Locational Analysis in Human Geography – UPSC

In this article, You will read Locational Analysis in Human Geography for UPSC (Geography Optional).

School of Locational Analysis

Spatial analysis, which is also called area analysis and locational analysis, is the study of human trends in a specific place. It is an approach in human geography that focuses on the spatial arrangement of phenomena. It tries to build accurate generalization, models, and theories with productive power. Locational analysis is based on the philosophy of positivism and empiricism. Its usual methodology is that of spatial science.

The school of locational analysis is based on the philosophy of positivism. The philosophy of positivism supports the locational approach, which concentrates on the identification of theories of spatial arrangements. School of locational analysis is closely linked to the quantitative revolution in geography.

The locational analysis is based on empiricism. Empiricism is a philosophy that accords special privilege to empirical observations over theoretical statements. Specifically, it assumes that observational statements are the only ones that make direct reference to phenomena in the real world and that they can be declared true or false without reference to the truth or falsity of the theoretical statements.

History and development of Locational School

A number of geographers in the U.S.A. advocated the cause of locational analysis in the 1950s, although it has much deeper roots in the work of pioneers who were later adopted by geographers.

Lukerman was advocated by a number of geographers in the USA in the 1950s, but its actual working started in the 1960s. Many geographers were associated with this stream later on. Bunge (1966), for example, wrote a thesis on Theoretical Geography based on the premises who stated that geography is the ‘science of locations’.

Others such as McCarty were strongly influenced by developments in the field of economics, to which they introduced the spatial variable. Mc Carty introduced spatial variables in the field of geography. These links led to the close interrelationship between geographers and regional scientists in the 1960s and 1970, and illustrated by attempts to build economic geography theories of spatial arrangements.

Locational Analysis

  • Locational Analysis is an approach to human geography that focuses on the spatial arrangement of the phenomenon.
    • e.g. Weber’s Industrial Location Model for profit maximization
  • Its usual methodology is that of spatial science.
  • The main objective of Locational Analysis was expressed as building accurate generalization, models, and theories with productive power.
  • Accurate Generalization refers to assumptions made in different models which are then used for the generalization of outcomes.
  • According to Bunge, Geography is the ‘Science of Locations‘ as described in his book Theoretical Geography (1966).


  • Locational Analysis is based on the philosophy of Positivism
  • It concentrates on identifying theories of spatial arrangements and is hence closely linked to Quantitative Revolution
  • Locational Analysis is based on empiricism. Empiricism accords special privilege to empirical observations over theoretical statements
  • In the empirical enquiry, it is assumed that its facts ‘speak for themselves
  • Haggett in his book, Locational Analysis in Human Geography (1965), appealed to adopt the geometrical tradition to explain the order, location order, and patterns in Human Geography
    • e.g. Locational Triangle Model uses a Geometrical approach
  • Such a focus is needed –
    • To adopt a systems approach which concentrates on the patterns and linkages within an assemblage
    • To employ models as to understand the man and environment relationships, and
    • To use quantitative techniques to make precise statements (generalizations) about locational order
  • For the Spatial Analysis, it was suggested to adopt a ‘linear model‘, spatial autocorrelation, and regression.
  • Other Geographers – Morril, Col, Chorley, Cox, Harvey, Johnston, etc
  • Morril in his book, The Spatial Organization of Society, argued that people seek to maximize spatial interaction at minimum cost and so bring related activities into proximity, and the result is that human society is surprisingly alike from one place to another.

Criticisms Against Locational Analysis

The locational approach in human geography has been criticized on philosophical and methodological grounds by behaviouralists and humanists.

Some of the main criticisms against locational analysis are as under:

  1. The locational analysis based on positivism ignores the normative questions to explain the man and environment relationship. It was their mistaken belief that “positive theory would lead to normative insight”. Cultural values are quite important in any decision-making process. The ideal location for any economic activity may not be acceptable to individuals and society.
  2. The locational analysis did not reflect the reality of decision-making processes and so was of little value in predicting locational arrangement.
  3. The models developed with the help of locational analysis conceal the complexities of the real world.
  4. At present, there is economic interdependence of societies at the global level, which means that spatial interdependence has become much more important and “locally experienced environmental dependencies lost their rationale”.
  5. Locational analysis has also been criticized on the ground that it encourages the social order of capitalism in which the owners of the means of production become rich and the poor becomes poorer.
  6. The locational analysis has given a chance to the capitalists to optimize their profits. It gives uncontrolled liberty and license for plunder and miscalled profit.
  7. Owing to locational analysis, there is overproduction and the economy enters the era of over industrialization.
  8. It is mainly because of the locational analysis and capitalism that there is a total newness— new technology, new means of transportation, new education, new art, new morals, new media, new amusement, new weapons, new violence, new terrorism, new war and the new mode of exploitation.
  9. The followers of spatial science (positivists) treat people as dots on a map, statistics (data) on a graph, or numbers in an equation. They consider humans as non-living beings.
  10. The followers of spatial science (positivists) neglect the humans and related animate aspects

It is because of the inadequacies of the locational analysis that the ‘behaviouralism’ and ‘humanism’ achieved much significance in human geography.

Whatever the reason for its origin, there is little doubt that locational analysis substantially changed the nature of human geography from the mid-1960s, although there is some doubt that it ever dominated the discipline.

It presented geography as a positivist social science, concerned to develop precise, quantitatively stated generalization about the pattern of spatial organization, thereby enriching and being enriched by ‘Location Theory’, and to offer models and procedures which could be used in physical planning.

Spatial vs Locational analysis

In Spatial analysis, the focus is on the spatial arrangement of phenomena that are the organizational center (node), network, interaction /flow, distance, relative distance, etc.

In Locational analysis, the following analysis is done in particular locations: Population and demographic, Migration, Industries and types of Industries, Literacy, and school, college infrastructure.

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