. Malden, MA (etc.): Blackwell.

Weclawowicz, G. (2005) Poland. In: R. van Kempen, M. Vermeulen & A. Baan (eds.), Urban issues and urban policies in the new EU countries, pp. 61-77. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Korcelli-Olejniczak, E. (2005) Berlin and Warsaw: in search of a new role in the European urban system, in: GaWC Research Bulletin 180 (12 pages).



A. Scott (UCLA, California)

Global city-regions


Globalization is deeply anchored in a set of privileged agglomerations of capital and labor that we shall call "global city-regions". These entities function increasingly as the basic motors of the international economy.

Among the more important of contemporary global city-regions are London, Paris, Milan, Amsterdam, Barcelona, New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and so on. Global city-regions are also springing up in less developed parts of the world, e.g. in China, Brazil, Mexico, and India. Agglomerations like these are the flagships of the "new economy" with its foundations in cognitive-cultural forms of production and work (in technology-intensive industry, services, cultural-products industries, and so on). The production complexes, social spaces, and physical form of global city-regions present many puzzling questions, both analytical and political.


Scott, A.J. (2001) Globalization and the rise of city-regions. European Planning Studies 9 (7): 813-826.

Scott, A.J. (2004) Cultural products industries and urban economic development. Prospects for growth and market contestation in global context. Urban Affairs Review 39 (4): 461-490.

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