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In praise of the unassuming

Denise Pumain
Cet article est une traduction de :
Eloge de la modestie

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1There is no Nobel prize for geography – even if it is supposed to be replaced by the highly respected Vautrin Lud Prize, awarded each year at the Sant Dié des Vosges  International Festival ( this year's winner was Horacio Capel). Geography is an unassuming and unostentatious science, it is not in the spotlight of prestigious marks of recognition, nor is it the focus of the excesses of the media, their enthusiasms and their condemnations.

2Thus, rather than giving way to sarcastic comment about a prize that alternately distinguishes one school of economics and then its rival, not always in manner that is unconnected with current events, geographers can congratulate Paul Krugman. One reason is that this brilliant laureate has not hesitated to associate the proletarian qualifier "geographical" with the "new economy" that he has set out to promote. Another reason is that his view of the world, with its divisions, its well-manned fortifications, and its carefully nurtured inequalities, is very close to  the view entertained by geography, very far-removed from the convergences and balance constructed by mainstream economics.

3Whether or not fair recognition has been given to these borrowings from geographers is of little matter: what is the weight of academic quarrelling when the issue is to improve knowledge of the social logics that underpin policies. The events of recent weeks have proved that those who advocated state regulation rather than the "freedom" demanded by the markets were right. The historical trend towards an amplification of  inequalities as a result of the "free" market, which also enhances the asymmetry between centre and periphery, wealthy countries and poor countries, has long been pointed to by geographers and numerous specialists in other social sciences, where proponents have however often been reluctant to formalise their observations too early. Is this reserve justified when the world is complex, and science has not said its last word? The facts are obstinate. And it is the theories that have won the day – so far!

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Denise Pumain, « In praise of the unassuming », Cybergeo : European Journal of Geography [En ligne], Éditoriaux, mis en ligne le 21 octobre 2008, consulté le 22 juin 2018. URL :

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