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Durham University

Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details for Professor Joe Painter

Painter, J. Power. In: Agnew, J., Mamadouh, V., Secor, A.J. & Sharp, J. The Wiley Blackwell companion to political geography. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell; 2015:141-151.

Author(s) from Durham


This chapter discusses some of the main ways in which political geographers have understood and used the concept of power. Traditional political geography explicitly or implicitly saw power as a substance – literally the “stuff of politics” – and often equated it with access to or control over resources. This view underwrites the compilation of inventories and indexes of national power. More recent work treats power as a capacity or as a relationship. While political geographers have documented the numerous ways in which power affects space and geography, they have not given much attention to the nature of power or to the ways in which space shapes power. The chapter considers how key thinkers have addressed the question of the difference geography makes to power, examining the role of public space, sovereign, disciplinary, and biopower, and the implications of proximity and reach to the operation of power.