Space and Place: Critical Reading

Document Type : Original Article


1 Associate Professor,Geography, University of Tehran, Iran

2 Assistant Geography, University of Tehran, Iran

3 Assistant, Department of Political Geography, University of Tehran, Iran

4 PhD Student in Political geography, University of Tehran, Iran


Extended abstract
The space and place are the key concepts in the social sciences, architecture, physics, urban planning and especially geographical sciences. But there is no consensus on the definitions, and scope of space and place. The most important and common definition in the academic community of Iran in relation to space is that: the Space is the relationship between objects and phenomena. But in practice, whether consciously or unconsciously, this definition of space is usually applied in the country's scientific community, an absolute Descartes that remind of the modern age, that is, looking at space as a fixed, coordinated thing. In this view, the space is eternal, stationary, isotropic, networked, coordinate and measurable. From the point of view of this research, the problem generally refers to the failure of most research in constructing the fundamental ontological and epistemological nature of the problem of the space and place. We confront, for example, a relative neglect of the underlying principles that many researchers and theorists base on their understanding of the space and place, that is, the way base the particular object of their research. This neglect is problematic for many reasons, in particular because it impedes the formulation of a dialectical approach to the problem of the space and place, thereby the most research about these consciously or unconsciously constrained in Descartes's philosophically constraints. This article seeks to expose Descartes's implicit foundations of the space and place, and to critically reading Marxist, postmodern and phenomenological views of the space and place to analyze it in relation to everyday life and world life.
This research, based on its nature is fundamental research and based on a descriptive-analytical approach with a critical approach and has attempted to critic the foundations of the dominant approach from critical view.
Discussion and Findings
The first attempts to provide a definition of the concepts of space and place are in the field of philosophy, presented by Plato and Aristotle. After these two other philosophers, such as Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Bergson, Husserl, etc., attempted to develop these concepts. But it was during Strauss and Foucault that more serious questions arose. Are history, historicity and historical conscience inherent in human existence? Or are the concepts imposed on different histories across places? Such act needs to be rearticulation the notion of space and place in the 'modern' not only to re-examine this issue where space and place have been abandoned, but also to consider where and how had located places and spaces. We also have three general views of space and place that we must consider about some epistemological chasms. 1) The Newtonian view in the context of Euclidean geometry- this view that knew everything mathematically and quantitatively and measurable based on that space and place were measurable and capable of being represented quantitatively. 2) The view attributed to Leibniz and Einstein, unlike its predecessor, sees time and space as part of human mental structures. In this view, time and space are not the output but the result of construction of human input; the space in a relational thought is a relative matter, and a way of knowing about the relationships between the elements of the physical world. 3) Kant's view; Kant's compromise on understanding space as a real thing but only accessible through intuitive and immediate efforts can build a bridge between Newton and Leibniz. In this study we attempt to analyze the categories of space and place through a critical rethinking and from the perspective of the three Marxist, phenomenological and postmodern schools, all three schools aiming to move from positivism and Descartes dualism to a higher level of explanation, intellection or interpret. Critical research criticizes the positivist approach for not being able to examine people's meanings and understand their capacity to feel and think. Marxists with a certain interpretation of Marx completely rejected the positivist spatial representation. In their view, all spatial relationships and processes are in fact social relations that have taken the spatial form. Phenomenology has also been introduced as a new, critical and compelling scientific position against positivism, and Husserl considers its duty to expose and review all the fundamental claims and assumptions that the positivist sciences (objective, dogmatic) have assumed, and ultimately Postmodernist viewpoints, with their crushing criticism of positivism and other early approaches, all them question as the schools of »being« and the metaphysics of presence as their central theme.
The conceptual definition of the categories of space and place is based on the ontological, epistemological, and methodological nature of important philosophical paradigms, and without understanding the philosophical underpinnings of these concepts, conceptual confusion is inevitable. The three paradigms explored in this study have been the dominant views since the 1970s. Archimedes-based views began their analysis by critiquing the dominant mechanistic view and by considering the theories that Achilles' heel of positive theories. Marxist analysis is based on exposing the antagonistic relationships of the capitalist system, which produces and consumes space like other objects. In this school, the production of capitalist space must be understood dialectically and as a whole flow (process) and place (form) because the two are intertwined and it is necessary to understand the totality of the capitalist system. In this view, all spatial relationships and processes are in fact social relations that have become spatial form. In phenomenology, space and place are intertwined. The World life is an important issue that in this view the space prioritizes over space and time; in phenomenology, although place provides context for places, but also derives its meaning from places. And finally, in postmodernism, the category of space is examined as fragmented, partial, special, and case; the category of space is multiple and multifaceted in power relations, and it is constructive of a discourse that it has always been engraved with the symbol of power and have plunged into another area within subject-oriented discourses.


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Volume 18, Issue 65
April 2022
Pages 72-114
  • Receive Date: 28 December 2019
  • Revise Date: 29 August 2020
  • Accept Date: 29 September 2020
  • First Publish Date: 29 September 2020