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New Left Review I/196, November-December 1992


Doreen Massey

Politics and Space/Time

‘Space’ is very much on the agenda these days. On the one hand, from a wide variety of sources come proclamations of the significance of the spatial in these times: ‘It is space not time that hides consequences from us’ (Berger); ‘The difference that space makes’ (Sayer); ‘That new spatiality implicit in the postmodern’ (Jameson); ‘It is space rather than time which is the distinctively significant dimension of contemporary capitalism’ (Urry); and ‘All the social sciences must make room for an increasingly geographical conception of mankind’ (Braudel). Even Foucault is now increasingly cited for his occasional reflections on the importance of the spatial. His 1967 Berlin lectures contain the unequivocal: ‘The anxiety of our era has to do fundamentally with space, no doubt a great deal more than with time.’ In other contexts the importance of the spatial, and of associated concepts, is more metaphorical. In debates around identity the terminology of space, location, positionality and place figures prominently. Homi Bhabha, in discussions of cultural identity, argues for a notion of a ‘third space’. Jameson, faced with what he sees as the global confusions of postmodern times, ‘the disorientation of saturated space’, calls for an exercise in ‘cognitive mapping’. And Laclau, in his own very different reflections on the ‘new revolution of our time’, uses the terms ‘temporal’ and ‘spatial’ as the major differentiators between ways of conceptualizing systems of social relations.

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