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Global city Sydney

Highlights•The global city thesis diverts scholarly research and policy making away from critical urban problems facing the city.•Urban crisis includes not enough jobs or pay, limited local autonomy, poor public transit, unaffordable housing, and inaction on climate change.•Narrow set of policy initiatives framed that don’t actually address the scale of the problems facing the global city.•The global city narrative has become an obstacle to fixing the city.AbstractSydney has emerged as a major global city in the 21st century. We review the “global city thesis”, which dominates urban scholarship and practice, and ask whether it adequately captures the Sydney experience. Although the global city thesis is a useful analytical construct for policy makers and scholars, we argue that it does not adequately chart Sydney’s rise as a leading global city and its current problems. The global city thesis ignores the political institutions and processes that shape and direct the global city. The City of Sydney is a small area of the city-region, accounting for only about four percent of the metropolis. Sydney lacks a metropolitan or regional government and has few regional collaborative processes or platforms. Instead the global city strategy of Sydney is shaped and directed by the New South Wales state government. This is contrary to the political decentralisation and devolution trends heralded by international actors such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.Sydney also illustrates the dilemma of global cities in that those members at the top of the knowledge economy are highly rewarded and those in the middle and lower strata face difficulty maintaining or improving their situations. Local governments lack the capacity to act independently and the state and federal governments are unwilling to address serious urban problems associated with globalisation, such as public transit or housing. Given the governments' embrace of neoliberalism, the global city vision advanced by leaders is threatened. There is little concrete policy offered by any level of government to address the crisis.

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