THEORIES AND MODELS IN GEOGRAPHY: Geographical Thought & Political Geography

THEORIES AND MODELS IN GEOGRAPHY: Geographical Thought & Political Geography

Part 6 Geographical Thought & Political Geography Theories & Models in Geography 




Theories and Models in Geography

Part 1- Geomorphology –  Uniformitarianism, Isostasy, Continental Drift Theory, Cavern Formation Theory

Part 2- Climatology – Rainfall Formation Theories, Climatic Classification of Koeppen’s & Thronthwaite’s

Part 2- Oceanography – Theories of Coral Formation, Theories of Origin of Tides

Part 3- Agricultural Geography- Von Thunen’s Model of Land Use, Whittlesey Classification

Part 3- Economic Geography-  Industrial Location Theory by Alfred Weber

Part 3- Regional Planning & Development – Economic Growth Model of Rostow, Gunnar Myrdal, O Hirschman, John Friedman, Francois Perroux, Planning Process of MacKaye, Planning Regions of V. Nath, Bhat & Rao, Sen Gupta & Chandrasekhara

Part 4- Population Geography – Population Resource Regions – Ackerman, Theories of Population Growth- Malthusian Theory of Population, Demographic Transition Theory, Theory of Migration- Ravenstein’s Laws, Zelinsky, Push & Pull Theory

Part 5- Settlement and Urban Geography-  CENTRAL PLACE THEORY, Economic Location Theory of August Losch, Theories of Urban Urban Morphology- E.W. Burgess, Homer Hoyt, C.D Harris & E.L Ullman

Part 6- Political Geography- Heartland Theory, Rimland Theory

Part 6- Geographical Thought- Philosophical Approaches -Positivism, Pragmatism, Idealism, Realism, New or Critical Realism, Phenomenology, Radicalism, Behaviouralism, Welfare Approach

Political Geography

Heartland Theory by Halford Gohn Mackinder (1904)

This theory based on Land Power (Continental Power)

His theory is a spatial analysis of the geopolitics in terms of location, accessibility & natural resource base.

Mackinder divided world into 3 geo-strategic regions

  • The heartland
  • Inner crescent
  • Outer Crescent
  1. Heartland/Pivot Area –
  • It is surrounded by mountains on three sides i.e. Urals in West, Central Asian Highlands in South & East Siberian Highlands in east, and by ice-bound Arctic on the north
  • It consisted of the whole Siberia & centrals part of Asia (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan)
  • It is a natural fortress, from three sides and region of enormous resources.
  • The most inaccessible part of the world.
  • This is the area of low population and difficult accessibility


  1. Inner/Marginal Crescent –
  • This Inner/Marginal crescent considered as whole of Eurasia outside the heartland. 
  • It has land and sea mobility and accessibility.
  • It consisted of the Greek & Roman Civilization, Nile Civilization, Mesopotamia Civilization, Indus valley Civilization, East Asian Civilization, South East Asian Civilization.
  • Together Heartland & Inner crescent is described as world island
  • World Island – The World-Island, comprising the interlinked continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa (Afro-Eurasia). This was the largest, most populous, and richest of all possible land combinations.
  1. Outer/Insular Crescent –
  • It consisted of North America, South America, Africa (South of Sahara), Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand & Japan. These could be accessible through sea.

  “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland;

who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island;

who rules the World-Island commands the world.”

— Mackinder, Democratic Ideals and Reality

In 1919 he included the whole of Africa in ‘World Island’

In 1943 describe about Midland Basin – North Atlantic, Eastern US & Western Europe

Book & Writings

Geographical Pivot of History (1904)

The democratic ideals and reality (In 1919, Mackinder renamed his ‘Pivot Area’ as Heartland in famous book)

The Round World and the Winning of the Peace


  1. Mackinder oversimplified history in a deterministic fashion as a struggle between land and sea power, which is far from truth. History is influenced by physical, socio – economic and cultural factors not just geographical factors.
  2. He overlooked the fact that Heartland was a region of permanent difficulties because of interior location and owing to the extremes of climate.
  3. Heartland is not resourceful as it is made to be and greater part of Heartland is a wasteland and incapable of supporting a large population.
  4. He ignored the technological advancements.
  5. Ignored the locational climatic factors.
  6. He Ignored the modern advancements in Military and defense like missiles etc.
  7. The real world was not flat but spherical, and he used Mercator projection map, which create false picture unlimited expanse of arctic ice separating North America from Eurasia. 

Rimland Theory by Spykman (1942)

  • Propounded in 1942
  • This theory was Published in his book ‘The Geography of Peace’- 1944
  • This theory emphasis on maritime mobility or on Sea Power
  •  “Who controls the Rimland rules Eurasia; who rules Eurasia controls the destinies of the world”. Nicholas John Spykman

Geographical Thought

Philosophical Approaches

Positivism – August Comte

Idealism – Harris & Guelke

Realism –  Gibson

New or Critical Realism – T.P Nunn

Phenomenology – Relph

Radicalism – R. Peet

Behaviouralism – Kirk & Wolpert

Welfare Approach- David Smith

Positivism –

  • Positivism precisely described as a Philosophical movement that emphasized on science and scientific method as the only source of knowledge and which stood in sharp contrast to religion and metaphysics.
  • Its main purpose is to distinguish science from religion and metaphysics.
  • We also can say that Positivism is a philosophical thought, where assertions are validated by the use of logic, science, maths, facts, etc.
  • Origin: The origin of Positivism go back to 19th Century French Social Philosopher August Comte in 1820s.

According to Comte – Social development took place in three stages

  1. Theological
  2. Metaphysical
  3. Positive

Idealism – 

  • This is a view that reality is mental or mind-depended.
  • Guelke is the most celebrated advocate of idealism in geography
  • This idealistic Approach to Humanistic geography was advocated by Harris and Guelke (1971).
  • It regards reality as residing in or constituted by the mind.
  • Idealism is a humanstic philosophy based upon the belief that the world is constructed through the human mind instead of matter.

Realism – 

  • Realism is the view that reality exist in depended of the mind, it is not mind-in depended.
  • Gibson suggests realism as a viable alternative to idealism.
  • The basic philosophy of realism is that facts for themselves and explanation is logical and inductive (Empirical).
  • It is very close to the objective philosophy of positivism but has different methodology of explanation.
  • The concept of “New or Critical Realism” propounded by T.P Nunn.


  • Phenomenology was designed to disclose the world as it shows itself before scientific inquiry, as that which is pre-given and presupposed by the sciences.
  • Phenomenology is an important source. People never observe the world in an objective way.
  • We observe how the world appears to us as a phenomenon, so the world is always observed subjectively.
  • The appearance of the world depends on our intentions and ons how it appears. How it appears affects what we want to do.
  • The first to introduce the phenomenology approach in Human Geography was Relph (1970)

Radicalism –

  • This approach advocated by R.Peet.
  • 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
  • The Radical Approach in geography came in 1970s as a reaction to quantitive revolution and positivism.
  • Radical Approach in Geography concentrated mainly the issues of greater social relevance like inequality, sexism, racism, crime, discrimination against blacks and non-whites, juvenile exploitation etc.

Behaviouralism –

The behavioral approach in geography was introduced in 1960s.
It was developed as the opposition of quantitative and positivism approaches.
As positivism and Quantitative approaches believed that:

  • Space is isotropic surface
  • Men is an economic rational person
  • Use of statistical technique
  • And non-relevance of human values, beliefs, culture in human decision making.

Kirk- propounded first behavioral models in 1951. He asserted that in space and time, the same information would have different meaning for people of different socio – economic, ethnic, cultural backgrounds living in a similar geographical environment. 

Wolpert- showed that farmers are not Economic Men or farmers were not optimizers but Simon’s term satisfies.

The Basic Philosophy of Behaviourlism Approach:

The behavioural geographer recognizes that man shapes as well as responds to his environment & man and environment dynamically interrelated.

Space (Environment) have a dual character-

(i) Objective Environment –

The world of actuality, which can be gauged by some direct means (Senses)

(ii) Behavioural Environment –

The world of mind (Mental Map) – Which can be studied only by indirect means.

(Mental Map Concept Developed by P. Gould, R. White  and Lynch also associated with mental map concept)


The objectives of behavioural approach were:

  1. To develop models for a human phenomenon which would provide an alternative to the spatial location theories developed under the influence of positivism.
  2. To define the cognitive (subjective) environment that determines the decision-making process of humans;
  3. To come up with psychological and social theories of human decision-making and behaviour in a spatial framework;
  4. To search for methods other than those popular during the quantitative revolution that could uncover the latent structure in data and decision-making;
  5. To generate primary data about human behaviour and not to rely heavily on the

published data; and

  1. To adopt an interdisciplinary approach for theory-building and problem-solving

Welfare Approach

  • David Smith had adopted the Welfare approach while discussing the problems and prospects of human geography.
  • The welfare approach deals with the issues related to inequality and injustice.
  • In 1970s there was a major redirection of Human Geography towards social problems like poverty, Hungary, crime, racial discrimination, access to health, education etc.
  • The basic emphasis of welfare geography is on who gets what, where & how.

Who – Population

What – Facilities

Where – Different Areas/Places.

How – Reflects the process by which the observed differences arise.

Philosophical Approaches

  1. Positivism – August Comte
  2. Idealism – Harris & Guelke
  3. Realism –  Gibson
  4. New or Critical Realism – T.P Nunn
  5. Phenomenology – Relph
  6. Radicalism – R. Peet
  7. Behaviouralism – Kirk & Wolpert
  8. Welfare Approach- David Smith

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