Cities and Civilization, and other classic reviews


This year is the 50th Anniversary of Regional Studies, the journal. Peter Hall was the first editor and my early years as a lecturer coincided with his stewardship of the journal and his role as Head of Department of Geography in the University of Reading where we were given an insight into how you start a journal, review the papers submitted and immerse yourself in the insights that this new field and journal generated back then. I cannot take you back to those heady times but to get some sense of the excitement of those years, Ugo Fratesi has selected a set of books which he and the reviewers he has chosen consider as classic books in Regional Studies. He explains why in his editorial which you can download here. where he introduces the 50th Anniversary Book Review Collection. I have a short review there on Peter Hall’s classic Cities in Civilisation and I have reproduced the piece here that you can download.

About the collections of reviews, I can do not better than quote from Ugo’s editorial:

“Selecting classic books is not an easy task. Furthermore, Regional Studies is an interdisciplinary journal that covers theoretical, empirical and policy research in the field of regional studies. As such, it brings together articles from economics, geography, planning and political science, whose scope is regional and local. One selection process would be a systematic survey among scholars, but this would produce an index of popularity more than of the real innovative nature of the book. The pattern followed here has been less systematic and more customized. The author of this editorial started with a list of 60 possible influential books, basically selected from among those which he feels the need to have on his own shelves.

The list only included books that were either at least 30 years old or, if more recent, written by authors no longer alive. These parameters were motivated by the fact that, in assessing the long-run impact of books, some separation in time is necessary. The list and the personal preferences of the Book Reviews Editor were discussed at an editors’ meeting, after which the list was shortened to 15 books, selected to represent the various topics that stratify in a multidisciplinary journal such as Regional Studies. The final cut was determined by need and opportunity; established and important scholars within their field were required to write these essays, so the reviews published will be of those books for which it was possible to find a suitable reviewer who agreed to write the essay within the short-time frame provided.

The list of those who accepted this proposal includes a number of well-known scholars who will review some of the most important classics in various disciplines related to regional studies. The final list includes Michael Batty on Peter Hall’s Cities in Civilization (1998), Henry Yeung on Albert O. Hirschman’s The Strategy of Economic Development (1958), Gilles Duranton on Jane Jacobs’s The Economy of Cities (1969) and The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), Steven Brakman and Harry Garretsen on Nicholas Kaldor’s Economics without Equilibrium (1985), Peter Sunley on Marshall’s Principles of Economics (1890), Mick Dunford on Doreen Massey’s Spatial Divisions of Labour (1995), Eric Sheppard on Gunnar Myrdal’s Economic Theory and Underdeveloped Regions (1957), Philip McCann on Harry W. Richardson’s Regional Growth Theory (1973), and Michael Fritsch on Joseph A. Schumpeter’s The Theory of Economic Development (1943). “

You can read my essay on Cities and Civilization here and get access to the entire collection by clicking on this link.

Geographies of Technology


Read our paper by Batty, Lin and Chen on Virtual Realities, Analogies and Technologies in Geography, where we continue to parade the idea of virtual geographic environments – VGE

From the publisher’s blurb: This Handbook offers an insightful and comprehensive overview from a geographic perspective of the numerous and varied technologies that are shaping the contemporary world. It shows how geography and technology are intimately linked by examining the origins, growth, and impacts of 27 different technologies and highlighting how they influence the structure and spatiality of society. Following summaries of important conceptual issues such as diffusion, gender and science studies, the book explores various technologies, which are grouped into six main categories:

  • Computational: code, location-based services and virtual reality
  • Communications: fiber optics, satellites, the internet, radio, cell phones and television
  • Transportation: automobiles, aviation, drones, railroads, and shipping and ports
  • Energy: biofuels, dams, fracking, geothermal energy, pipelines, solar energy and LEED buildings
  • Manufacturing: robotics, just-in-time systems and nanotechnology
  • Life sciences: new technologies of health care, biotechnology and biometrics.

Significantly, the book includes in-depth explorations of new technologies that have so far received very little attention from geographers. This much-needed Handbook offers a comprehensive and state-of-the-art summary of the geographies of major technologies and how they affect society, economies, geographies and everyday life. It will appeal to academics and advanced students interested in geography, planning and the social sciences in general.

Non-Equilibrium Social Science and Policy


This great book edited by Jeffrey Johnson, Paul Ormerod, Bridget Rosewell, Andrzej Nowak, and Yi-Cheng Zhang brings together many contributions from an EU project which lead to several workshops and conferences about a new form of social science – out of equilibrium, far from equilibrium, in disequilibrium as the world always is. The book is open access and you can download it here.

Here is an explanation of what is contained within. Between 2011 and 2014 the European Non-Equilibrium Social Science Project (NESS) investigated the place of equilibrium in the social sciences and policy. Orthodox economics is based on an equilibrium view of how the economy functions and does not offer a complete description of how the world operates. However, mainstream economics is not an empty box. Its fundamental insight, that people respond to incentives, may be the only universal law of behaviour in the social sciences. Only economics has used equilibrium as a primary driver of system behaviour, but economics has become much more empirical at the microlevel over the past two decades. This is due to two factors: advances in statistical theory enabling better estimates of policy consequences at the microlevel, and the rise of behavioural economics which looks at how people, firms and governments really do behave in practice. In this context, this chapter briefly reviews the contributions of this book across the social sciences and ends with a discussion of the research themes that act as a roadmap for further research. These include: realistic models of agent behaviour; multilevel systems; policy informatics; narratives and decision making under uncertainty; and validation of agent-based complex systems models.

Here is my own chapter for your interest which is entitled Cities in Disequilibrium