GEOGRAPHICAL RESEARCH ›› 2010, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (11): 2059-2069.doi: 10.11821/yj2010110014

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Pragmatism vs. scientism: Which is the sponsor of urban geography in China?

LIU Yun-gang, XU Xue-qiang   

  1. School of Geography Sciences and Planning, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
  • Received:2010-02-12 Revised:2010-07-06 Online:2010-11-20 Published:2010-11-20


Rapid progress has made in urban geography in China in the past three decades. How should we look upon urban geography in China at present and in the future? From the perspective of the axiology of the discipline, this paper collects and analyzes the essays of urban geography from five main academic geographic journals, and makes a systematic review on the history and trends of the development of urban geography in China. We have found that the number of the research papers on urban geography in China has increased steadily after the 1980s, and the growth rate has been slowed down up to the 1990s. The development tendency of the research can be summarized as follows: (1) The research of urban geography in China has mainly concentrated on four aspects of urbanization, urban system, urban spatial structure and urban problems. (2) After 2000, research upon point has decreased relatively, while the research on area has increased; Compared to the reduction of research 'of the city', the research 'in the city' has increased. (3) More and more researches focus on urban function and make use of qualitative methods. Problem oriented rather than theory oriented has been the mainstream. The main problem of urban geography is lack of innovation on the angle of theory and analysis. Lots of researches are basically the duplication of the works 20 years ago. The deeper problem can be illustrated as two different factions on the axiology of the discipline, namely, pragmatism and scientism. From the angle of reflection, this paper appeals for a reasonable research orientation of urban geography in China. Research upon problems and theories should be integrated effectively, and we ought to avoid going to the extremes of metaphysics. They are two sides of urban geography, which are complemented for each other and neither can be neglected.

Key words: urban geography, city planning, scientism, pragmatism, China