The Power of Place
Geography, Destiny, and Globalization’s Rough Landscape (excerpt)
Numerous books and articles published in recent years argue that the human world today is so mobile, so interconnected, and so integrative that it is, in one prominent and much-repeated assessment, “flat.” Ancient and durable obstacles are no more, interaction is global, free trade rules the globe, migration is ubiquitous, and the flow of ideas (and money and jobs) is so pervasive that geography, in the perspective of more than one observer, “is history.” The notion that place continues to play a key role in shaping humanity’s still-variegated mosaic is seen as obsolete. This book ranges over natural as well as cultural landscapes to assess the role of place in enabling as well as obstructing the world’s march toward integration, mobility, and interconnection. For all the liberating changes that have already occurred, place of birth still has a powerful influence over the destinies of billions. For all our heralded mobility, the overwhelming majority of us will die relatively close to the place where we were born. For all the “flattening” perceived and relished by globals, the world still is dauntingly rough terrain for many more locals. From personal safety to public health, from compulsory religion to coercive authority, the world remains a mosaic of places presenting widely varying combinations of challenges to their inhabitants. What makes this power of place and how it can be mitigated are the interlocked themes of the discussion that follows. Journal of Economic Sociology publishes the first chapter “Globals, Locals, and Mobals,” in which the author considers the opposition of “locals” and “globals”, explains the motivation of “mobals,” and also argues why geography and “place” are still important concepts for understanding the modern world.