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The New Geography: How the Digital Revolution Is Reshaping the American Landscape
Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2001
272 pp., $12.95
by Janel Curry
The essays collected in Geography and Revolution explore two broad themes: the geography of revolution and geography in revolution. The former uses the discipline of geography to better understand the processes at work in various revolutions—technological, social, political. The latter focuses on how geographic knowledge and concepts are used or presented in the context of the various types of revolution. The volume's editors, David N. Livingstone and Charles W. J. Withers, argue persuasively that while economic, political, and sociological explanations abound for revolutions, these explanations have been lacking when it comes to questions of place and geography. In fact, most revolutions have been portrayed as virtually "placeless." This collection of papers offers a corrective.
Geography and Revolution is divided into three parts. Most of the chapters in the first section, "Geography and Scientific Revolution: Space, Place and Natural Knowledge," will be accessible only to those with a background in the history of science. The chapter by John Henry is of most importance for setting the context for the rest of the volume. Arguing that scientific practices develop within specific cultural contexts, Henry compares the national scientific institutions and practices of the English and French in the 17th century and ties their differences to the distinct religious and political histories of the two nations. In England, experiments were perceived to simply reveal matters of fact absent any theorizing on cause. This perspective was identified with the philosophy of the Church of England, which supported a notion of doctrinal minimalism and "common sense." Under this philosophy, experimentation was seen to produce knowledge that all parties could agree upon, not going beyond undeniable claims that were obvious. In contrast, French science advanced through the use of experimentation that served the purpose of building larger theoretical constructs. And these national differences ...