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Social Geography and the Taken-for-Granted World

David Ley
Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Vol. 2, No. 4 (1977), pp. 498-512
DOI: 10.2307/622303
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/622303
Page Count: 15
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Social Geography and the Taken-for-Granted World
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Abstract

This paper addresses the lack of both a clear theoretical direction and an appropriate philosophical underpinning in recent commentaries on social geography. It argues that in extending analysis beyond the map to social and cognitive processes, the researcher has entered a world where objectivity is joined by subjectivity. Vidalian geography, Park's urban sociology, and behavioural geography, all promising precedents for a social geography of man, have foundered in part because they failed to draw upon an appropriate philosophical underpinning to engage the distinctive epistemological issues of subjectivity. Either they were absorbed into a tradition which rejected the place of subjectivity, or else their humanist focus was lost in the inflexible scientism of a hypothetico-deductive mould. A social geography which delves beneath the map cannot avoid the subjective, for in the taken-for-granted world of everyday experience, which is the ground of group behaviour and decision-making, every object is always an object for a subject. Phenomenology is a philosophy which takes the everyday world with its inevitable mesh of fact and value as its centre of concern. The theory of social action of the phenomenologist Alfred Schutz is suggested as an appropriate underpinning for a social geography concerned with the social and cognitive processes which lend a meaning to place, and guide the decision-making of both groups and organisations.

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