9: Conclusion: Advancing the Secondary City Perspective

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The varied contributions to this book confirm the value of employing a relational analysis to understand the conditions and prospects of secondary cities across a wide range of urban contexts. While a welcome and growing body of research has moved beyond ‘global winners’ to focus on ‘small cities’, ‘shrinking cities’ and ‘legacy cities’, it is essential to highlight the connections between different cities if we are to avoid an overly fragmented accounting of contemporary urban conditions. In Ward’s (2010: 477) terms, following Tilly (1984), this work constitutes a form of ‘individualizing comparison’ focused on exploring the relationship between ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ cities within the context of post-crisis urban redevelopment in the Global North. In line with Massey’s (2007) insights (and, we hope, avoiding the essentializing tendencies that Ward (2010) critiques), we suggest that taking a relational approach to this investigation of multiple cases can help us to see how the ‘failings’, struggles and policy dilemmas faced by secondary cities are often intimately tied to the ‘successes’ of larger, dominant cities. Such cities have often been construed (especially in the US) as ‘left-behind’ places (Hendrickson et al, 2018) that should look to superstar cities to identify their own paths forward. Conversely, more dynamic secondary cities have at times been celebrated for their niche identities and associated economic success. Counter to this kind of decontextualized emphasis on the policy choices and internal strengths or shortcomings of particular secondary cities, the approach taken here highlights instead the extent to which the trajectories of these cities need to be understood as already reflecting a history of interactions with their more dominant neighbours.

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