The Nature and the Scope of the Economic Geography

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(1) The Introduction:

What is the nature and scope of the economic geography? What are its temporal and spatial aspects? What is the Universal Integrated Cubical Temporal - Spatial - Applicability Scope model of the economic geography?

(2) The Exposition:

The Nature

Different leading authorities in the field of the economic geography have defined the nature and the scope of this subject in the different terms. There is no unanimity of the opinion in the matter. However, the students of an introductory course in the subject need not be bogged down by this multiplicity of the views. The following discussion is enough to understand the basic nature and the scope of this discipline.

The economic geography personified has a nature, just as any human being has a peculiar nature or the psychological tendency. As says H.J. Mackinder, the geography is a science, arts and philosophy by nature. So, it follows that "the economic geography" being a sub-discipline in the subject of the geography is a science, arts and philosophy, too.

It is a science because it follows the scientific methods of the observation, the collection of the data, the hypothesis, the theory and the model building ever open to the scientific scrutiny in terms of the relationship among the variables under the study and the validity of such a relationship.

It is an art, since it involves quite a subjective approach, too in terms of the skilful organization of the field studies, the collection of the data, the map drawing and the interpretation of the results.

It's a philosophy, too, in terms of ever trying to philosophize the questions of the human beings and the environment relationship in the economic terms. It tries to frame the postulations as to what, why, how and where an economic activity takes place in a particular corner of the globe or the spatial point in the universe?

Finally, it of course inter alia is inter-disciplinary, flexible, dynamic, friendly and far-reaching, too.

The Scope

The scope, ambit or area of the economic geography is quite vast both in the temporal and the spatial terms, besides the applicability. The Universal Integrated Cubical Temporal - Spatial - Applicability Scope model of the Scope illustrates it aptly. The given cube can easily be sliced into 90 pieces (3 Temporal faces x 6 Spatial faces x 5 Applicability faces). Each slice represents one face each of the Temporal - Spatial - Applicability Scope. Thus, we may elaborate the scope of the subject in 90 different ways.

For example, let us cut the slice with 3 following faces: the Future, the Philosophical and the Asthenospheric. This slice means that the economic geography can be studied from the point of view of the philosophical questions related to the use of the Asthenospheric resources at any given point of time in the future.

Although Hartshorne and Alexander opine that "the geographer is concerned primarily with variations from place to place rather than from time to time" yet a geographer can't escape studying the temporal aspects, too in terms of studying the varied geographical patterns of the phenomena prevailing at any given point of the time on the Earth.

A complete and detailed exposition of all the above mentioned 90 integrated slices is beyond the scope of this article. So, I have attempted the following brief description of the various facets of the scope of this challenging dynamic subject:

(i) The Temporal Aspect/Scope:

With the emphasis on the current contemporary situation, it includes in its ambit the scope of going back into the times, since the ills of many countries today have their roots in the past geographical economic spatial patterns like during the great age of discovery, 30 million young people aged 15-35 years were removed from the Africa during the Slave Trade Era which depleted the human resources of that continent.

It caused a lack of the significant economic development in the Africa whereas the slave trading nations like the U.K., Spain, etc., flourished and built up the enormous monetary and capital assets which helped them later to kick start and sustain economic development in their own countries. 

This led to the spatial variation in the economic development in that bygone era. But, its repercussions are still felt in the Africa where the economic development has quite been low due to the bequeathing of no significant economic development by their preceding generations.

Thus, one may divide temporal aspect into following broad categories:

1. Ancient

2. Medieval

3. Great Age of discovery

4. 19th century

5. 20thcentury

6. Contemporary

7. Recent 

8. Present

(ii)      The Spatial Aspect/Scope:

The economic geography has enormous spatial scope which includes the following aspects/points:

1. The Vertical:

It includes the spatial locations right from the ocean bed to the mountain top and the related economic phenomena. It includes the aspects like the geocentric, the asthenospheric, the lithospheric, the atmospheric and the galactic. For example, there is a lot of the extra-terrestrial scope.

With the opening up of the extra-terrestrial scope, the economic geography shall have to take into the consideration the availability of the economic activities/possibilities in the outer space like the Moon, the Mars, etc.

The experiments carried out to produce the special kinds of the minerals aboard the spacecrafts fall within the spatial scope of the economic geography.

2. The Horizontal:

It includes the study of the econo-geographic aspects in the horizontal direction in terms of the phenomena like the lithosphere, the hydrosphere and the biosphere, etc.

(a) The Continental Scope:

It includes the studies of all the continents/islands in the economic terms and their interactions.

(b) The Hemispheric Scope:

The economic geography may be studied in terms of the eastern, the western, the northern and the southern hemispheres.

(c) The Global Scope:

It has the global scope because of the variations in the level and the interdependencies that exist in the international economic development. The whole Earth has become a global system with the shrinking economic distance. So much that even a person in the most remote geographical/economic areas of the world now participates in an economic system that is less the local and the regional and more the national and the international in the scope.

(iii) The Applicability scope:

This type of the scope includes the scope for application to the economic geography of the 5 main phenomena created by the human beings like the philosophies, the theories, the academic disciplines, the uses/practical application and the methodologies. As such, we have the scope for studying in depth the diverse philosophies, the theories and the academic disciplines because we in the economic geography profusely draw upon these aforesaid three phenomena.

We can study the subjects like the economics, the psychology, the sociology and the math, etc. Also, we can peruse various economic, political, social and cultural philosophies like the Marxism, Capitalism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, etc., and see the extent of their influence on the economic geography. Further, we have the scope for studying the various theories used in the economic geography.

In addition, we may study the economic geography in terms of the practical application to the human life, i.e., how it solves our problems of the economic underdevelopment or say the development of the effective transport network.

Finally, we have the scope for adopting the different approaches. In other words, we have numerous ways of studying the economic geography. For example, we can follow an isolationist approach to study the economic geography of a given area, say in terms of the transportation network only or else we may pursue an integrated/holistic approach to do the same in terms of studying everything in the given area.

In sharp contrast to the above mentioned 5 principle phenomena, the elements of the space and time have not entirely been created by the humans. These two have already been in the existence even before the evolution of the humans on this earth. The humans have at the best simply classified these two dimensions into numerous categories, i.e., the time into the past, the present and the future categories.

It must be noted here that the 4 phenomena - the philosophies, the theories, the practical application and the different academic disciplines - may be studied as individual phenomena as such in their own right.

Simultaneously, these can very well be studied as a part of different methodologies applied. For example, one may study the different subjects separately, since their subject matter is relied upon in the economic geography. At the same time, one can use such a study as aforesaid as a special methodology of sort to see how these subjects are interrelated with each other and the economic geography.

Accordingly, one can draw upon the relevant material from these subjects instead of reinventing the wheel or redoing the whole thing all over again to draw the valid conclusions in the field of the economic geography.

(A) The Philosophical Scope

(B) The Theoretical Scope

It has the enormous theoretical scope. Hartshorne & Alexander say," Locational analysis in economic geography involves not only an explanation of activities already present on the landscape but may also involve the selection of a future location for an activity such as a restaurant or shopping mall."

The theories are used in so far as possible to explain as to why the activities are located as they are, i.e., Von Thunen's Model (Agriculture), Weber's Model (Manufacturing) and Christaller's Central Place theory (tertiary, quaternary, quinary activities including the retail location) are the excellent examples.

It includes the concepts in the analytical work like the distance, the interaction and the region.

(C) The Practical Application/Uses Scope

(D) The Interdisciplinary Scope:

It studies the other subjects like the economics, the political economy, etc., to gauge the effects on the spatial variation in the economic activities, of the factors like the political economy of a nation, the macro forces associated with the transition of the world economy from a manufacturing to a post-industrial base, the international monetary system and the multinational corporations.

(C) The Methodological/Approaches Scope:

Broadly speaking, following are "the 15 Golden" or the main methods of/ways of/approaches to the study of "the economic geography" or any other sub-discipline in the field of the geography and for all practical purposes any other subject under the Sun:

1. The Descriptive, Analytical, Prescriptive

2. The Empirical (inductive), Normative (deductive), Optimiser, Satisficer

3. The Deterministic (environmental, natural, human, nature-human)

4. The Subjective/Artistic, Objective/Scientific

5. The Holistic/Whole/Homogeneitic/Integrative, Isolationist/Parts/

Heterogeneitic/Choreal /Particularitic:

It includes the study of the spatial variation in the economic activities in terms of an integrated approach to all the spheres, i.e., the Lithosphere, the Atmosphere, the Hydrosphere and the Biosphere. It includes the studies of the underground spatial aspects like the asthenosphere, the sial, the sima, the mantle and the core so as to determine their influence on the economic activities of the human beings.

6. The Systems, Systematic

7. The Political: The Socialist, Capitalist, Communist, Democratic, Fascist, Liberal, Neo-liberal, Neo-conservative

8. The Activity, Principle, Interdisciplinary

9. The Quantitative/Mathematical, Qualitative/Behavioural/Humanistic

10. The Temporal, Spatial, Spatio-Temporal

11. The Philosophical, Theoretical, Practical

12. The Ecological/Environmental/Consequential

13. The Gender, Racial.

14. The Civilian, Military.

15. The Economic, Geographical, Econo-Geographical:

It includes the following Economic Activities Scope:

a. The PRODUCTION:

It includes the studies of all kinds of the economic activities, i.e., the primary, the secondary, the tertiary, the quaternary and the quinary.

b. The EXCHANGE:

It includes the value addition to each product, goods, services created by the specialized services provided at each level of the handling, including the packaging, the promotion, the financing and the merchandizing of the product.

c. The CONSUMPTION:

It includes both the pattern of the consumption and the spatial aspects of the consumer behaviour.

 d. The DEVELOPMENTAL SCOPE:

It includes the study of the spatial variation in terms of the economic development, i.e., the different categories of the countries like the more developed and the less developed countries.

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