The Political Economy of Capital Cities: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Political Economy of Capital Cities

1st Edition

By Heike Mayer, Fritz Sager, David Kaufmann, Martin Warland


182 pages | 24 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2017-09-15
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Capital cities that are not the dominant economic centers of their nations – so-called ‘secondary capital cities’ (SCCs) – tend to be overlooked in the fields of economic geography and political science. Yet, capital cities play an important role in shaping the political, economic, social and cultural identity of a nation. As the seat of power and decision-making, capital cities represent a nation’s identity not only through their symbolic architecture but also through their economies and through the ways in which they position themselves in national urban networks.

The Political Economy of Capital Cities aims to address this gap by presenting the dynamics that influence policy and economic development in four in-depth case studies examining the SCCs of Bern, Ottawa, The Hague and Washington, D.C. In contrast to traditional accounts of capital cities, this book conceptualizes the modern national capital as an innovation-driven economy influenced by national, local and regional actors. Nationally, overarching trends in the direction of outsourcing and tertiarization of the public-sector influence the fate of capital cities. Regional policymakers in all four of the highlighted cities leverage the presence of national government agencies and stimulate the economy by way of various locational policy strategies.

While accounting for their secondary status, this book illustrates how capital-city actors such as firms, national, regional and local governments, policymakers and planning practitioners are keenly aware of the unique status of their city. The conclusion provides practical recommendations for policymakers in SCCs and highlights ways in which they can help to promote economic development.


‘This is an important and unique study of four ‘secondary’ capital cities and their attempts to make their economies more dynamic in an era of increased competition between city regions. Drawing upon perspectives from political economy and economic geography, the authors provide new evidence and insights for aspirational secondary cities.’ — Professor Gavin Poynter, University of East London, UK

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

List of Figures

List of Tables

About the Authors



List of Abbreviations

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Framework for analyzing secondary capital cities

Chapter 3: Setting the scene

Chapter 4: The economic geography of secondary capital cities

Chapter 5: Locational policies in secondary capital cities

Chapter 6: Conclusion: Deal with it – ten recommendations to ensure SCCs thrive



About the Authors

Heike Mayer is a Professor of Economic Geography at the Institute of Geography and a member of the Center for Regional Economic Development at the University of Bern in Switzerland.

Fritz Sager is a Professor of Political Science at the KPM Center for Public Management at the University of Bern in Switzerland.

David Kaufmann is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the KPM Center for Public Management at the University of Bern in Switzerland.

Martin Warland was a Postdoctoral Researcher from August 2016 until January 2017 at the Institute of Geography and the Center for Regional Economic Development at the University of Bern in Switzerland.

About the Series

Regions and Cities

In today’s globalised, knowledge-driven and networked world, regions and cities have assumed heightened significance as the interconnected nodes of economic, social and cultural production, and as sites of new modes of economic governance and policy experimentation. This book series brings together incisive and critically engaged international and interdisciplinary research on this resurgence of regions and cities, and should be of interest to geographers, economists, sociologists, political scientists and cultural scholars, as well as to policy-makers involved in regional and urban development.

If you would like to discuss a potential new book for the series, please contact:

Joan Fitzgerald – – Series Editor-in-Chief, or

Natalie Tomlinson – – Routledge Commissioning Editor

For more information on the Regional Studies Association, visit


Did you know that as a Regional Studies Association member you’re entitled to a 30% discount on all Routledge books? To order, simply email Emilia Falcone (, or phone on +44 (0) 207 017 6364 and declare your RSA membership.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Business Development
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Sustainable Development