Cities for nations? Examining the city–nation–state relation in Information Age Malaysia


Accounts of new forms of society and economy supported by advances in information and communications technology have both identified and fostered a belief in the growing importance of cities and urban–regions. Cities, indeed, would appear to be replacing nation–states as the dominant unit of economic organization and social identification. Yet conceptualizations in the existing literature are derived from a small number of supposedly paradigmatic urban cases. This article argues that urban and regional studies should be attentive to a diversity which is perhaps lost in the universalizing epochal phrase ‘Information Age’. The on–going development of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), a high–tech urban expansion of the Malaysian national capital, Kuala Lumpur, is used as a case study to (re)examine city–nation–state relations. Rather than presuming a substitution of ‘cities for nations’, the article identifies dimensions of reworked mutuality between the MSC city–region and the Malaysian nation–state. MSC urban development is shown to be: (1) an expression of re–scaled central (federal) state power; (2) a ‘national node’ for plugging Malaysia into the global information society; and (3) an exemplary space of high–tech Malaysian nationalism. These traits may have resonances elsewhere. However, the intention here is not to posit a set of generalized new city–nation–state mutualities, but rather to highlight the importance of exploration through specific urban–national cases.