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Probable writing: Derrida, deconstruction, and the quantitative revolution in human geography


  • T J Barnes


The purpose of this paper is to use the work of Derrida in order to deconstruct the justifications and techniques associated with the quantitative revolution in human geography during the 1960s. The paper is divided into four main parts. First, the idea of deconstruction as proposed by Derrida is summarized. Second, the five justifications that have been proposed for the use of mathematics by early quantitative geographers are given -- universality, logicalness, objectivity, simplicity, and precision. Those justifications, it is argued, act in Derrida's terms as 'presences' on which the logocentric system of mathematics is founded. Third, those five justifications are then deconstructed. It is argued that each justification is beset by a contradiction that, in turn, mitigates the realization of the final logocentric system of mathematics. Fourth, by way of a case study, one particular type of mathematics is examined, inferential statistics. It is suggested that inferential statistics is based not upon some final presence, but on a metaphor taken from eugenics. That metaphor, however, clashed with several existing ones within traditional geography with the result that it ultimately failed, a fact subsequently recognized even by the geographical proponents of quantitative methods.

Suggested Citation

  • T J Barnes, 1994. "Probable writing: Derrida, deconstruction, and the quantitative revolution in human geography," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 26(7), pages 1021-1040, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:pio:envira:v:26:y:1994:i:7:p:1021-1040

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