When political, economic and cultural power agglomerates in one place, it can act as an incapacitator and a means of reducing potential for certain kinds of creativity. This is because power battles can drown out the ability to innovate, as can high property prices, which make it difficult for people to get on to the first ladder of opportunity. The existing mainstream will be powerful in whatever sphere and will tend to encourage a creativity it can nurture and control and that feels tried and tested. The media is also, perhaps, too attentive, endangering the fragile equilibrium of innovation. On the other hand, in such power centres some of the newest ideas will be found in the largest museums, galleries, shopping centres, entertainment centres, universities and company headquarters, because the power brokers and the ambitious will feel it is their right to have them there. These in turn attract the most aspiring, successful and wealthy people, thereby sucking in the talent from surrounding areas and draining the identity and potential of those places. Crucially, capital cities have the greatest capacity to insert themselves into global arenas, most obviously initially through political structures like embassies, trade missions and other representative structures. When allied to the city's economic and foreign policy it is a potent mix.
Once launched, the agglomeration of resources, talent and power accelerates and reaches a critical mass, which makes it difficult for other cities to break in, especially in smaller countries, where the core city might have 25 per cent of the population. Once a tipping point is reached whereby a city gets its dominant position, this tends to escalate. Seoul, for example, has just over 20 per cent of South Korea's population and to a large extent determines the global identity of the nation. This makes it doubly difficult for Busan, Daegu, Inchon and Gwangju, let alone Jeonju or Pyeongtaek, to insert themselves into international circuits and gain recognition. Nationally and regionally they may be significant, but if international recognition is important, something unique yet internationally recognized or a strong niche area is vital.
Was this article helpful?