Radical Approach in Geography (Radicalism) – UPSC

In this article, You will read Radical Approach in Geography (Radicalism) – UPSC (Human Geography).

Radical Approach – Historical Perspective

  • Radicalism is one of the approaches developed during the period of Critical Revolution in Geography
  • This approach was first propounded by Harvey in 1973
  • But principal contributors to this approach have been Peet (1977) and Holt Jenson (1981)
  • Peet presented a separate book titled “Radical Geography” that is why many geographers call him “Father of Radical Geography”
  • He developed a comprehensive concept of radicalism in geography
  • The emergence of radical geography principally took place in the USA
  • It was developed by some progressive geographers of the Klark University of USA in 1969 through a Geographical journal “Antipode”. American capitalistic polar socio-economic system was opposed through this journal. On the basis of its information, it was commonly known as a Marxist journal in Geography.
  • The book of Peet provided final acceptability to Radicalism in geography
  • This book contained a map depicting the geographical distribution of poverty in the USA. According to this, around 20% of people in the western states of Utah, Colorado, Washington, New Mexico were living below the minimum standard of quality of life
  • The American Govt started quality of life improvement programme only after the publication of the book of Peet
  • This approach in Geography received cross-sectional acceptability in American society and that was due to the following facts
    • Vietnam war and defeat of the US by a handful of Guerrillas showed that how a mighty power can be defeated by small groups through concentrated efforts
    • Discrimination and apartheid against the inhuman treatment of African blacks. Radicalists sought for equality in the society
    • Inferior status to the women kind
  • American Society found themselves closer to radicalism and this branch of geography received wide appreciation
  • The work of Klark University geographers was also appreciated by Canadian and West American schools of geography
  • Geographers acknowledged this type of approach as a substitute to possibilistic and theoretical geographies emerging due to the Quantitative Revolution
  • It was taken as a counter product of Quantitative Revolution as Quantitative Revolution was theoretical but the society required radical change
  • It was able to provide an explanation to those geographical events whose quantification was almost impossible such as apartheid, the status of women, etc.

Radicalism in Geography

  • Radicalism is a school of thought, having a strong base in Humanism which employed Marxian Theory to explain the basic cause of poverty, deprivation, and social inequality. The contemporary social problems were related to the development of capitalism
  • Radical Geographers recognized 4 basic components of this kind of approach –
    • It is an alternative of a positivist spatial approach
    • It provides a general theoretical framework based on the principles of stimulation for the production system (Change to Marxian approach from Capitalism)
    • It is to establish how individuals act within the structural imperatives (Humanistic Approach)
    • Empirical work that seeks to understand the particular aspects of subject matters of human geography within the structuralist framework
  • Most radical geographers accept geography as a legitimate field of study and feel that it has to offer in finding solutions to world problems
  • Radical geographers’ aim is the alteration of the operating societal process by changing the relations of production components.

Criticism

  • The Marxist-Leninist approach was appreciated by progressive geographers in the developed world but it was opposed by two kinds of geographers
    • First, there were those American Geographers who believed in traditional explanations of geographical facts (e.g. Hartshorne)
    • Second, there were Soviet Geographers who called it as deviation and distortion of the philosophy of Marx and Lenin
  • Marx’s philosophy is based on the share of workers in the wealth of the nation, the share of workers in the management of the work while American Radical Geography has not referred to these two vital components of Marxist philosophy
  • Other criticisms include –
    • It had a revolutionary ideology and aims
    • It posed a threat to the “status-quo”
    • It could not build a theoretical base
    • At best, Radicalists just acted as pressure groups in the US.

Conclusion

  • The Radicalist movement was short-lived because of the above-mentioned criticisms
  • Gradually, it merged with humanism and by the 1980s, it got completely lost.
  • In a man-environment relationship, it simply considered class-differentia and capitalistic model of production for over-exploitation of resources
  • In spite of these criticisms, one has to appreciate the American approach as it provided a new direction to the study of poverty, unemployment, backwardness, social injustice, and the factors of socioeconomic underprivileged.

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