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Materialism, Social Formation and Socio-Spatial Relations: An Essay in Marxist Geography by Richard Peet, in ''Cahiers de Géographie du Québec,'' Vol. 22, No. 56 (September 1978)

Materialism, Social Formation and Socio-Spatial Relations: An Essay in Marxist Geography by Richard Peet, in ''Cahiers de Géographie du Québec,'' Vol. 22, No. 56 (September 1978)

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Article
 Richard Peet
Cahiers de géographie du Québec 
, vol. 22, n° 56, 1978, p. 147-157. Pour citer cet article, utiliser l'information suivante :
 URI:http://id.erudit.org/iderudit/021390ar DOI: 10.7202/021390ar Note : les règles d'écriture des références bibliographiques peuvent varier selon les différents domaines du savoir.Ce document est protégé par la loi sur le droit d'auteur. L'utilisation des services d'Érudit (y compris la reproduction) est assujettie à sa politiqued'utilisation que vous pouvez consulter à l'URIhttp://www.erudit.org/apropos/utilisation.html
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"Materialism, Social Formation and Socio-Spatial Relations : an Essay in Marxist Geography"
 
CAHIERS DE GÉOGRAPHIE DU QUÉBEC,
Vol.
22, no 56, septembre 1978, 147-157
MATERIALISM, SOCIAL FORMATION, AND SOCIO-SPATIAL RELATIONS:AN ESSAY IN MARXIST GEOGRAPHY
by 
Richard PEET
Graduate School of Geography, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia 
RÉSUMÉ
Matérialisme, formation sociale et relations socio-spatiales: un essai de géographie marxiste.
La géographie marxiste fait partie de la science marxiste et à ce titre elle a l'autonomie relative desinstances qui composent le tout social étudié. Ces instances, ou les relations qui s'établissent entre elles et qui sont
l'objet
de la géographie marxiste, sont en premier lieu la relation dialectique entre formations sociales et environnement naturel et en second lieu la dialectique spatiale entre les composantesd'une formation sociale enracinée dans l'espace ou entre des formations sociales dans différentes ré
gions.
D'où la nécessité de renvoyer aux concepts de mode de production et de formation sociale, de définir et d'illustrer le concept de dialectique spatiale et le développement des contradictions dans l'es
pace.
MOTS-CLÉS: Géographie marxiste, mode de production, formation sociale, dialectique spatiale, développement des contradictions.
ABSTRACTMarxist geography is a part of marxist science and as such it has the relative autonomy of the instances of the societal whole studied. Thèse instances or the relations between instances which are theobject of marxist geography are first the dialectical relation between social formations and the naturalworld and second the spatial dialectic between components of a social formation embedded into spaceor between social formations in différent régions. Hence the need to refer to the concepts of mode ofproduction and of social formation and to define and illustrate the concept of spatial dialectic andthe development of contradictions in space.
KEY WORDS: Marxist geography, mode of production, social formation, spatial dialectic, development ofcontradictions.
 
148 CAHIERS DE GÉOGRAPHIE DU QUÉBEC, vol. 22, no. 56, septembre 1978
First, let us décide whether there can be a «marxist geography». The concept«marxist geography» has utility on two grounds, one pragmatic, the other theore-
tical.
In terms of practice, most marxist geographers work in the académie discipline of geography, which already exists, has a number of functional rela-tionships with capitalism, and is therefore a source of livelihood for its prac-titioners. Thèse practitioners may include some who call themselves marxistsfor the following reasons. Capitalism is a System propelled through time by thedevelopment of its internai contradictions. Thèse contradictions erupt into
con
tinuai crises, for which the System needs «solutions». The universities hâve, asone of their functions, the provision of «solutions». Because the crises ofcapitalism are ever-changing, the universities must remain somewhat flexible and
free.
This necessary modicum of freedom can be extended to marxism by careful,diligent work on the part of the marxists. We must be geographers in orderto survive at one of the centers of power, and we are enabled to be marxistgeographers by taking advantage of capitalism's need for «free» thinkingi.But the concept «marxist geography» also has a certain philosophical validity.The structure of marxist science replicates the structure of its object — humansociety. Just as the social formation is a totality of dialectically interrelatedinstances, so Marxism is a holistic science of dialectically interrelated parts. This
is,
the parts of marxist science study the various instances, or the relationsbetween instances, of the societal whole. As each instance has a relative autonomyfrom the whole, so each part of science has a certain autonomy, while remainingwithin (and only making sensé in) a whole science. Hence, marxist science mayinclude within itself specializations on the various instances and relations of thesocial formation.Marxist geography specializes on two of the relations which affect, and areaffected by, the whole social formation, which affect and are affected by ail theinstances of the formation: the dialectical relation between social formations andthe natural world; and the spatial dialectic between components of a formationembedded into space, or between social formations in différent régions. Together,thèse two sets of relations may be called the environmental relations of the socialformations which make up world society. As a study of one aspect (environmentalrelations) of the relations of the social whole, and the interrelations of its instances,marxist geography is necessarily intricately integrated both into the whole marxistscience and with each of its specializing parts. Relations do not make senséwithout the things being related. Things do not make sensé except in their totalweb of relations. There can be, and is, such a thing as marxist geography.
The Materialist Basis of Marxist Geography 
Marx begins with the premise of the existence of human individuals who mustbe in a position to live in order to be able to «make history». The first historicalact is thus the production of the means to satisfy needs for
food,
drink, housing,clothing,etc. — the production of material life itself. This «mode of production»should not be considered merely as the reproduction of physical existence, butrather as a «definite
mode of life»
(Marx and Engels, 1976, 31). Individuals whoare productively active in a definite way enter into definite social and politicalrelations with one another; and during their productive activity, humans alsoproduce conceptions, ideas, etc.. «Consciousness can never be anything else thanconscious being, and the being of men is their actual life process... It is notconsciousness that détermines life, but life that détermines consciousness»(Marx and Engels, 1976, 36-37). Consciousness develops with productivity, theincrease of needs, and of the numbers of people. It develops especially with thedivision of labor particularly the division between material and mental labor — fromthis point, consciousness may proceed to the formation of «pure» theory, theology,philosophy, morality, etc.. Hence, the key to the understanding of the structure

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