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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton March 17, 2011

Subjectivism, postmodernism, and social space

Alexandros Ph. Lagopoulos
From the journal


The aim of this paper is to review the main aspects of a major super-paradigm running through spatial studies, a paradigm that I have called “subjectivism” and that may also be called the “conceptual” paradigm, with emphasis placed on postmodern approaches to space; it is opposed to another super-paradigm, the “objectivist” or “materialist” paradigm. While the objectivist paradigm approaches space as a material entity, the conceptual paradigm studies the conceptual world of social subjects, either the meaning that spatial objects have for them or the ideas associated with them. Thus, the conceptual orientation is a semiotic orientation in the wide sense and hence a cultural orientation.

Postmodern theorizing is only the latest subjectivist tendency in spatial studies, and there is a whole series of antecedents, which are thus a kind of “pre-postmodern” approaches. In this context, I discuss sociocultural human ecology, environmental psychology, behavioral geography, and humanistic geography from the Anglo-Saxon tradition, and structural anthropology and the semiotics of space from the French tradition. My discussion also covers the postmodern approaches to space in human geography (on the occasion of which I make a distinction between postmodern theorizing and theories of postmodernity), social anthropology, archaeology, and architecture and urban design.

Subjectivism and objectivism in spatial studies are opposed and antagonistic paradigms. However, I believe that both of them are partial approaches that need to be articulated into a unified theory. Works of major authors show how this articulation may be realized, something which implies the integration of subjectivism with political economy.

Published Online: 2011-03-17
Published in Print: 2011-February

© 2011 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/New York

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