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"Not Only... But Also": Quantitative and Critical Geography by Trevor J. Barnes, in "The Professional Geographer," Vol. 61, No. 3 (2009)

"Not Only... But Also": Quantitative and Critical Geography by Trevor J. Barnes, in "The Professional Geographer," Vol. 61, No. 3 (2009)

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“Not Only
. . .
But Also”: Quantitative and CriticalGeography
 Trevor J. Barnes
University of British Columbia
 This article argues that the binary between quantitative and critical geography is pseudo rather than real. Theduality arose, the article suggests, because of the peculiar postwar intellectual history of human geography in whichthecriticalapproachfollowedthequantitativeone.Accordingly,forinternal sociologicalreasons,itwasnecessaryforthecriticalapproachtoexciseeverythingthatwentbeforeinquantitativegeography.Incontrast,the article argues that there is no inherent contradiction between critical and quantitative approaches, andindeed there are good reasons to join them. The article makes its argument by suggesting, first, that Marx,the ultimate social critic, was sympathetic to mathematics in his own work; second, that this fact was lost to the radical geographers of the late 1960s and early 1970s because of their desire to distance themselvesand ultimately to overthrow the dominant quantitative approach; and finally, that the supposed binary of quantitative and critical geography might be dissolved by engaging in what Galison (1998), the historian of science, calls “trading zones.”
Key Words: critical geography, Marx, quantitative revolution, trading zones.
 This article argues that the binary between quantitative and critical geography is pseudo rather than real. Theduality arose, the article suggests, because of the peculiar postwar intellectual history of human geography in whichthecriticalapproachfollowedthequantitativeone.Accordingly,forinternal sociologicalreasons,itwasnecessaryforthecriticalapproachtoexciseeverythingthatwentbeforeinquantitativegeography.Incontrast,the article argues that there is no inherent contradiction between critical and quantitative approaches, andindeed there are good reasons to join them. The article makes its argument by suggesting, first, that Marx,the ultimate social critic, was sympathetic to mathematics in his own work; second, that this fact was lost to the radical geographers of the late 1960s and early 1970s because of their desire to distance themselvesand ultimately to overthrow the dominant quantitative approach; and finally, that the supposed binary of quantitative and critical geography might be dissolved by engaging in what Galison (1998), the historian of science, calls “trading zones.”
Key Words: critical geography, Marx, quantitative revolution, trading zones.
 This article argues that the binary between quantitative and critical geography is pseudo rather than real. Theduality arose, the article suggests, because of the peculiar postwar intellectual history of human geography in whichthecriticalapproachfollowedthequantitativeone.Accordingly,forinternal sociologicalreasons,itwasnecessaryforthecriticalapproachtoexciseeverythingthatwentbeforeinquantitativegeography.Incontrast,the article argues that there is no inherent contradiction between critical and quantitative approaches, andindeed there are good reasons to join them. The article makes its argument by suggesting, first, that Marx,the ultimate social critic, was sympathetic to mathematics in his own work; second, that this fact was lost to the radical geographers of the late 1960s and early 1970s because of their desire to distance themselvesand ultimately to overthrow the dominant quantitative approach; and finally, that the supposed binary of quantitative and critical geography might be dissolved by engaging in what Galison (1998), the historian of science, calls “trading zones.”
Key Words: critical geography, Marx, quantitative revolution, trading zones.
 M
 y UK undergraduate geography cur-riculum of the mid-1970s was schizo-phrenic. We pored over Harvey’s (1969)
 Explanation in Geography,
and our lecturerstook us to the leading edge of Britishquantitative geography: single-, double-, andtriple-lagged variables; spatial autocorrelationequations; the Kalman filter; and the ultimate,Box–Jenkins (and uttered in revered tones, orso I remember). It is hard to believe that I wassufficiently obsessed by Box–Jenkins that I got up very early one Saturday morning to go tothe college library to stare until my head hurt at their ARMA and ARIMA family of forecast-ing models. This was half of my undergraduateeducation.
 The Professional Geographer, 61(3) 2009, pages 1–9
C
Copyright 2009 by Association of American Geographers.Initial submission, November 2007; revised submission, October 2008; final acceptance, November 2008.Published by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
 
2
Volume 61, Number 3, August 2009
 Thentherewastheotherhalf.Itwaslearningthat quantitative methods were flawed. They had their time in the limelight, but now weneeded instead to be social critics. We readHarvey mark II (or “Marx II” as we said), singleissues of 
Antipode
in vibrantly colored coverslocked away behind the library counter, andmost shocking of all, a ravaged private copy of Olsson’s (1975) Michigan Geographical Publi-cation No. 15,
Birds in Egg.
It was owned by apostgraduate student with an unlikely researchinterestinLondon’sdouble-deckerbuses,theirroutes, and their timetables, who one day cametooneofourclasses“todisturbus.”Hedid,andnot only by telling us about the inner work-ings of London transport but by reading fromOlsson. Missing from our curriculum was how thetwo halves fitted together. In my final year,I took a seminar on geography and philos-ophy. One of the topics was the ostensibleopposition between quantitative and radicalgeography (and represented by the dyspepticBerry–Harvey debate in
Antipode
that recently hadmadeitswayintothelockedlibrarycabinet;Berry and Harvey 1974). Someone in that seminar said, and drawing on the name of a well-known Peter Cook and Dudley MooreBBC television show of the time, “Why can’t it be‘Notonly 
. . .
Butalso’?Thisismyquestionin the remainder of this article. My contention is that the opposition be-tween quantitative and critical geography ispseudo rather than real (and recognized, forexample, by Kwan 2004). I argue that to under-stand why quantitative and critical geography have been portrayed as antagonistic (as they  were in my seminar in the mid-1970s and con-tinuing to the present), it is necessary to pur-sue intellectual history both inside geography as well as outside.
1
Scrutinizing that history,I suggest, makes it clear that there is no in-herent contradiction between mathematics andcritique but also shows why such an erroneousopposition was accepted within human geogra-phy in the first place.By quantitative geography I mean the move-ment that began in the late 1950s concerned with systematically applying mathematicalforms of reasoning and formal statistical meth-ods and techniques to geographical problems(and that also provided the spark for what laterbecame GIScience).
2
 My argument is that thequantitative approach came to geography rela-tivelylate,primarilybywayofeconomics.That particularroute,Isuggest,taintedtheapproachfor critical geographers, even though, as I alsoargue, there is nothing inherently anticriticalabout mathematical forms of representation.Critical geography is now a variegated anddiffuse set of perspectives including feminist,postcolonial, post-Marxist, antiracist, antiglob-alization, and queer theory.
3
It is not possi-ble to deal with all these different theories inan article as short as this one, but I do not think it is necessary either. My suggestion isthat critical geography’s aversion to quanti-tative geography originated during the early 1970s in the encounter between quantitativegeography and the discipline’s first systematiccritical approach, radical geography (and from which contemporary critical geography lateremerged). It was that initial encounter, and asmuch sociological as intellectual, that poisonedthe well of a quantitative approach and estab-lished the putative binary. For these reasons,this article focuses on the past rather than thepresent, and the comparatively narrow radicalgeographyratherthanthecontemporarybroadcritical geography. The article is divided into three brief sec-tions. First, by reviewing Marx’s relation tomathematics I make the argument that math-ematics is not innately antithetical to a criti-cal approach. Marx is possibly the critic of allcritics, and his writings were inspirational forradical geography. In spite of his own limitedmathematical acumen, however, Marx consis-tently favored a quantitative approach to socialanalysis. Mathematics and Marxism were neverantonyms. Second, this fact was lost when thecritical approach was introduced into the dis-cipline during the 1970s as radical geography. My focus is on Harvey, the key developer of radical geography during this period, who I ar-gue partly contributed to producing the binary that this Focus Section attempts to overcome.Finally, to help to break that dualism, I suggest drawingonworkinsciencestudies,particularlGalison’s(1998)inquiryintotwentieth-century microphysics that shows how similar blockagesinthatfieldwerecircumventedbytheconstruc-tionof“tradingzonesandtrading“pidginlan-guages.” It represents yet another argument,along with others made by the articles in thisFocus Section, for the binary to be dissolved,
 
“Not Only
. . .
But Also”: Quantitative and Critical Geography
3
for geography to be not only critical, but alsoquantitative.
Marx and Mathematics
 Although Marx is perhaps best known for rous-ing one-liners—“Workers have nothing to losebuttheirchains,”“Workersoftheworldunite,”“Religion is the opiate of the masses”—he alsopenned less riveting but more exacting prose:
Consequently 
u
and
z
as mere names, as sym-bols of functions of 
x
; therefore as well only the
general forms of this ratio of dependence
(
 Abh¨ angigkeitverh¨ altnis 
):
u
1
u x
1
 x
=
 f  
(
 x
1
)
f  
(
 x
)
 x
1
 x
,
 z
1
 z x
1
 x
=
ϕ
(
 x
1
)
ϕ
(
 x
)
 x
1
 x
is generated immediately by the processes of taking the derivative. (Marx [1968] 1983, 19)
 Marx wrote nearly a thousand pages like thisbeginning from the late 1850s and continuingalmostuntilhediedin1883(Marx[1968]1983, vii).Thepagesareacombinationofnotesmadefrom mathematical works he read and an orig-inal study of the history and nature of differen-tiation.Marxwasintentespeciallyon“tear[ing]off the veil of mystery” (Marx [1968] 1983, x)that surrounded “quantities which are used forcalculating the infinitely small—the differen-tials and infinitely small quantities of variableorders” (xi). To do so he used the same methodhe applied to tearing off all “veil[s] of mystery”:dialectical materialism. The preceding equa-tion was part of that unveiling. It representedoneelementinMarx’srevisedhistoryofmathe-matical differentiation told “as a particular caseof [the] dialectical law of ‘negation of a nega-tion’” (Smolinski 1973, 1194; see also Kol’man[1968] 1983).Not that it was easy for Marx. Mathemat-ics was not in his intellectual marrow, or ashe put it, he was “never on intimate terms”(Marx, quoted in Smolinski 1973, 1197). In1858, at age thirty-eight, as he was preparingthe manuscript for the first volume of 
Capital,
he wrote to Engels: “I am so damnedly held upby mistakes in calculation in the working out of the economic principles that out of despair Iintend to master algebra promptly. Arithmeticremainsforeigntome”(Marx[1968]1983,viii).Consequently, many of the thousand pages of  Marx’s mathematical manuscripts are redrafts,and even redrafts of redrafts, as he struggled with the obstinate complexities of differentia-tion. He continued with the project of learn-ing mathematics, however, going back to orig-inal sources by Newton, Leibnitz, d’Alembert,and Lagrange, studying in the Reading Roomof the British Museum but also in librariesat the Universities of London and Cambridgeas well as at the Royal Society (Marx [1968]1983, xxiv).He channeled so much effort into the task because he thought mathematical or analyticalforms of reasoning were central to his largerproject. They were central because mathemat-ics was a component of science, and he thought of his work above all as a science, a scienceof society. As reported by Lafargue, “Marxbelieved
. . .
‘a science is not really developeduntil it has learned to make use of mathemat-ics’” (quoted in Kol’man [1968] 1983, 220). More specifically, Marx thought mathemat-ics necessary to represent and understand thelaws of motion of capitalism. Commodity val-ues, rates of exploitation, the falling rate of profit, and crises of overaccumulation—the very conceptual furniture of his revolutionary science—needed to be expressed formally, cer-tainlynumerically,preferablyalgebraically,andif possible in terms of the mathematics of cal-culus. In fact, Chapter III of the third volumeof 
Capital 
according to Engels ([1894] 1967,12–13) was to be fully mathematical, “dealing with the relation of the rate of surplus valueto the rate of profit in the form of equations.” MarxneverlivedlongenoughtoseeVolumeIIIcompleted,sohischapternevercametobe,bu whatistakenasadraftofthatchapterexistsand was analyzed by Smolinski (1973, 1195–98). It utilized the full array of Marx’s mathematicalarsenal, including first-order differential equa-tions, algebraic manipulation, and, admittedly  Marx’s weakness, arithmetical calculation, in-cluding horrendous multiplications in the cal-culation of prices and involving fractions like209
2171
and 172
2563
(neither of which he success-fully performed; Smolinski 1973, 1197). The upshot is that although Marx’s mathe-matical acumen might be questionable, his be-lief in and willingness to use mathematics are

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