Gerald W. Fry is Assistant Director of the International Studies Program at the University of Oregon.
Despite Bangkok's modernization, it also retains traditional images. Sternstein in conducting research on Bangkok's image, found that Wat Phra Keo was the most common image among Thais interviewed.6 This is Thailand's most sacred Buddhist temple, which houses the Emerald Buddha, the holiest image in the country. While Bangkok is both symbolic of Thailand's dynamic economic expansion during the past several decades and its rich cultural history, its role as a classic primate city also presents crucial policy problems. Unfortunately, many urbanization studies are merely descriptive, ignoring an analytical discussion of important policy issues.7 In this article, empirical evidence is presented to show the extent and nature of Bangkok's dominance as a hyperurbanized primate city. Then key policy issues and future directions are considered from a political economy perspective. The Concept of the Primate City
As background, it may be useful to discuss briefly the evolution of the concept of the primate city and previous related research.8 The concept of urban centrality has attracted the attention of many prominent world scholars. In the early 1800s, German writers were already directing attention to the organization of space by society.9 Then in the 1900s, German geographers introduced the concept of central place theory, which has influenced much subsequent research related to urbanization.10 In more recent years, major contemporary thinkers such as Arnold Toynbee and Barbara Ward have also directed their attention to urbanization. 11 Toynbee, in discussing "cities on the move", worries about mechanized cities which he feels are noisy, dirty, and soulless.12 Ward describes "monster cities" defiled by environmental deterioration and technological hammers.13 In fact, many intellectuals have revolted against the city and its "corrupt cultural influences."14 Radical thinkers such as Harvey and Lefebvre see the modem city as reflecting exploitative parasitic relationships typical of the larger society.15 Harvey also makes the important distinction between the city as a built form and urbanism as a way of life. Harvey's distinction is particularly important in...