Tropical Geography ›› 2021, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (5): 881-891.doi: 10.13284/j.cnki.rddl.003389

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Progress of Western Scale Research: Conceptualization Framework, Practice Approach and Enlightenment

Xuefeng Houa,b(), Wei Taoa,b()   

  1. a.School of Geography, Greater Bay Area, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, China
    b.Center for Sustainable Development of Villages and Towns in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao, Greater Bay Area, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, China
  • Received:2020-10-20 Revised:2020-12-18 Online:2021-09-05 Published:2021-09-22
  • Contact: Wei Tao;


Scale is an important concept in geography. The evolution of scale connotation is closely related to the spatial organizational change in Western capitalist economic activities. With the scale shift of Western human geography, it has changed from being static and bounded by spatial entities to one characterized by process, evolution, dynamic social practices, and discourse representation. The Western scale has led to rapid developments in theory and practical applications. The conclusion of the Western scale is conducive to the dialog with Western scale research and is also of certain significance to formulating Chinese scale research . Taking Web of Science core data sets and Google academic literature as data sources, we retrieve keywords such as "scale" and "politics of scale," download relevant literature, and analyze and summarize it to obtain the background, focus, evolution process, and development direction of Western scale research. By clarifying the connotation and main content of Western scale research, it is found that 1) scale includes three main elements: theorizing scale, rhetoric of scale, and scales of praxis. The ontology of scale holds that it is a static hierarchical structure. The metaphor of scale is embodied in the fact that it can be deconstructed and expressed in a variety of ways through discourse. "Scales of praxis" means that scale is constructed in society through the interaction between different actors to re-create it. 2) There is unity and opposition between the three elements of the measure. In terms of unity, the theorizing scale creates the premise for the rhetoric of scale and the scales of praxis, and the rhetoric of scale and the scales of praxis develop the theorizing scale. In terms of opposites, the theorizing scale is the realist standpoint, while the rhetoric of scale and the scales of praxis are the products of constructivism. 3) The core of scale practice is scale politics, which focuses on the political game between different individuals or groups and emphasizes interests and efficiency, and easily causes negative social externalities and imbalances in resource allocation. It is necessary to introduce a third party to intervene, or regulate politics of scale, to realize the political economy of scale. Western scale research has experienced two typical stages, which have been fiercely debated: A. To materialize the scale into a fixed spatial entity; B. Different actors use scale to carry out social practice or discourse expression. In essence, the two stages are not completely separated in terms of time and main viewpoints. They mainly concentrate on the difference in focus, and there is a relationship between inheritance and complementarity. This indicates that the scale research of Sinicization needs to combine the two—to not only recognize the role of material space entities, but also accept the initiative of actors—and to regard scale as the relationship network of human and material interaction. In the specific application of scale, we should first divide the material spatial entity and scale it, subsequently analyzing the social facts shaped by it; then, one needs to analyze how the actors use discourse expression or political strategies to deconstruct and construct the scale, fully considering the possibility that individual interests infringe on social interests in the scale practice, and introduce the intermediary mechanism to intervene therein. This paper presents the conceptual framework of scale and realizes the induction of the application path of scale, which is embodied in three aspects: scale, scale deconstruction, and scale politics. At the same time, it proposes incorporating the effect of resource allocation into the analysis of scales of praxis to realize the political economy of scale, which not only expands the theoretical connotation of scale, but also increases the practical applicability and scope of scale.

Key words: scale, conceptualization framework, theorizing scale, rhetoric of scale, scales of praxis, political economy of scale

CLC Number: 

  • K901