The Concept of Social Space

Space is the boundless three-dimensional extent in which objects and events have relative position and direction. Physical space is often conceived in three linear dimensions, although modern physicists usually consider it, with time, to be part of a boundless four-dimensional continuum known as spacetime. The concept of space is considered to be of fundamental importance to an understanding of the physical universe. However, disagreement continues between philosophers over whether it is itself an entity, a relationship between entities, or part of a conceptual framework.

Geographical space is the action space of individuals, households and firms. Location and allocation are two sides of the same coin. This seemingly simple observation leads to a wealth of spatial – economic phenomena that are well covered in the recent literature ( Fischer and Nijkamp, 2013). Examples are housing and labor markets, regional growth disparities, spatial innovation and entrepreneurship conditions, urban agglomerations, industrial clusters, or energy and environmental resource scarcity. All such phenomena are critically determined by the location of human and industrial activity. There is an abundance of both conceptual and applied studies that address the above-mentioned spatial mapping of activities. The present contribution aims to highlight the essential elements of standard location theory.

A social space is physical or virtual space such as a social center, online social media, or other gathering place where people gather and interact. Some social spaces such as town squares or parks are public places; others such as pubs, websites, or shopping malls are privately owned and regulated.

Henri Lefebvre emphasised that in human society all ‘space is social: it involves assigning more or less appropriated places to social relations….social space has thus always been a social product’. Social space becomes thereby a metaphor for the very experience of social life – ‘society experienced alternatively as a deterministic environment or force (milieu) and as our very element or beneficent shell (ambience)’. In this sense ‘social space spans the dichotomy between “public” and “private” space…is also linked to subjective and phenomenological space’.

As metaphor, ‘social space contributes a relational rather than an abstract dimension…has received a large variety of attributes, interpretations, and metaphors’.Such ‘social space…i[s] an intricate space of obligations, duties, entitlements, prohibitions, debts, affections, insults, allies, contracts, enemies, infatuations, compromises, mutual love, legitimate expectations, and collective ideals’.

For Lefebvre, ‘the family, the school, the workplace, the church, and so on – each possesses an “appropriate” space…for a use specified within the social division of labor’. Within such social spaces ‘a system of “adapted” expectations and responses – rarely articulated as such because they seem obvious – acquire a quasi-natural self-evidence in everyday life and common sense’: thus everybody consensually ‘knows what he is talking about when he refers to the town hall, the post office, the police station, the grocery store, the bus and the train, train stations, and bistros’ – all underlying aspects of ‘a social space as such. an (artificial) edifice of hierarchically ordered institutions, of laws and conventions’

Pre/postmodern space
‘In premodern societies, space and place largely coincided….Modernity increasingly tears space away from place’. Whereas in the premodern ‘every thing has its assigned place in social space’, postmodernists would proudly proclaim that ‘we need to substitute for the magisterial space of the past…a less upright, less Euclidean space where no one would ever be in his final place ‘.

The way ‘migration, seen as a metaphor, is everywhere’ in postmodernity – ‘we are migrants and perhaps hybrids, in but not of any situation in which we find ourselves’ – is rooted in the postmodern forms of production of social space.

Lefebvre considered globalization as the creation, and superimposition on nature, of ‘worldwide-social space…with strong points (the centers) and weaker and dominated bases (the peripheries)’.

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About Rashid Faridi

I am Rashid Aziz Faridi ,Writer, Teacher and a Voracious Reader.
This entry was posted in earth, society, Space. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Concept of Social Space

  1. khansajan says:

    Hey Rashid,

    Khansa here. I am doing my Literature paper using Henri Lefebvre’s Production of Space for my main theory. I am confused about his explanation of social space in that book particularly and the chapter on contradictions in space. Would you be able to help?


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