Dear Marsh,


Thank you very much for your interest in our sessions. The panellists for
the panel session on 'theorizing in Economic Geography' have been decided
already, as you could see from the attached cfp. Therefore, it would not be
possible to add additional panellist. However, we would encourage you to
submit an abstract to the normal paper session on "aligning theory and
method in EG" that we are organizing. I am sure you will also find
interesting papers in this session, as we have already got some good
submissions. In case you are interested in presenting your ideas at our
paper session, the deadline is today. And you could draft an abstract with
the length as you wish.  


Best wishes,





From: AAG Economic Geography Speciality Group
Sent: 06 February 2020 19:22
Subject: Re: FW: WG: CfP RGS-IBG on Aligning Theory and Method in Economic


Dear Professors Gong, Rutten, and Hassink:

I am very interested in this panel session and am writing to request a copy
of the CFP for the related session you mention: "Theorizing in Economic
Geography." I have not seen it, but it may be helpful for writing my

My own interest is to examine the use of mathematical methods in various
contemporary approaches to economic geography. Although I still have to
collect and organize my thoughts, here are some themes I am contemplating:

*       The 1970s "counterrevolution" against the quantitative revolution of
the 1960s tacitly discredited heavy reliance on mathematics in
economic-geography research. This was unfortunate because it failed to
distinguish adequately between the revolution's positivism and its closely
connected use of mathematics.
*       Despite overwhelmingly rejecting the quantitative revolution's
approach to economic geography, post-1970s economic geography tacitly
retains some of its most positivistic assumptions. Perhaps the most
important of these is an absurd ontology of "variables." Instead of treating
"variables" as measurements of a deeper reality, this ontology treats
variables as things in themselves and gives little thought to distinguishing
between variables that might actually count real things that exist in the
world (e.g., the number of employees at a firm) from other, similar
variables that pertain to the same entities (e.g., the monetary value of the
firm's payroll), or from other variables that are at best measurements
associated with almost purely theoretical constructs (e.g., GDP,
unemployment rates).
*       Similar issues appear in more complex analyses. For example,
interpreting regression models in terms of "independent" and "dependent"
variables, which of course is part of the language used in the mathematics,
when in fact these terms are largely matters of convenience for the
mathematics itself. Estimates of such models are themselves complex
measurements, whose purchase is no more or less than any other measurement.
Typically, the "variables" are themselves measurements (often associated
with the exact same thing), and a models fitted using such things are
themselves nothing but complex measurements. The model is not the real
*       Even studies that do not explicitly employ mathematical methods,
still use the language of the absurd ontology, which confuses measurements
of things with the things themselves. You mention this in the CFP.
*       For much of the field, this boils down to misuse or
misinterpretation of mathematics, when math is used in research, or non-use.
The latter has translated into mathematics being a "dead language" in much
of economic geography, and this in turn has negatively affected
communication between economic geography and neighboring disciplines. In
particular, because mainstream economics continues to be predominantly
positivist and empiricist, economics as a field has not rejected mathematics
the way economic geography has. As a result, heterodox economists continue
to use mathematics in work very related to what economic geographers are
studying, but the growing lack of this common language has led to a wide
gulf between the two. My paper will draw from some of the heterodox
economists who have addressed these issues (e.g. Tony Lawson, Steve Keen,

Please recognize the above as being very preliminary. I'm just sketching it
here to help you understand what I'm looking for from the other CFP.

Thank you.

    Very Truly Yours,

    Marsh Feldman

On 2/5/20 5:13 AM, Huiwen Gong wrote:

REMINDER, deadline for abstracts: Friday Feb 7th ( <>  )



Call for Papers RGS-IBG Annual Conference September 1-4, 2020, London, U.K.;data=02%7C01%7CECONOMICGEOGRAPHY-L%40LISTSERV.UCONN.EDU%7C0f9bf5edc2e646c5284008d7abb128e2%7C17f1a87e2a254eaab9df9d439034b080%7C0%7C0%7C637166649908385970&amp;sdata=paIEVVl5o%2B0WaE7%2BsfMsP3sy0SmRg6SNmcqz8oekT0c%3D&amp;reserved=0



Aligning theory and method in economic geography


Organizers: Huiwen Gong1, Roel Rutten2, Robert Hassink1


1 Kiel University, Department of Geography, Kiel, Germany; email:

2 Tilburg University, School of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Tilburg,
The Netherlands; email:  <>


Related to a panel session on "Theorizing in Economic Geography" (organized
by Huiwen Gong & Robert Hassink), in this paper session, we discuss the
(mis)alignment of theory and method in economic geography. Economic
geography is a field vibrant in developing new topics and ideas. However,
the diversity of approaches, methods and methodologies, philosophical
foundations, and practices has led to a situation where economic geographers
are often talking past each other because researchers' (implicit)
assumptions on how social reality works and the nature of causality do not
match. As correctly observed by Barnes and Christophers (2018) in a recent
book, this phenomenon can largely be attributed to a "don't ask, and don't
tell" (ibid, p.132) culture in economic geography. In order to counter this
"don't-ask-don't-tell" culture, we argue that researchers must be explicit
about the assumptions they buy into when they are making causal claims. The
reluctance of economic geographers to explicitly align theorizing and method
creates two important problems. (1) A misalignment of (implicit) assumptions
on the nature of social reality and causality makes it very difficult for
researchers to effectively communicate their results across research
projects. (2) As argued, theorizing in economic geography is very diverse
but empirical research most often still follows the mainstream approach of
identifying net-effects of independent variable. This produces a
misalignment between the theorizing and methods within a research project.
We further observe that, in economic geography, theorizing has become a
task/interest of a small group of scholars who often fail to explain the
methodological implications of their theorizing, while much empirical work
uncritically follows mainstream, variable-based method regardless of whether
they fit the theory used.


Theory and method must be aligned for theory to sensibly inform empirical
research and for empirical research to sensibly inform theory development.
To achieve this alignment in economic geography and to prevent economic
geographers from "talking past each other", our discipline needs to
explicitly engage with the philosophical underpinnings of the theories and
the methods that we use. Additionally, extra care needs to be paid to the
role of the specific context and conditions in which researchers are doing
research on. Instead of following the dominant "don't ask, and don't tell"
theorizing culture, in this session, we encourage scholars to talk openly
about the methodologies and philosophies that make their work what they are,
the key concepts and notions that are used in their research, as well as to
reflect upon the way in which they theorize in general. As an example, we
point at the renewed interested in critical realism in economic geography
(Yeung 2019) and the introduction of QCA (Qualitative Comparative Analysis)
(Rutten 2019). Put differently, in order to align theory and method,
economic geography needs a discussion about the different ontologies
underlying our discipline and their epistemological implications.


Specifically, we welcome empirical and theoretical contributions that deal
with, but are not necessarily constrained to the following questions:

1.       What is the role of context (space-time- contingent) in theorizing
regional economic development outcomes? How do economic geographers navigate
between the divergent appeals of particularity and generality? To what
extent has the emphasis on empirical generalizations disconnected theorizing
and explanation from context?

2.       What kind of concepts and theories are popular in economic
geography? What are the pros and cons of importing theories and concepts
from neighboring disciplines?  How do economic geographers contribute to the
theorizing and re-theorizing of such concepts/theories?

3.       What are the philosophical underpinnings of different research
perspectives (e.g., evolutionary, institutional, geographical political
economy, relational, feminism, alternative economy perspectives, etc.) in
economic geography? How do each stream's ontology, epistemology,
methodology, and methods interrelate? 

4.       What kind of new methods are currently developed in or introduced
to economic geography (e.g., Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA), big
data, Discourse Network Analysis DNA, etc.)? How do the philosophical/
ontological assumptions of these methods differ from mainstream,
variable-based methods, how do these new methods contribute to our
understanding of divergent economic development outcomes in space, and how
can they contribute to aligning theory and method in economic geography? 

Please send abstracts to  <> by Feb 7th 2020 (notification of abstract
acceptance: Feb 10th 2020)



Barnes, T. and Christophers, B. (2018). Economic geography: A critical
introduction, Chichester: Wiley

Rutten, R. (2019). Openness values and regional innovation: A set-analysis,
Journal of Economic Geography, 19(6): 1211-1232.

Yeung, H. (2019). Rethinking mechanism and process in the geographical
analysis of uneven development, Dialogues in Human Geography, 9(3): 226-255.


Marshall Feldman, PhD
Professor Emeritus of Labor Research and Urban Studies
Schmidt Labor Research Center, The University of Rhode Island
Kingston, RI 02881
401.874.5953 | <> 

Attachment: RGS IBG 20 London Panel session.docx
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