Geography Geography of Finance
Jayson J. Funke
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 December 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 September 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0024


The study of finance and financial services has garnered growing attention outside economics departments and the financial community over the past three decades. Geographers’ interest in finance grew in the 1990s following the termination of the Bretton Woods system and the subsequent hegemony of neoliberal economic policies that helped facilitate contemporary globalization. The liberalization of capital controls, the deregulation of financial services, and advancements in telecommunications enabled investors and financial institutions to deploy capital easily across time and space, leading some scholars to claim that hyper-mobile capital has made geography irrelevant. Geographers responded to the “end of geography” thesis by showing that space, place, and location remain essential to financial practices and to the shifting geography of finance. Early work was undertaken primarily from the political economy perspective and was influenced by the seminal work and Marxist theory of David Harvey. Research centered on issues of financial globalization and state sovereignty, the global and local connectivity of financial flows and networks (tacit knowledge and relational proximity), the spatial patterns of financial services, uneven development and financial exclusion, and the creation of new financial spaces (world cities and financial centers, both offshore and onshore) shaped by the de- and re-territorialization of global economic space wrought by the growing power of finance. More recently, research has turned to the topic of financialization as a theoretical attempt to characterize the emerging global capitalist, and post-Fordist, system of accumulation. Research tends to focus on the ways in which the financial system influences political, economic, and cultural life across a range of scales from the global to the individual, and demonstrates how risk, uncertainty, and volatility are embedded within the geography of finance. This area of research has been enriched by sociological economics, cultural studies, and feminist theory that place emphasis on social relations to advance our understanding of how financial firms and institutions are constituted through a combination of knowledge, technologies, individuals, and institutions that continually produce and construct financial markets and practices through interlinked and extensive social networks. Geographers’ perspectives on the enduring vitality of place and location in the geography of finance has been further validated and influenced by the theoretical development in the 1990s of the “varieties of capitalism” (VoC) comparative political economy approach. This body of research stresses the institutional differences among financial institutions and infrastructure in advanced capitalist economies. Research centers on institutional path dependencies and institutional convergence, divergence, and the emergence of new and hybrid configurations.

General Overviews

While there are several books on “the geography of finance” none of them provides a comprehensive account of the field, which is not surprising considering the rapid development and increasing complexity of the international financial system produces an ever-shifting financial geography. However, there are a handful of classic works on the geography of money and finance that should remain foundational into the foreseeable future of research and scholarship. Harvey 2006 provides the essential theoretical political economy framework for mapping out the spatialities of money and finance. Corbridge, et al. 1994 augments Harvey 2006 by adding a nuanced cultural economy perspective. Leyshon and Thrift 1997 is a useful collection of the authors’ extensive work up to its release date. More recently, however, the most useful collections of summaries and overviews of the field tend to be published in journals. Leyshon 1995, Leyshon 1997, and Leyshon 1998 provide a succinct overview of research from the 1990s, while Hall 2011 and Hall 2012 offer a more focused overview on research from the cultural economy perspective and on the topic of financialization throughout the 2000s.

  • Corbridge, S., N. Thrift, and R. Martin. Money, Power and Space. Oxford: Blackwell, 1994.

    Essential collection combining political economy and cultural economy analyses with empirical studies on money as a social and cultural relation bound up with asymmetries of power and uneven development. Topics include monetary systems, pension funds, globalization, importance of place and location, housing and urban development, financial centers, spatial fixes, and primitive accumulation.

  • Hall, S. “Geographies of Money and Finance I: Cultural Economy, Politics and Place.” Progress in Human Geography 35 (2011): 234–245.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309132510370277

    Provides an overview of recent research up to its release date from the cultural economy perspective. Useful for a wide audience.

  • Hall, S. “Geographies of Money and Finance II: Financialization and Financial Subjects.” Progress in Human Geography 36 (2012): 403–411.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309132511403889

    Overview of more recent research on financialization within the geography of finance. Useful for a wide audience.

  • Harvey, D. The Limits to Capital. London: Verso, 2006.

    This is by no means his first writing on issues of money and finance from a Marxist political economy perspective. But certainly this is Harvey’s most comprehensive and exhaustive theoretical analysis. Essential reading for anyone interested in the political economy of money and finance.

  • Leyshon, A. “Geographies of Money and Finance I.” Progress in Human Geography 19 (1995): 531–543.

    DOI: 10.1177/030913259501900406

    Survey of research on the political economy of money and finance up to 1995. Suitable for broad audience.

  • Leyshon, A. “Geographies of Money and Finance II.” Progress in Human Geography 21 (1997): 381–392.

    DOI: 10.1191/030913297671200325

    Survey of research on money and finance from the perspective of critical social theory and cultural studies. Suitable for a wide audience.

  • Leyshon, A. “Geographies of Money and Finance III.” Progress in Human Geography 22 (1998): 433–446.

    DOI: 10.1191/030913298671523993

    Survey of research on money and finance from the perspective of feminist representations of the body and embodiment. Suitable for a wide audience.

  • Leyshon, A., and N. Thrift. Money Space: Geographies of Monetary Transformation. London: Routledge, 1997.

    A collection of the authors’ early work that examines financial systems as socioeconomic processes made up of networks of interdependent texts, technological devices, and people that globally shuttle information back and forth in the process of continually making and reconstituting money. Good introduction to the cultural economy perspective.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.