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Radical geography and its critical standpoints: embracing the normative

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date01/2009
JournalAntipode
Journal number1
Volume41
Number of pages19
Pages180-198
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This paper throws down a challenge to radical geography and invites a selection
of leading geographers to respond. It proposes that radical or critical geography cannot escape normative foundations in terms of some conception of the human good or flourishing, and that this is not necessarily at odds with the descriptive and explanatory aims of social science. Various attempts to define and justify critical thought without such a conception are shown to
be deficient, and incapable of distinguishing oppression from well-being. Objections that such a project will be subjective, ethnocentric, essentialist and implicitly authoritarian are discussed and rejected. Normative thinking needs to go beyond liberal concern with freedom, to address what Sen and Nussbaum term “capabilities”—the range of things people need to be able to have and do to flourish. The power of this kind of normative thinking is illustrated by reference to examples from development studies. The paper concludes with some basic questions for radical
geographers.