In this article, You will read Humanistic Approach in Geography (Humanism) for UPSC.

Humanistic Approach/Humanism

  • Humanism is one of the new approaches in geography which emerged during the period of Critical Revolution in Geography
  • It is principally derived from behavioural approach which was also a critique of the Quantitative Revolution
  • In true sense, it is an anthropocentric approach, where the role of the human being is considered as central in the solution of complex problems of Human beings and every human being is considered unique
  • This approach was developed by Tuan in 1976
  • According to him, Human awareness, consciousness, and creativity helps in the understanding of meaning, value, and significance of life events of human beings
  • So, the life of humankind has a profile. It may be a profile for an individual family, community, or a nation
  • Life events require anthropocentric explanation where individual behaviour on a particular event needs to be geographically explained
  • Humanism contradicted Positivism on the following basis
    • Man as economic and rational
    • Geography as geometrical (only a spatial science neglecting humans)
    • Isotropic surface
    • Man as a mere point on the surface
  • Humanism in geography started in late 1960s but after publication of Tuan’s work “Humanistic Geography”, it took centre stage after fall of Quantitative Revolution
  • The revival of humanism in 1970s owed much to a deep dissatisfaction with more mechanistic models developed during Quantitative Revolution.

Theories of Humanism

Humanism is based on 4 major theories, in order to understand life events in a better way-

  1. Human Agency – Man is an actor and he influences nature by his tools or technologies. This is close to possibilism where man is an active agent of change.
  2. Human Consciousness – Humans are governed by the human environment or intellectual
    environment which has consciousness. Humans make use of perceptions and mental maps. It is
    close to behaviouralism.
  3. Human Awareness – Man has geographical knowledge and from the day of his existence, his awareness related to the environment is increasing. He knows the limitations and possibilities and that is how he acts. It is close to existentialism. Thus, man has geographical knowledge as well as environmental consciousness.
  4. Human Creativity – Humans have the special ability to create their own tools and the physical environment behaves neutral. Due to his creativity, man can modify the environment for his benefit but man’s creativity varies with circumstances e.g. man’s behaviour in a crowd and privacy are not the same.


  • According to Tuan, there are five basic themes of general interest to geographers, namely –
    1. Nature of Geographical knowledge and its role in human survival
    2. The role of territory in human behaviour and the creation of place identities
    3. The interrelationship between crowding and privacy
    4. The role of knowledge as a factor of influence on the livelihood
    5. The influence of religion on human activities
  • These 5 themes have established humanistic approach/humanism or humanist geography
  • Tuan was himself in favour of its recognition as a new critical approach of human geography

Approaches in Humanistic Geography

Realizing its importance as a branch of geography, some geographers have developed approaches for humanistic geography.

Presently, there are 3 well recognized approaches in Humanistic geography

Idealistic Approach

  • It was developed by Leonard Gulke in 1981.
  • According to him, an idealistic approach is required for philosophical events in Geography to understand the perceived world.
  • Philosophical events like historical events of scarcity, events of large scale human transfer, large scale massacres require idealistic explanations.
  • Historical events can be explained by an idealistic approach
  • Gulke developed the concept of humanistic geopolitics based on historical events
  • He had viewed that present-day politics has a greater dependence on historical events rather than present events.
  • Through an idealistic approach, he also presented the concept of humanistic geopolitics
  • Accordingly, the politics of territorial space depends on historical events than present events
  • Although the basis of geopolitics may be a historical or humanistic approach but it is similar to German politics
  • Consequently, the approach and theme of Gulke failed to be widely acknowledged

Hermeneutic Approach

  • It was developed by a German school. The German Hermeneutic Approach is known as the theory of interpretation and classification of meaning.

Phenomenological Approach

Tuan propounded this approach

  • Kirk is also the propounder of this approach
  • According to Tuan, it is an approach for understanding the world in totality
  • Nowadays, there has been a growing consciousness for world community or make the people of the world live in a world village
  • This type of approach is supposed to be more efficient in the understanding of world phenomenon
  • Phenomenologists argue that there is no objective world independent of Man’s existence
  • All kinds of knowledge proceed from the world of experience and cannot be independent of the world which is in totality
  • Every knowledge and every experience has a background of totality and proceeds for totality.


  • The humanistic approach is not relevant currently and has no application in the contemporary sense
  • On methodological grounds, it separates human geography from physical geography, thus reviving the dichotomy, which is not beneficial for the discipline as a whole
  • Humanistic Geography, which is largely based on participant observation, lacks a sound and valid methodological base as it involves more subjective than objective research and can be biased
  • There is an insignificant emphasis on applied research. This indifference might destroy the base of the subject. The potential dangers are greater since other disciplines have been more effective at academic imperialism than geography
    • e.g. applied research in economic geography is in danger of being consumed within economics
  • It does not offer a viable alternative to scientific geography. Rather, the humanistic approach is best understood as a form of criticism
  • It cannot be a replacement or an alternative to geography.


  • It revived the principles of regional geography and areal differentiation and enriched geographical thought.
  • It is therefore obvious that the humanistic approach is not a welfare approach but is an approach to understand the world in a more scientific and comprehensive way.

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The notes are not only too good but are well researched too. I wonder why you are doing all this for us. Anyway, thank you sir.


humanistic approach :)


Effert to make best content has seen in notes I can understand. No any single book provide such type of matter easy to understand .. thanku very much sir


how the humanistic approach is different from human geography?


Humanistic approach(exclusively human centric) is a subset of human geography (interaction of human with environment)


Really really wonderful notes thanx alot 😇😇


i have lacked confidence in thoughts part of paper 1 as always untill i found this amazing site .its like blessing to all the geography optional students. thanks you somuch lotus for providing these notes.

Last edited 10 months ago by vipluv

One of the best source. Thank you. I also purchased your previous year’s questions compilation


Can’t thank u enough sir❤️

Nadeem Ahmad Gulam Hamid Ansari

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