A Companion to Economic
University of Minnesota
Trevor J. Barnes
University of British Columbia
A Companion to Economic
Here is an exemplary `Companion' or guide to contemporary economic geography:
a set of exciting, provocative, sometimes polemical and passionate, but always
informative essays on the major debates and issues of the day in Anglo-American
economic geography. . . . [It] not only looks backward, to established theories and
frameworks, but also forward, to the emerging global economy and the new
approaches needed to understand its dynamics. The total effect is of a melange of
lively, piercing, and surprising perspectives on a field that far from constituting the
geographical branch of the `dismal science' seems at the centre of contemporary
debates about the condition of the world and its likely directions in the years ahead.
John A. Agnew, University of California, Los Angeles
By taking seriously the historical methodological, and theoretical contexts of the
subfields of and approaches to economic geography, the authors are freed from a
need to praise or lambaste specific approaches. Rather, the reader gains appreciation
for how the strengths and limitations of subfields and approaches grow from their
purposes and contexts. . . . This volume is indispensable for upper-level undergraduates, entering graduate students, and those of us who try to inspire them.
James W. Harrington, University of Washington
A Companion to Economic Geography is a masterly canvas. . . . The editors have an
eclectic view of the `economic' and engaging commitment to broad theoretical
debates and continuing innovation, and its varied contributions stimulate, provoke
and instruct in equal measure. Its range and the engaging and accessible style makes
the Companion an ideal set of readings for students of geography and all those in
related disciplines interested in the changing nature of economic processes.
Linda McDowell, University College London
Blackwell Companions to Geography
Blackwell Companions to Geography is a blue chip, comprehensive series covering
each major subdiscipline of human geography in detail. Edited and contributed
by the disciplines’ leading authorities each book provides the most up to date
and authoritative syntheses available in its field. The overviews provided in each
Companion will be an indispensable introduction to the field for students of all
levels, while the cutting edge, critical direction will engage students, teachers
and practitioners alike.
1. A Companion to the City
Edited by Gary Bridge and Sophie Watson
2. A Companion to Economic Geography
Edited by Eric Sheppard and Trevor J. Barnes
3. A Companion to Political Geography
Edited by John Agnew, Katharyne Mitchell, and Gerard Toal (Gearóid Ó
4. A Companion to Cultural Geography
Edited by James S. Duncan, Nuala C. Johnson and Richard H. Schein
5. A Companion to Tourism
Edited by Alan A. Lew, C. Michael Hall and Allan M. Williams
6. A Companion to Feminist Geography
Edited by Lise Nelson and Joni Seager
8. Handbook to GIS
Edited by John Wilson and Stewart Fotheringham
A Companion to Economic
University of Minnesota
Trevor J. Barnes
University of British Columbia
Eric Sheppard would like to dedicate this book to the many undergraduates over the
past twenty years in his Geography of the World Economy course, and the graduate
students who took the pro-seminar The State, The Economy and Spatial Development, as well as the various research seminars in economic geography offered over
the years. Trevor Barnes would like to dedicate this book to the hundreds of students
at the University of British Columbia who have taken some version of his course,
Introduction to Economic Geography. We have learnt much more from the students
than we ever taught them.
Figures and Tables
Introduction: The Art of Economic Geography
Trevor J. Barnes and Eric Sheppard
PART I WORLDS OF ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
2 Inventing Anglo-American Economic Geography, 1889±1960
Trevor J. Barnes
The Modeling Tradition
Paul S. Plummer
The Marxian Alternative: Historical±Geographical Materialism and
the Political Economy of Capitalism
Feminism and Economic Geography: Gendering Work and Working
Ann M. Oberhauser
Institutional Approaches in Economic Geography
J. K. Gibson-Graham
PART II REALMS OF PRODUCTION
8 The Geography of Production
Richard A. Walker
Places of Work
Competition in Space and between Places
Urban and Regional Growth
Geography and Technological Change
David L. Rigby
PART III RESOURCE WORLDS
Dean M. Hanink
The Production of Nature
Single Industry Resource Towns
PART IV SOCIAL WORLDS
19 Family, Work and Consumption: Mapping the Borderlands of
Concepts of Class in Contemporary Economic Geography
Labor Unions and Economic Geography
State and Governance
Creating the Corporate World: Strategy and Culture, Time and Space
Networks of Ethnicity
PART V SPACES OF CIRCULATION
25 The Economic Geography of Global Trade
Money and Finance
The Political Economy of International Labor Migration
Transportation: Hooked on Speed, Eyeing Sustainability
Telecommunications and Economic Space
International Political Economy
Ash Amin is Professor of Geography at Durham University. He has edited PostFordism: A Reader; Globalisation, Institutions and Regional Development (with
Nigel Thrift); Behind the Myth of European Union (with John Tomaney); and
Beyond Market and Hierarchy: Social Complexity and Interactive Governance
(with Jerzy Hausner). He writes on regional development, cities, and democracy.
Trevor Barnes is Professor of Geography at the University of British Columbia. He is
the author of Logics of Dislocation, and co-editor with Meric Gertler of The New
Industrial Geography. His most recent research is on the history of geography's
Noel Castree is Reader in Geography at Manchester University. Co-editor of
Remaking Reality: Nature at the Millennium and Social Nature: Theory, Practice
and Politics, his main interests are in social theory approaches to environment and,
more specifically, the greening of political economy.
J. K. Gibson-Graham is the pen name of Katherine Gibson, Professor of Human
Geography in the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the Australian
National University, and Julie Graham, Professor of Geography at the University of
Massachussetts, Amherst. JKGG is the author of The End of Capitalism (as we knew
it): a feminist critique of political economy (Blackwell, 1996), and the co-editor of
Class and its Others (Minnesota, 2000) and Re/Presenting Class (Duke, 2001).
Richard Grant is an Associate Professor at the University of Miami, Florida. He
is editor of The Global Crisis in Foreign Aid (with Jan Nijman), as well as numerous articles on trade and economic globalization in the periphery of the world
Nicky Gregson is Reader in Geography at the University of Sheffield. She is the
author of Servicing the Middle Classes (with Michelle Lowe) and one of the WGSG
collective responsible for Feminist Geographies, and has published numerous articles on both gender and consumption.
Dean M. Hanink is Professor and Head of Geography at the University of Connecticut. He is the author of The International Economy: A Geographical Perspective
and Principles and Applications of Economic Geography. He has also written
several articles on topics relating to environment and economic geography.
Susan Hanson is Professor of Geography at Clark University. She is the author of
Gender, Work, and Space (with Geraldine Pratt) and editor of The Geography of
Urban Transportation; in addition, she has written many articles on gender and
urban labor markets and on urban transportation.
Roger Hayter is Professor of Geography at Simon Fraser University. He is the author
of Dynamics of Industrial Location: The factory, the firm and the production
system, as well as numerous articles on industrial geography and British Columbia's
Andy Herod is Associate Professor of Geography at the University of Georgia. He is
the editor of Organizing the Landscape: Geographical Perspectives on Labor
Unionism (1998) and, with Gearoid O Tuathail and Susan Roberts, of An Unruly
World? Globalization, Governance and Geography (1998). His research seeks to
understand how workers and their organizations shape, and are shaped by, the
geography of capitalism.
Helga Leitner is Professor of Geography at the University of Minnesota. She has
written numerous articles and book chapters on the politics of immigration and
citizenship, immigrant incorporation, and local economic development. Her current
research interests are in geographies of governance and citizenship.
Andrew Leyshon is Professor of Economic and Social Geography at the University of
Nottingham. He is the co-author of Money/Space (with Nigel Thrift) and co-editor
of The Place of Music (with David Matless and George Revill). He is currently
undertaking research on competitiveness in financial services, alternative systems of
exchange, and the geographies of music technology.
Ron Martin is Professor of Economic Geography at the University of Cambridge. He
has published numerous books, including The Geography of Deindustrialization,
Money, Power, and Space (with S. Corbridge and N. Thrift), Unemployment and
Social Exclusion (with P. Lawless and S. Hardy), Money and the Space Economy,
and The Economic Geography Reader (with J. Bryson, N. Henry, and D. Keeble).
He has also published more than 130 articles on the geography of labor markets, the
geography of money, and regional political economy.
Katharyne Mitchell is an Associate Professor of Geography at the University of
Washington. She has written Transnationalism and the Politics of Space (forthcoming) and numerous articles on migration, diaspora, and ethnicity.
Ann M. Oberhauser is an Associate Professor of Geography at West Virginia University. She has written numerous publications on economic restructuring and
regional development in France, South Africa, and the United States. Her current
research focuses on comparative analyses of gender and rural economic networks in
Appalachia and southern Africa.
Brian Page is Associate Professor of Geography at the University of Colorado at
Denver. He is the author of numerous articles on US agriculture, the meat packing
industry, and historical regional development in the Midwest.
Joe Painter is Lecturer in Geography at the University of Durham. He is the author
of Politics, Geography and ``Political Geography'': A Critical Perspective, and of
numerous articles and book chapters on the geographies of regulation, governance,
citizenship, and democracy.
Jamie Peck is Professor of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. An
editor of Antipode and Environment and Planning A, he has research interests in
labor geography, urban political economy, and economic regulation. He is the
author of Workfare States and Work-Place: The Social Regulation of Labor Markets.
Paul Plummer is senior lecturer at the School of Geographical Sciences, University of
Bristol. He has published research on the foundations of analytical political economy, competing theories of spatial competition, and the dynamics of regional
growth and economic restructuring.
David Rigby is a Professor of Geography at the University of California, Los
Angeles. His research interests focus on evolutionary economic models of competition, technological change, and regional growth. He is co-author, with Michael
Webber, of The Golden Age Illusion: Rethinking Postwar Capitalism.
David Sadler is Reader in Geography at the University of Durham. He is author of
The Global Region: Production, state policies and uneven development, co-author
of Approaching Human Geography: An Introduction to Contemporary Theoretical
Debates and Europe at the Margins: New Mosaics of Inequality, and editor of the
journal European Urban and Regional Studies.
Erica Schoenberger is Professor of Geography at the Johns Hopkins University, with
a joint appointment in anthropology. She is the author of The Cultural Crisis of the
Firm and focuses her research on problems of industrial, technological, and social
change, corporate culture and strategy, and the behavior of multinational corporations. She has an Australian Shepherd named Sasha.
Eric Sheppard is Professor of Geography at the University of Minnesota. He is the
author of The Capitalist Space Economy (with Trevor Barnes) and A World of
Difference (with Philip Porter), as well as numerous articles on regional political
Peter Sunley is Senior Lecturer in Geography at the University of Edinburgh. He is
author of Union Retreat and the Regions (with Ron Martin and Jane Wills). He has
also published articles on geographies of labor and labor policy, and contributed to
theoretical debates in economic geography.
Dr. Erik Swyngedouw is University Reader in Economic Geography at Oxford
University and Fellow of St. Peter's College. He is also Associate Fellow of the
Environmental Change Unit at Oxford University. He is co-editor of, among others,
The Urbanisation of Injustice (with A. Merrifield) and Towards Global Localisation
(with P. Cooke and others). He published numerous articles on the political economy
of space, urban and regional development, and on political ecology.
Richard A. Walker is Professor of Geography, University of California, Berkeley. He
is co-author of The Capitalist Imperative (with Michael Storper), The New Social
Economy (with Andrew Sayer), and many articles on economic geography, urbanization, and California.
Barney Warf (PhD 1985, University of Washington) is Professor and Chair of
Geography at Florida State University, Tallahassee. His research and teaching interests lie within the broad domain of regional development, straddling contemporary
political economy and social theory on the one hand and traditional quantitative,
empirical approaches on the other, particularly concerning producer services and
Michael Watts is the Chancellor's Professor of Geography and the Director of the
Institute of International Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, where he
has taught for more than twenty years. He has written extensively on the political
economy of development, on agrofood systems, and on cultural theory, and has
worked in West Africa, California, and Vietnam.
Michael Webber is Professor of Geography at the University of Melbourne. He is the
author of The Golden Age Illusion (with David Rigby) and of Global Restructuring:
The Australian Experience (with Bob Fagan), as well as numerous other books and
articles on economic restructuring and the evolution of the global economy.
Figures and Tables
Monotonic convergence in a simple linear model
The qualitative properties of nonlinear systems
The top ten occupations of employed women in the USA, 1997 64
Industrial districts in Italy
Long waves of economic activity
The product cycle
The logistic diffusion curve
An upward demand shift
A supply shift to the right
Internet hosts per 100,000 persons, January 1998
The problematic of international political economy
Labor force participation rates by gender and race, 1950±1995
Alternative approaches to institutional analysis and their
application in economic geography
Ideal-typical forms of work organization in Fordist and
after-Fordist labor markets
The regional distribution and sectoral specialization of
localities (communes) with industrial districts in Italy
Typology of industrial districts with respect to innovative
World proven crude oil reserves by region, 1975, 1985,
World crude oil production, refining, and consumption by
Roles of the qualitative state in a modern economy
Four types of capitalism
Welfare structures and workfare strategies
FIGURES AND TABLES
Composition of world trade, 1965±96
Growth in trade
Openness ratios, 1965, 1980, and 1997
Pervasiveness of different types of NTBs
A partial ranking of corruption around the world, 1998
Geographies of money and finance
Eric Sheppard is deeply grateful to John Davey, who originally suggested the idea to
him of a Companion to Economic Geography. Many students and colleagues have
helped him understand economic geography better. It is hard to single out individuals, but he would particularly like to acknowledge (in no particular order) the
influence of David, Dick, Les, Ros, Allen, Trevor, Phil, Gordon, Julie, Meric, Paul,
Jim, Yu, Claire, Padraig, Byron, Bill, Dmitri, Mary, Andrea, Abdi, Lucky, Michael,
Franz, Herwig, Helga, Chris, Francis, Bongman, and Yeong-ki. Trevor Barnes would
like to thank the Canada±US Fulbright Program for awarding him a fellowship for
1997±1998 during which period this book was begun. He would also like to thank
the Department of Geography, University of Minnesota, for providing him with such
a conducive physical and intellectual environment during that same year.
We both would like to acknowledge the support and dedication of staff at Blackwell Publishers, particularly Jill Landeryou, Sarah Falkus, and Joanna Pyke, without
whom this book would not have been finished. We would also like to thank Andrew
Murphy for assiduously compiling the index. We thank Private Eye for permission
to reproduce figure 9.1.
Introduction: The Art of
Trevor J. Barnes and Eric Sheppard
How do you turn economic geography into art? The Mexican painter, writer, and
long-time communist Diego Rivera did it between 1932 and 1933 in painting the
25 panels of the mural ``Detroit: Man and Machine'' at the Detroit Institute of Arts
(see cover). The panels tell a rich and complex economic geographical story: extracting resources from the ground, bringing together ``hands'' of workers from across the
world, using various kinds of machinery ± furnaces, stamping machines, drills,
hoists, conveyor belts ± in conjunction with the brawn of labor to manufacture
and assemble, and finally produce, the finished product, in this case a car.
The mural was paid for by Edsel Ford, son of Henry, and modeled on perhaps the
most famous factory of the twentieth century ± the Rouge complex, the Ford
automobile manufacturing plant located at Dearborn, Michigan, just outside
Detroit. The complex was first used to produce automobiles from 1913. Twenty
years later, by the time Rivera came to paint it, it was already a symbol of the
modern machine age, and more generally of the energy and might of industrial
capitalism. Operations at the Rouge complex were vertically integrated, that is, all
the different component processes of manufacture were contained within a single
site, and as a result the workforce requirements were immense. At one point 75,000
employees worked there. The ``B'' building alone was a quarter of a mile long,
containing the entire assembly-line operation on a single level (and much of the
focus of Rivera's artistic attention).
The assembly-line technique used in the ``B'' building was one of Henry Ford's
most significant innovations, and was first introduced to the plant in 1927. Workers
stood in place, and the work came to them on a conveyor belt. Once the work task
was completed, the belt moved on, making the worker, as one Ford assembly-line
employee put it, ``nothing more or less than a robot'' (quoted in Rochfort, 1987,
p. 68). There is a clear sense of that in Rivera's mural. The workers do not simply
tend the machines, but are fully integrated with them, their bodies synchronized
with the swirling, ceaseless movement of industrial manufacture at the plant.
In many ways the Ford family were an unlikely patron of Rivera. Ford senior was
vehemently anti-left, and anti-union. He once said, ``people are never so likely to be
TREVOR J. BARNES AND ERIC SHEPPARD
wrong as when they are organized.'' What Rivera and Ford shared, however, was a
fascination with machines, and the idea that the combination of ``human and
mechanical action'' could produce a ``creative power unparalleled in history'' (Rochfort, p. 67). To capture that power in paint, Rivera spent his first three months in
Detroit meticulously preparing before even picking up a paintbrush. He toured the
plant, spoke to workers and engineers, and had hundreds of photographs taken of
the different parts of the production process (see Detroit Institute of Arts, 1978).
What emerges, in spite of Rivera's communist sympathies, is a relatively uncritical
portrait of industrial capitalism at the Rouge. True, one of the workers is carrying a
partially obscured placard with the words ``We want.'' But the full placard would
have read ``We want beer,'' a popular anti-prohibition slogan at the time. In contrast,
Rivera's next mural commission, which was for another industrial mogul, John D.
Rockefeller, was more overtly political, and included Lenin as one of the onlookers.
In this case Rockefeller balked, and ordered the finished mural to be chipped off the
wall of the Rockefeller Center, New York City, where it had been painted.
For Rivera, the Rouge complex and its production of automobiles was an illustration of a broader phenomenon that he labeled a ``wave-like movement'' and found in
``water currents, electric waves, stratifications of different layers under the surface of
the earth, and in a general way throughout the continuous development of life''
(Rivera, 1934, p. 50). Economic geography as it emerges from the contributions to
this volume is a bit like this, too. The kinds of phenomena that economic geographers study ± natural resources, manufacturing, information, money ± are always
on the move, continually undergoing transformation, morphing into new forms and
identities. Of course, capturing that flux and movement is difficult. Diego Rivera did
it by painting larger-than-life stories on walls. His 25 panels are a synchronic
depiction of the economic geographical processes that produced and maintained
the industrial behemoth of 1930s Detroit. But there are clearly other means to make
that same depiction, some of which, we would argue, are found in the essays
collected here. Of course, they are not couched in a visual idiom, relying on vivid
colors or daring brush strokes, but in their own way, we contend, they are just as
Although economic geographers are not in the business of daubing paint, at least
in their professional lives, there is an art to what they do. For economic geographers
of whatever stripe face the same difficulty as Diego Rivera ± to represent on a flat
surface economic geographical events that exist ``out there.'' Rivera's medium was
paint, and his flat surface was a wall, whereas the medium of economic geographers
is writing, and their flat surface is a sheet of A4 or eight-and-a-half by eleven inch
paper. In both cases, there is a need for appropriate techniques, sensitive interpretation, enthusiasm, dedication, adequate preparation, and prior training. One of the
primary aims of this volume is to introduce you to the art of economic geography.
Economic geography has always been a mainstay within geography. But its history
as a formal university-based discipline in Anglo-America is quite short, at best a
hundred years. As a discipline it grew less out of concerns by economists to generalize and theorize, than the concerns of geographers to describe and explain the
THE ART OF ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
individual economics of different places, and their connections one to another. You
can see this in the following quote from a very early German economic geographer,
I sit at a mahogany table from Honduras. The carpet on which it stands has been manufactured at Kidderminster in England from wool brought by a sailor from the River Plate or New
South Wales. The tea in a Berlin porcelain cup came from China or Assam, the coffee from
Java, the sugar from Lower Saxony, Brazil or Cuba. I smoke Puerto Rican tobacco in my pipe
whose stem grew in Hungary, the material for its Meerschaum bowl, carved in Thuringia, was
dug in Asia Minor, the amber mouth piece came from the Baltic Sea, and the silver for the rim
from the silver mines of the Erzgebirge, Harz or perhaps from Potosi [Peru] . . .
This passage was written in 1867, but the questions it raises still resonate. Where are
things produced? Under what conditions? How is it that goods produced in one
place end up at another? By what means? And who buys them? We're not claiming
that economic geography is unaltered since 1867 ± as the first section of our volume
amply demonstrates, there have been profound changes in approach even over the
last twenty years ± but the broad kinds of questions that the discipline poses, and the
interest in the ensuing answers, persists.
These kinds of questions have also attracted various forms of interest from outside
the discipline. The state has always been interested. The beginnings of economic
geography as a discipline in the late nineteenth century were directly connected with
the belief of various European governments that knowledge of economic geography
both buttressed their colonial projects and provided their domestic business class
with a potential competitive advantage over rivals. More recently, attention has
come from other social scientists. This is new. In the past, economic geography was
the great borrower, taking ideas from others. Now, it has begun to lend. One reason
is the interest in globalization. By its very nature, globalization is an economic
geographical phenomenon, and traditional economic geographical ideas around
spaces of flows, and places of control and production, are central to its understanding. While much of economic geography's recent appeal has been to sociologists and political scientists, some economists have also discovered geography.
Perhaps the best-known example is the MIT economist Paul Krugman, who, in his
work on trade and growth, moved away from the ``wonderland of no dimensions'' to
the greater realism of at least three-dimensional Euclidean space. As he put it in
1991, ``I realized that I spent my whole professional life . . . thinking and writing
about economic geography, without being aware of it'' (Krugman, 1991, p. 1).
Admittedly, some economic geographers still wonder if he is doing economic geography (Martin, 1999), but at least it is a start.
We think, then, that there are some very good reasons to study economic geography, and to study it now. Undoubtedly this is the hubris of every generation of
economic geographers. We believe, however, that two developments over the last
twenty years ± one external to the discipline, the other internal ± make economic
geography a central body of literature and knowledge for understanding the world
at the turn of the millennium.
The first is that since the 1970s there have been some enormous changes affecting
the economy, and society more generally: deindustrialization, industrial restructuring, the rise of information technology (IT) and computerization, the feminization of
TREVOR J. BARNES AND ERIC SHEPPARD
the labor market, and globalization. Such changes beg understanding, and indeed
are already subject to much scrutiny. What emerges from that work is that in many
cases these changes are inextricably bound up with issues of space and place. We
don't mean merely that, like many processes, they take on particular geographical
forms (although there is nothing mere about that), but that space and place are
integral to the evolution of the processes themselves. In this sense, economic geographers are in exactly the right time and place to practice their art.
Consider again globalization. Arguably globalization has existed since the very
first economic geographers were writing in the late nineteenth century, and likely
well before then (certainly it is recognizable in Andree's ruminations). One aspect of
globalization that has changed, though, is the means by which it is effected. Whereas
in Andree's time it was bound up with Western European colonial policy and
bureaucracy, now its prime bearers are multinational and transnational corporations
(MNCs and TNCs). MNCs and TNCs are fundamentally economically geographical institutions. Their very definition and rationale is based on the idea of geographical differentiation: that different parts of their operations are located in different
places. As such, they are ripe for economic geographical study. Others can and
should study MNCs and TNCs, but the sensibility of economic geography is especially suited to the task and, given the role that they play in the globalization process,
is ever more germane.
To take another example, the Fordist-style manufacture that Rivera depicted in his
murals was increasingly abandoned from the 1970s onwards, and replaced by what
was called post-Fordism, or flexible specialization. That move was not only about
transforming a particular method of production ± from assembly line and Taylorism
to batch production and work teams ± but also about transforming geography.
Flexible specialization implied a set of new spatial arrangements that were part of
its very definition. Greater physical interaction and closer proximity between firms
became necessary by comparison to the more arm's-length relationship that had
characterized Fordism in order to realize the benefits of flexible specialization.
Subcontractors needed to be close to the production plant in order to respond
quickly to changed demands; R&D staff were brought in from their research facilities, sometimes thousands of kilometers away, to work more centrally in the factory
in order to consult with production staff; and workers were no longer spatially
segmented along the assembly line, but enjoyed greater interaction and collaboration in work teams. Whatever else it was, the move from Fordism to flexible
specialization entailed an economically geographical shift.
These are only a couple of examples, but we hope that they illustrate the broader
argument. The recent changes in the economy, which have affected so many people
in so many different ways, are not only economic but also fundamentally geographical. Economic geography is relevant not just as background atmospherics, to add
ambience and color, but for understanding why economic change occurs at all. It
enters into its very frame, its skeletal structure. And what is bred in the bone, comes
out in the marrow.
The second reason for the renewed attention to economic geography is that it
continues to undergo potent intellectual shifts, making it an arena of discursive
ferment and vibrancy. Economic geography, in fact, has long been an important
forum for trying out new ideas. Much of human geography's quantitative revolution
THE ART OF ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
of the 1960s, for example, was discussed within the context of economic geography.
Since the late 1970s and early 1980s, the discipline has propeled discussions around
political economy. As an approach, political economy is pervasive: it is how economic geography is now done. That said, political economy is no single, staid,
monolithic tradition, but is multiple, dynamic, and differentiated. Debate is not
always friendly, but through it new approaches, new theories, and new possibilities
emerge, and constantly invigorate the field.
Political economy as a tradition began in the eighteenth century, but it is perhaps
most closely associated with Marx's nineteenth-century writings about capitalism.
In both cases, there was the insistence that the political and the economic are
irrevocably bound; that the economy cannot be treated as sovereign and isolated,
but must be understood as part of a set of wider social processes. While sharing these
views, political economists and economic geographers have continued to debate two
central questions: the definition of the social, and the nature of the connection
between the social and the economic.
For Marx, the answers to those contentious questions were clear-cut. The social
meant class relations, which under capitalism primarily consists of an antagonistic
relationship between the working class and the capitalist class. Social classes, in
turn, are connected to the economy by a functional relationship. This means that the
form of the relationship among social classes is set by what contributes best to the
development of the economy. Such a functional relationship is certainly not always
smooth and unproblematic, but ultimately the economy prevails and produces those
social relationships that are most appropriate for its development. If capitalism can
best develop by a set of class relations consisting of workers and capitalists, that is
what happens. The best, and the most well-known, economic geographical translation of Marx's views about social processes and their connection to the economy was
carried out by David Harvey (1982), particularly in his writings during the 1970s
and 1980s on the geography of accumulation.
Subsequently, other economic geographers, drawing upon other traditions of
political economy, have developed alternative approaches, ones providing quite
different answers to the two questions about the definition of the social, and its
relation to the economy. This is not the place to provide a full-blown review, but
those alternatives include:
. Doreen Massey's (1984) work on spatial divisions of labor. This is much more
catholic than Harvey's in its definition of the social, and in the relationship it
posits between the social and the economic. (Importantly, place itself partly
determines the development of the economy.)
. Regulationist theory. This partly defines the social in terms of institutional and
regulatory frameworks, and also attempts to move away from crude functionalism (Tickell and Peck, 1992).
. The analytical approach. This uses both mathematical reasoning and rigorous,
formal statistical testing to determine logically how space and place make a
difference both to the definition of social processes and to their relation to the
economy (Sheppard and Barnes, 1990; Webber and Rigby, 1997).
. Most recently, the umbrella approach, sometimes called the ``cultural turn.''
This brings together a variety of perspectives ± post-Marxism, institutionalism,
TREVOR J. BARNES AND ERIC SHEPPARD
economic sociology, feminist theory ± trying both to widen radically what is
included within the social, and also to move away from Marx's functionalism,
and instead make use of notions like embeddedness (Martin, this volume),
overdetermination (Gibson-Graham, this volume), or cultural performance
This review is necessarily very brief. Sustained examples of such political economic
approaches can be found in the ensuing chapters. Our point, like the one we made
about economic change, is that contemporary discussions around political economy
make economic geography stimulating and provocative. There is a Chinese saying:
``May you live in interesting times.'' Our argument is that they are here now in
Purpose and Organization
Our broad purpose in commissioning the essays that make up this volume is to
provide advanced undergraduate and graduate students, and faculty colleagues both
inside and outside economic geography, with a sense of the state of the art of
economic geography. We chose to focus on the ideas, concepts, and theories current
within the discipline, rather than on empirical findings, because a discipline is
characterized primarily by the questions it asks. We identified individuals who
we thought characterized both the unity and diversity of economic geography, and
we asked them to provide their own accounts. We asked only geographers to
contribute because, as we argue above, economic geography is quite different
from geographical economics (see also Sheppard, 2000). Certainly, exchanges of
views between geographers and economists about economic geography are an
important part of the evolution of the identity of the discipline, but we leave that
task to others (Clark et al., 2000).
The book is organized into five sections. Economic geography is a philosophically
diverse discipline, employing and debating a variety of approaches. The first section,
Worlds of Economic Geography, provides a sense of this diversity. Following the
first essay, which provides a historical context for undertanding the discipline, the
ensuing chapters examine in turn the mathematical modeling tradition, Marxism,
and three more recent variations on the political economy theme: feminism, institutional approaches, and poststructuralism. The essays not only convey a sense of the
intellectual vitality of the field, but also show that accounts of economic geography,
the questions taken to be important, and the methods used to find answers to them,
depend on the broad philosophical and theoretical approach taken. In short,
accounts of economic geography, as for any discipline, are situated; they depend
on the point of view of the author, which in turn reflects how he/she is positioned
intellectually, politically, and socially. As the volume turns to more substantive
aspects of economic geography, we hope you will see how authors locate themselves
on the intellectual terrain mapped in this section. As you read the essays in the other
four sections, think about where the author is situated, how that affects the questions he or she asks about the topic of the chapter, and how those questions might
differ if it had been authored by someone from a different perspective. We cannot
include all perspectives on all topics, or the book would be five times as long, but the
THE ART OF ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
possibilities, and actual existence, of those different perspectives is part of what
makes the discipline rich and exciting.
Because economic geography necessarily asks questions about things economic,
the second section, Realms of Production, highlights classic themes in economics:
production, work, agglomeration, competition and markets, economic growth, and
technical change. In their own ways, each of these essays takes on the task of
narrating how economic geographers have approached these topics, and how a
geographical approach gives each of them a distinctive twist compared to their
treatment in economics, even when economists ask questions about the geography
of economic activity.
One of the things that makes economic geography a part of geography is a
concern for human±environment, or nature±society, relations, and this is the focus
of Resource Worlds, the third section. These essays include discussions about nature
as an input to economic production; about agriculture, where that relationship is
most stark; about political ecology, which has become the central theoretical
approach for analyzing agricultural practices particularly in the Third World;
about questions of the production of nature within economic geographical processes; and finally about resource towns, the non-agricultural places where production is most closely tied to nature.
Geography has always been a synthetic discipline, taking seriously the relationships between things studied separately in other disciplines (such as nature, and
society). In Social Worlds, the fourth section, the essays synthesize across the human
sciences, treating economic processes as part of other social processes, rather than
separable from, superior to, or more fundamental than the rest of society. The
themes addressed include: consumption and the family, social class, labor organizations (unions), questions of political governance, organization of producers (corporations), and social and ethnic networks. Each chapter seeks to show the
importance of a geographical perspective in understanding the intersection of the
economic with the social.
Last, but certainly not least, geography is not just about place but also about
space: about how the distinctive economic characteristics of places, and the conditions of economic possibility that they face, depend on their economically geographical interdependencies with other places. In Spaces of Circulation, the final
section, we turn attention to the geographical flows of commodities, money, and
people, and to the transportation and communications systems produced to facilitate them. These essays suggest that even though the world is becoming smaller, one
of the core metaphors for globalization, it is also an increasingly differentiated
world, in part precisely because the interdependencies between places are increasing.
The final essay links geographical thinking about globalization to similar work in
international political economy.
In sum, we hope that these essays provide useful resources for further reading in
economic geography, and also that some of you will join in this endeavor. We also
hope that you are provoked to be critical: that you will reflexively re-examine your
current thinking, and ask new questions about the adequacy of economic geography's representations and approaches highlighted here. If so, our goals in compiling
this volume will have been achieved.
TREVOR J. BARNES AND ERIC SHEPPARD
Andree, Karl 1867±77. Geographie des Welthandels (3 vols.) Stuttgart. [The quote is from
Volume 1, p. 13 (first published in 1867)].
Clark, G., Gertler, M. and Feldman, M. 2000. Handbook of Economic Geography. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.
Detroit Institute of Arts 1978. The Rouge: The Image of Industry in the Art of Charles Sheeler
and Diego Rivera. Detroit: The Detroit Institute of Arts.
Harvey, D. 1982. Limits to Capital. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Krugman, P. 1991. Geography and Trade. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Martin, R. L. 1999. The new ``geographical turn'' in economics: Some critical reflections.
Cambridge Journal of Economics, 23, 65±91.
Massey, D. 1984. Spatial Divisions of Labour: Social Structure and the Geography of
Production. London: Methuen.
McDowell, L. 1997. Capital Culture. Oxford: Blackwell.
Rivera, D. 1934. Portrait of America. London: George Allen & Unwin.
Rochfort, D. 1987. The Murals of Diego Rivera. London: Journeyman Press.
Sheppard, E. and Barnes, T. 1990. The Capitalist Space Economy. London: Unwin Hyman.
Sheppard, E. 2000. Geography or economics? In G. Clark, M. Gertler and M. Feldman (eds),
Handbook of Economic Geography. Oxford: Oxford University Press (forthcoming).
Tickell, A. and Peck, J. 1992. Accumulation, regulation and the geographies of post-Fordism:
Missing links in regulationist research. Progress in Human Geography, 16, 190±218.
Webber, M. and Rigby, D. 1997. The Golden Age Illusion. New York: Guilford Press.
Worlds of Economic Geography
Inventing Anglo-American Economic Geography, 1889±1960
Trevor J. Barnes
The Modeling Tradition
Paul S. Plummer
The Marxian Alternative: Historical±Geographical Materialism
and the Political Economy of Capitalism
Feminism and Economic Geography: Gendering Work and
Ann M. Oberhauser
Institutional Approaches in Economic Geography
J. K. Gibson-Graham
Trevor J. Barnes
The American inventor Thomas Edison (1847±1931) said that his genius consisted
of ``1 per cent inspiration, and 99 per cent perspiration.'' In this chapter I make a
similar argument about the invention of economic geography. While there were
inspirational moments during its history, mostly the story of economic geography
is about hard work, about the large number of specific concrete practical activities
required to define and maintain an economic geographical order. Such organization
was not instant, but occurred hesitantly, a consequence of particular human practices and accomplishments within specific geographical and historical settings. That
is why ``inventing'' is in the chapter title. It signals that economic geography is
contingent upon conscious acts of human creativity and effort rather than existing
since time immemorial.
The idea that academic disciplines are human inventions, and in some cases very
recent human inventions ± economic geography, for example, was invented somewhere between the time of the first telegraph and the first radio ± might seem
disconcerting. This is because one connotation of the word invent is to make something up, to fictionalize, or, at worse, to lie. Under this interpretation to invent is to
tell stories about a world that doesn't exist. In contrast, from its inception economic
geography was (and is) about something real and substantial.
However, there is another connotation to inventing that better fits the aim of the
chapter, and takes us back to Thomas Edison. Edison's inventions, such as the ticker
tape machine (1870), the phonograph (1878), and the incandescent light bulb
(1879), were ``made up'' in that they did not exist before he had them as ideas.
But once they existed they produced definitive material effects, altering human
practices and beliefs. Humans could do things that they could never do before:
react to Wall Street's surges and slumps as they occurred, hear music originally
played sometimes half a world away, and light up whole cities. Inventions in
Edison's sense change the world, and give humans a different relationship to it.
My argument is that this second interpretation of inventing is useful in understanding the history of economic geography. Once economic geography was
invented, and later reinvented, the world was altered. After economic geography
TREVOR J. BARNES
existed, peoples' beliefs and actions were different: not only those of geographers,
but of a variety of people.
There is one more parallel to draw. Inventing economic geography and the light
bulb are context-dependent; that is, there is something about the peculiar combination of circumstances in which those inventions occurred that made them possible.
For example, for Edison to invent the incandescent light bulb required knowledge
about electricity and its properties, machines and specialized equipment that could
generate electricity and transmit it across long distances, and a research laboratory
containing instruments, materials, and trained technicians and scientists capable of
undertaking such a project. These contextual factors made the incandescent light
bulb possible, entering into its very construction, and shaping its form and capacities.
The same holds for economic geography. The discipline arose because of a set of
contextual factors, and as those factors changed so did economic geography.
Further, those factors, like the relationship between electricity and the light bulb,
entered into economic geography's very constitution, shaping the questions it asked,
the methods and tools it used, and the range of answers it deemed acceptable. For
sure the discipline had its own geniuses, people who were brilliant in thinking up
new ideas, but their creativity was always, like Edison's, informed and tempered by a
The chapter is divided into three main sections. The first describes the beginnings
of the institutionalization of Anglo-American economic geography as a discipline in
the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Critical here was the presence of
colonialism and the growth of global commercial trade. The second discusses the
interval between the first and second world wars (1918±1939/41) when a regional
approach to the discipline emerged. The final section focuses on the immediate postwar period which was the setting for the so-called ``quantitative revolution'' and
In a chapter as short as this it is not possible to cover everything. Instead, the
chapter is organized around a set of vignettes marking distinct periods in economic
geography's invention and reinvention. It is a history, and not the history. I should
especially stress that the essay is limited to English-speaking, Anglo-North American
economic geography, and to the voices of men. This is partly because of limitations
of space, partly because of my own circumscribed abilities and biases, partly because
of the kind of written sources that are available, and partly because of the very
nature of economic geography itself. For good or bad, economic geography was
historically a masculinist discipline, and linked to the European intellectual sensibility of the Enlightenment tradition (on both characteristics see Gibson-Graham's
chapter in this volume). But to define the history of economic geography thus is not
to argue for continuation in its old form. Indeed, the chapters that follow envisage
something quite different.
Invention, Institutionalization, and Imperialism
It is very difficult to provide an exact date for the invention of economic geography.
Possible contenders include: 1925, when the journal Economic Geography was first
published; 1893, when economic geography courses were first taught at Cornell
INVENTING ANGLO-AMERICAN ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
University and the University of Pennsylvania; 1882, when the German geographer
Gotz distinguished between commercial and economic geography; and 1826, when
The isolated state, for some the first classic treatise in economic geography, was
written and privately published by the German landowner and farmer Johann von
Thunen (1783±1850). These dates at least narrow the origins of economic geoÈ
graphy to the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This period was important
for the emergence of economic geography for two reasons.
The first is that this was an era when a number of academic disciplines, especially
in the social sciences, were institutionalized within Western European and North
American universities. Economic geography was one of those new disciplines (for
other examples see Ross, 1991). These disciplines, such as sociology, or psychology,
or economic geography, were defined by novel forms of representation which I will
term ``discourses.'' Discourse is a difficult word to define, but I use it to mean a
network of concepts, statements, and practices that produce a distinct body of
knowledge. A disciplinary discourse, for example, would include specialized vocabularies, conceptual and theoretical frameworks, diagrams, variables, and even
tables of figures. The important point is that such discourses are crucial to creating
± inventing ± the world that is represented; that is, rather than simply mirroring a
world that is out there, disciplinary discourses help to construct it. For example, up
until at least the seventeenth century, if not later, the idea of the economy did not
exist as such. Of course, humans have performed what we now call economic acts
since Adam and Eve labored in the Garden of Eden. But it was only about 300 years
ago that the economic was recognized as conceptually distinct. Partly allowing the
economy to become visible ± to be invented ± were a novel set of practices derived
from the emerging academic disciplinary discourse of economics (which I will call
``discursive practices''), and composed of, for example, striking metaphors (Adam
Smith's ``invisible hand''), new concepts (Ricardo's comparative advantage), persuasive diagrams (Quesnay's Tableau economique), compelling equations (Say's Law),
and meticulously calculated figures (William Petty's political arithmetic). Note that
using the term discourse is not to deny the seriousness or materiality of the economic. The new economic world that was invented quickly affected people's most
heartfelt beliefs and their most material actions.
In a similar fashion, albeit slightly later, economic geography was invented. Its
discourse was composed of: new terms like ``regions of production'' (Chisholm,
1889) or ``north±south axis'' (Smith, 1913); new typologies and schemes of categorization that ordered the world, for example, linking global climate regimes and
agricultural crops (Chisholm, 1889, pp. 57±153); and new maps and diagrams that
made visible economic geographical connections, for example, between trade routes
and modes of transportation (Smith, 1913). The result was the creation of new bits
of reality that previously did not exist, like ``commercial space'' or ``transactional
centers,'' which, in turn, affected how people saw their position within the world,
producing new beliefs and behaviors.
The second reason for the particular timing of economic geography is bound up
with its relationship to colonialism, and especially commercial expansion. There is
now much written about the relation between the emergence of academic geography
and the rise of especially nineteenth-century Western European imperialism (Hudson, 1977; Peet, 1985; Livingstone, 1992). In particular, a link is often made
TREVOR J. BARNES
between the environmental determinism that a number of early geographers
espoused at the time, and the justification of imperialism. Environmental determinism is the idea that the natural environment determines everything about a given
people, for example, that those living in tropical climates will be less energetic than
those living in temperate ones (Livingstone, 1992, ch. 7). Such a thesis, in turn, was
used as a justification for colonialism. If a people could not fully develop economically because of, say, the prevailing climatic regime in which they lived, it was then
legitimate for Europeans to intervene and show them how: indeed, this was ``the
White man's burden.''
While an important line of argument, these links between geography and environmental determinism are couched at the level of geography as a whole, and seem a bit
too neat and mechanical (Livingstone's 1992 work, with its emphasis on ``situated
messiness,'' is an exception): if imperialism, then environmental determinism. In
contrast, I will concentrate on only economic geography, and move away from such
a tidy relationship. As we know even from Edison and his light bulb, inventing is
messy and difficult. The same goes, I will argue, for economic geography.
In focusing only on economic geography, and its unkempt beginning, I start with
two figures: George Chisholm (1850±1930) in Britain, and J. Russell Smith (1874±
1966) in the United States. Before their writing there were odd facts about commerce
and geography, dribs and drabs that didn't quite fit; afterwards there was a new
George G. Chisholm
The intellectual life of George G. Chisholm, author of the first English-language
economic geography textbook, Handbook of commercial geography (1889),
personifies those unkempt beginnings. Born in Scotland and attending Edinburgh
University, he later moved to London, making his living primarily from writing and
editing geographical textbooks, gazetteers, and atlases (Wise, 1975; MacLean,
Chisholm's Handbook contains everything anyone might want to know about
world commodity production and the geographical conditions for trade. While
Chisholm (1889, pp. iii±iv) claims in the Preface ``to import an intellectual interest
[to his inquiry] . . . and not to encumber the book with a multitude of minute facts,''
that interest is difficult to find, whereas minute facts litter every page. The Handbook contains neither an explicit theoretical statement nor organizational justification. His focus is the facts (especially evident in his very long statistical appendix).
As he once said, ``If . . . there is some drudgery in the learning of geography, I see no
harm in it'' (quoted in MacLean, 1988, p. 25).
In 1908 Chisholm left London to become a lecturer in geography at Edinburgh
(the first such position in Scotland), and it was there that he first wrote programmatic statements for the new discipline of economic geography:
I would say then that it is the function of geography with respect to any class of phenomena
that have a local distribution to explain that distribution in so far as it can be explained by
variations connected with place in the operation of causes whose operation varies according
to locality or according to the relation of one locality to another (Chisholm, 1908, pp. 568±9).
INVENTING ANGLO-AMERICAN ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
In so far as this statement is understandable it points to the importance of local,
place-based factors and their interrelationship in determining the geography of
economic activities. There is certainly no indication here that Chisholm is some
lackey to imperialism mouthing environmental determinism. That said, the context
of imperialism in which Chisholm did his inventing clearly influenced his work,
and his conception of economic geography. Those connections were complex, however.
First, and most directly, the Handbook was a celebration of imperial commerce,
the technology that made it possible, and a global trading system with Britain at its
center. The late nineteenth century when Chisholm wrote the Handbook was a
period in which Britain was the workshop of the world, ``heavily dependent upon
international trade and at the hub of a world-wide empire'' (MacLean, 1988, p. 21).
In part this was made possible by ``improvements in the means of transport and
communication'' (Chisholm, 1889, p. 47), but also in part because of free trade and
Britain's military might. Chisholm was not only extolling the economic benefits of
trade in his volume, though, but also economic geography. For him, trade is primarily geographical. Chapter 1 begins: ``The great geographical fact on which
commerce depends is that different parts of the world yield different products, or
furnish products under unequally favorable conditions'' (Chisholm, 1889, p. 1). In
this sense, to acclaim trade is simultaneously to acclaim ``the great geographical
fact'' of commercial or economic geography.
A second connection is that Chisholm's book, through its use of maps, figures, and
tables of numbers, made visible, and therefore knowable, the complex filaments of
the imperial project. In this sense, Chisholm's book constructed imperialism as well
as representing it. This might seem a strange claim to make. I am not suggesting that
Chisholm made up imperialism, but I am saying that without his work and other
similar works people could not have known imperialism as such. Imperialism is so
large and complex that it only becomes knowable when it is reduced to the printed
page, which is precisely what Chisholm's maps, figures, and tables accomplish. This
also speaks to the hard work and mundane quality of the effort required to invent
(and celebrated by Edison's aphorism). One can hardly imagine a more tedious and
time-consuming task than Chisholm assembling massive amounts of data in tabular
form, searching down every last fact, and constructing detailed maps. But these
mundane and meticulous acts contributed to the reproduction of imperialism, and
helped to invent the new discipline of economic geography.
A final connection between imperialism and Chisholm's work is found in education. Chisholm begins his Preface by saying that he wants to teach ``those entering on
commercial life'' (p. iii); that is, to make them better prepared and competitive in
their business activities by furnishing them with the right knowledge. In carrying out
that task, Chisholm was prompted and guided by two contextual factors. The first
was that during the late nineteenth century Britain was facing stiff commercial
competition from Germany and its empire. Chisholm believed Germany's competitiveness stemmed directly from the superior educational prowess of its business
class who among other things were steeped in economic geography. The second was
a report published in 1885 by a British Royal Commission headed by Scott Keltie
documenting the poor state of geographical education in Britain (a response in part
to the 1870 Education Acts). As an academic field, however, geography lacked
TREVOR J. BARNES
qualified teachers, suitable textbooks, and even a curriculum (MacLean, 1988,
Chisholm's book met both needs. It provided the British business class with
commercial geographical information, and British schools with a curricular template, a source of classroom information, and something to be displayed both to
students and to school governors and inspectors. Chisholm, however, was also
speaking to an emerging community of academic geographers. His work became
part of the broader process of institutionalizing geography as a discipline, especially
after his appointment at Edinburgh University. Through Chisholm's role as an
educator, economic geography as a newly invented discipline diffused, taking on
efficacy: economic geography began changing the world.
Chisholm's book was intimately connected to his life and times. The colonial
project was certainly helped on its way by Chisholm's writings, but it wasn't there
working behind his back ensuring that he wrote only the right words or drew only
the right maps. In fact, later in his life Chisholm (1921, p. 186) made a plea against
the exploitation of colonial labor, which indicates again the untidy character of
invention. Imperialism could not simply call forth actors such as Chisholm to
provide instant legitimation. It was always more complicated.
By the time Chisholm died in 1930, the legitimacy of economic geographical
discourse, and the object it constituted, were established. His work in part set the
economic geographical die, stamped, as we've seen, by such characteristics as a
wariness of theory, a concern with empirical detail, a celebration of numbers, a
predilection for geographical categorization made visible by the map, and a tracing
of relations among places through the media of various kinds of economic flows,
especially that of the commodity. If none of this seems exceptional it is because we
are the heirs of Chisholm's more than century old legacy. At the time, though, he was
making things up ± inventing ± as he went along.
J. Russell Smith
On the other side of the Atlantic, the process of invention was slightly different. The
main impetus came from economics, and in particular the dissatisfaction of American
economists with the discipline's abstractness (Fellmann, 1986). As a reaction, some
turned to the German Historical School which emphasized context and concrete
detail. As the economist Edward Van Dyke Robinson explained at the time (1909,
p. 249, and quoted in Fellmann, 1986, p. 316): ``After the [German] Historical School
of economists had introduced the idea of relativity as to time and place, the necessity
was apparent not only for a historical but also for a regional treatment for economic
phenomena ± in other words for economic history and economic geography.''
Consequently, in the United States economic geography was initially taught by
economists or those in business schools. An early site was the Wharton School at the
University of Pennsylvania. In 1903 it hired one of its doctoral students, a transportation economist, J. Russell Smith, who three years later founded within the
School the Department of Geography and Industry. In 1913 Smith cemented both
his own reputation and that of US economic geography by publishing Industrial and
commercial geography. It was both a new and improved as well as an American
version of Chisholm's Handbook (Starkey, 1967, p. 200)
INVENTING ANGLO-AMERICAN ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
Divided into two sections which correspond to the terms of its title, the first (and
longest) part of Industrial and commercial geography discusses the production of
particular resources and manufactured goods, and the second part discusses world
trade. Throughout there is a dynamism and movement that is absent in Chisholm's
work, and which is a product of Smith's focus on technological changes around
transportation and communications. In particular, such changes for Smith facilitated
a ``world [commodity] market'' (Smith, 1913, p. 16) defined by a distinct geography
of control and production. Control is located in one ``mere corner of the world''
(Smith, p. 874), i.e. NW Europe and the NE seaboard of the US, because it ``has
capital to spare'' (Smith, p. 874), and because of its ``transactional'' role as a ``place
where bargains are made'' (Smith, p. 867). In contrast, the rest of the world is
defined by its role as a producer.
The discourse that emerges from Smith's book is similar to that of Chisholm's.
Again there is a focus on empirical detail, the shunning of theory (although environmental determinism appears in the introductory chapter to Smith's book, it was
dropped in later editions), and a penchant for geographical categorization. Smith is
perhaps even more emphatic than Chisholm in emphasizing exchange and trade. For
J. Russell Smith exchange and trade are irresistible impulses. Whenever one place
has a surplus of one good, and another place a surplus of a different good, trade
naturally unfolds between them. In addition, Smith joins an emphasis on trade with
a stress on technology. With such innovations as the steamboat, railway, telegraph,
and telephone, trade need no longer be locally constrained but becomes global. In
this sense Smith's book reads as a primer on globalization, albeit written at the
beginning of the twentieth century and not at its end.
As with Chisholm's Handbook, the sources of success of Smith's Industrial and
commercial geography are multiple. There is the role of the Historical School which
gives rise to the very idea of economic geography, and, in turn, to economic and
commercial geography courses that had never existed before. Moreover, by a happy
coincidence, this development occurred just as geography itself was becoming
institutionalized. When the influence of the Historical School began to wane by
the 1910s as economics became more analytical and less empirical, and as a result
economic geography courses were dropped by departments of economics, they were
picked up by newly-formed geography departments such as Smith's (Fellmann,
1986, p. 319).
There is also the peculiar conjuncture of Smith's own interests. By focusing on
transportation and communications technology Smith could simultaneously celebrate human creativity, the power of the machine, trade and exchange, and the
importance of geography, while at the same time not giving the discipline away to
physical geography (which was the inclination of perhaps the most famous US
geographer at the time, William Morris Davies at Harvard). Smith could sustain
such a position in part because of the compelling narrative he used to structure his
book which joined the benefits of exchange with the benefits of technological
innovation. It was a story that resonated perfectly with the free-enterprise and
machine-age sentiments of an early twentieth-century America beginning to engage
in global trade.
Finally, as with Chisholm, there is Smith's role as an educator. His influence
was not confined to the students he taught while at Wharton (and at Columbia
TREVOR J. BARNES
University in New York from 1919 onwards). He was, like Chisholm, a dry lecturer,
his poor delivery exacerbated by ``a slight lisp and a low, monotonous way of
speaking'' (Rowley, 1964, p. 87). But he shone as a writer. His book was enormously
successful, garnering compliments by geographers, and, perhaps even more importantly, by university administrators who decided the fate of geography departments
(Rowley, pp. 50±1). Like Chisholm's Handbook, Smith's volume was more than just
a student text to be read to pass final exams. It became an active component in the
very invention of economic geography as a discipline.
By focusing on Chisholm and Smith I've delineated some of the elements of the
newly invented discipline of economic geography and its world. The discipline was
concerned with empirical detail, global geographical categorization based upon
commodity specialization, and the spatial patterns and conditions of commercial
trade. Economic geography did not have to turn out in the way it did, for example, it
could have taken on an abstract theoretical bent (which was the trajectory of
economics). That it did not do so goes to the importance of historical and geographical context. That context was not mere background atmospherics, but entered
in the very body of the discipline's knowledge. The context of commercial expansionism and imperial control made a difference. But as I've also stressed, early
economic geographers were not the mere dupes of that context: there was individual
inspiration, along with perspiration.
Regions, Differentiation, and Richard Hartshorne
Within fifteen years or so of Smith's book being published, economic geography
began to change. There are again parallels with what happens to inventions. Often
they undergo further alteration, sometimes taking forms that are barely recognizable
compared to their original incarnation. Contrast, for example, early computers that
took up the space of many rooms with the present lap-top. These kinds of developments or reinventions, whether it be computers or economic geography, require
much labor and reorganization.
In the case of economic geography it became noticeably different by the 1930s as
focus shifted from the general commercial relations of a global system to the
geography of narrowly bounded, unique regions, especially those close to home. In
part, this move to the region stemmed from a long-standing debate in the economic
geographical literature. Smith's book was structured for the most part thematically,
around commodities, trade, and transportation, and not regionally. For some American economic geographers, such as Ray Whitbeck, this was a mistake. As he argued
in his critical review of Smith's book, there is ``a distinction between a text book of
commerce and industry and one on commercial and industrial geography'' (Whitbeck, 1914, p. 540). For Whitbeck (1915±16, p. 197) the emphasis should be
geographical: ``the unit should be the country and not the commodity.''
From the end of World War I in 1918, Whitbeck's position became increasingly
popular, particularly in US economic geography (which is the focus of this section).
The result was a regional perspective that made the region, and its unique features,
the focus of inquiry. That perspective is readily disclosed in the various textbooks
that were published from the mid-1920s onwards. Ray Whitbeck's own Economic
geography, co-written with his University of Wisconsin colleague Vernor Finch, is
INVENTING ANGLO-AMERICAN ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
typical (and first published in 1924). Justifying economic geography on the grounds
that it provides ``a kind of knowledge that educated people need and use,'' the key
organizing idea is ``areal differences,'' the interpretation of which ``requires the
reasoned association of facts of many kinds'' (Whitbeck and Finch, 1935, p. v).
Those facts are then neatly ordered under an identical fourfold typology for each of
the regions investigated: agriculture, minerals, manufacture, and commercial trade,
transportation and communications.
Another example is Clarence Fielden Jones's (1935) textbook Economic Geography which begins: ``Everyone likes to travel. Most of us wish to visit distant
lands'' (quoted in Berry, Conkling and Ray, 1987, p. 27). The eightfold typology
used by Fielden Jones to organize the facts taken from his travels is more finely
variegated than Whitbeck's and Finch's, but it performs the same role: a typological
grid for sorting observations that can then be photographed, mapped, tabulated,
or, most likely, merely listed under the appropriate classificatory heading. By
comparing the facts of the different regions by using the same typological grid,
geographical differences are immediately seen, and areal differentiation shines by
its own light.
More broadly, this regionalist perspective represented a shift in the economic
geographical discourse, changing the object of enquiry. Let me explore that discourse by briefly discussing the work of Richard Hartshorne (1899±1992), an
American geographer who perhaps more than any other geographer is associated
with the regionalist perspective. Not that Hartshorne was the first to conceive of
regionalism, but he systematically codified it, and provided an intellectually rigorous
justification. In so doing he gave economic geography a critical role.
In the 1920s Hartshorne carried out work in economic geography, but he is best
known for his writings on the history and philosophy of the discipline, and, in
particular, the book, The Nature of Geography (1939), which drew upon the German geographer Alfred Hettner (1859±1941). One purpose of that book was to
define a geographical unit that could be used as a basis to organize and integrate the
often scattered and multifarious pieces of information collected by geographers.
Hartshorne's answer: the region. It allowed geographers to integrate otherwise
disparate geographical facts, rendering the complexity of the world comprehensible.
But how should the region be defined? Regions based on watersheds, for example,
would be quite different from regions based upon economic specialty. For Hartshorne the economic ruled supreme. He thought the activities of keeping ``body and
soul together'' (Hartshorne, 1939, p. 334) are the most central to human life, and
should be used to delineate the region. More specifically, within the wider set of
economic activities that occurs he thought those around agriculture, and the family
farm in particular, are especially important for regional delimitation.
Hartshorne, therefore, justifies his regionalist perspective on the basis of economic
geography: ``there is no boundary between economic and regional geography''
(Hartshorne, 1939, p. 408). For him the world is made up of a patchwork quilt of
economically defined regions, where each region is a closely defined complex of
interconnected elements including, for example, land and plants, buildings and
livestock, tools and production methods, as well as various invisible components
like prices and markets, and practical and abstract knowledge. Examples might
include: the American corn belt, the Po plain in Italy, or the Vale of Evesham in
TREVOR J. BARNES
Southwest England. In each case the complex interaction among the different elements within a region is critical, producing a unique regional entity.
Let me note some of the principal differences between this regionalist economic
geographical discourse and the older one of Chisholm and Smith. It will help clarify
the nature of the economic geographical reinvention that occurred.
First, regionalism emphasizes the geographically unique. While the same type of
elements are found in different economic regions, how they are combined together
and relate one to another ``occurs but once on the earth'' (Hartshorne, 1939, p. 393).
For Hartshorne two related implications follow. That no law-like statements can be
made about regions, implying that economic geography cannot be a predictive
science (this is especially important given that from the mid-1950s onwards economic geography makes strenuous bids to become exactly a predictive science). And
that a regional approach, or what amounts to the same thing, an economic geographical approach, must be descriptive. If economic geographers cannot invoke
explanatory laws, they must be ``concerned with the description and interpretation
of unique cases . . .'' (Hartshorne, 1939, p. 449). In contrast, Chisholm and Smith,
while recognizing the importance of geographical difference, and relying heavily on
description, are at pains to emphasize the wider geographical and economic system
that revolves around world production and trade, and that connects places and
regions together. This is missing in much of the regionalist economic geography.
The region is interesting in and of itself.
Second, the regional uniqueness emphasized by Hartshorne provides justification
for the rapid spread of regional typologies that typified economic geography. If a
region is defined by its combination of different economic elements, then to show its
uniqueness we must classify those elements, and then, using the typologies constructed, demonstrate that those elements appear in different mixtures in different
places. In contrast, in Chisholm's and Smith's works, there is less concern with
typologies as such. Places are categorized, but only by the commodities they produce
and trade, with the purpose of emphasizing geographical connectivity: the global
system comes first, its constituent regions defined by commodity production came
Lastly, for Hartshorne the complexity of the region requires sustained, on-theground field research. Geographers must muddy their boots if they are to understand
the world. Again, in contrast, neither Chisholm's nor Smith's work required them to
be physically present: in fact, given the global ambitions of their project, it would
have been impossible for them to do so. Collecting and organizing numbers, and
drawing maps based upon them, was sufficient. Of course, they still went into the
field ± Chisholm was an especially ardent field tripper ± but it was not an integral
component of their enterprise.
The exact reasons for economic geography's regionalist reinvention are difficult to
locate. A number of causes seem plausible. There is a changing historical and
geographical context. Both the slowing of colonialism, and the effects of the 1930s
Depression on world trade and commerce, rendered Chisholm's and Smith's projects
less pressing. There is Hartshorne's intellectual engagement with German geography
and in particular with Hettner's. (In 1938±9 Hartshorne spent a sabbatical year in
Austria writing The Nature of Geography; Hartshorne, 1979.) There are also
internal sociological reasons, of which the most cited is the embarrassment caused
INVENTING ANGLO-AMERICAN ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
by the discipline's earlier affair with environmental determinism. A focus on regional
study represented if not ``greener pastures'' at least ``smaller safer pastures'' (Mikesell, 1974, p. 1). But also the discipline of geography itself was becoming much more
professionalized and institutionalized within a university setting. As it did so the
stakes became higher, with individual academic reputations hinging on the successful promulgation of new ideas and discourses such as the regional one.
Whatever the reasons, external or internal, the upshot was quite a different
economic geography from what went before, with such emphases as fieldwork and
regional boundary making, the construction of new typologies, and a distinctive
view of the purpose of geography. Furthermore, regionalist economic geography
remained intact for at least twenty years after The Nature of Geography was
published. Partly this was because of Hartshorne's status and power within American geography, but it was also a legacy of his wartime activities in US military
intelligence in the Office of Strategic Services (forerunner of the Central Intelligence
Agency) which involved him supervising a large number of geographers. According
to Butzer (1989, p. 50), the close-knit relationships forged during that period
``crystallized into a coherent paradigm, reinforced by close proximity and strong
personal ties, and that endured for many years as an elite club.'' From the mid-1950s
onwards, however, that club began to be criticized in large part from a younger
generation who were never members.
The Quantitative Revolution and Spatial Science
That younger generation, at least in the United States, initially gathered at two
principal sites: the University of Iowa, Iowa City, and the University of Washington,
Seattle. It was from Iowa that the first voice openly opposed to Hartshorne was
heard. In 1953 Fred K. Schaefer (1953), a political refugee from Nazi Germany and
an inaugural member of the Department of Geography at Iowa, published in the
flagship periodical, Annals, Association of American Geographers, ``Exceptionalism
in geography.'' It was both a repudiation of Hartshorne's position, and a call for a
scientific approach to geography based upon the search for geographical laws (the
ultimate form of a scientific generalization). Unfortunately, Schaefer died in June
1953, before his article even appeared in print, and so he was never able to elaborate
his argument, nor defend himself from Hartshorne's (1955) subsequent attack. But
the article became a rallying point for the younger generation of economic geographers who were intent on reinventing the discipline as a science, or ``spatial
science'' as it was later dubbed.
To do so required the techniques, logic, and vocabulary of scientific practice: that
is, a new disciplinary discourse was needed, and consequently a new object of
inquiry. Here a colleague of Schaefer's at Iowa, his boss, Harold McCarty, played
a critical role. While suspicious of Schaefer's grand philosophizing, and rankled by
his combativeness, McCarty concurred with Schaefer that economic geography
should move away from regionalism and become more scientific. In 1940 McCarty
had published The geographic basis of American economic life, on the surface a
conventional regional account of US economic geography. Its intellectual point of
departure was fundamentally different from Hartshorne's, however. Regions were
McCarty's unit of analysis neither because of the authority of Hettner, nor because
TREVOR J. BARNES
they were convenient integrative units, but because market forces made economic
geographical reality that way (McCarty, 1940, p. 19). There is a hard economic
conceptual logic driving McCarty's analysis based upon market forces, which was
new to the discipline, and represented by economic theory. As he put it: ``Economic
geography derives its concepts largely from the field of economics and its method
largely from the field of geography'' (McCarty, 1940, p. xiii).
McCarty's use of that word method is very broad because the specific technical
methods he later employed came not from geography per se, but from statistics. In
particular, he pioneered within economic geography the use of the statistical techniques of regression and correlation analysis (McCarty et al., 1956), conceiving the
very discipline in their image (Barnes, 1998b). Such practices marked Iowa as one of
the first quantitative economic geography departments in the US.
At the other ``center of calculation'' in US economic geography, the University of
Washington, the two pivotal faculty members were Edward Ullman, and, perhaps
more importantly, William Garrison. Garrison had joined the department in 1950,
following a PhD at Northwestern University, and before that wartime service in the
US Airforce where he took courses in statistics and mathematics as part of his
training as a meteorologist (an experience common to other pioneering quantifiers).
Statistics and mathematics were to define the program at Washington. Garrison
gave the first advanced course in statistics in a US geography department in 1954. It
was not only numbers but also machines that were important. There were the large,
cumbersome electrical mechanized Friden calculators, but more significant was the
even larger, more cumbersome, computer. In an early advertisement for the department, Donald Hudson (1955) boasted about the departmental use of an IBM 604
digital computer, also a national first. The programming technique of so-called
``plug wiring'' involving plugging wires into a circuit board was crude and inefficient, but it helped define and consolidate the new vision of the discipline as based
on science and the latest technology.
Even at this point we begin to see the shape of a different kind of economic
geography emerging. It was radically different from Hartshorne's field-based, typological, descriptive one centered on the region, and sometimes only on the farm.
Instead, the new economic geography was primarily undertaken at a desk and
involved calculators, computers, graphs, numbers, and spread sheets; it employed
an increasingly abstract, theoretical vocabulary taken primarily from economics; it
concerned itself with finding causes and explanations, and not simply with classification; and it was not content with written descriptions of the unique, but focused
also on the conceptual and numerical analysis of the general. Economic geography
was becoming a fully fledged social science stressing the social over the natural, and
scientific analysis over ``mere'' description. More generally, as economic geographical discourse was reinvented an entirely different economic geographical world was
emerging defined by abstract space, geometrical axioms, Greek symbols, and regression lines.
But it was hard work, and often contested. This can be seen in Britain where a
similar process unfolded, albeit slightly later. There ``the revolution'' was associated
especially with Peter Haggett, who was at Cambridge and later Bristol University,
and Richard Chorley, a physical geographer at Cambridge. They were given the
moniker the ``terrible twins'' because of their role in introducing a scientific
INVENTING ANGLO-AMERICAN ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
approach to the discipline. In Haggett's (1965) case that approach was partly
worked out within the context of economic geography. He argued that through a
process of abstraction economic geographers should construct an ideal simplification of reality ± a model ± and then using statistical methods test it against the real
world. Examples of modeling are found in Paul Plummer's chapter, which follows
this one, and it is now a well-known strategy. But at the time it was seriously
opposed by those holding on to regionalism. No wonder. It presaged an entirely
different kind of economic geographical practices (see Chorley's hilarious 1995
account of Haggett being told off by his Head for showing a regression coefficient).
Another movement that reinforced economic geography's trajectory towards
spatial science during the 1950s was regional science. Child of the energetic and
ambitious American economist Walter Isard, regional science was born in Detroit in
December 1954, when the first meeting of the Regional Science Association was
convened. Isard's wider purpose (1956, p. 25) was to add spatial relationships to the
hitherto ``wonderland of no dimensions'' that constituted the economist's world. The
strength of his theoretical treatise, Location and space economy (1956) (immediately used by Garrison at Washington for his economic geography seminar), was
such that by 1958 Isard had established the first Department of Regional Science,
perhaps appropriately at the University of Pennsylvania, Russell Smith's alma mater.
Certainly, during these early years there was theoretical, personnel, and institutional
cross-pollenization between regional science and the new economic geography
which benefited both. But it was always a relationship pregnant with potential
conflict because the two projects claimed the same academic turf. Isard's attitude
that economic geographers were simply the hewers and bearers of data for regional
scientist theoreticians didn't help, despite the fact that it was close to McCarty's
By 1960 these different elements ± the new economic geography in the USA and
the UK, and regional science ± had come together to form a coherent network. It was
characterized by a specific set of geographical nodes such as Iowa City, Seattle,
Philadelphia, and Cambridge (UK), and connected by: the circulation of paper ±
early on, graduate students at Washington initiated their own Discussion Paper
series and sent it to kindred souls around the world; flows of money ± especially
important in the USA were grants from the Office of Naval Research that favored
the large-scale, collaborative, and practical projects pursued by the new economic
geographers (Pruitt, 1979); and the movement of people ± visitors were brought in
sometimes from far afield, and as graduate students obtained their PhDs they were
often hired by like-minded departments. There was no single organizing force to the
network, but it quickly enrolled new people and things into its organization, defining both a new discipline and new relations around the world.
But why did this reinvention of economic geography happen when it did? The
post-war years were a period of massive expansion of higher education in both
North America and Britain. In part, this occurred because of wider structural
changes in economy and society turning on the rise of managerial Fordism and a
Keynesian welfare state. The result was a changed mind-set that stressed higher
education, and a material affluence that allowed for appropriate funding (Scott,
2000). In addition, the 1950s was a period of optimism about science and technology, and an accompanying instrumental ``can do'' attitude. All problems could be
TREVOR J. BARNES
solved by applying scientific principles, using appropriate technology. This was
certainly the case with the new economic geographers. Much of the early work
was about using mathematics and computer-generated results to devise practical
solutions to problems in transportation, or urban planning, or devising optimal
solutions for the location of firms, shops, and residents.
Given its scientific aspirations it may seem odd to claim that spatial science is an
invention. After all, scientific knowledge is supposedly impeccable. My argument,
however, is that the invented nature of spatial science is evident in its social and
institutional origins which were hesitant, complex, and messy. Spatial science did
not arise in one blinding moment, with people suddenly seeing the light of scientific
truth. Rather, it was a result of some economic geographers making use of hitherto
unused vocabularies: in the idiom of statistics and mathematics, in the axioms of
Euclidean geometry, in the abstruse language of economic theory, and in the ``if,
then'' statements of computer programming. One shouldn't underestimate the difficulty of this process. It required perseverance, command of difficult corpuses of
knowledge, and many late nights. It required much perspiration. The results were
new pieces of reality, and a new object of inquiry. That object of inquiry, however,
was not (at last) the ``real'' economic geography because, as should already be clear,
there is no such thing. What is taken to be real is contingent upon the prevailing
disciplinary discourse, and as the latter changes so does the former.
The purposes of this chapter were twofold. First, to present briefly some of the
leading approaches and personalities within the history of Anglo-American economic geography, 1889±1960. Trying to fit seventy-one years of history into a
short chapter necessarily results in both substantive and interpretive omissions.
Substantively much is missing ± including, for example, the influence of nonAnglo-American intellectual traditions such as the German location school (Barnes,
1998a), or dissenting voices (Hepple, 1999), or legions of unnamed economic
geographers who carried out bread-and-butter empirical research. Interpretively I
made nothing of the fact that my history was only of ``great men'' living in metropolitan powers. From feminist and postcolonial perspectives a very different historical narrative could have been written about those who were excluded. That said, I
hope my history conveys a sense of flux and contingency as the discipline is invented
This leads to my second purpose, which is to make a methodological argument
about economic geography by using the metaphor of invention. As a metaphor
``invention'' is useful precisely because it is unsettling. Whether you accept it or
not, the metaphor makes you pause and think about the kind of entity that is
economic geography. My argument is that the inventiveness of economic geography
is in the detailed practices of its disciplinary discourses: drawing maps, making
tables, interviewing informants, or staring at a computer monitor. Those discursive
practices may not seem like much when we do them, but they are central to defining
a particular object of inquiry, and hence delineating the nature of the discipline. For
example, when I was an undergraduate student in the mid-to-late 1970s, learning
statistics, punching computer cards, and formally deriving abstract models formed
INVENTING ANGLO-AMERICAN ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
the basis of my study; it was what you had to do to be an economic geographer.
Now, few if any of these discursive practices are required of students, but other
practices are, such as learning qualitative research methods, knowing the lexicon of
political economy, and reading exotic social theory written by Parisian intellectuals.
Economic geography, as a result, is quite different. But that difference, and indeed
the enormous changes occurring in economic geography since spatial science and
reflected in the following chapters, are not to be bemoaned, but celebrated. Thomas
Edison never thought he had made the perfect invention, and neither should we.
I would like to thank Eric Sheppard for his astute comments, and also those of my Introduction to Economic Geography students Alex Lefebvre and Chris Neidl. The future of the
discipline is in safe hands if they, and others like them, continue in the subject.
Barnes, T. J. 1998a. Envisioning economic geography: Three men and their figures. Geographische Zeitschrift, 86, 94±105.
Barnes, T. J. 1998b. A history of regression: Actors, networks, machines and numbers.
Environment and Planning, A 30, 203±23.
Berry, B. J. L., Conkling, E. C., and Ray, D. M. 1987. Economic Geography: Resource Use,
Locational Choices, and Regional Specialization in the Global Economy. Englewood Cliffs,
Butzer, K. W. 1989. Hartshorne, Hettner and The Nature of Geography. In J. N. Entrikin and
S. D. Brunn (eds), Reflections on Richard Hartshorne's The Nature of Geography. Occasional publications of the Association of American Geographers, Washington, D.C., 35±52.
Chisholm, G. G. 1889. Handbook of Commercial Geography. London and New York:
Longman, Green, and Co.
Chisholm, G. G. 1908. The meaning and scope of geography. The Scottish Geographical
Magazine, 24, 561±75.
Chisholm, G. G. 1921. The drift of economic geography. The Scottish Geographical Magazine, 37, 184±6.
Chorley, R. J. 1995. Haggett's Cambridge: 1957±66. In A. D. Cliff, P. R. Gould, A. G. Hoare,
and N. J. Thrift (eds). Diffusing Geography: Essays for Peter Haggett. Oxford: Blackwell,
Fellmann, J. D. 1986. Myth and reality in the origin of American economic geography.
Annals, Association of American Geographers, 76, 313±30.
Haggett, P. 1965. Locational Analysis in Human Geography. London: Arnold.
Hartshorne, R. 1939. The Nature of Geography. A Critical Survey of Current Thought in
Light of the Past. Lancaster, PA: AAG.
Hartshorne, R. 1955. ``Exceptionalism in geography'' re-examined. Annals, Association of
American Geographers, 45, 205±44.
Hartshorne, R. 1979. Notes towards a bibliography of The Nature of Geography. Annals,
Association of American Geographers, 69, 63±76.
Hepple, L. W. 1999. Socialist geography in England: J. F. Horrabin and a workers' economic
and political geography. Antipode, 31, 80±109.
Hudson, B. 1977. The new geography and the new imperialism: 1870±1918. Antipode, 9, 2,
Hudson, D. 1955. University of Washington. The Professional Geographer, 7, 4, 28±9.