RA: Why Space Matters

In his book “City of Rhetoric” David Fleming argues the physical space in which we live is increasingly ignored in political theory; however, it is essential to understanding individual differences of those living in the same community and addressing collective problems such as inequality.  Fleming explains that although humans are often divided by differences such as race, gender, age, and ethnicity, we are brought together because we all have to inhabit a mutual space. However, the new ability to communicate and travel great distances easily, has caused many to claim political rights across the globe.  This interconnection has caused humans to believe we are less dependent on places, and built environments are unimportant (24).  

Republicanism and Liberalism are two main traditions of modern political thought that illustrate how humans views on space has changed.  Republicanism advocates for a small community with face to face interaction, and in contrast liberalism calls for laws and procedures with no attention location or space (29).  With advancing technology and globalization, public life has become more fractured and decentralized continuing the trend of political life becoming “spaceless.” Fleming argues that the placelessness of contemporary thinking has “blinded us to the fragmentation, degradation, and polarization of the spaces around us both natural and built” (32).  The fragmentation and polarization that Fleming describes has created an intensification of inequality in the world we inhabit.  Without a physical space to connect with one another and the environment, humans will become more isolated and separated from one another perpetuating social inequality.  

Fleming concludes that “commonplaces” in the built environment can help solve the issues of fragmentation and polarization that he describes. These commonplaces will create a space for people with diverse backgrounds to have a dialogue about inequality, and create solidarity within communities (35).

Works Cited

Fleming, David. “The Placelessness of Political Theory.” City of Rhetoric: Revitalizing the Public Sphere in Metropolitan America. Albany, NY: SUNY, 2009. 19-35. Print.

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