Book Review (Murray 2005)

Image of the cover of Geographies of Globalization

Geographies of Globalization

Warwick E Murray

Edward Elgar, 2005, £22.79, ISBN 1-84376-821-6.

Reviewed by Tim Vorley, University of Leicester

Globalization is ever popular as the focus of innumerable graduate and undergraduate courses in geography and the social sciences, while more recently there has also been an emergence of globalization degrees. Accordingly it is not surprising that the accompanying globalization literature is growing parallel to the subject itself, and this contribution by Murray, as indicated by the title, assumes a geographical perspective. The book describes its objective as to explore ‘the various, theories, processes and impacts of globalization’ (p.27), a challenge which it recognises as implausible to summarise so proposes to present a survey of some of the main and most important contributors. Structured over three parts and nine chapters, the book transcends conceptual and empirical debates across local and global scales, with the conclusion addressing a series of questions raised throughout the book.

The first part, Transformed Geographies, seeks to introduce and critically appraise the concept of globalization through identifying a range of theories, and theoretical perspectives, on place and spatialities. Chapter 1 discusses the rise of globalization, and details, albeit briefly some of the competing theses/discourses, the chapter then endeavours to define globalization drawing on and from numerous existing contested definitions. The final part of the chapter identifies geography and globalization together and how the concepts relate to each other which is signposted to underpin the remainder of the book. The contested theories of globalization are the focus of Chapter 2. The chapter aptly synthesises debates of globalization across space, describing them to be historically, spatially and politically contingent as well as necessarily informed by situational context. The final chapter of the first part parallels the previous chapter by identifying the contested histories of globalization, with the chapter discussing four historical frameworks and how the different perspectives are influenced by discourse, ideology and definition. In short the first part of the book sets up the remainder of the book, building a solid foundation from which the remainder of the book draws from and builds upon.

The second part, titled Shifting Spheres, analyses three spheres of economic, political and cultural geography, and how the processes and outcomes of the three overlapping spheres have transformed. Chapter 4, Globalizing Economic Geographies, seeks to review the increasingly global spatialities of the economy by drawing together key literatures and ideas in economic geography in relation to globalization. Chapter 5 examines the political dimensions of globalization, situating globalization in wider political processes/practices and debates of political geography. The final chapter of the second section, Globalizing Cultural Geographies, focuses on cultural geography, and more specifically the premise that globalization is seeing a shift towards ‘progressive cultural spaces’. Across what are three ambitious chapters Murray presents a concise account as to the transformation of economic, political and cultural geographies, usefully identifying and discussing key themes and concepts. The way that the first and second parts of the book interweave also makes for a strong logical structure.

The third and final part of the book addresses Global Challenge associated with globalization. Firstly, Chapter 7 breaches the subjects of inequality and development in relation to globalization, identifying the unequal worlds which globalization has created and perpetuated. The chapter again picks up the on the spatial and historical frameworks introduced in Chapters 2 and 3, as well as themes and concepts in the second part of the book. The focus of Chapter 8 is the environment, and sustainability thereof, which traces the (additional) challenges posed in a globalising world. Defining and reviewing the concepts of environmental degradation, the chapter outlines environmental problems and regulatory solutions which are necessarily global in their scope.

The concluding chapter brings together theoretical and empirical to reflect on the process of globalization and the implications for geography. The chapter explicitly answers an extended series of questions posed initially in the introduction and addressed within the book. With a geographical focus the chapter reflects on the contested nature of globalization and the transformation of society, the answers themselves signpost conceptual arguments and empirical evidence made throughout the book. The chapter then identifies future agendas for human geography, noting the new opportunities and challenges that globalization brings and how there is a need to alter the approach towards geographies of globalization. Finally the chapter reflects broadly on the themes raised in the book, and how as a contested concept globalization it is not as simple as identifying definitive answers but a more open debate.

Through the three sections the book does achieve a sound overview of the key themes as it set out to do, which is no mean feat as in covering such a vast subject achieving a universally satisfactory synthesis is an almost relentless task. The structure of the book is logical and capture the key themes associated with globalisation, and is very accessible and extremely student friendly. The book makes good use of diagrams and boxes to present key ideas, while the end of chapter précis’s of key themes and the identification of further reading are excellent features. The book is a valid contribution to the globalisation literature as an introductory level or foundation text, combining key themes and empirical case studies with some key theoretical ideas. As part of the Routledge Contemporary Human Geography Series the book serves its role a teaching aid, providing a concise introduction to the subject while is also amenable to delivery as, or as an accompaniment to, an undergraduate lecture courses. It stands up well alongside other comparable more established texts such as Peter Dicken’s Global Shift, and although it is not set to revolutionise the way in which globalisation is taught or studied it is a excellent book.