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Environment, Space, Place

Volume 2, Issue 1, Spring 2010

Eliot Tretter
Pages 123-146
DOI: 10.7761/ESP.2.1.123

The Internality of Scale

Recently, a shadow has been cast over how geographical scale has been theorized. Neil Brenner has argued that scale risks becoming a empty concept because it has been conflated with other terms in geography such as place, region, and space; Marston, Jones, and Woodward have proposed doing away with scale altogether; while Wood has accused geographers of having a “scale fetish.” The following article defends the theory of scale against these various detractors and attempts to become a bulwark to support the many contributions that geographers have made to effectively characterizing the socio-spatial world. I outline four ways of understanding geographical scale: measurement, size, hierarchy, and relation. I then argue for an understanding of scale that is relational because I believe it provides the most adequate language to characterize how geographers have come to understand the social ontology of the spatial world. Moreover, I set out to show how the relational description of scale, complements other research on scale, which has shown the importance of scale in the production of geographical difference and uneven social relations. Hence, the understanding of scales relationally, allows for people to have relative positions in the world. Finally, I speculate on two implications that the understanding of scale relatively has for characterizing the effects of globalization: 1) the possibilities that this understanding has for confronting a dominant tenant in the ideology of neoliberalism; 2) the promise that it offers for forms of political resistance.