Sassen, Saskia 1949–

views updated

Sassen, Saskia 1949–


Full name, Saskia Sassen van Elsloo; born January 5, 1949, in The Hague, Netherlands; daughter of W. (in international business) and M. Sassen van Elsloo; married Daniel Koob (divorced, 1980); married Richard Sennett (a writer and professor), October, 1987; children: (first marriage) Hilary (son). Education: Université de Poitiers, Maitrise, 1974; University of Notre Dame, Ph.D., 1974; postdoctoral study at Harvard University, 1974-75. Hobbies and other interests: Music, art, politics.


Office—Department of Sociology Columbia University, New York, NY 10027. E-mail—[email protected]


City University of New York, New York, NY, assistant professor, 1976-80, associate professor, 1980-85, professor, 1985—; Columbia University, New York, NY, professor of urban planning, 1985-98, department head, 1987-91, Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology, 2007—; University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, Ralph Lewis Professor of Sociology, 1993-97. London School of Economics and Social Policy, London, England, Centennial Visiting Professor; consultant to the United Nations and to private foundations and government agencies.


American Sociological Association, American Political Science Association, American Collegiate Schools of Planning.


Fellow of World Economic Forum and member of Council on Foreign Relations, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS); Ford Foundation fellow; Russell Sage Foundation fellow; Revson Foundation fellow.


Exporting Capital and Importing Labor: The Role of Caribbean Migration to New York City, New York University (New York, NY), 1981.

The Mobility of Labor and Capital, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1988.

The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1991, 2nd edition, 2001.

Cities in a World Economy, Sage Publications (Beverly Hills, CA), 1994, 3rd edition, Pine Forge Press (Thousand Oaks, CA), 2006.

Losing Control? Sovereignty in an Age of Globalization, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1996.

Migranten, Siedler, Fluchtlinge in Europa, Fischer Verlag (Frankfurt, Germany), 1996.

The De-facto Transnationalizing of Immigration Policy, Robert Schuman Centre at the European University Istitute (Florence, Italy), 1996.

Globalization and Its Discontents: Essays on the New Mobility of People and Money, New Press (New York, NY), 1998.

Guests and Aliens, New Press (New York, NY), 1999.

(Editor) Global Networks, Linked Cities, Routledge (New York, NY), 2002.

(With others) Las ciudades latinoamericanas en el nuevo (des)orden mundial, Siglo XXI, 2004.

(Editor, with Robert Latham) Digital Formations: IT and New Architectures in the Global Realm, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2005.

A Sociology of Globalization, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2006.

Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2006.

(Editor) Deciphering the Global: Its Scales, Spaces, and Subjects, Routledge (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to professional journals. Many of Sassen's works have been translated into other languages.


Saskia Sassen is a leading scholar of globalization. Much of her writing focuses on the migration of labor and the sociology of cities. In The Mobility of Labor and Capital she argues that foreign investment in poor countries, contrary to established belief, can increase rates of emigration from those areas. In The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo she shows that the global economy is structured around key economic sectors, such as finance, that are located in mega-metropolises to which workers in these sectors flock to find jobs. Sassen's collection Globalization and Its Discontents: Essays on the New Mobility of People and Money explores topics such as the socioeconomic imperatives behind immigration; the effects on the domestic economy as high numbers of immigrant women take low-wage jobs; the role of informal economies, such as home repair work and sidewalk vendors; and the erosion of the national government's power to influence global economic dynamics. According to John Langmore in his Christian Century review, the book "is valuable not only because it discusses several important but neglected or even concealed issues, but also because it is written with compassion and a concern for equity." Social Forces contributor Robert Schaeffer appreciated Sassens's thesis that the driving force behind migration is not poverty or overpopulation, but the rapid expansion of foreign investment and transnational industry, which creates a huge demand for workers in global cities. The critic noted that this thesis does not appear to work in all cases, however, citing the fact that Japanese and European investment in the United States has not resulted in U.S. immigration to those regions.

In Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages, which Political Science Quarterly contributor Paul Kantor deemed a "magisterial work of enormous scope and penetrating analysis," Sassen examines the complex socioeconomic changes that have contributed to globalization. She takes a systemic historical perspective, analyzing patterns of social and economic development that occurred during the Middle Ages, the early eighteenth century, and the period after World War II to explain the development of new systems such as corporations, international finance, and urbanization. Sassen shows that globalization has emerged in the wake of major changes in politics, trade, law, and citizen's rights. In the United States, for example, the pressure of international competition has resulted in diminished power for Congress and increased power for the executive branch. As Sassen explained to Guardian interviewer John Sutherland, "we citizens in liberal democracies are losing rights as part of the current transformation—even as we also gain rights through the human rights regime." Among such losses, said Sassen, is the right to start class action suits.

Discussing globalization with Crain's Chicago Business writer Sarah A. Klein, Sassen observed that policymakers "need to find ways of addressing the sharp distortions that markets can bring about—for instance, in housing prices—without destroying the dynamism of global cities. Any major real estate developer [for example] could be required to add to the low-income housing supply."



Christian Century, March 17, 1999, John Langmore, review of Globalization and Its Discontents: Essays on the New Mobility of People and Money, p. 320.

Crain's Chicago Business, August 28, 2006, Sarah A. Klein, "Localizing the Global: Where Chicago Fits; the View from a Globalization Rock Star," p. 24.

Guardian, July 4, 2006, John Sutherland, interview with Saskia Sassen.

Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, July, 2002, Paul Statham, review of Guests and Aliens, p. 570.

Journal of Interdisciplinary History, autumn, 2002, John Torpey, "Mobility and Modernity: Migration to Germany, 1820-1989," p. 81.

Perspectives on Political Science, summer, 2007, George F. Botjer, review of Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages, p. 184.

Political Science Quarterly, spring, 2007, Paul Kantor, review of Territory, Authority, Rights, p. 186.

Publishers Weekly, January 26, 1998, review of Globalization and Its Discontents, p. 79; May 24, 1999, review of Guests and Aliens, p. 53.

Reference & Research Book News, February, 2007, review of Cities in a World Economy; November, 2007, review of A Sociology of Globalization.

Social Forces, March, 1999, Robert Schaeffer, review of Globalization and Its Discontents, p. 1197.

Social Science Quarterly, September, 2002, John P. Tuman, review of Globalization and Its Discontents, p. 895.


Columbia University Department of Sociology Web site, (April 4, 2008), Saskia Sassen faculty profile.