Approaches to spatial disparities

Neptun code: llln9267i

Seminar leader: Ferenc Gyuris


The course is aimed at providing a multidisciplinary and historically situated overview of the main approaches to, theoretical concepts of, and methodologies on spatial inequality, including a critical evaluation of the potentials and constraints of their application in research practice as well as regional and urban planning. It will be discussed how and why spatial inequality became a matter of interest for the academia in the epoch of 19th -century European Enlightenment, how it was reinterpreted in the classical Marxist discourse before coming to its heyday in the post-WWII Cold War context in service of both rival superpowers, and how it gradually faded out under the aegis of neoliberalism just to be reinvented by leftist researchers after the oil crises and, more recently, in light of the 2008 global economic crisis. A main goal is to embed all influential concepts in their historical, geographical, social, political, economic etc. contexts. This is used as basis to reveal the major reasons for the perpetual emergence of new concepts as well as their short- and long-term impact on scientific, political and public discourses. Great attention is paid to underlying, and often conflicting and contested, normative notions of social ideals and “the common good”, resulting in the problematisation (or de-problematisation) of spatial inequality and its various aspects perceived as the most important.


• The political discourse of spatial disparities

• The moral statistics approach of the 19th century: illiteracy, immorality and poverty as engines of inequality

• From classical Marxism to Marxism-Leninism to Stalinism: “uneven development” in capitalism

• Early Cold War concepts in the US: spatial inequality research in capitalist economies and liberal democracies

• Neoclassical economics and the hope of automatically diminishing geographical disparities

• Polarisation theories: it gets worse before it gets better

• Post-Fordist neoliberal approaches and the world of “winners” and “losers”: spatial polarisation in service of competition and growth

• Dependency theories: spatial inequality as an outcome of global power asymmetries

• Neomarxism and “uneven geographical development”: contemporary views on the political economy of spatial disparities

• Looking for conclusions: what is the moral for geographers and spatial scientists?


Gyuris F. 2014. The Political Discourse of Spatial Disparities: Geographical Inequalities in Science and Propaganda. Springer: Cham. 381 pages. (+PPT slides with the key points will be provided). Materials will be accessible at Neptun Meet Street.


1. Everyone has to read the selected part of the book for every meeting (~20-30 pages per week). The meetings will be based on critical discussions about the readings. Active and constructive contribution is expected, which will be an object of evaluation.

2. Everyone has to submit an essay by the end of the semester. The essay should summarize the main takeaways of each class (and topic) in ~200-300 words per class. “Takeaways” mean what the author of the essay considers the seminar classes’ most important lessons for their future studies and work. (Especially: the main novelties of each topic, their major social relevance, the way they could be integrated into one’s future thinking and research.)  The final deadline for submitting essays will be the last Friday of the instruction period.

3. Attendance at 7 meetings at least.

Tolnai Gábor |