alternatives space, subjectivity and politics howarth

SPACE, SUBJECTIVI TY AND POLITICS David Howarth* Department of Government, University of Essex Colchester, Essex, UK, C04 3SQ e-mail: <[email protected] > ABSTRACT This article questions the m ore exaggerated c laims of a free-standing “spatial heuristic” in explaining,  just ifying and criticizing social practices, not least because the category of space remains under-theorised and conceptually indeterminate. Building-upon the work of Jacqu es Derrida, Michel Fouc ault, Martin Heidegger, Ernesto Laclau, and others, the article clarifies the category of space, showing pre cisely how and why it is important for understanding politics, subjectivity and ethics. It calls for the envisaging of  “spaces of heterogeneity” that are compatible with radical democratic demands for equality and a “politics of becoming”, and which can form the basis of a post-structuralist conception of  cosmopolitanism. KEY W ORDS: ethics, politics, space, subjectivity, ti me, radical democracy

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David Howarth*

Department of Government,University of Essex

Colchester, Essex, UK, C04 3SQ

e-mail: <[email protected] >


This article questions the more exaggerated c laims of a free-standing “spatial heuristic” in explaining, justifying and criticizing social practices, not least because the category of space remains under-theorisedand conceptually indeterminate. Building-upon the work of Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, MartinHeidegger, Ernesto Laclau, and others, the article clarifies the category of space, showing precisely howand why it is important for understanding politics, subjectivity and ethics. It calls for the envisaging of “spaces of heterogene ity” that are compatible with radical democratic demands for equality and a“politics of becoming”, and which can form the basis of a post-structuralist conception of 


KEY W ORDS: ethics, politics, space, subjectivity, time, radical democracy

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Space, Subjectivity and Politics

David Howarth

The face of the earth is continually changing, by the increase of small kingdoms into great empires,

by the dissolution of great empires into smaller kingdoms, by the planting of colonies, by the

migration of tribes. Is there any thing discoverable in all these events bu t force and violence?

Where is the mutual agreement or voluntary association so much talked of?

David Hume, 19931

It is widely acknowledged that our conceptions and experiences of space have changed considerably in

recent times. They have been transformed by the development of new or more sophisticated

technologies, such as the internet, the jet-plane, and the mob ile phone, which bring things and people

that were once distant closer, while simultaneously rendering others further away. An electronic version

of an academic journal article available on the internet and accessible on one’s computer screen is far

closer than the hardcopy resting on the shelves of the university library, even though the source of the

former might be many thousands of miles away. Similarly, an out-of-town shopping mall reachable by2

motor car is widely perceived to be nearer than the local shop to which one can walk or cycle, even

though the physical distance of the former far exceeds the latter. Air travel has made the cities and

places of other countries more accessible to many citizens than the regions, towns and rural areas of 

their own countries.

It is also alleged that alongside these altered subjective experiences correspond important

objective changes in the character of space itself. Firstly, the globalization of financial markets accelerates

economic exchanges, bringing spatially dispersed agents and institutions closer together to trade and

invest, while intensely affecting social actors and processes across the globe. Secondly, the increasing

mobility of individual capitals, which are able to re locate their firms in order to offset falling profits

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and/or to secure relative locational advantage, triggers an ongoing dialectic of deterritorialization and

reterritorialization as competing social forces seek to fix the spatial positioning of plants and businesses.

And lastly the rapid development and spread of new techno logies in the fields of commun ication and

transportation has resulted in what Marx called the annihilation of “space with time,” as once fixed and

seemingly natural spatial barriers and boundaries – such as territorially delimited frontiers - are eroded

by increases in the speed of sending material goods, information, and people. “All that is solid melts into3

the air,” Marx wrote famously in The Communist Manifesto, and his prophecy is as prescient as ever. In

short, a whole host of phenomena, ranging from the weakening and porosity of national territorial

boundaries, the actual and potential “globalization of contingency” in the form of global pandemics and

the spectre of environmental catastrophe, to the backlash of increasing territorialization as new forms o f 

imperialism, international isolationism, political fundamentalism, ethno-nationalist particularism or

projects for a “fortress Europe” seek to reverse these trends, point to the increasing salience of 

changing conceptions of space and time in our contemporary globalizing world.

In social and political theory, the so-called “spatial turn” is equally well-established. Social

theorists and political economists such as David Harvey, Bob Jessop and A lain Lipietz employ concepts

such as “spatial” and “spatio-temporal” fixes to explain the way crisis tendencies in the logic of capital

accumulation are offset and displaced in the capitalist mode of production. Urban social theorists such4

as Manuel Castells, Henri Lefebvre, and Jean Lojkine s tress the spatial determinants of social and political

processes, such as the provision of means of collective consumption. The historian Benedict Anderson5

incorporates spatial dimensions of analysis into his account of the power of nationalist ideologies to

forge political identities.6

There have also been efforts to connect reflections about space directly to politics. In For Space,

for instance, Doreen Massey challenges the widespread “fact that space has so often been excluded

from, or inadequately conceptualised in relation to, and has thereby debilitated our conceptions of,

politics and the political”, and then develops “an argument for the recognition of particular

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characteristics of space and for a politics that can respond to them.” Similarly, Margaret Kohn’s Radical7

Space puts spatial concerns at the centre of democratic theory by examining different sites of working-

class and popular mobilizations in Western Europe. She focuses on the creation of case del popolo8

(“houses of the people”) as sites of resistance and transformative political practices in turn-of-the-

[twentieth]-century Italy. For her, political groups created distinctive places to develop new identities

and practices, while using such public spaces to democratize ever-widening se ts of social relations.

And if these affirmed re lations are not as stark as Henri Lefebvre’s bold assertion that “Space is

political,” that is, “not a scientific object removed from ideology or politics,” but “always … political and

strategic,” then it is still regarded as integral for analyzing social reality and political practices today.9

Viewed in this light, it is unsurprising that Hardt and Negri’s widely discussed books Emp ire and

Multitude put issues such as space, territorialization, and deterritorialization at the heart of their

analyses. In sum, it is fair to say that in contemporary political theory, at both the explanatory and10

normative levels of analysis, locutions such as “private and public spaces,” “the conception of a plurality

of political spaces,” the public sphere as “a space of opposition and accountability,” “quasi-public space,”

“spaces of resistance,” “territorialization and deterritorialization,” “public spaces of freedom,” “dialogic

spaces,” and so forth, continue to flourish in our attempts to come to terms with the late modern


Despite this proliferating theoretical and empirical discourse, however, the precise meaning of 

the category of space has not been rendered more perspicuous. To the contrary, not only is there

significant dispute about the different meanings of space, but there has b een much debate about its

importance for social and political analysis. In this article, I begin by considering these ambiguities and

disputes, after which I endeavour to develop a category of space which can inform our understanding of 

social and physical space, while profitably addressing a number of pressing questions in contemporary

political theory. I then explore the ethical and political implications of this conception by addressing a

series of pressing concerns in our contemporary world. Here I focus especially on the construction of 

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political boundaries, the inner composition of social space, and the question of political subjectivity.

(How) Does Space Matter?

Let me begin with two opposed accounts of space. On the one hand, Doreen Massey argues that

Geography matters in both its senses, of distance/nearness/betweeness and of the physical variation of 

the earth’s surface (the two being c losely related) is not a constraint on a pre-existing non-geographical

social and economic world. It is constitutive of that world.12

In a later exchange w ith Laclau she goes on to claim that “Spatial form as ‘outcome’ ... has emergent

powers which can have effects on subsequent events.” Indeed, the claims of Massey and those13

sympathetic to her project have been generalised into what Ed Soja calls a “socio-spatial dialectic,” in

which the “structure of organized space is … a dialectically defined component of the general relations

of production, relations of production which are simultaneously social and spatial.” In a similar fashion,14

Anthony Giddens argues that “space is not an empty dimension along which social groupings become

structured, but has to be considered in terms of its involvement in the constitution of systems of 


On the other hand, other theorists strongly question the relevance, indeed the coherence , of 

Massey’s claims, and they dispute Kohn’s call for a “spatial heuristic,” or David Harvey’s project to

construct a “historical-geographical materialism.” A strong version of this critique is put forward by16

Peter Saunders, who a rgues that social theory is “necessarily non-spatial in the sense that space is not

and cannot be an object of theoretical inquiry. The search for a political economy theory of space, or a

sociological theory of space, is a non-starter.” This critique is a variant of the argument from17

redundancy or triviality: the addition of the adjective “spatial” to “social relations,” “social forms” or

“social processes,” or the qualification of any practice with the adverb “spatially,” or indeed the verb “to

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spatialize,” adds little or nothing substantive to our understanding and explanation of social phenomena.

Saunders’ strongly sceptical position is shared by theorists such as Michel de Certeau, Frederic Jameson ,

Ernesto Laclau and Rob Walker, who in their different ways play down or are critical of the valorisation

of space.18

This basic division is characteristic of much reflection on space. Indeed, the dichotomy is often

inscribed into the very accounts of space themselves. It is evident, for example, in the work of both

Massey and Kohn. In these conceptions, the category of space is split between a stronger set of claims in

which space is conceded “emergent properties” and “causal powers” that bring about social and political

effects, and a much weaker position in which space refers to the specific “spatial contexts” and “spatial

conjunctures” (or better: social contexts or structures) wherein soc ial and political processes simply

take place.

Exemplary in this regard is Kohn’s intervention, which moves us directly to the political and

normative/ethical aspects of space. On one side, her book is replete with claims about the determining

power and function of space and spatial forms: “Space affects how individuals and groups perceive their

place in the order of things. Spatial configurations naturalize social relations by transforming contingent

forms into a permanent landscape that appears as immutable rather than open to contestation. By

providing a shared background, spatial forms serve the function of integrating individuals into a shared

conception of reality.” And Kohn goes on to isolate a number of distinctive, positive properties of 19

space, which include the function “to initiate, maintain, or interrupt interaction”; to “encourage or

inhibit contact between people”; and to “determine the form and cope of contact.” These reflections20

culminate in the advocacy of what she calls “a spatial heuristic,” which “can illuminate domains of 

political experience that have hitherto remained obscured in a culture that emphasizes visual and

linguistic knowledges.”21

In other statements, space is simply the site or place wherein processes and practices take place.

In this much weaker ve rsion of the argument, space is depicted as “a terrain of struggle for control over

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bodies, movement, labour, meaning and sociability,” and the radical democratic project is enriched by

looking “at the diverse places where politics takes place: festivals, town squares, chambers of labour,

mutual aid societies, union halls, night schools, cooperatives, houses of the people.” What is of interest

in this version is a relational connection or “pattern of interaction” between space and social practice.22

One significant implication of this undecidability and lack of conceptual clarity is that while the

alleged benefits of connecting space to questions about politics, subjectivity and ethics are frequently

alluded to, they are never properly explored and accomplished. Much is said in Kohn’s work, for

instance, about the relationship between certain types of space and the possibility of radical democracy.

However , the closest we come to exploring this connection in depth is the desire to construct

particular spaces that can become “liberatory” places of identity formation “vis-à-vis a particular form of 

domination” (the construction of distinctive places within which “to develop new identities and

practices”) and to criticize “non-spatial” social forms of organization that “do not build dense,

overlapping social bonds.” In short, we are left ultimately with a set of aspirational statements about23

the construction of spaces that can po tentially engender “co-presence” amongst subjects, thus advancing

popular demands and solidarities, but little engagement with the theoretical and practical conditions for

their attainment.

The underlying reason for these ambiguities and vacillations is that the category of space is never

really defined and constructed in a rigorous theoretical fashion. It is either derived from our everyday

intuitions about space (“extension,” “containment,” “boundedness,” and so on), or made synonymous

with concepts developed in various models of theoretical physics where space is equated with physical

space. Equally problematical is a reliance on ordinary language, which focuses on the way the word24

space is used for a variety of purposes in different contexts, some metaphorical and others not, thus

sidestepping the task of articulating a theoretical concept of space from which analytical and empirical

consequences can be drawn. For instance, in the introduction to Kohn’s book the concept of space

receives a number of different predicates, ranging from locutions such as “spaces of resistance” and

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“political sites” to definitions where space refers to an object or resource for political use. Indeed, the25

term space is qualified in innumerable ways: “social”, “political,” “conceptual,” “radical democratic,” and

so on. Alternatively, in the work o f Kohn, Harvey, and others, the category of space is often used

interchangeably with concepts such as “place,” locale or even habitus. In short, while I am sympathetic26

to those who question the more exaggerated claims about the role of space as an independent

explanatory variable in analysing social relations, the “value added” amounts at times to little more than

a formal acknowledgement that social practices occur within space.

Nevertheless, it is also important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. This is27

because the different explanatory and normative language games that can and have been p layed with the

category of space, especially its relationship with time, are multifarious and potentially illuminating.

Indeed, I shall argue that the specific “spatial mappings” within which social processes take place, and in

particular the political logics that structure such spatial mappings, are central for our understanding of 

contemporary politics. Equally, there is a prima facie case that the relation between our conception of 

space and questions about subjectivity and ethics are important for a rethinking of (radical) democratic

politics. Of particular importance here is the way we construct boundaries between spaces; the inner

constitution of social space; and the type of political subjectivity which can populate such spaces.

However, in order for these phenomena and re lations to be explored, there is first a need for proper

conceptual and theoretical clarification of space, and it is to this task that I now turn .

Theorizing Space

I will start with Ernesto Laclau’s attempt to develop a notion of space by establishing a dialectical

relationship between space and time. As he puts it, “Temporality must be conceived as the exact

opposite of space. The ‘spatialization’ of an event consists of eliminating its temporality.” He then28

articulates these ideas by referring to Freud’s Fort/Da game:

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Through the game the ch ild symbolizes the absence of the mother, which is a traumatic event. If the

child comes to terms with that absence in this way, it is because absence is no longer just absence but

becomes the moment of the presence-absence succession. Symbolization means that the total

succession is present in each of its moments. This synchronicity of the successive means that the

succession is in fact a total structure, a space for symbolic representation and constitution.29

In this view, then, to use terms borrowed from the early Heidegger, space is an ontological

category that characterizes all social structures and any system of soc ial relations, and not an ontical

category that refers to particular sorts of space, which are informed by an underlying set of ontological


More precisely, space is defined as “any repetition that is governed by a structural law of 

successions,” whereas temporality refers to the “pure effect of dislocation,” that is, the “ultimate failure

of all hegemonization,” so that “only the dislocation of the structure, only a maladjustment which is

spatially unrepresentable, is an event.” Time is thus equated with an irreducible negativity and31

conceptualised as dislocation; and by weaving the dimensions of space and time together, whilst rejecting

the possibility of a final dialectical overcoming, Laclau adumbrates the concept of an “incomplete

ordering” that articulates the spatial and the temporal in a new conceptual infrastructure. Thus it is in

the interplay between order and disruption that we can specify the relationship between time and space,

as well as thinking about the logic of spatialization, and the theorization of social and political spaces.

Before deve loping this idea further, however, it is worth pointing out that Laclau’s initial

formulation is ambiguous between his stress on the absent mother, who is then represented (that is,

spatialized) in “a presence-absence succession,” and the constitutive absence which haunts any structural

relationship. In the case of the latter, the constitutive notion of negativity, any representation is but one

link in an infinite supplementary chain designed to “fill” a primordial absence. The latter implies that a

fully constituted space includes both structural succession and structural co-presence or co-existence, as

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they both involve an occlusion of the temporal, which is here synonymous with primordial absence. In

contrast to Laclau, then, I take the category of space to re fer to any law or order of relations that yields

a structural regularity between objects, whether it take the form of succession or co-ex istence, and the

key element in this conception is the fixation and represen tation of objects, the rendering visible of 

objects, whether they are literally or emp irically present or absent.

Now, using Kant’s terminology, I take this category of space to be a regulative, rather than a

constitutive idea. That is to say, it is an idea which serves only to direct “the understanding towards a

certain goal upon which the routes marked ou t by all its rules converge, as upon their point of 

intersection … [It] is indeed a mere idea … from which, since it lies quite outside the bounds of 

possible experience, the concepts of the understanding do not in reality proceed.” In other words, the32

category of space is a regulative idea because it can never be actualized in its pure form. Instead,

borrowing from Derrida, any actual, concrete space is never “purely repetitious” (or purely regular), as

every repetition is marked and contaminated by an alteration: repetitions are, so to speak, structures of 

iterability which are marked by a logic of différance (that is, both differing and deferring). This means33

that all structure and all objectivity is marked by an absence, and is therefore lacking. Indeed, in this

sense, negativity and dislocation – the spectre of temporality and contingency, both as a generalized

condition of “disjointedness” and as an event – are constitutive features of space.

This brings us to the second and related ontological category of “spatialization,” which refers to

the logic of representing or symbolising an event by reduc ing its essential contingency to a repetitive

structural form. In Laclau’s words, “The spatialization of the event’s temporality takes place through

repetition, through the reduction of its variation to an invariable nucleus which is an internal moment of 

the pre-given structure.” Again, however, such repetitions are always related to other appearances and34

representations, as “each element appearing on the scene of presence, is related to something other

than itself, thereby keeping within itself the mark of the past element, and already letting itself be vitiated

by the mark of its relation to the future element.” This means, ultimately, that an appearance is always35

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divided by an “interval” that separates “the present from what it is not in order for the present to be

itself.” Crucially, this means that because the interval helps constitute the appearance itself, each

appearance is internally divided between its identity and its difference. Derrida captures this “movement

of signification” with what he calls a logic of “spacing,” which is “the becoming-space of time and the

becoming-time of space.” In this conception, then, what we might term “spatial practices” (those social36

practices that endeavour to construct and thus represent objects in certain ways) can be understood as

specific drives to realise or actualise the impossibility of pure or full representation, and the divided and

impure forms of representation that arise are nothing other than the (impossible) effects of such spatial


In this picture, then, practices of “spacing” and “spatialization” are constitutive of signification

and meaning in general. However, there is a special sub-set of practices which are constitutive of spatial

practices and the social spaces to which they give rise and then sediment. They are what I shall call

political practices, and are governed by a logic of hegemony. The latter consists of two basic

components, each of which represents a response to the dislocatory effects of temporality. In the first

place, it can take the form of a logic of equivalence in which the making visible of temporality, where the

latter is understood as the eruption of dislocatory events for example, entails the construction of 

antagonistic relations between subjects. Here the particularity of each identity in a system of differences,

whether understood as “demands” or “identities,” is annulled and rendered equivalent by virtue of their

differentiation from something which they are not. Typically, for instance, a national liberation struggle

against an occupying colonial power will cancel out the particular differences of class, ethnicity, region,

or religion in the name of a more universal nationalism that can serve as a common reference point for

all the oppressed, and which in turn is defined only in opposition to the oppressive regime .

The second component, the logic of difference, involves the representation or staging of 

dislocation (in general terms: its spatialization) by the construction of identities as “merely different”

from one another. In this logic, equivalential or “overdetermined” identities can be articulated as

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particularities within a se t of contrasting elements. In o ther words, to use Wittgenstein’s terminology, it

involves the production of a system of “family resemblances,” where identities are related to one

another by a set of overlapping similarities and differences. This logic consists, in turn, of different

modalities. These include a modality of transformism in which the demands and identities of an ex isting

antagonistic construction are disentangled, and thus tamed within an existing system of rules and

institutions, either by being isolated from one another or addressed in a punctual fashion; a modality of 

containment or conflict management whereby antagonisms are played-off against one another (practices

of divide and rule, for example) so as to blunt their political edge; and a logic of pre-emption in which

the possibilities of conflict are forestalled before they are able to become antagonistic constructs (such

as practices of cooptation, coercion, and so on).37

As the construction of identity in the logic of equivalence is predicated on the positing of a

purely negative identity, which through its active exclusion functions to forge an equivalential chain, it

necessarily involves the division of social space into two antagonistic camps. In the case of the differential

logic, by contrast, there is a complexification and multiplication of various social spaces, as identities are

“merely different” from one another. Nevertheless, crucial to both aspects of the logic of hegemony is

the establishment (or better: the re-establishment) of political frontiers (the drawing of boundaries

between “insiders” and “outsiders”) which forge identity through the production of antagonistic

relations between differently positioned subjectivities. This is clear in the logic of equivalence, where an

empty signifier is required to represent the “impossible fullness” of an ultimately lacking system, but it is

also evident in the logic of difference (with its various modalities), as the maintenance and reproduction

of any order depends finally on the constitution and maintenance of a margin or boundary that separates

the system from its other. In the contemporary state system, for instance, “sovereignty” is still the name

for this spatial and social division, though the flaws and contradictions of this “impossible fullness” are

increasingly evident.

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Physical Space, Territory and Place

The last issue brings us to the relationship between space, territory and state. One difficulty in

Laclau’s theorization is his tendency to privilege and thus naturalize one social space, the space o f the

modern nation-state, wherein the logic of hegemony is seen to be operative. This is evident in his

theoretical presuppositions about modern sovereignty, for example, which is for the most part vested in

the territorial state, and is also present in the various examples that are scattered throughout his

writings: references to the experiences of Thatcherism, Fascism, Peronism, and other popu list forms.38

In an important sense this reflects the sedimentation and decontestation of the “imagined commun ity”

of the nation in the contemporary world, and its seemingly “natural,” though usually contested,

connection to the modern state. Indeed, historical research shows that the modern nation-state was a

political construct that once sedimented became a template for other groups and peoples to organize

their political communities and aspirations.39

However, it is also true to say that this political articulation is historical and contingent, and that

in today’s globalizing world the nexus between state, nation and territory is much less tight than it has

been, or indeed ever was, in the past. Instead, there has been a reactivation and reinscription of these40

articulations in new forms. For one thing, the logic of globalization has resulted in a weakening of the

sovereign state; brought about the construction of regional formations such as the European Un ion;

strengthened local or sub-national spaces and places of power; and has seen the overlapping of global,

national and local spaces in new configurations. We have also witnessed the emergence of 41

transnational networks, both of capital and labour, for instance, not to mention international NGOs, in

what commentators call the development of a “global civil society.” Alongside these developments,42

there has been the constitution of new global political spaces, as evident in the formation and practices

of the anti-globalization movement. Such trends point to the ongoing need for new “mappings of 

space,” which do not simply prioritize the space of the modern nation state, but show how this space is

contested, how its boundaries are constantly being forged and re-forged politically, and which brings into

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territories and “group areas.” Secondly, it involves the more epistemological and methodological claim46

that the analysis of space has to be related to social and political practices. For instance, the claim that

large distances may hamper democracy or the building of social networks may be verified, but its

verification is only true in relation to the latter that they matter: that is, conditions and limits to

democracy. Ob jective space is thus a valid object of analysis, but in social and political theory it needs to

be related to the subject and its practices. W ithout this linkage, the correlations and regulations that can

be established, and the inferences that can be drawn, have to be treated with a good deal of 


What, finally, of the relationship between space and place? Though often viewed synonymously, I

take space to be a more abstract category than place. Using insights of the later Heidegger, the concept

of place is best understood in relation to the more concrete practice of “dwelling,” and the latter is

always relative to the specific locations and particular things articulated within what he calls “the

Fourfold,” that is, the articulation of “the thing” in the gathering of earth, sky, mortals and divinities. In47

Heidegger’s conception, classical dimensions of space, such as “interval,” “distance,” “measurement” and

so on, are simply internal components of particular modes of disclosing things in certain locations. Places

are thus spaces with a name and an identity, and these names and identities are shaped by a specific set

of meaningful practices. Such practices are in turn informed by a particular conception of Being: the

specific modes though which be ings are disclosed in the world. In most contemporary societies, any

concretely articulated social space will thus be composed of a variety of different types of place, which

have various and contested meanings for subjects. They include sacred places such as churches,

mosques, and synagogues; commercial locations such as banks and markets; political spaces such as

parliaments, international organizations, monuments and palaces; as well as private places such as homes,

clubs and associations. The key e thical and political questions are how these places are related to one

another; which places are permitted; and which (if any) are not. But these questions bring us directly to

the ethical and political implications of space, and this requires a little further conceptual clarification.

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The Question of Boundaries: ‘The Outside is the Inside’48

Exploring the political and ethical implications of this conception of space involves the

employment of its concepts and logics to address a series of problems that arise from the changing

spatial circumstances of modern society. These include questions pertaining to how and where the

boundaries demarcating social spaces are drawn and ought to be drawn (with respect, for instance, to

trade boundaries, to the relationships between states, or to the scope of social justice); to the particular

character of such boundaries and frontiers, such as their degrees of porosity (and the re lationship

between “inside” and “outside”); to the inner composition and nature of the social spaces de limited by

the institution of frontiers; to the relationships between such “inner spaces” and those excesses or

surpluses that do not fit neatly into existent social spaces; and finally to issues arising about the

appropriate subjectivities which can inhabit what I shall call “heteroclitic spaces.”

In engaging with these issues, I shall seek to develop a decons tructive genealogy of social space

in the current conjuncture. Th is double reading endeavours, first, to explain the formation and

sedimentation of political boundaries, and then, secondly, to unpick the dominant logics with a view to

disclosing excluded and novel possibilities in the way space is constructed and “lived out” in our late

modern wor ld. This requires a more precise account of social space, and the relationship between social

and political spaces. I begin by examining the political construction of boundaries, seeking ways to both

criticize their institution and thus to disclose new ethical and political possibilities.

Let us begin w ith the concept of social space, and its connection to politics. At the outset, I

want to stress that social spaces are not neutral sites, but internally related to the social practices they

make possible and sustain. In other words, they are “social worlds” that are organised around different

“social logics,” where the latter are understood as the politically contested sets of rules which govern

social practices in different sites. Thus the workplace, the university, the family, the nation-state, or a

“new wor ld order,” are all social worlds that crystallise a series of competing and contradictory social

logics. A second claim, which follows naturally from the conception of space ou tlined above, is that

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social spaces are always bounded, marked by the exclusionary political acts that forge them. This is the

case even if such exclusions have been concealed because their political “origins” have been “forgotten”

or sedimented through the operation of ideological practices which cover over these violent

impositions. It is equally the case if the exclusions are deemed legitimate because of the resu lt of 

authoritative decisions and practices, or if the boundaries are porous and not hermetically sealed.

Indeed, as I shall go on to show, the precise ways in which boundaries are drawn and spaces constituted

have important ethical and normative implications.

This last claim touches upon the political construction of space, thus bringing us directly to the

relationship between social and political spaces. In general, if social spaces are the arenas where

practices are situated and shaped, then the ex istence of such spaces is engendered by the politicization

and social construction of spaces. The latter logic is predicated on the emergence of po litical spaces,

which are in turn brought about by the construction of social antagonisms. As I have suggested, the

creation of antagonistic relations between subjects presupposes a logic of equivalence that divides an

inside from an outside, and a successful logic of equ ivalence results in the establishment of political

frontiers that split social spaces into two domains. Indeed, it follows from this claim that because the

creation of any social space involves the creation of such a boundary, then the existence of an

exteriority is partly constitutive of the inside. This “constitutive outside,” as Staten calls it, means that

any social space is dependent to some extent on its excluded other for its formation and identity. In49

short, what might be termed the politicization of social space involves practices of pu tting into question

and then reconfiguring social spaces.

If the first step of my deconstructive genealogy draws attention to the contingency and

historicity disclosed by the politicization of space, and the latter is cons titutive of space itself, what

alternatives are thereby disclosed? More precisely, as against the standard picture of social space in

today’s late modern world, which is divided neatly by clear, continuous and impermeable boundaries – 

embodied, for instance, in the idea of state sovereignty – how can we think of different ways to conceive

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the relationship between the inside and outside? To begin with, it is important to render the

dependency between inside and outside explicit. This is true of Derrida’s rethinking of inside and outside

(“the Outside is the Inside”) through the elaboration of various conceptual infrastructures (such as the

supplement, différance, pharmakon, instituted trace, and so on). In so doing, Derrida seeks to capture

the undecidable play between two binary oppositions, inside and outside for instance, by articulating the

“play” between the two poles in a new theoretical accounting. Thus an “originary supplement” for

Derrida both comp letes a lack in the origin, while simultaneously adding something new to the origin.50

Secondly, it is important to stress that the divisions and the relationships between inside and outside are

essentially political, and thus contingent outcomes, which could be drawn and conceived differently. In

other words, from this perspective, the conceptualisation of boundary making as a political logic implies

that such divisions could be drawn differently with altered ethical consequences.

What, prec isely, are these ethical and political implications? To begin w ith, whilst the inside can

be constituted through excluding or demonising the outside (an enemy to be demon ised or a state of 

anarchy to be feared) the outside is not necessarily an Other, whose otherness threatens to subvert or

overflow the inside. Rather, if the outside is acknowledged as a constitutive part of the inside, and the

other a part of the self, then we can rethink our re lation to the outside and to the other . In more

specific terms, we need to address where  and how we choose to draw boundaries, which actors are

affected by drawing boundaries, as well as the character of the boundaries so instituted. Practically, our

dependence on what is “on the other side” of the boundary, extends the scope of those affected by our

decisions about boundaries. For example, the decisions about resolving disputes thrown up by

intractably divided societies (such as Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Sri Lanka, Israel/Palestine, and so forth)

require both sides of the divide – both the political frontiers within such spaces, and the sedimented

borders that divide social space into delimited territorial units – to be included in the deliberations and


These questions are not just questions about power and force, nor purely moral questions

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about making the right or wrong decisions, which are usually thought to be resolvable through an

abstract theory of justice. In crucial ways, they are ethical questions about the relationship between self 

and other, and the connected way we think of, and then deconstruct and re-construct, social and

political spaces. More concretely, we need to envisage a conception of space and identity that

acknowledges and is attentive to the claims and demands of what is outside and different. As we shall

see, this requires an envisaging of blurred and porous social spaces, and a democratic (agonistic) ethos

which recognises the interweaving of self and other.

These e thical considerations also affect how decisions ought to be taken. Acknowledging the

dependency of the inside on the outside, as we ll as the identity of self and other, can function as an

important pre-requisite for renegotiating boundaries, as well as for successfully legitimising any redrawn

boundaries. In practical terms, this involves a recognition that affected parties on bo th sides of a divide

have to recognise themselves as affected parties, whose identities are mutually implicated. It also means

that decision-making procedures and outcomes about boundary-making ought to be predicated on these

ethical pre-conditions. It is no surprise that these thoughts po int in the direction of more deliberation

and consultation, across a wider range of constituencies, about questions of boundary-drawing. They can

thus be seen as contributing to growing calls for more deliberative forms of (democratic) decision-

making. There is, however, an important proviso: it is unlikely that such deliberations will culminate in51

a form of “rational consensus” amongst affected parties about boundaries, which will then bring

deliberation to an end. Instead, the assumptions of this approach m ilitate against the final closure of 

deliberation, precisely because the drawing of boundaries is, necessarily, an ongoing political and thus

contingent social practice.

Finally, we need to consider the implications of these considerations for conceptualising and

institutionalizing boundaries themselves. As I have suggested, classical and modernist conceptions of 

boundaries tended to represent them as absolute and impermeable. In Hobbes’s Leviathan, for instance,

power and authority are vested in an absolute sovereign, who (or which) presides over a clearly

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demarcated territory with ‘hard’ and fixed spatial boundaries. Of course, these frontiers are no t

absolutely impermeable, as Hobbes tolerates trade links, as well as exchanges of people, information and

goods between sovereign states. Indeed, it is precisely this porosity which needs to be expanded upon52

in what is termed our post-modern condition, emphasizing the fissures and gaps that inhere in the

borders separating social spaces (whether understood as modern ‘nation-states’ or other spaces more


Further, we need to emphasize the multiple boundaries that encircle subjects in most parts of 

the world today, a series of concentric and overlapping circles to which we are attached or owe

obligations with differing degrees of force. It is by now commonplace to acknow ledge that subjects have

multiple identities, being defined or defining themselves by their nationality, ethnicity, region, religious

affiliation, cultural attachments, sexual orientation, and so on. But it is also true that modern citizens are

subject to various and often overlapping juridical and political orders, with a result that their claims and

representations involve the traversing of numerous boundaries and frontiers. Consider, for example, the

case of enduring conflict in Northern Ireland. One possible way of reconciling opposed communities

here is to reconsider the drawing of boundaries between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

in the context of a European project that diverges from the standard model of the modern, territorial

nation-state. Such a redrawing ought to involve the possibility of porous boundaries that allow for, and

indeed foster, multiple political, juridical and cultural allegiances.

The Internal Composition of Social Space

Having examined questions surrounding the institution and character of boundaries, I now turn

to the internal composition of social space, and its implications for ethical and normative matters. To

begin with, the approach adopted here is opposed to a homogenous concept of social space, which is

characteristic of certain forms of communitarian thought. Here we have the idea of social space being

grounded upon, or at least aspiring toward, a substantive conception of the good. And the obvious

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problem here is the plurality of ways of living, which do not cohere into a single conception of the good

life. Even more so, we have a denial of the plurality of (mostly) overlapping social spaces within which

subjects find themselves today. However, while accepting the contemporary “fact of pluralism,” the

approach adopted here does not accept the essentially liberal idea that social space is composed of pure

multiples or disaggregated individuals, divided between the pub lic and the private, whose overall

regulation requires an independent conception of justice accepted by all. Such a conception denies the

existence of different and overlapping social spaces, and stands against the idea of politics as the ongoing

construction and dissolution of social spaces. Lastly, I would oppose the idea of a fully opaque social

space, grounded systematically on a form of illusion or false consciousness, which can be completely

overturned and thus emancipated. This grand dialectic is characteristic of Marxist theories of space, and

suffers not only from the denial of plurality and heterogeneity, but also from the idea of a fully

constituted space, whether systematically misleading or transparent.

Instead, at least in our late modern world, we need to accept that social spaces are internally

heterogeneous, that is, they are ontologically “lacking,” marked by absence, which means also that they

are thus essentially plural and internally diverse. And this is so even if such heterogeneity is temporarily

concealed or covered-over by ideology or the fantasy of wholeness. Secondly, as Massey suggests,

especially in the age of globalization, social spaces are multi-layered and can be articulated together by

different political practices around various nodal points. Once again, post-structuralist thinkers like53

Derrida and Lacan, provide us with the conceptual means to conceptualise such spaces. In his

deconstructive readings, for example, Derrida is at pains to detail the gaps, fissures and aporias residing

within the Western ph ilosophical tradition. He shows that the apparently most coherent and

consistently argued texts are replete with points of undecidability, which are concealed and displaced

with rhetorical figures and textual ruses. And Lacan, for his part, posits the existence of a real register

that continually prevents the full constitution of a “symbolic order,” with the result that any ordering is

ontologically incomplete.

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Working w ith the notion of a fissured philosophical text, which for Derrida is applicable to all

systems of signification, or Lacan’s account of the existence of something that escapes all representation,

it is not fanciful to harbour the idea that social spaces are inherently lacking and riven with gaps. In order

to flesh out this idea, we need to think of political and social spaces as “places of heterotopia,” that is, as

spaces of mu ltiplicity and heterogeneity. Michel Foucault’s discussion of “contradictory” spaces is helpful

in addressing this aspect of social space. These are spaces that “have the curious property of being in

relation with all the others, but in such a way as to suspend, neutralize, or invert the set of relationships

designed, reflected, or mirrored by themselves.” Foucault distinguishes in this regard between utopian54

and heterotopian configurations, where the former are “unreal” spaces “which have a general relation of 

direct or inverse analogy with the real space of society”; as “they represent society itself brought to

perfection, or its reverse.” Heterotopias, by contrast, “constitute a sort of counter-arrangement, of 

effectively realized utopia, in which all the real arrangements … that can be found w ithin society, are at

one and the same time represented, challenged and overturned: a sort of place that lies outside all

places and yet is actually localizable.”55

The concept of heterotopia goes back to The Order of Things, where Foucault talks of a kind of 

“disorder in which fragments of a large number of possible orders glitter separately in the dimension,

without law or geometry, of the heteroclite.” And the latter word, he argues, “should be taken in its

most literal, etymological sense: in such a state, things are “laid,” “placed,” “arranged” in sites so very

different from one another that it is impossible to find a place of resistance for them, to define a

common locus beneath them all.” In its later, more sociological form this “enigmatic multiplicity” of 56

language and discourse is seen to represent the “juxtaposing in a single real place several spaces, several

sites that are themselves incompatible.” Indeed, Foucault goes further to delineate “crisis heterotopias”57

and “deviant heterotopias,” where the former are “privileged or sacred or forbidden places that are

reserved for the individual who finds himself in a state of crisis with respect to the society or

environment in which he lives” (such as boarding school and military service), while the latter are

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“occupied by individuals whose behaviour deviates from the current average or standard” (as with rest

homes, psych iatric clinics, prisons and cemeteries).58

Kohn builds upon David Harvey’s critique of Foucault’s notion to put forward the concept of a

“heterotopia of resistance.” The latter constitutes “a real countersite that inverts and contests existing59

economic or soc ial hierarchies,” whose “function is social transformation rather than escapism,

containment, or denial,” and thus forms “an important locus of struggle against normalization.”60

However , while this idea captures one dimension of the politicization of space, the contestation of social

domination, we also need to conceive of such spaces as sites of lack and multiplicity: what we might

name “heterotopias of becoming.” Such spaces would involve a rethinking of the relations between

social spaces (the boundaries between inside and outside, say in the field of immigration or migration) as

well as a transfiguration of their internal composition so that multiplicity and internal difference are

encouraged and accommodated. It should be stressed that while issues such as immigration, migration

and the appropriate territorial lines of inclusion/exclusion for democratic orders are important in this

regard, the question is not restricted to these more physical manifestations, but includes all forms of 

(symbolic) boundary drawing within and between social spaces. Needless to say, such rethinking unfolds

myriad questions. How are we to “keep open” our relations to the external other? How can we

conceptualize and construct porous boundaries between spaces? How can we foster internal difference?

When, if ever, are certain closures legitimate? When, if ever, are interventions across boundaries


These questions highlight the way we need to think about heterotopias if they are not to remain

“countersites,” mere inversions of power and domination, but also to embody heterogeneity in their

materiality. In other words, if they are to be conce ived as places of multiplicity, whose subjects not only

tolerate difference, but actively foster and embrace new forms of p lurality. In so doing it might be

possible to imagine a new post-structuralist or post-Heideggerian form of cosmopolitanism that resists a

sharp opposition between a thick particularism and a vapid universalism. As Arnold has suggested, such a

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picture implies “an agonistic form of patriotism that allows for multiple manifestations and attachments.

This includes love for one’s home, neighbourhood, and city and thus, the original meaning of patria.” It61

is to the form of subjectivity that could populate such a space that I now turn.

Heterogeneous Subjectivity

It is beyond the scope of this article to set out the necessary and sufficient conditions for the

realization of such (cosmopolitan) spaces, let alone enumerate the various normative criteria for their

identification. Instead, I want to conclude by focussing on one important condition for their

construction, which is to envisage and then embody a form of subjectivity that is compatible with, and

indeed engenders, such heterogeneity. How are we to conceive a sub ject that can respond positively

and actively to difference and multiplicity, but can do so without falling either into a cynical indifference

(mere tolerance of the other, for instance) or into a retreat from political engagement altogether? How

can we articulate an active politics of decision and action, with the possibility of “letting go” and re leasing

towards difference?

Michael Walzer suggests one possible response to these questions, when he distinguishes

between a “thick” and “thin” self, both of which are rooted in the idea of a “divided self.” He argues that

one manifestation of this differentiation is that the “self speaks w ith more than one moral voice,” and is

thus capable “of self-criticism and prone to doubt, anguish and uncertainty.” In explicating the latter,62

Walzer contrasts different modalities of se lf-criticism (and indeed o f the self) with a view to establishing

a “fit” between the latter and his advocacy of radical pluralism and complex equality. More particularly,63

he contrasts what might be termed thin and thick mode ls of self-criticism, where the former, evident in

(Freud’s conception of) psychoanalysis and (Western) philosophical reflection, suggest “a simple linear

and hierarchical arrangement of the se lf, with a single critical “I” at the top and a single line of 

criticism.” However, although these models do to some extent capture the feelings of guilt in cases of 64

obvious transgression, when we commit a clear wrong for instance, “they are most plausible and

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Divided, riven with conflicts, doubts and self-criticism, but not utterly fragmented, as Walzer

retains the idea of the self “as an agent capable o f manoeuvring among [its] constituent parts”: a kind of 

constant juggling and negotiation between various forces and inclinations. This is because “at its centre,69

the self is what it is, “perdurable”, as Lionel Trilling liked to say, though its configuration changes over

the course of its endurance.”70

However, there is a difficulty with this conception: either the subject is constantly pulled and

pushed in different directions, a victim of discrete and yet incompatible empirical forces, or it is a

sovereign agency capable of imposing direction on these incommensurable impulses. This suggests a

clear split between the sub ject as “substance” and the subject as a dispersed position within the

ensemble of social relations. But what if this is a false opposition, and that ontologically speaking the

subject is nothing but a void, an empty space or rift, only rendered visible under conditions of 

dislocation? And, even more so, wha t if its consequent identifications leave it constantly exposed to the

possibility of self-transgression, where the subject’s self-identifications leave it confronting not only

competing and conflicting ideals, but also the prospect that its pursuit of an ideal engenders its own self-

transgression, as it is the latter which procures subjective “surplus enjoyment”? And if this is the case,71

as I believe it is, then we need a concep tion of the “divided subject” as an ontological, rather than ontical

fact, where both aspects are rooted in the failures and ruptures of the symbolic order wherein we attain

our identity.

Such a conception radicalizes Walzer’s portrayal of the superego as the “internal represen tative

of moral value” by furthering its function as the genesis of subjective enjoyment. However, it also72

requires a rethinking of an alternative ethics grounded on a different conception of enjoyment. It is here

that the work of He idegger, Lacan, Laclau and Žižek assumes centre-stage, for it is the harnessing of “an

ethics of the real,” facing up to the nothingness or gap that resides in being, alongside a project for

radical democracy, which enables us to envisage the requisite subject of heterogeneity. More concretely,

it is in a fidelity to the lack in the symbolic order, to the intrinsically flawed big Other wherein we attain

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our identity, that an experience of decentring and contingency can come into play, and which can in turn

help us foster a transformed relationship to difference and otherness. As Ž ižek neatly puts it, “There is

ethics – that is to say, an injunction that cannot be grounded in on tology – insofar as there is a crack in

the ontological edifice of the un iverse: at its most elementary, ethics designates fidelity to this crack.”73

Thus it is a fidelity to the void in the Other, and importantly to the contingency of “the Thing” that

covers over this lack (thus conferring identity), which provides a bridgehead to the other, a bridgehead

that neither reduces the other to the same in us (whether understood in universal terms or not) nor

which treats the other with a mutual indifference that is “merely different” from us. In this sense, the

“ungrounded ground” for coming to terms with difference and otherness is an acknowledgement of the

contingency of “the Thing” that holds us fast: the objects and discourses that make us the particular

subjects we are. More fully, it entails a “traversing of the fundamental fantasy” (la traverseé du74

fantasme), which in Žižek’s words involves the subject gaining a “minimum of distance from the

fantasmatic frame that organises [its] enjoyment”, and thereby learning “how to suspend its efficiency”.75

The starting point here is an insistence that while the subject is “thrown” or contingent, marked

in any set of social relations by an identification with a Thing that forever escapes it, this does not

necessarily result in forms of nihilism, or political “quietism” and resignation. Instead, subjects of finitude

are made responsible for their actions and being-in-the-world – they must act and co-exist together in

social spaces not of their choosing – even though these actions cannot be grounded in a positive and

sedimented system of norms and values. In short, far from simple norm-making or the modification of 76

inherited codes and practices, an ethics of the Real usually consists in norm-breaking and the charting of 

new paths, wh ich involves discursive shifts and new identifications.

This conception of ethics has, however, to be connected to the project of a radical democracy,

and its twin demands for equality and freedom via the logic of equivalence. More precisely, it has to be

articulated with a project that can embrace liberal commitments to rights, the rule of law, and various

democratic procedures, while also encouraging a “politics of becoming” that is responsive to new forms

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of subjectivity and to difference. Moreover, both need to be linked to a commitment to a conception of 

equality that challenges structural inequalities and traditional hierarchies. As I have argued, the

commitment to an ethics of the real and to a project for radical democracy is intimately bound up with

the kinds of social and political space in which they are practiced, and to the sort of subjectivity that

exists or has to be constructed. To use Walzer’s language, the former “requires a thickly differentiated

society in which to express my different capacities and talents, my different sense of who I am.” It goes77

without saying that a radical democracy requires such differentiation and p lurality, though it should

consist of rich set of (at times) overlapping and heterogeneous spaces and spheres (as opposed to the

“separated spheres” Walzer sometimes calls for). As I have argued, the latter involves an articulation78

of what we might call “the subject of decision” and “the subject of releasement”.

The latter articulation raises, of course, a final question about the potential contradiction

between these two dimensions of a radical democratic subjectivity. Is there a fundamental

incompatibility or tension between “act” and “letting go,” which I have stressed as two important

aspects of radical democratic subjectivity? The answer here is affirmative, though the relationship should

be understood as a tension, which is not irresoluble. To begin w ith, it is important to stress that both

aspects are “grounded” in contingency, although they capture different sorts of response to contingency.

The moment of act is predicated on the ultimate failure of any ob jectivity and the need nevertheless to

act, while the moment of releasement is built upon the acknowledgement of contingency and

decentredness. Nevertheless, the latter still requires some act to forego a completely centred re lation

to “the thing” that holds us fast. In this last respect, the key move for a current of contemporary

political theory is to conceive of a linkage between act and releasement that can contain both

dimensions without reducing one to the other. A logic of difference that is not mere transformism or

containment, but which is dynamic and open. And it is here that the various projects for “agonistic

respect” or “agonistic pluralism” find their full value and significance. For it is in the dialectic of 79

“passionate identification” and “mutual responsiveness” that a radical democratic politics, which can

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As I have also argued, this approach carries important ethical and normative implications. On

the one hand, the stress on the politicization of social space discloses the need to acknowledge, and to

think through the consequences of, the relation of dependence between the interiority and exteriority

of any political division of social space. On the other hand, by draw ing attention to the ontological

heterogeneity of social spaces, and by stressing the idea of politics as a releasement towards things and

others, I have endeavoured to begin the normative, or, perhaps better, the utopian, task of critically

rethinking the future construction of social spaces in what we too glibly call our globalizing world. More

positively, I call for the envisaging and creation of “spaces of heterogeneity” that are both compatible

with radical democratic demands for equality, as well as a “politics of becoming.” This forms the basis of 

a post-structuralist conception of cosmopolitanism.

And, finally, I have argued that this vision of cosmopolitanism, which both recognizes

particularities and the always incomplete and contingent character of any worthwhile universality,

requires a rethinking of political subjectivity. Working through Michael Walzer’s idea of a “thick self”

using insights from post-structuralist thinkers like Lacan and Žižek , this involves the idea of a split or

divided subject, which is “grounded” ultimately on the idea of the void which is constitutive of any social

space. What I call “heterogeneous subjectivity” consists of acknowledging the hold or grip of “the

Thing” or object that turns individuals subjects – that makes them the subjects they are - and then

coming to terms with such identifications. An ethical subject in this conception involves a releasement

or “letting go” towards others, but such a relation is in turn predicated on the mutual recognition of the

ontological or generalized character of such subjective identifications.

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1 This epigraph is taken from David Hume’s essay “Of the Original Contract,” in his Selected Essays

(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 279.

2 I develop this example from Jeff Malpas, “Uncovering the Space of Disclosedness,” in Mark Wrathall

and Jeff Malpas, eds, Heidegger, Authen ticity and Modernity (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000), p. 225 .

3 Karl Marx, Grundrisse (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1973), p. 539.

4 David Harvey , The Limits to Capital (London: Verso, 1999); Bob Jessop, “Spatial Fixes, Temporal

Fixes, and Spatio-Temporal Fixes,” published by the D epartment of Sociology, Lancaster University,

Lancaster, Lancaster University at

fixes.pdf ; Alain Lipietz, “The Structuration of Space, the Problem of Land and Spatial Policy”, in John

Carney et al, eds, Regions in Crisis (London: Croom Helm, 1980 ).

5 Manuel Castells, The Urban Question (London: Edward Arnold, 1977); Henri Lefebvre, The

Production of Space (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991); Jean Lojkine, “Big Firms’ Strategies Urban Policy

and Urban Social Movements,” in Michael Harloe, ed, Captive Cities (London: John Wiley, 1977).

6 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, Second Edition, (London: Verso, 1991).

7 Doreen Massey, For Space (London: Sage, 2005), pp. 19, 15.

8 Margaret Kohn , Radical Space (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003).


My thanks to Jason Glynos, Steven Griggs, Sheldon Leader, Aletta Norval and Albert Weale for their

helpful comments and thoughts on earlier drafts of this article.

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9 Lefebvre, note 4, p. 341.

10 Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge: Harvard University, 2000); Michael Hardt and

Antonio Negri, Multitude (New York: Penguin Press, 2004).

11 See, respectively, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (London:

Verso, 1985), p. 185; Jeff Young, “What is Dwelling? The Homelessness of Modernity and the Worlding

of the World,” in Mark Wrathall and Jeff Malpas, eds, Heidegger, Authenticity and Modernity

(Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000), p. 173; Kohn, note 7, pp. 93, 6; Hardt and Negri, Empire, note 9, p. 45;

Hannah Arendt, On Revolution (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1973), p. 257; Anthony Giddens,

Beyond Left and Right (Cambridge: Polity, 1994) pp. 130-1.

12 Doreen Massey, Spatial Divisions of Labour (London: Macmillan, 1984), p. 53. My emphasis.

13 Doreen Massey, “Politics and Space-Time,” New Left Review 196 (1992): 84.

14 Edward Soja, “The Socio-Spatial Dialectic,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 70

(1980): 208.

15 Anthony G iddens, The Constitution of Society (Cambridge: Polity, 1984), p. 368. My emphasis.

16 David Harvey, Spaces of Hope (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000), p. 15.

17 Peter Saunders, Social Theory and the Urban Question, Second Edition, (London: Unwin Hyman,

1986), p. 277.

18 See De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984);

Frederick Jameson, Postmodernism, Or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham: Duke

University Press, 1991); Ernesto Laclau, New Reflections on the Revolution of Our Time (London:

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Verso, 1990); R. B. J. Walker, Inside/Outside: International Relations as Political Theory (Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press, 1993).

19 Kohn, note 7, pp. 3-4. My emphasis.

20 Kohn, note 7, p. 155.

21 Kohn, note 7, p. 4.

22 Kohn, note 7, pp. 153, 7, 156. My emphasis.

23 Kohn, note 7, pp. 90, 4.

24 See Max Jammer, Concepts of Space (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1969).

25 Kohn, note 7, pp. 6-7.

26 See David Harvey, Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference (Ox ford: Blackwell, 1996), p.


27 This is the case with certain Deleuzian critiques of space, where the latter is depicted in purely

negative terms. See Nathan Widder, “What’s Lacking in the Lack: A Comment on the Virtual,” Angelaki

3 (2000):117-138.

28 Laclau, note 17, p. 41.

29 Laclau, note 17, p. 41.

30 Martin Heidegger, Being and Time (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1962), pp. 31–5; see Stephen Mu lhall,

Heidegger and Being and Time (London: Routledge, 1996), p. 4.

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Cosmopolitan Democracy (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995); Mary Kaldor, Global Civil Society

(Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003).

43 Harvey, note 25, pp. 111-2.

44 Andrew Sayer, Realism and Social Science (London: Sage, 2000), pp. 108-30.

45 Martin Heidegger, note 30, p. 147.

46 See Aletta Norval, Deconstructing Apartheid Discourse (London: Verso, 1996); Jennifer Robinson,

The Power of Apartheid: State, Power and Space in South A frican Cities (Oxford: Butterworth-

Heinemann, 1996).

47 Martin Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought (New York: Harper and Row, 1975), p. 156.

48 Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology (Baltimore: Johns Hopk ins, 1976), p. 44.

49 Henry Staten, Wittgenstein and Derrida (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984).

50 In a similar vein, Jacques Lacan uses topological figures to reconceptualize the relationship between

inside and outside, showing the inextricable linking of orders and structures, rather than their simple

separation. A clear instantiation of this is the mode lling of the relationship between the real, the

symbolic and the imaginary orders as a Borromean knot, which resists any simple division between the

three registers that make-up the human subject. Instead, there is a relational linkage between the three

registers, and it is their interaction which produces concrete effects.

51 Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson, Why Deliberative Democracy? (Princeton: Princeton

University Press, 2004).

52 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1968), p. 295.

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53 Massey, note 6, pp. 172-6; see also Chantal Mouffe, On the Political (London: Routledge, 2005), p.


54 Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias,” in Neil Leach, ed, Rethinking

Architecture (London: Routledge, 1997), p. 352.

55 Foucault, note 51, p. 352.

56 Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (London: Tavistock,

1970), pp. xvii-xviii.

57 Foucault, note 51, p. 354; see Kev in Hetherington, The Badlands of Modernity (London: Routledge,

1997); Harvey, note 15, p. 184.

58 Foucault, note 51, p. 353.

59 Harvey, note 15.

60 Kohn, note 7, p. 91.

61 Kathleen Arnold, Homelessness, Citizenship, and Identity (Albany: State University of New York,

2004), p. 147).

62 Michael Walzer, Thick and Thin (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994), p. 85.

63 Walzer, note 59, p. 101. The argument for complex equality is developed in Michael Walzer, Spheres

of Justice (Oxford: Blackwell, 1983).

64 Walzer, note 59, p. 91.

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65 Walzer, note 59, p. 91.

66 Walzer, note 59, p. 92.

67 Walzer, note 59, pp. 86, 96.

68 Walzer, note 59, pp. 98-9.

69 Walzer, note 59, p. 100.

70 Walzer, note 59, p. 101.

71 Jason G lynos, “Self-transgression and Freedom,” Critical Review of International Social and Political

Philosophy 6(2) (2003): 1-20; Slavoj Žižek, For They Know Not What They Do (London: Verso, 1991).

72 Walzer, note 59, p. 88.

73 Slavoj Žižek, Plague of Fantasies (London: Verso, 1997 ), p. 214.

74 I draw inspiration here from Rudi Visker’s seminal readings of Heidegger, Foucault and Levinas. See

Rudi Visker, Truth and Singularity (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999).

75 Žižek cited in Yannis Stavrakakis, Lacan and the Political (London: Routledge, 1999), p. 109. In the

language of Heidegger, this approach taps into his different ways of relating to, and coming to terms

with, the nothingness or contingency at the heart of Being. In Being and Time nothingness is met with

the idea of an authentic resolution and decision in the face of an all-pervasive nihilism, whereas in his

later writings the negotiation of nothingness consists of a “releasement towards things” and an ethos of 

“dwelling”, which is predicated on a transcendence into the plenitude of Being. Both are, nevertheless,

expressions of the ultimate contingency at the heart of our experience of Being, and may be seen to

represent different modalities of our negotiation of absence. In Be ing and Time, to be human is nothing

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else but to experience the “da” of “sein” – the “there” of “Being”: its “thrownness” or “facticity” - and it

is only through its attachments to something, and its “being-held” so, that the “da” can turn into

something approximating a subject (even though Heidegger avoids the latter because of its Cartesian

and transcendental connotations). See David Howarth, “Towards a Heideggerian Social Science:

Heidegger, Kisiel and Wiener on the L imits of Anthropological Discourse,” Anthropological Theory,

4(2) (2004): 229-47.

76 See Slavoj Žižek, Looking Awry (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991), pp. 154-69.

77 Walzer, note 59, p. 102.

78 Walzer, note 59, p. 102.

79 See Friedrich Nietzsche, “Homer’s Contest,” in Keith Ansell Pearson and Duncan Large, eds, The

Nietzsche Reader (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006), pp. 95-100; William E. Connolly, Identity/Difference

(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991); Mouffe, note 50.