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Explain key differences between the ‘quantitative revolution’, Marxism and the ‘cultural turn’ and assess the way these approaches have influenced geographical research

Uploaded by Appleman on May 23, 2016

Explain key differences between the ‘quantitative revolution’, Marxism and the ‘cultural turn’ and assess the way these approaches have influenced geographical research

Geography as a discipline had been dominated by regional geography for much of the first half of the twentieth century. Geographers picked out regions to study, and then analyzed the physical and cultural processes that made those regions unique. “A region contains… a special, unique, and in some ways uniform combination of kinds or categories of phenomena” (Schaefer 1953) and the uniqueness of every region was such that the only generalization that could be made about these regions was that they were unique (Peet 1998).

But Schaefer was unhappy with geography being classified in this way. He felt that there were regularities between the relative unique positions of phenomena, and thus spatial patterns and morphological laws existed (Bennet 1985). This led to the birth of the ‘quantitative revolution’, where geographers focused their studies in researching these patterns and laws, and sought to explain them using science.

John Marshall argues that geography had always been a science “by virtue of the fact it is a truth-seeking discipline whose raw materials consist of empirical observations” (Marshall 1985). When the ‘revolution’ began in the 1950s, examples already existed of “empirical observations” being used to explain phenomena in human geography. Christaller used mathematical models in his central place theory (1933) to explain the way people laid out the inhabited landscape because he had observed that similarly sized settlements were equidistant from each other. An example of such a study from the time of the ‘revolution’ would be MacArthur and Wilson’s Theory of Island Biogeography (1969) which seeks to explain how islands and other habitat islands are colonized by flora and fauna. It is based on the observation that islands far from the mainland usually have different and sometimes completely unique biogeographies, and the authors use some very complex mathematical equations to show how this phenomenon occurs.

Many people were however very critical of this approach to geography, particularly the positivist (scientific) side to it. The critics’ arguments are based on the fact that the positivist approach was supposed to be value free, but as human geography is a social science, and the geographers doing the research are part of society, they have their own values which unavoidably influence their studies (Cloke et al 1991). Another criticism came from Gould (1970) who argued that, with the exception...

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Uploaded by:   Appleman

Date:   05/23/2016

Category:   Geography

Length:   6 pages (1,274 words)

Views:   643

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