Geographic School

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Geographic School


(in sociology), a trend in non-Marxist sociology that regards the geographic environment or its components, such as climate, soil, and rivers, as the determining factor in social development. The idea that social phenomena are determined by the geographic environment was expressed in classical antiquity by Democritus, Hippocrates, Herodotus, Polybius, and Strabo, in the Middle Ages by the Arab thinker ibn-Khaldun, and in France in the 16th century by J. Bodin. The founder of the geographic school is considered to be C. Montesquieu, who developed the idea of the influence of geographic conditions and climate on the life of man, on the customs and mores of different peoples, and on the evolution of the economic and even political order of various nations. An important representative of the school was the English historian H. T. Buckle. The questions posed by the geographic school have been investigated by many geographers, historians, and economists of the late 19th and first half of the 20th century, including the German geographer and ethnologist F. Ratzel, the French geographer E. Reclus, the American geographer E. Huntington, and the Russian scholar L. I. Mechnikov. Although they were onesided, the ideas of the geographic school were at first directed against religious ideology and the cult of “great men” and advanced the principle of determinism in social life. In the second half of the 19th century, as scientific sociology developed, the geographic school lost its progressive features. It ignored the driving social forces in historical progress and extolled geographic environment as the decisive factor in the economic, political, and cultural development of different peoples. Not infrequently these ideas were the basis of reactionary theories of the innate causes of the backwardness of colonial peoples and were put forward to justify the colonial policies of capitalist states. In the age of imperialism the geographic determinism of a number of reactionary ideologists was used as an apologia and ideological foundation for imperialist expansion. In contemporary sociology the geographic school no longer exists as an independent trend, but the problems it posed are being investigated in corresponding branches of sociology, such as social ecology.


Mechnikov, L. I. Tsivilizatsiia i velikie istoricheskie reki. Moscow, 1924. (Translated from French.)
Kovalevskii, M. M. Sotsiologiia, vol. 1-2. St. Petersburg, 1910.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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