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public policy, geography and

  Geographical study of and involvement in the creation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of public policies. Work in this area has increased in recent years in capitalist countries because of: (a) the growing importance of the state in economic and social affairs, offering enhanced opportunities for such work; (b) increased governmental recognition of environmental and spatial problems awaiting resolution; (c) the desire among individual geographers to contribute to attacks on such problems; and (d) the perceived need for geographers to demonstrate the relevance of their field and so promote their discipline\'s claim for resources within higher education institutions in increasingly materialist situations.

Most geographical analyses have been concerned with evaluating policies addressed at identified \'spatial problems of environment, economy and society\' (House, 1983) and with assessment of their \'geographical impact and degree of effectiveness\': in the volume of essays that he edited on United States public policy, he commented:

Critique stops short of prescription but there is some attempt to look ahead and also, in some cases, to set the problems within a theoretical, as well as an operational, framework. (pp. v-vi)He saw the benefits of such work as twofold:

to non-geographical academic or lay audiences … [it reflects] a particular set of perspectives on some urgent problems which face policy-makers in our very critical times. To geographers in training, the relevance of applications of the discipline should be a major concern, whether to add practical purpose to their studies, or to point in the direction of possible professional careers outside the education field. (p. 6)House identified the discipline\'s technocratic skills and its practitioners\' ability to synthesize the many component parts of a complex problem as the geographical perspectives most valuable to public policy study (see his survey of early British contributions in House, 1973); later promotions of geographers\' utility have stressed their technical skills, such as those associated with geographical information systems (GIS) (see NRC, 1997). Others, such as Smith (1988), suggest that because many social problems are exacerbated, if not created, by environmental, time, place and circumstance contexts (cf. contextual effect), then changing those contexts, through the geography of service provision and delivery, can be as influential as moves to solve the problems.

The nature of geographers\' applied contributions has been largely pragmatic, reflecting the available opportunities and the ability of geographers to capitalize on them with their technocratic skills, hence the current promotion of remote sensing and GIS (Openshaw, 1989). Whereas some geographers claim that such involvement is necessary for the discipline\'s survival (Berry, 1970; Abler, 1993), others have queried this by pointing to the role of much public policy as sustaining, if not enhancing, the inequalities and exploitation that are inherent to capitalism, hence Harvey\'s (1974) question \'What kind of geography for what kind of public policy?\' (cf. applied geography). (RJJ)

References and Suggested Reading Abler, R.F. 1993: Desiderata for geography. In R.J. Johnston, ed., The challenge for geography. A changing world: a changing discipline. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell. Berry, B.J.L. 1970: The geography of the US in the year 2000. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers 51: 21-53. Harvey, D. 1974: What kind of geography for what kind of public policy? Transactions, Institute of British Geographers 63: 18-24. House, J.W. 1973: Geographers, decision takers and policy makers. In M. Chisholm and B. Rodgers, eds, Studies in human geography. London: Heinemann, 272-301. House, J.W., ed., 1983: United States public policy: a geographical view. Oxford: The Clarendon Press. NRC 1997: Rethinking geography: new relevance for science and society.Washington, D.C.: National Research Council. Openshaw, S. 1989: Computer modelling in human geography. In B. Macmillan, ed., Remodelling geography. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 273-90. Smith, C.J. 1988: Public problems: the management of urban distress. New York and London: Guilford Press.



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