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Moral Geographies

Ethics in a World of Difference

David M. Smith

Paperback i (Printed to Order)

This book explores the interface between geography, ethics and morality. It considers questions that have haunted the past, are subjects of controversy in the present, and which affect the future. Does distance diminish responsibility? Should we interfere with the lives of those we do not know? Is there a distinction between private and public space? Which values and morals, if any, are absolute, and which cultural, communal or personal? And are universal rights consistent with respect for difference? David Smith shows how these questions play themselves out in politics, planning, development, social and personal relations, the exploitation of resources, and competition for territory. After introducing the essential elements of moral philosophy from Plato to postmodernism, he examines the moral significance of concepts of landscape, location and place, proximity, distance and community, space and territory, justice, and nature. He is concerned above all with the morality people practice, to see how this varies according to geographical context, and to assess the inevitability of its outcomes. His argument is seamlessly interwoven with everyday observation and vividly described case studies: the latter include genocide and rescue during the Holocaust, the conflicts over space between Israeland Palestine and within Israel itself, and the social tensions and aspirations in post-apartheid South Africa. The meaning, possibility and limits of social justice lie at the heart of the book. That geographical context is vital to the understanding of moral practice and ethical theory is its central proposition. The book is clearly and engagingly written. The author has a student readership in mind, but his book will appeal widely to geographers and others involved in planning, development, politics, social theory, and the analysis of the contemporary world.


A far reaching, insightful and even-handed account of the multiple theories of morality developed by contemporary philosophy; how parts of these became illustrated and refined through geographical examples; and how the very essence of geography invokes moral issues ... its wide review, critiques and examples would convince any sceptical reader of the importance of connecting geography and morality. I enjoyed the book immensely and will use it in my classes ... I found the book to provide strong evidence that there are ways of viewing the moral and the good that only geography provides.
There is a strong skipper at the helm of this ship ... The book is impressive on several grounds ... it is an innovative text that is the product of much reading in several disciplines brought against the standard of considerable accumulated wisdom ... the writing is lucid and never obscure ... it is a pioneering effort and sets out a seminal agenda for subsequent work. Among a mixed crop of current books, here is a volume that can be commended as essential reading.
The first major text book that seeks to explore in an integrated fashion the interface between geography and moral philosophy ... In a brief review, it is impossible to do full justice to this important work ... an extremely wide ranging book. In only some 214 pages of text, it seeks to relate all of these issues to central debates in contemporary moral philosophy, and it does so with both panache and commitment.

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