The City and the World

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What role do cities play in the emerging global legal order? Over the past two decades cities have become objects of international and transnational regulation, and they have also begun enforcing international legal norms and standards. This transformation is part of an emerging global order that reconfigures cities and utilizes them in order to advance various, often conflicting ideological and political commitments. While there is a burgeoning body of literature on the globalization of cities, that literature has ignored the legal dimension of this phenomenon. This Article fills that gap and shows how “local” law impacts on “global” change. And while there is a growing body of literature dealing with the rise of non-state actors in international law and politics, that literature has overlooked the emergence of cities as independent agents. Drawing on examples from across the globe, the Article demonstrates that cities are gaining independent status and are functioning as vessels through which world norms reach individuals and communities. An important implication of the analysis is that we should recognize cities’ singular role as normative mediators between the world and the state. This function of cities is crucial because of their special characteristics as democratically organized communities in which place is not only imagined, but lived.