4251 Introduction to Economic Geography
Univ.Prof. Dr. Jürgen Essletzbichler
Contact details
Weekly hours
Language of instruction
02/17/23 to 02/23/23
Registration via LPIS
Notes to the course
Day Date Time Room
Tuesday 03/07/23 10:00 AM - 01:00 PM TC.2.02
Tuesday 03/14/23 10:00 AM - 01:00 PM TC.2.02
Tuesday 03/21/23 10:00 AM - 02:00 PM TC.2.02
Tuesday 03/28/23 10:00 AM - 02:00 PM TC.2.02
Tuesday 04/11/23 10:00 AM - 02:00 PM TC.2.02
Tuesday 04/18/23 10:00 AM - 02:00 PM TC.2.02
Tuesday 04/25/23 11:00 AM - 01:00 PM TC.1.01 OeNB
Friday 05/05/23 03:30 PM - 05:00 PM Online-Prüfung

We are living through a period of rapid economic change manifested in the globalization, neoliberalization, financialization and urbanization of economic activity, the emergence of new motor industries, rapidly occurring climate change and environmental destruction and increasing inequality at the national and international scales. This course shows how these processes are shaped by and shape the economic landscape, how a stretching of economic relations across the world implied by globalization simultaneously requires the investment of capital in particular places resulting in rapid urbanization, in nodes of economic activity from which those global flows of money, people and commodities are managed. The result of the myriad of decisions made by states, multi-national corporations, politicians, workers and consumers is a world characterized by geographically uneven economic development. Some countries, regions, cities benefit from those processes while others loose. Trying to explain uneven spatial development is one of the hallmarks of economic geographic research and in this course we will see what this means in the context of the real world economy.

The course is divided into three modules. Module 1 will provide the basic conceptual building blocks and definitions.  It explores why and how geography is relevant for economics and business, how changes in organizing our livelihoods affect spatial economic patterns and how those existing patterns shape future economic activity. Module 2 will focus on globalization, on what is new, why it does not only produce winners, why and how its impact varies across states and regions and finally, how China has become a key player in the global economy. In Module 3 we will examine more closely regional and urban success stories in the Global North: High-Tech industrial spaces, Creative Cities, Global Cities.

Learning outcomes

After completing this course students should be able to

  • appreciate the relevance of a spatial approach to Economics
  • realize how economic geographic research complements economic research
  • comprehend why globalization does not lead to the end of geography
  • get some grounding in contemporary issues in economic geography
  • understand that markets and economy are always embedded in historically and geographically differentiated social, political and environmental relations
  • learn how to read, interpret and critically discuss scientific journal articles related to the topics in modules 2 and 3
Attendance requirements

Students are required to attend 50% of all classes (lecture and discussion sessions). You have to attend all four of your discussion sessions and it is recommended that you come to all of the seven lecture slots, but you have to attend at least 3 of those. Past experience demonstrates that attending lectures is related to a good grade on the course!

Teaching/learning method(s)
  • independent critical reading of compulsory literature
  • brief lectures
  • videos
  • weekly online quizzes
  • class-discussions
  • case study analysis
  • in class data analysis and interpretation 

There is a total of 108 points, of which 8 points are counted as bonus points:

  • 4 in-class online quizzes  - (max. 5 points each) (20 points)
    • About the reading of the seminar
    • In weeks 3-6
  • 4 discussion sessions
    • Group exercises relation to the assigned readings (max. 5 points each) (20 points)
    • Participation in seminar (max. 2 points each) (8 bonus points)

Please be aware that this is an individual quiz. Cheating (eg. copying from your neighbor) will result in 0 points for the quiz. Repeated offenses will be passed on to the VR Lehre and risk a FOUR-MONTH BAN on exams and course.

  • Final exam (60 points)
    • A minimum of 30 points has to be reached in the final exam in order to pass the course. The exam will consist of a multiple choice part and a short open-answer part
    • The exam is about the material covered in lectures. It includes power point slides and a number of textbook chapters to complement the lectures.
    • NOTICE: If you can provide documentation that you cannot participate in the exam at the given date (eg. doctor’s note) or if you fail to obtain at least 30 points (50%) but achieve at least 6 points (10%) at the first attempt, then you are allowed a second attempt. Please notice that the second attempt will be at the end of the current semester! Work related or holiday related excuses are not tolerated!
    • The exam will take place  in the mid-term exam week, on Mai 5, 2023


0.0 to <50.0 Fail
50.0 to <62.5 Sufficient
62.5 to <75.0 Satisfactory
75.0 to <87.5 Good
>=87.5 Excellent


NOTICEDirective on the conduct of examinations and dealing with cheating and fraud

Prerequisites for participation and waiting lists

There are no specific requirements for attending this course.


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Availability of lecturer(s)



Univ.Prof. Dr. Jürgen Essletzbichler

Office hours: upon appointment



Flavio Serafini

Administration office: D4.2.224 (entrance via 3rd floor)



Group Discussions

The course comprises a combination of lectures and smaller group discussions. There will be one hour of frontal lecture, followed by one-hour sessions in smaller groups (Groups 1 and 2). In these group sessions you will first talk to your colleagues about the reading for the seminar, followed by a group discussion led by Prof. Essletzbichler. The groups will be determined after final enrollment is completed.

There  is one required reading (total of 4) on which the group discussions are based. There will be questions related to the readings that you will need to answer online prior to the seminar and that also serve as points for the discussion. As part of the goal of this course is to understand, interpret and critically engage with academic writing you will also be asked to focus on particular parts of the readings (eg. introduction) in detail. How do researchers set up a paper? How do they arrive at interesting research questions? What methodology do they use? What is the point of the conclusions? Also, if you have questions about the readings we will work through them in the seminars. Notice that the readings are related to the topics of the lectures. The lectures situate the readings.

Each week there are additional readings, which will help you understand the lecture material better. Especially for those not attending lectures this will be an important source for the final exam.

Additional (blank) field







Introduction: What is economic geography?

14.3. Explaining uneven development



Is globalization always better? Lecture & Discussion


What is new in the current wave of globalization? Global Value Chains / Ethical trading and sustainable consumption in a globalised world: Lecture & Discussion




Why do we concentrate in cities and regions? Agglomeration and localization economies: Lecture & Discussion


Who manages the global economy? Global Cities: Lecture & Discussion




Unit details
Unit Date Contents
1 04.10.2022


This part of the course introduces basic geographic concepts such as space, place, scale, territory, relations and shows how a capitalist economy results in uneven spatial development, and why we observe distinct economic periods that generate their own geographies of winners and loosers.


Session 1: Introduction: What is economic geography?

Here we will start exploring how we might think about geography influencing economic processes, business decisions, urban development, etc. We will pick up different theoretical lenses (as some of you have done in ZuWiI) and see how this may influence our interpretation of the global economy. We then look at Facebook, a company that must be, surely, footloose and not bound to particular places, to see how different geographical concepts can be used to understand where Facebook carries out various tasks of its business.

Required Reading: Coe et al. (2013) Chapter 1.


Additional Readings:

Acemoglu, D. and Robinson, J. (2012) Why Nations Fail? A reponse to Jared Diamond. The New York Review of Books. August 16, 2012 Issue.

Essletzbichler, J. (2007). Economic geography. Entry in Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology.

Mackinnon, D. and Cumbers, A. (2007). An Introduction to Economic Geography. Globalization, Uneven Development and Place. Pearson. Chapter 1: Introducing economic geography.

Sachs, J. (1997). Nature, nurture and growth. The Economist, Saturday, June 14, 1997, vol. 343, issue 8021, pp21-25.

Sheppard, E., Porter, Faust, Nagar (2009): A World of Difference. Encountering Development. Guilford Press.

Keywords: environmental determinism; production of space; location; territory; place; space; relational space;

2 11.10.2022

Session 2 (12.10.): Explaining uneven development

This see-saw movement of uneven development, of some places growing while others decline, is often considered by economic geographers as the key puzzle that needs to be explained. In order to do that they try to think how location decisions of firms and workers are tied to how the economy, the way we organize our livelihoods, works. We will contrast and compare our current economic system, capitalism, with other systems, such as feudalism, and work out how this generates simultaneously, globalization (the spatial extension and intensification of spatially-extensive links) and urbanization (the concentration of money, people, businesses, infrastructure) in particular places.

Required Reading: Coe et al. (2013) Chapter 3


Additional readings:

Dunford, M. and Liu, W. (2017) Uneven and combined development. Regional Studies 51: 69-85.

Harvey, D. (1982). The Limits to Capital. Blackwell.

Harvey, D. (2016). The Ways of the World.  Profile Books: London.

Johnston, R.J., Gregory, D., Pratt, G., and Watts, M. (2000) The Dictionary of Human Geography. Entries on Capital; Capitalism; Circuit of Capital;

Smith, N. (1984). Uneven Development. Georgia: Athens.

Storper, M. and Walker, R. (1989) The capitalist imperative. Blackwell.

Keywords: Uneven development; Capitalism; Feudalism; Crisis; Spatial Fix.

3 18.10.2022

Session 3 (02.11.): What is new in the current phase of globalization? Ethical trading - on global flows of capital and goods and how your consumption choices  do or don't make a difference

At least since 1492 we can speak of a world where people in different continents were linked through the movement of goods, people and money. However, economic integration sped up substantially with the industrial revolution and reached its first peak just prior to WWI in 1913. In this period, trade is well capture through Ricardian trade theory, some call it the old international division of labor.  What we observe now and starting in the mid-1970s is a new international division of labor, a global economy where value chains are broken up and different tasks are distributed around the globe generating business opportunities but also risks for countries in the Global South.

4 25.10.2022


This module looks at the most recent period of globalization, examines how different countries and places influence the nature of globalization and how globalization processes in turn, benefit some and harm other countries, cities and regions.


Session 3 (19.10.): Is globalization always better? People and places left behind

We are usually told that trade increases aggregate output and hence, is a good thing. Looking more closely though we observe that there are winners and loosers of globalization and that the people and places that loose turn increasingly to the political process (Trump, BREXIT, Le Pen) to express their discontent with globalization and further economic integration.

Required Reading: (for seminar) Rodriguez-Pose. A. (2018) The revenge of the places that don’t matter (and what to do about it). Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society 11: 189-209.


Additional Readings:

Essletzbichler, J., Disslbacher, F. and Moser, M. (2018) The victims of neoliberal globalization and the rise of the populist vote: a comparative analysis of three recent electoral decisions. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society. 11: 73-94.

Ghemawat, P. (2017) Globalization in the Age of Trump: Protectionism will change how companies do business – but not in the ways you think. Harvard Business Review 95, issue 4 (July/August), pp. 112-123.

Rodrik, D. (2018). Populism and the economics of globalization. Journal of International Business Policy.

Stiglitz, J. (2017) The overselling of globalization. Business Economics 52: 129-137.

Rodriguez Pose, A.

Keywords: Globalization; Loosers; Winners; Polanyi; Hayek; Countermovement; Populism

5 08.11.2022



While Module 2 examined various aspects of globalization - the geographic extension and intensification of economic links - this part of the course explains why, despite globalization, more people than ever live in cities and economic activity remains concentrated in particular localities. More specifically this module will examine three different approaches to understand the continuing or renewed success of regions and cities in the Global North. The key ingredients in those stories are innovation, knowledge, talent and power.

Session 5 (09.11.): Why do we concentrate in cities and regions: Agglomeration and localization economies

We will develop a general account of agglomeration economies that explains why firms and people cluster in space and then look more carefully at the effects on rural areas, what to do with them and the effects on people living in these areas.

Required reading: (for seminar)


Additonal Readings:






6 15.11.2022

Session 6 (16.11.): Who manages the global economy? Global cities

The global economy is a complex place. New information and transportation technologies means that the relative distance between places shrinks and hence, small differences in cost structures, infrastructure, or business environment can be exploited by global firms. However, this means managing increasingly complex resource flows (money, people, value chains, pollution, profits) that requires highly a set of highly specialized business services with offices in multiple countries, regions and cities. These advanced producers services (as they are often called) sit in cities at the top of the urban hierarchy, so-called global cities. Using London as an example we will see that the physical fabric and economic structure of those cities has been transformed tremendously, but that those changes in place cannot be understood without their relations to other places. It’s their position in this global network of flows rather than particular structure of the city that makes them stand out.

Required reading: (for Seminar) Doreen Massey (2007) Introduction and Capital Delight. Chapter 1 in World City. Policy Press.


Additional Readings:

Aalbers, M. (2009) Geographies of the financial crisis. Area 41.1, 34–42

Harvey, D. (2005) A brief history of neoliberalism. Oxford University Press.

Hackworth J (2016) Defiant neoliberalism and the danger of Detroit. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie 107(5): 540-551.

Lipietz, A (1998) Nach dem Ende des “Goldenen Zeitalters”. Regulation und Transformation kapitalistischer Gesellschaften. Argument Verlag: Berlin.

Peck, J. (2010). Constructions of Neoliberal Reasons. Oxford University Press.

Sassen, S. (1990). Global Cities. Oxford.

Zwan, van der N. (2014). Making sense of financialization. Socio-Economic Review 12: 99-129.

There is a lot on world cities, global cities, etc. Also check out the work of the “Globalization and World Cities Research Network”

Keywords: Global Cities; World Cities; Relational Space; Network of Flows; Control and Command Centers; Global Financial Centers;

7 25.11.2022


Last edited: 2023-03-07