Soc. Geogr., 2, 29-45, 2007
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26 Jan 2007
Vom „Containerraum“ zur „entgrenzten“ Welt – Raumbilder als sozialwissenschaftliche Leitbilder
W. Luutz
Zentrum für Höhere Studien, Universität Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany

Abstract. From "closed container" to "unlimited world" – spatial metaphors as social theoretical models

This paper is concerned with the role of spatial metaphors in modern social sciences.

I refer to the sociological thesis that in so far as we live in the age of globalization is necessary to transform the old interpretation of society as (national) "container" into the new concept of "unlimited world". There is a large degree of consent to those descriptions today. How ever, I want to draw attention to the social ontological preconditions of this sociological macro narration. I am especially interested in the spatial metaphors on which the common scientific conceptualization of modern social world based on.

One of the results is: Non-spatial organized sociological theories (for example Beck's theory of "Welt-Risikogesellschaft" or Luhmann's theory of social systems) also need the spatial language, but they use unreflected the spatial metaphors. On the one hand Beck can not really destroy the container metaphor. On the other hand Beck ignores the distinction between his own sociological descriptions ("non-locale society", "unlimited word") and the complex social reality. In contrast to those theories Simmel needs in his spatial sociology a lot of spatial metaphors, e.g. social "band", "thread" or "circle". How ever, he uses these metaphors in a distanced way. In his understanding the spatial language is insufficient but at the same time irreplaceable.

Following Simmel the paper draws attention to three functions of spatial metaphors in the context of social sciences: 1. the structural role in framing of the social subject, 2. the discriminating function, their role as marker in the scientific communication, 3. the bridging function, their relevance to the transformation of sociological basic knowledge into medial and political discourses.

One conclusion of this investigation is: It is not possible to ignore the structural power of spatial metaphors in the social sciences. Therefore we should remember the visual context of the sociological concept metaphors, especially "container" or "unlimited world". It is necessary to vitalize these metaphors as contingent metaphorical interpretations of the complex social world.

Citation: Luutz, W.: Vom „Containerraum“ zur „entgrenzten“ Welt – Raumbilder als sozialwissenschaftliche Leitbilder, Soc. Geogr., 2, 29-45, doi:10.5194/sg-2-29-2007, 2007.
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