Soc. Geogr., 1, 29-36, 2005
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08 Jun 2005
State, power and space
W. Zierhofer
Programm Mensch Gesellschaft Umwelt, Universiät Basel, Vesalgasse 1, CH – 4051 Basel, Switzerland

Abstract. "Space" may take many different significations of which, however, two are paramount for human geography: Space as a part of the world with specific characteristics and with activities located in or on it (object-space), and space as a frame of reference, used to locate and thereby order the relations among persons, things, activities and immaterial items (space as locational scheme). This paper argues that, from the viewpoint of an observer, every object-space presupposes a locational scheme, but not vice versa. Spaces as locational schemes are discussed as instruments, which individuals and organizations use to co-ordinate their activities. Therefore, space is a constitutive element of the reproduction of the social and is not something external to the social, as most geographies and social theories would have it. Under modern conditions, it is, above all, the meta-institution of the state that has the power to define interpretative schemes, thereby constituting entities and controlling their interactions. The discussion of the mutual constitution of spaces and institutions reveals that, from a methodological point of view, in the end the analysis of space, society and power coalesce. By disclosing the constitutive conditions of institutions and power structures, the analysis of spaces as locational schemes turns out to also be a deconstructive practice.

Citation: Zierhofer, W.: State, power and space, Soc. Geogr., 1, 29-36, doi:10.5194/sg-1-29-2005, 2005.
Final revised paper