Why Geographic Factors are Necessary in Development Studies

Abstract
This paper proposes that the resurgence of geographic factors in the study of uneven development is not due simply to the recurrent nature of intellectual fashions, nor necessarily because arguments that rely on geographic factors are less simplistic than before, nor because they avoid racialist, imperialistic, and deterministic forms they sometimes took in the past. Rather, this paper argues that geographic factors have been turned to once again because they are an indispensable part of explanation, playing a special role that has not been properly understood, a role especially crucial for the explanation of the inherently spatial questions that development studies seek to address. The paper is made up of two sections and an appendix. The first section discusses why geographic factors are necessary for explanations of uneven development with a brief example from the ‘institutions versus geography’ debate. The second section discusses why the reflexive rejection by social scientists of geographic and environmental factors is misguided, with a separate note on geography and geographers. The ideas in this paper were in part arrived at inductively while surveying instances where social scientists in some way attempt to account for real-world locations/distributions of social phenomena (as opposed to discussing a social theory or process aspatially or with its distribution taken as a starting point). A number of these are included with discussion as an appendix.
Keywords explanation  determinism  philosophy of the social sciences  datasets  economic development  world history  methodology  environmental determinism  geographic determinism  exogenous factors
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