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Varieties of Capital Cities

The Competitiveness Challenge for Secondary Capitals

David Kaufmann

The political and symbolic centrality of capital cities has been challenged by increasing economic globalization. This is especially true of secondary capital cities; capital cities which, while being the seat of national political power, are not the primary economic city of their nation state. David Kaufmann examines the unique challenges that these cities face entering globalised, inter-urban competition while not possessing a competitive political economy.
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Chapter 4: Bern: the government city

David Kaufmann


In general, the status of Bern as the federal city of Switzerland does not come with considerable benefits and the federal government is rather indifferent towards its capital city. The locational policies agenda of Bern is closely aligned to the capital city function without many economic-oriented locational policies. Thus, Bern is indeed a government city. The city of Bern’s locational policies agenda is geared towards maximizing tax revenue and is dominated by three main topics. First, cluster policies in highly regulated and knowledge-intensive economic sectors are formulated. However, compared to the other three secondary capital cities under scrutiny, innovation policies are rather rare in Bern. Second, Bern concentrates on improving the city’s quality of life by protecting green spaces, preserving its old town, organizing cultural activities, and ensuring educational opportunities. Third, Bern positions itself as the Swiss political center and thereby differentiates itself from the Swiss metropolitan powerhouses.

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