Sayer A, 1991, "Behind the locality debate: deconstructing geography's dualisms" Environment and Planning A 23(2) 283 – 308
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Behind the locality debate: deconstructing geography's dualisms
Received 15 May 1990; in revised form 4 June 1990
Abstract. The debate about locality studies has provided a focus for wider concerns about method and the relationship of theory and empirical research in urban and regional studies. Discussion of these issues has been plagued by conceptual confusion. Where realist philosophy has been invoked in the debate it has frequently been misunderstood. The problems derive from unexamined and inconsistent usages of a series of dualisms or binary oppositions: viz, contextualising versus nomological (law-seeking) approaches, abstract and concrete, necessity and contingency, theory and empirics, and generality and specificity. When the various uses of these terms are examined it is found that the assumed contrasts either break down or involve more complex relationships than is commonly realised. The main purpose of the paper is to deconstruct the dualisms and expose some of the confusions they generate by reference to the locality debate. A subsidiary theme concerns the way in which different conceptions of generality, specificity, and interdependence form 'metaphysics' which tend, unnoticed, to dominate whole research programmes. As different metaphysics may be appropriate for different objects of study it is important to demonstrate their differences and respective limitations.
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