Geography, the State of the World, and the Study of Places


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At this stage, let me provide a brief summary of the case so far, as a preface to a final argument regarding geographical education. This can be done as a sequence of points. First, the world is a single, interdependent economic system, organised by major institutions which pay scant regard to national boundaries in their search for profits —which is the driving force of that system. Second, that economic system is necessarily spatially structured, at a variety of scales, so that there is a geography of inequality, of affluence and prosperity countered by poverty and deprivation. At the gross scale, this is seen in the core: periphery division of the world economy made famous by the concept of a North:South divide introduced by the Brandt Report, but there are similar divides at a variety of spatial scales. There is, then, an economic geography to capitalism, which is paralleled by a social geography. Third, the emergence of that economic geography reflects the end‐product of a long period of evolution in a great number of separate cultural regions. Eventually, the system for organising production, distribution and exchange ‘invented’ in one major cultural region prevailed, and was gradually imposed on the rest of the world, creating the core: periphery structures and restructuring the cultural map. That process of imposition has not gone unchallenged, so that political and military power have been allied to economic power in order to aid and to counter it, usually with capitalism winning. Political and military power are the preserves of states, which are territorial units, so that a new, political geography has been created, linked to both the economic geography and the preexisting cultural geography. Thus economic conflicts are, in large part played out as political and, occasionally, military conflicts between states, and residents of states are ideologically stimulated to participate in those conflicts. Finally, challenges to that economic system involve the case for alternatives of which one —state socialism —has been adopted by (imposed on?) some people. That challenge, too, involves the use of political, military and ideological as well as economic power, so that it is state‐led, producing the second major division of the world at the present time —East:West.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-8
Number of pages5
JournalNew Zealand Journal of Geography
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1987


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