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Economic geography

Table of Contents

  1. term
  2. Research items
  3. Classification
  4. Technical development and research traditions


Economic geography deals with the spatial dimension of economic processes and activities. At the interface between geosciences, geography and economics, she examines the relationship between economy and space and therefore tries to synthesize economic research and geographical research. The effect of natural spatial factors on economic activity (or vice versa) is given particular consideration. In addition, interfaces to disciplines in the broader field of social sciences, e.g. in the socio-cultural area, are also highly relevant. The central subject of research is the economic area in its various scales or economic activities of actors from a spatial perspective. It is important to examine all interactions originating from or influencing economic life as well as structural and process mechanisms for their spatial relevance. The general aim is to record and professionally assess spatial distribution and connection patterns or forms of organization and interaction that result from the economic activities of different actors.

Research items

Today, the research area of ​​economic geography is for the most part located in the wide overlap area between economic and social sciences. Both research methodology and questions are strongly oriented towards those of the neighboring economics and social sciences. The following research subjects or tasks can be cited in detail:

  • Location research (Location): Analysis of behavior when choosing a location; Carrying out location analyzes; Development of concepts for business location planning; Start-up research, cluster analyzes (clusters).
  • Regional structural research: Research into the causes and development of regional disparities as well as the derivation of measures for regional policy and regional development.
  • Risk or hazard research (Risk): Investigation of the effects of certain risk categories (natural hazards, man-made hazards, social hazards) on individual economic areas.
  • Resource research: Analysis of the scarcity and distribution of raw materials and resources, their use in the economy, their regenerability (recycling), exploration and assessment of the extraction, transport and use risks.
  • Internationalization of the economy: Investigation of the spatial impact of organizational forms and corporate decisions on an international level (e.g. international distribution of value-added activities, international location selection, foreign trade links, direct investments) taking into account temporal changes and regionally differing influences (e.g. country risks, cultural factors).
  • Structural change from a spatial perspective: The transition from the industrial to the knowledge society; the shift in economic focus from industrial mass production to flexible, specialized production systems; the globalization economic processes with simultaneous formation of regional company concentrations and upgrading of regional references; the spread of regional and supranational integration systems (e.g. the enlargement of the European Union); the transformation of the economic systems in the former socialist state trading countries, i.e. the transition from a central government to a market economy; the primacy of a sustainable, i.e. socio-ecological modernization of the economy.


After your spatial application reference the economic geography can be distinguished as follows: The General economic geography deals with the general regularities and laws of economic areas. Guided by theory, she tries to provide evidence of spatial distribution and connection patterns as a result of economic activities of people and social framework conditions in their spatial dependence or spatial effectiveness. The Regional economic geography on the other hand examines the specific, individual system elements and development features of individual economic areas, which can extend from the micro, through the macro, to the global level. The Applied economic geography holds basic knowledge for dealing with space-related and space-functional problems of practical life (e.g. the evaluation of measures for economic development or the development of rural or industrial areas) and is - often pursuing planning and interdisciplinary goals - operated for non-scientific needs. To Branches of production or economic sectors Economic geography can be divided into agro-geography, mining geography, industrial geography and geography of the tertiary sector (especially service geography, trade geography, transport geography, leisure geography, tourism geography). Economic geography also has links to others Sub-areas of human geography on. There are thematic links to settlement geography (e.g. economic structures and location patterns of urban or rural settlements), population geography (e.g. the spatial impact of the work and leisure behavior of individual population groups) and political geography (e.g. the effects of the spatial location including the political-administrative breakdown of States and their formative political forces on national and international economic relations). Economic geographic aspects also come into play in the area of ​​regional governance. Thematic relationships also exist with individuals Sub-areas of physical geography. For example, agricultural geography has links to climate, vegetation and soil geography. Close connections to geomorphology and hydrogeography - in addition to their references to geology and mineralogy - start with mining geography, in that it deals with the natural (and cultural) landscape that has been changed by mining activities as well as problems of recultivation or land recycling in mining regions . Another interface can be identified with environmental risk research. Because, on the one hand, certain economic spatial usage decisions (e.g. exposed industrialization pressure or the use of specific technologies in heavily endangered regions) can represent a cause or increase of the danger due to country or region-specific natural risks. On the other hand, economic geography also deals with the recording and analysis of the regional economic effects of natural hazards.

Technical development and research traditions

As part of the economic geography Until the 19th century, economic geography saw itself as an economics of the states on the basis of the functional approach. It tries to map basic economic functions in their spatial structures and processes. As a rule, economic geographic research initially did not go beyond a descriptively oriented empiricism. in the spatial paradigm (spatial economics approach, spatial economics) are no longer the country-specific economics and the description of economic landscapes, but the scientifically sound explanation of the spatial distribution and functional interdependence of individual elements (e.g. location structures, trade movements, company concentrations), which are shown, explained and evaluated on the basis of spatial laws should be the focus. Space is mostly viewed as a cost factor, whereby economic theories are integrated into the economic geography (e.g. industrial location theory, Thünen model, system of central locations). The assumed image of man is always Homo oeconomicus. What is criticized in this direction of economic geography is that spaces are quasi personified as objects of investigation and made into actors, while social and behavioral parameters remain largely hidden. The New Economic Geography represents an opposing position, which legitimizes itself through criticism and increasing complexity in the investigation of economic and social processes compared to the spatial economic approach. In contrast to the spatial management approach, im action and actor-oriented approach the actors (e.g. individuals, companies, organizations) into the focus of consideration, in that their actions are recognized as the cause of spatial structures. The goal of the purely deterministic theory and model formation is given up in favor of the view that the actions of human actors cannot be described according to law. The satisfizer is assumed to be the image of the person who acts economically. A more recent approach is relational economic geography. Economic action is not seen as abstract, but as social action integrated into concrete structures (embeddedness). Isolated spatial structures are no longer analyzed, but rather actor-related aspects from a spatial perspective, such as economic innovations, cross-company forms of organization and processes of collective-institutional learning.