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Understanding Cities and Regions Essay

Understanding cities and regions is a significantly complicate and confusing task. This process enables individuals and government agencies to effectively plan for resource distribution and management of regions.

A city refers to an entity that occupies space or an element in a network of urban centres. On the other hand, a region entails an intermediary entity that occupies a position in the continuum of a country and a city (Frey 2007, p. 112).

In this regard, the distinction of the two entities involves the analysis of spatial and temporal comparisons, structural change, design and the implementation of policies. Sometimes, disagreements arise regarding when the categorising of a city as a region and vice versa.

Similarly, cities and regions share multiple traits. These include their representation of an open system with respect to trade, factor mobility, and government transfers (Short 1996, p. 424).

Nevertheless, a detail analysis of the two economic entities will depict the fundamental difference that supersedes the mere analysis concerning the dimensions of the area or population.

From the inception of the concept of urbanisation, several elements of an urban area have been considered in evaluating the components of a city.

Classically, cities were considered urban areas that exhibited economical, social, and political influences on people. In this regard, various theories attempt to explain the origin and development of urban areas.

The theories that have clearly elicited how urban areas originated in the past include hydraulic, economic, military, and religious theories (Parr 2008, p. 3012). All these theories identify the need of populations’ confederation.

The theories have similar primary characteristics concerning size, specialisation of labour, class-structured society and state organisation. Notably, the population, environment, technology, and social organisation influenced the emergence of urban areas.

Overtime, the rating of the urban areas with the focus on industrial production underwent considerable transformations. At the same time, industrial capitalism input a crucial element in the industrial cities’ definition.

During this transition period, the urban areas were segregated to accommodate the needs of all individuals as per their classes.

Quartering such as luxury areas, gentrified city, suburban, tenement, and abandon cities existed. All these quarters catered for the needs of the mighty and the poor in the society.

After the industrial period, the urban areas transformed to the postmodern cities. In this regard, the adoption of restructuring in the economic, social, and political segments was necessary.

The restructuring of the economic base in the urban areas involved a fundamental change in the organisation and technology of the industrial production.

Consequently, it led to the formation of a global system of world cities through the spatial division of labour and specialisation (Clapp 1971, p. 128). Similarly, a change in social structure was witness because of the social fragmentation created by the wide gap between the rich and the poor.

Nevertheless, there was an increase in the radical restructuring of the urban forms like megacity, metroplex, technoburb, technopolis, and exopolis to accommodate the change in the urban imagery. Historically, the imagery of the cities influenced the urban areas’ rating.

In this regard, myths and ideologies were developed to describe the exact nature of urban areas (Hufschmidt 1969, p.88). The common anti-urban myths included unnatural, anonymous, sin, or treat cities. The pro-urban views included the civilized, soft, free, or radical cities.

Progressively, urban ideologies emerged which help to characterise the nature of a city as a wannabee world, clean and green or ‘look! No more factories’ city. At that time, cities were categorised with regard to the cost of living, employment and crime rates, arts and climate.

Evidently, multiple means of evaluating cities have been formulated. Additionally, presently, competition is no longer regional or national, but globally. Therefore, In this regard, it is crucial for any city to identify its market niche and create a favourable image.

Apparently, the region definition has been the main area of interest in distinguishing between regions and cities. Analytically, regions cut across the various approaches of interest like economics, geography, planning, politics, and sociology.

Thus, regions focus on the economic, social, political, cultural, and ecological changes (Pike 2007, p. 1145). Evidently, regions exhibit contemporary controversies about space, place, and scale.

As a result, researchers have embarked on studies to establish the standards of analysis and evidence of regions.

Notably, most researchers agree that regions should be categorised depending on the data specification, collection, and analysis in more open, unbound, and discontinuous spatial units other than the space, place, and scale.

The role of governance, policy, and politics in the regional level is essential in the definition of a region. The emergent forms of governance regarding participatory and democratic leadership with new geographies of devolution and multi-layering clearly depicts the definition of a region.

Similarly, the use of regions to shape, develop, and deliver policies determine their definition (Stiftel 2005, p. 220). Additionally, power relations are critical in evaluating regions’ interests and development.

This implies that the initiative of contesting demands the collective provision and interpretation of governance of regional firm networks.

Therefore, it is crucial to realise that regions have more importance to contesters as they promote the emergence of spatial imaginaries at the city-region and local levels.

Consequently, the main requirement of regional studies is to reflect on the need to articulate the normative content and intent of people’s work towards sustainable development at the local and regional levels.

In defining regions, it is critical to adopt the Meyer’s classification of economies approach. This approach defines regions with respect to spatial differentiation. In this regard, there are the homogeneous, nodal, and programming regions (Salet 2003, p. 125).

The homogeneous approach reflects on the regions that exhibit differentiating factors, but similar uniform terms of a certain criteria. This approach’s use has been significant with the analysis of economic activities.

The nodal regions adopt the fact that there are nodes or market areas within the surrounding of the suburban areas that supply the nodes.

Additionally, the government’s implementations of policies that create differentiating factors influence the programming regions. All these forms the influencing factors of a region explain the exact nature of a region.

The process of contrasting regions and cities demands the analysis of regions space, scale, and social factors. Initially, the first contrast entails the definition of cities or regions with regard to the spatial-sectored factors, interaction between zones, external interaction or scale and change.

The spatial-sectored structures refer the combination of the urban area (C zone) and the hinterland or surrounding regions (S zone). The interaction between zones entails how the C zone and S zone symbiotically relate with respect to their economic interdependence (Pacione 2005, p. 44).

The external interactions depict how two different zones interact without losing their sight to the external economic relations.

Similarly, scale and change portray the extensiveness of an area and the frequency of changes in such regions. In this regard, adequate attention on the spatial structure and the change emerging due to evolution is vital.

Another contrasting element of the types of regions is the polycentric urban region (PUR). This component entails the spatial structure, patterns of interaction and economic prospects of PUR.

The spatial structure entails the grouping of urban areas that meet certain conditions such as the clustered distribution of urban areas, maximum and minimum spacing, lack of direct relationship between centres and any dominance, and the average level of interaction between centres.

The patterns of interaction entail the labour-market interaction between centres. The economic prospects refer to the formation of a metropolitan area without its accompanying disadvantages. This fosters the efficient delivery of services and the adoption of appropriate system of governance.

There are other ways of identifying PUR. These include the alternative interpretation of regions and polycentric megacity region (Stilwell 1992, p. 128). This enables the identification and distinction of cities and regions.


Clapp, J. A. (1971). New towns and urban policy; planning metropolitan growth. Dunellen: New York.

Frey, H., & Yaneske, P. (2007). Visions of sustainability: cities and regions. Taylor &Francis: London.

Hufschmidt, M. M. (1969). Regional planning; challenge and prospects. Praeger: New York.

Pacione, M. (2005). 3. Urban geography : global perspective (pp. 22-57). Routledge: New York, NY.

Parr, J. B. (2008). Cities and regions: problems and potentials. Environment and Planning, 40, 3009-3026.

Pike, A. (2007). Editorial: Whither Regional Studies?. Centre for Urban and RegionalDevelopment Studies (CURDS), 41(9), 1143-1148.

Salet, W. G. (2003). Metropolitan governance and spatial planning: comparative case studies of European city-regions. Spon Press: London.

Short, J. R. (1996). 18. The urban order : an introduction to cities, culture, and power (pp. 414-438). Blackwell Publishers: Cambridge, Mass., USA.

Stiftel, B., & Watson, V. (2005). Dialogues in urban and regional planning. Routledge: London.

Stilwell, F. J. (1992). Understanding cities & regions: spatial political economy. Pluto Press Australia: Leichhardt, NSW.

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