Abstracts of Roepke Lecturers (1987 onward)

Barnes, T. Published in Economic Geography, January 2012, 88(1).

The discipline of Anglo-American economic geography seems to care little about its history. Its practitioners tend towards the “just do it” school of scholarship in which a concern with the present concrete economic geographical moment subordinates all else. In contrast, I argue that knowing economic geography’s history is vital. Disciplinary historical knowledge enables us to realise that we are frequently “slaves of some defunct” economic geographer; that we cannot escape our geography and history, which seep into the very pores of the ideas that we profess; and that the full connotations of economic geographical ideas are sometimes purposively hidden, secret even, revealed only later by investigative historical scholarship. My antidote: “notes from the underground.” This means a history of economic geography that delves below the reported surface; it is often subversive, contradicting conventional depictions; it is anti-rationalist, querying universal (timeless) foundations; it seeks out deliberately hidden and buried economic geographical practices, relying on sources literally found underground, personal papers and correspondence stored in one subterranean archive or another. To exemplify the importance of notes from the underground I present an extended case study: the twentieth century development of central place theory, and associated with two economic geographers: the German, Walter Christaller (1893-1969); and the American, Edward L. Ullman (1912-1976).


Harvey, D. Published in Economic Geography January 2011, 87 (1).

The crisis this time may be deeper and more far-reaching but it fits into an all-too common pattern of capitalist development experienced over the last forty years. What can Marxian theory, with its focus on crisis formation, teach us about this crisis and its likely outcomes, and what can the actual experience of the crisis teach us about Marxian theory? In what ways, furthermore, has the distinctive geography of the crisis – all the way from sub-prime lending in specific locations to global disruptions in financial, commodity, capital and labor flows – contributed either to the deepening of the crisis or to its partial resolution? And are we, finally, in the midst of a global shift in hegemony away from the United States towards East Asia? These are the questions I wish to probe.

Martin, R. Published in Economic Geography, January 2010, 86(1)

This article argues that in its “canonical” form, the path dependence model, with its core concept of lock-in, affords a restrictive and narrowly applicable account of regional and local industrial evolution, an account moreover that is tied to problematic underpinnings based on equilibrist thinking. As such, the canonical path dependence model actually stresses continuity rather than change. The article explores recent developments in political science, in which there have been active attempts to rethink the application of path dependence to the evolution of institutions so as to emphasize change rather than continuity. These developments are used to argue for a rethinking of path dependence ideas in economic geography.

Storper, M. (2009) Regional Context and Global Trade, Economic Geography 85 (1): 1-21.

How should we think of the role of regions in relation to the global economy? Theory has surprising gaps when it comes to building a unified vision of these two scales of development. Two contributions to such a vision are proposed in this article. First, the relationship between geographic concentration and the regional economic specialization it underpins and globalization should be theorized as a dynamic process. Standard location and trade theory is not adequate for this task; instead, the dynamic relationship can be captured through growth theory. But capturing this dynamic relationship requires correcting growth theory to separate its local and its global components, which are, respectively, Marshall-Arrow and Romer externalities. Second, the missing element in all theories of geographic concentration and locally specialized development is an element labeled “context” here. A theory of context, in turn, raises important new questions about the dynamic welfare and developmental effects of contemporary processes of fragmenting and relocating production at a global scale.

© 2009 Clark University


Saxenian, AL, Sabel, C. (2008) Venture Capital in the “Periphery”: The New Argonauts, Global Search, and Local Institution BuildingEconomic Geography  84 (4): 379-394

This article examines the growing importance of global, or external, search networks that firms and other actors rely on to locate collaborators who can solve part of a problem they face or require part of a solution they may be able provide. We focus on the creation in emerging economies of venture capital — an institution that is organized to search systematically for, and foster the development of, firms and industries that can, in turn, collaborate in codesign. The article examines the case of Taiwan, where first-generation immigrant professionals from U.S. technology industries have collaborated with their home-country counterparts to develop the context for entrepreneurial development. It refers to the members of these networks as the new Argonauts, an allusion to the ancient Greek Jason and the Argonauts, who searched for the Golden Fleece. We also argue that the most significant contributions of these skilled professionals to their home countries are not direct transfers of technology or knowledge, but participation in external search and domestic institutional reform. The new Argonauts are ideally positioned to search beyond prevailing routines to identify opportunities for complementary “peripheral” participation in the global economy and to work with public officials to adapt and redesign relevant institutions and firms in their native countries. They are, therefore, exemplary protagonists of “self-discovery” — the process by which an enterprise or entrepreneur determines which markets it can serve — and of a microlevel institutional reform that can, diffusing and cascading, ultimately produce wider structural transformations.

© 2008 Clark University


Palm R (1995) Catastrophic Earthquake Insurance: Patterns of Adoption Economic Geography 71(2): 119-131

In California, earthquake insurance is not mandatory and is relatively expensive. Investment in earthquake insurance is one indicator of individual/household response to hazards in the urban environment. This paper reports on a series of three surveys of California homeowners undertaken in 1989, 1990, and 1993 in Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino counties. The surveys addressed six hypotheses: rates of insurance subscription have increased; socioeconomc and demographic characteristics distinguish the insured from the uninsured; insurance purchase is systematically related to geophysical risk at the home site; perceived risk is a predictor of insurance purchase; experience with an earthquake increases perceived risk and motivates insurance purchase; and mandatory noncatastrophic insurance increases the propensity to buy nonmandatory catastrophic insurance. The surveys yielded three primary findings. First, the proportion of households subscribing to earthquake insurance increased steadily, from about 5 percent in 1973 to approximately 40 percent in Santa Clara and Los Angeles counties in 1989 and 50 percent in those counties in 1993. Second, the geographic pattern of insurance subscription has consistently been unrelated to relative geophysical risk: those in areas susceptible to high degrees of ground shaking are no more likely to purchase insurance than those in less risky areas. Third, the strongest and most consistent predictor of earthquake insurance purchase is perceived vulnerability: those who perceive that their homes or communities are likely to experience earthquake damage are more likely to purchase earthquake insurance. Future research should involve cross-cultural studies, specifically addressed at questions of the universality of the empirical relationships between personality, demographic-economic status, and insurance purchase, or, more broadly, earthquake-mitigation behavior.

© 1995 Clark University


Dicken P (1994) Global-Local Tensions: Firms and States in the Global Space-Economy Economic Geography 70(2): 101-128

A key issue facing researchers of economic, political, social, and cultural change is the dialectical tension between globalizing and localizing processes. From an economic geography perspective, a major question concerns the relationship between the globalizing tendencies of many business firms and the prospects for a genuinely local economic development, particularly in light of the organizational and technological changes associated with the alleged transition to a post-Fordist world. This paper addresses a specific aspect of the “global-local nexus” that has not been well developed in the geographic literature: the relationships between transnational corporations and nation-states. Each can be conceptualized as highly embedded interacting networks. Firms and states are locked in competitive struggles. The competitive strategies they employ are both diverse and the outcome of contested power relations, internal and external. Increasingly, too, they involve various forms of collaborative relationship. Concrete spatial outcomes, therefore, reflect complex competitive and bargaining relationships between and within firms, between and within states, and between firms and states.

© 1994 Clark University


Scott A J (1992) The Collective Order of Flexible Production Agglomerations: Lessons for Local Economic Development Policy and Strategic Choice Economic Geography 68(3): 219-233

A significant portion of the modern world economy is constituted as a patchwork of dense industrial agglomerations. The currently shifting structure of production from Fordist to flexible accumulation has intensified this state of affairs. In this paper, I describe changes in the thrust and content of regional policy resulting from these developments. I briefly delineate the inner logic of flexible production agglomerations, and I argue that they are likely to be most successful when they secure for themselves appropriate frameworks of institutional and collective order. Generic tasks for such frameworks are described in terms of five main arenas of social intervention: (1) industrial technology, (2) labor training, (3) business service associations, (4) innovation networks and cooperative manufacturing structures, and (5) local government and land use control. The case of recent public efforts to establish an electric car industry in Los Angeles is discussed as an illustration of the argument. The paper ends with a brief remark about some of the wider political implications of the analysis.

©1992 Clark University


Bourne L S (1991) Recycling Urban Systems and Metropolitan Areas: A Geographical Agenda for the 1990s and beyond Economic Geography67(3): 185-209

As we enter the post-recession 1990s, individual metropolitan areas and entire urban systems face daunting problems in adapting to continued global economic restructuring, ethnocultural changes, deterioration of the built environment, and ecological degradation. This paper reviews the dimensions of these problems and offers a critique of contemporary theories, processes, and practices of urban development. It argues the need for new urban forms, and specifically for the reuse, intensification, and reurbanization of older urban areas and for an overall reduction in the waste of land and resources created by our cut-and-burn style of development. It then examines the challenges and constraints involved in shifting the relative balance of development between greenfield and existing built-up areas. Two case studies, one of the reversal of inner city population decline in Toronto, the other a more comprehensive exercise to evaluate alternative urban forms, are introduced to illustrate how difficult it will be to redirect current trajectories of urban growth toward more efficient, socially equitable, and ecologically sustainable urban futures.

© 1991 Clark University


Sheppard E S (1990) Modeling the Capitalist Space Economy: Bringing Society and Space Back Economic Geography 66(3): 201-228

Recent theoretical debates in economic geography are not reducible to a dispute between alternative economic theories, but are dominated nonetheless by neoclassical vs Marxist paradigms. Logical foundations of a Marxist model of the capitalist space economy are presented using mathematical models, enabling insight into unsolved theoretical debates and a more trenchant critique of neoclassical propositions. The equilibrium geography of production resulting from full capitalist competition is laid out, but analysis of this reveals both inherent disequilibrium processes disrupting any equilibrating tendencies and the contradictory, conflictual, and inconstant nature of the capitalist space economy. Models of the space economy are inseparable from social theory and social and political processes, and the very incorporation of space into these models challenges some well-known propositions from non-spatial economic theory.

©1990 Clark University


Berry B J L (1989) Comparative Geography of the Global Economy: Cultures, Corporations, and the Nation-State Economic Geography65(1): 1-18

In the emerging global economy, the key actors are multinational corporations and nation-states. As they interact, there are different outcomes in different world regions because they play their games on the differentiating checkerboard of culture. This paper explores the foundations of political-economic differences in culture and the dimensions along which cultures vary. A basis is provided for the context-specific behavioral and location theories needed for the yet-to-be written comparative geography of this global economy.

© 1989 Clark University


Rushton G (1988) Location Theory, Location-Allocation Models, and Service Development Planning in the Third World Economic Geography64(2): 97-120

The absence of an integrated system of settlements providing services and facilities is often cited as a cause of underdevelopment in rural areas. Location-allocation analysis systems provide an explicit framework for diagnosing service accessibility problems, measuring the efficiency of recent locational decisions and the current levels of settlement efficiency, and generating viable alternatives for action by decision makers. Development objectives are realized only when these models are applied within a broader location theory framework in which the often antagonistic behaviors of the many actors are recognized.

© 1988 Clark University


Clark W A V (1987) Urban Restructuring from a Demographic Perspective Economic Geography 63(2): 103-125

The central argument of this paper is that recent research has overemphasized the notions of urban restructuring and undervalued the role of spatial demographics in understanding urban and region spatial patterns. The paper examines the notions embedded in urban restructuring and suggests that a focus on several elements of demographic processes is an equally important component of understanding urban and region spatial structure. A specific discussion of the Los Angeles region indicates that there is a high level of complexity in social-spatial change. Social-spatial change is not simply explained by reference to an unspecified urban restructuring.

© 1987 Clark University