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Dichotomy between Determinism and Possibilism of Geography

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❶The application of probability model, owing to these constraints, may be difficult and the results thus obtained may not be authentic, close to the ground reality. Diamond uses the Spanish conquistadors' conquering of the Americas as a case study for his theory.

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In the Pulitzer Prize winning Guns, Germs, and Steel , author Jared Diamond points to geography as the answer to why certain states were able to grow and develop faster and stronger than others. His theory cited the natural environment and raw materials a civilization was blessed with as factors for success, instead of popular century old claims of racial and cultural superiority. Diamond says that these natural endowments began with the dawn of man, and favored Eurasian civilizations due to their location along similar latitudes, suitable farming climate, and early animal domestication.

Diamond argues that early states located along the same latitude lines were uniquely suited to take advantage of similar climates, making it easier for crops, livestock, and farming techniques to spread.

Crops such as wheat and barley were simple to grow and easy to harvest, and regions suitable for their cultivation saw high population densities and the growth of early cities. The ability to domesticate herd animals, which had no natural fear of humans, high birth rates, and an innate hierarchy, gave some civilizations the advantages of free labor, fertilizers, and war animals.

The east-west orientation of Eurasia allowed for knowledge capital to spread quickly, and writing systems to keep track of advanced farming techniques gave people the ability to store and build upon a knowledge base across generations. Craftsmanship flourished as a surplus of food from farming allowed some groups the freedom to explore and create, which lead to the development of metallurgy and advances in technology. While the advantageous geography helped to develop early societies, the close proximity in which humans and their animals lived led to the spread of disease across Eurasia.

Over several centuries, rampant disease decimated populations, but ultimately led to disease resistant communities. Diamond suggests that these chains of causation led to European and Asian civilizations holding a dominant place in the world today. Diamond uses the Spanish conquistadors' conquering of the Americas as a case study for his theory. He argues that the Europeans took advantage of their environment to build large and complex states complete with advanced technology and weapons.

The Incans and other native groups were not as blessed, suffering from a north—south orientation that prevented the flow of goods and knowledge across the continent. The Americas also lacked the animals, metals, and complex writing systems of Eurasia which prevented them from achieving the military or biological protections needed to fight off the European threat. In his book States and Power in Africa , political scientist Jeffrey Herbst argues that environmental conditions help explain why, in contrast to other parts of the world such as Europe, many pre-colonial societies in Africa did not develop into dense, settled, hierarchical societies with strong state control that competed with neighboring states for people and territory.

Herbst argues that the European state-building experience was highly idiosyncratic because it occurred under systemic geographic pressures that favored wars of conquest — namely, passable terrain , land scarcity , and high-population densities. European states consequently developed strong institutions and capital-periphery linkages.

By contrast, geographic and climatic factors in pre-colonial Africa made establishing absolute control over particular pieces of land prohibitively costly. Some early African empires, like the Ashanti Empire , successfully projected power over large distances by building roads. The largest pre-colonial polities arose in the Sudanian Savanna belt of West Africa because the horses and camels could transport armies over the terrain.

In other areas, no centralized political organizations existed above the village level. African states did not develop more responsive institutions under colonial rule or post-independence.

Colonial powers had little incentive to develop state institutions to protect their colonies against invasion, having divided up Africa at the Berlin Conference. The colonizers instead focused on exploting natural resources and exploitation colonialism. Marcella Alsan argues the prevalence of the tsetse fly hampered early state formation in Africa. African communities were prevented from stockpiling agricultural surplus, working the land, or eating meat.

Because the disease environment hindered the formation of farming communities, early African societies resembled small hunter-gatherer groups and not centralized states. The relative availability of livestock animals enabled European societies to form centralized institutions, develop advanced technologies, and create an agricultural network. Livestock also diminished the comparative advantage of owning slaves.

African societies relied on the use of rival tribesman as slave labor where the fly was prevalent, which impeded long-term societal cooperation. Alsan argues that her findings support the view of Kenneth Sokoloff and Stanley Engerman that factor endowments shape state institutions.

Contradicting the link between the Inca state and dried potato is that other crops such as maize can also be preserved with only sun. Numerous scholars have argued that geographic and environmental factors affect the types of political regime that societies develop, and shape paths towards democracy versus dictatorship. Robinson have achieved notoriety for demonstrating that diseases and terrain have helped shape tendencies towards democracy versus dictatorship, and through these economic growth and development.

An Empirical Investigation , [39] the authors show that the colonial disease environment shaped the tendency for Europeans to settle the territory or not, and whether they developed systems of agriculture and labor markets that were free and egalitarian versus exploitative and unequal. These choices of political and economic institutions, they argue, shaped tendencies to democracy or dictatorship over the following centuries.

In order to understand the impact and creation of institutions during early state formation, economic historians Stanley Engerman and Kenneth Sokoloff examined the economic development of the Americas during colonization.

These endowments included the climate, soil profitability, crop potential, and even native population density. Institutions formed to take advantage of these factor endowments. Those that were most successful developed an ability to change and adapt to new circumstances over time. For example, the development of economic institutions, such as plantations , was caused by the need for a large property and labor force to harvest sugar and tobacco, while smallholder farms thrived in areas where scale economies were absent.

Though initially profitable, plantation colonies also suffered from large dependent populations over time as slaves and natives were given few rights, limiting the population available to drive future economic progress and technological development.

Factor endowments also influenced political institutions. This is demonstrated by the plantation owning elite using their power to secure long lasting government institutions and pass legislation that lead to the persistence of inequality society.

Engerman and Sokoloff found smallholder economies to be more equitable since they discouraged an elite class from forming, and distributed political power democratically to most land-owning males.

These differences in political institutions were also highly influential in the development of schools, as more equitable societies demanded an educated population to make political decisions. Over time these institutional advantages had exponential effects, as colonies with educated and free populations were better suited to take advantage of technological change during the industrial revolution, granting country wide participation into the booming free-market economy.

Engerman and Sokoloff conclude that while institutions heavily influenced the success of each colony, no individual type of institution is the source of economic and state growth. Other variables such as factor endowments, technologies, and the creation of property rights are just as crucial in societal development. To encourage state success an institution must be adaptable and suited to find the most economical source of growth.

The authors also argue that while not the only means for success, institutional development has long lasting-economic and social effects on the state. Other prominent scholars contest the extent to which factor endowments determine economic and political institutions. American economists William Easterly and Ross Levine argue that economic development does not solely depend on geographic endowments—like temperate climates, disease-resistant climates, or soil favorable to cash crops.

They stress that there is no evidence that geographic endowments influence country incomes other than through institutions. Other states like Canada with fewer endowments are more stable and have higher per capita incomes. Easterly and Levine further observe that studies of how the environment directly influences land and labor were tarred by racist theories of underdevelopment, but that does not mean that such theories can be automatically discredited.

They argue that Diamond correctly stresses the importance of germs and crops in the very long-run of societal technological development. However, Easterly and Levine's findings most support the view that long-lasting institutions most shape economic development outcomes. Relevant institutions include private property rights and the rule of law. Nugent and James A. Robinson similarly challenge scholars like Barrington Moore who hold that certain factor endowments and agricultural preconditions necessarily lead to particular political and economic organizations.

They favored smallholders, held elections, maintained small militaries, and fought fewer wars. Other states like El Salvador and Guatemala produced coffee on plantations, where individuals were more disenfranchised. Whether a state became a smallholder or plantation state depended not on factor endowments but on norms established under colonialism —namely, legal statues determining access to land, the background of the governing elites, and the degree of permitted political competition.

Historians have also noted population densities seem to concentrate on coastlines and that states with large coasts benefit from higher average incomes compared to those in landlocked countries.

Coastal living has proven advantageous for centuries as civilizations relied on the coastline and waterways for trade, irrigation, and as a food source. They also have to rely on costly and time consuming over-land trade, which usually results in lack of access to regional and international markets, further hindering growth.

Additionally, interior locations tend to have both lower population densities and labor-productivity levels. However, factors including fertile soil, nearby rivers, and ecological systems suited for rice or wheat cultivation can give way to dense inland populations.

Nathan Nunn and Diego Puga note that though rugged terrain usually makes farming difficult, prevents travel, and limits societal growth, early African states used harsh terrain to their advantage.

The results suggest that historically, ruggedness is strongly correlated with decreased income levels across the globe and has negatively impacted state growth over time. They note that harsh terrain limited the flow of trade goods and decreased crop availability, while isolating communities from developing knowledge capital.

However, the study also demonstrated that the terrain had positive effects on some African communities by protecting them from the slave trade. Communities that were located in areas with rugged features could successfully hide from slave traders and protect their homes from being destroyed. The study found that in these areas rugged topography produced long-term economic benefits and aided post-colonial state formation.

The impact that climate and water navigability have on economic growth and GDP per capita was studied by notable scholars including Paul Krugman , Jared Diamond , and Jeffrey Sachs. To do so, they measure economic growth with GDP per capita adjusted to purchasing power parity PPP , while also taking into consideration population density and labor productivity.

Economic historians have found that societies in the Northern Hemisphere experience higher standards of living, and that as latitude increases north or south from the equator, levels of real GDP per capita also increases.

Climate is closely correlated with agricultural production since without ideal weather conditions, agriculture alone will not produce the surplus supply needed to build and maintain economies. Locations with hot tropical climates often suffer underdevelopment due to low fertility of soils, excessive plant transpiration, ecological conditions favoring infectious diseases, and unreliable water supply. They are also an economic drain on society due to high medical costs, and the unwillingness of foreign capital to invest in a sickly state.

Because infectious diseases like malaria often need a warm ecology for growth, states in the mid to high latitudes are naturally protected from the devastating effects of disease.

Climatic determinism, otherwise referred to as the equatorial paradox, is an aspect of economic geography. The theory is the central argument of Philip M. The Basis for Long-Run Economic Growth , in which he argues that since humans originated as tropical mammals, those who relocated to colder climates attempt to restore their physiological homeostasis through wealth-creation.

This act includes producing more food, better housing, heating, warm clothes, etc. Conversely, humans that remained in warmer climates are more physiologically comfortable simply due to temperature, and so have less incentive to work to increase their comfort levels. Therefore, according to Parker GDP is a direct product of the natural compensation of humans to their climate. Political geographers have used climatic determinism ideology to attempt to predict and rationalize the history of civilization, as well as to explain existing or perceived social and cultural divides between peoples.

The third attempted to apply the methods of the newly emerging experimental sciences, which insisted upon the isolation of salient variables whose relationships were established empirically, through their controlled manipulation.

Within the social sciences, those who viewed themselves as introducing experimental approaches did emphasize the isolation of relevant variables; but their notion of experiment was generally different from that used in the natural sciences. Hume explained that difference very clearly:. We must glean up our experiments in this science from a cautious observation of human life, and take them as they appear in the common course of the world, by men's behavior in company, in affairs, and in their pleasures.

Where experiments of this kind are judiciously collected and compared [for example, from histories and travel accounts], we may hope to establish on them a science, which will not be inferior in certainty, and will be much superior in utility to any other of Human comprehension , p. With few exceptions, those eighteenth-century scientists and philosophers who derived their approaches largely from natural history—such as Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de la Brede et de Montesquieu usually known simply as Montesquieu , Adam Ferguson , and Edmund Burke —usually focused on humans as habitual and emotional beings and ended up toward the conservative end of the political spectrum.

Those who saw themselves as synthesizing empirical and rational approaches—such as David Hartley , Adam Smith , and Etienne Condillac—tended to see humans as expressing both emotional and rational characteristics and ended up in the liberal portion of the political and social spectrum. Regardless of what model they adapted from the natural sciences, Enlightenment social theorists tended to reject deontological approaches to ethics in favor of consequentialist ones, though the utilitarian ethical theories of the radical and liberal thinkers were vastly different from those of the more thoroughly empirical conservatives.

In Montesquieu published his Spirit of the Laws in an attempt to explore how different legal systems developed. Though he was inclined to think that humans were pretty much identical everywhere, as the president of a local judicial body that often found itself in conflict with the central authority of the French crown, he was painfully aware of the immense variations in local customs and laws, and he took as his task the explanation of those variations.

To classical republican arguments that laws had to be suited to the principles attached to the form of government of a people, Montesquieu added three kinds of arguments that were to have immense long-term significance.

First, he argued that the laws and customs of a country will depend upon the dominant mode of subsistence of that country, classifying modes of subsistence as hunting, herding, agricultural, and commercial. Hunting societies, for example, will have much less complex laws that herding societies because the complication of private ownership of animals is added in herding societies.

Laws will be even more complex in agrarian societies in which heritable real property becomes important; and they will be even more complex in commercial societies in which it is critical to have legal means for enforcing a wide variety of contracts.

Montesquieu felt that trade promoted mutual dependence and therefore increased tolerance for cultural differences among trading partners; so it promotes peace among nations. Within a given nation, however, Montesquieu argued that trade promoted competition and egotism rather than cooperation and altruism.

Second, Montesquieu argued for a kind of environmental determinism that made customs and laws suitable to one region quite unsuitable to others. For example, he argued that the high temperatures in the tropics made men lazy, justifying the practice of slavery so that work would get done. Similarly he thought that women aged more rapidly in tropical regions, justifying the practice of male plural marriage with women of different ages.

Neither slavery nor plural marriage was, however, justifiable in temperate regions. This situational ethics that derived from Montesquieu's environmental determinism illustrates how attempts a social science could undermine deontological ethics. Finally, Montesquieu was one of the first serious social theorists to articulate a principle that would become the hallmark of conservative political theory through the twentieth century. This principle is often called the principle of unintended consequences, and Montesquieu openly appropriated it from Bernard Mandeville 's "Fable of the Bees" of , though he gave it much greater currency.

The particular example used by both Mandeville and Montesquieu was that of how the vanity of the wealthy produced the rise of fashion in clothing, which in turn provided jobs for textile workers.

The vice of pride thus produced the unintended consequence of promoting commerce and industry. There was even a business in providing the baubles on which hierarchy could be seen to be based—beads, cosmetics, physical distinctions such as tattoos, and so forth. In the long run, the principle of unintended consequences became the foundation for virtually all conservative claims that society cannot be successfully reformed by design: For every positive intended consequence there is likely to be a negative unintended one.

It is better from this perspective to simply let society develop naturally. In the words of Adam Ferguson , one of Montequieu's most able admirers, "nations stumble upon establishments which are indeed the result of human action, but not the execution of any human design.

The establishments of men Taking his cue from Montesquieu, Ferguson attempted to write a "natural history of man" in An Essay on the History of Civil Society in , but Ferguson made a number of new arguments that were widely adopted by subsequent social theorists. First, he temporalized Montesquieu's four modes of existence, creating a dynamic theory in which hunting, herding, agriculture, and commerce represented progressive stages in a temporal development that was repeated at different times in different places.

Next, he emphasized the fact that people band together into societies not out of some rational expectation of meeting selfish needs, as Thomas Hobbes had proposed in the seventeenth century, but rather out of "a propensity to mix with the herd and, without reflection, to follow the crowd of his species" Ferguson , pp.

Finally, Ferguson argued that conflict, even to the extent of war, is often the vehicle for social advances: Against the tradition of philosophical history initiated by Montesquieu and Ferguson, a second group of Enlightenment social theorists claimed that to argue for particular social arrangements from the simple fact of their historical existence was to grant the past far too much power over the future.

I do not cast my eye on any particular nation or sect. I seek to describe things as they must essentially be, without considering what they have been, or in what country they may have been. By examining and reasoning we arrive at knowing the truth self-evidently, and with all the practical consequences which result from it. Examples which appear to contrast with these consequences prove nothing Hutchinson , p.

Among the most important social theorists to adopt this rational mechanist model were Claude-Adrien Helvetius and his utilitarian followers, including Jeremy Bentham in Britain and Cesare Beccaria in Italy.

According to this group, all social theory must begin from the fundamental insight that humans are motivated solely by a desire to be happy; so the goal of political and moral philosophy should be to create the greatest net pleasure for the greatest number in society. Because members of the utilitarian school generally assumed that the private happiness of one person was likely to diminish the happiness of others, they proposed to establish sanctions that would offer pleasurable rewards to those who acted for the general good and punish those who acted in opposition to it.

Among those who advocated a more experimental approach to social theory, the tradition initiated by Francis Hutcheson , David Hartley , and Adam Smith was undoubtedly most important in terms establishing a new foundation for ethics and morality. This group generally found strong evidence that humans acted not only out of self-interest, but also out of a social instinct or sense of sympathy. For most of these social theorists, there seemed to be a natural accommodation between the well-being of the individual and that of the group that was nicely articulated in Smith's image of the "invisible hand" that ordered economic activity for the general benefit if each actor worked to forward his own interests.

This approach led to a laissez faire or naturalistic approach to moral and ethical behavior.


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Environmental determinism (also known as climatic determinism or geographical determinism) is the study of how the physical environment predisposes societies .

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Montesquieu worried that in France the intermediate powers (i.e., the nobility) which moderated the power of the prince were being eroded. These ideas of the control of power were often used in the thinking of Maximilien de kittypussy.ml: 18th-century philosophy.

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The paradox in environmental determinism and possibilism: A literature review dualism in environmental determinism and possibilism are the dominant ones. determinism . Environmental determinism is the doctrine that human growth, development and activities are controlled by the physical environment (Lethwaite, ). Hence, factors of culture, race and intelligence are supposed to derive from the benign or malign influences of climate, and other aspects of human habitat.

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Environmental determinism, also known as climatic determinism or geographical determinism, is the view that the physical environment, rather than social conditions, determines culture. Those who believe this view say that humans are strictly defined by stimulus-response (environment-behavior) and . While environmental determinism can conveniently be described as the claim that human activities are controlled by the environment, such definitional clarity masks historical complexity.