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Spatial Ontology and Explanation

Author(s): Theodore R. Schatzki


Source: Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 81, No. 4 (Dec., 1991), pp.
650-670
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of the Association of American Geographers
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Spatial Ontology and Explanation


Theodore R. Schatzki
and Committeeon SocialTheory,
Departmentof Philosophy
KY 40506-0027
Lexington,
University
of Kentucky,

Abstract. This paper presents an account of


spatial ontology and explanation that highlights a largely ignored dimension of social
spatiality: the opening and occupation of
places for activitythat automatically occurs
whenever there is human life. The firstpart
analyzes this space of places on the basis of
Heidegger's account of ongoing life, and uses
the resultinganalysisto describe the spatiality
of social formations.The second partanalyzes
spatial explanation on the basis of this spatial
ontology. It(a) argues thatthe explanation and
explanatoryuses in social science of the spatial
properties of social phenomena do not differ
in principle fromthe explanation and explanatoryuses of other featuresof social life, and
(b) defends two existing versions of sociospatial dialectics. Attentionis given to the nature of explanation, the character of social
causality,and the proper types of explanation
in social investigation.
Key Words: social space, social spatiality,space
and society,explanation,socialexplanation,spatial
explanation,social causality,realism,sociospatial
dialectic.
LTHOUGH social formationssuch as
economies, religions, and sporting
events are obviously spatial phenomena, much of modern social thought has systematicallyignored theirspatialcharacteristics.
Responding to thisoversightis a recent movement in social theory,found primarilythough
not exclusivelyin geography, concerned with
the spatial aspects of social phenomena. Marringthisdevelopment, however,are one-sided
theoreticalanalyses of the spatial nature of social entitiesand overhastyconceptions of the
explanatoryroles thatthe spatial aspects of social lifecan play in social science.
This essay attempts to overcome some of
these oversights.The firstpartanalyzes the spatialnatureof social reality.Itargues thata more
A

requires
adequate account of social spatiality
supplementing-not replacing-conceptions
ofobjectivespace witha notionofsocialspace.
ofthe
Thesecondpartanalyzestheexplanation
spatialpropertiesofsocialphenomenaand the
rolesthese propertiescan playin
explanatory
social science. It arguesthatthe explanation
are no
usesofsuchproperties
and explanatory
and
inprinciplefromtheexplanation
different
usesofotherfeaturesofsociallife.
explanatory
My overallgoal is to offera philosophicalaccountof spatialontologyand explanationthat
can inform
empiricalresearch.The hoped-for
is two-fold:
ofthisaccount,accordingly,
utility
discussionofhuman(1)to advancetheoretical
and itsexplanation,and (2) to
social spatiality
serveas a templatethroughwhichempirical
by
researcherscan examinesocial spatiality,
new objects forresearchand ofidentifying
feringa novel conceptionof the justification
None
ofspatialexplanations.
and construction
of thismeansthatI thinkthatphilosophyhas
enterprise.
anyspecialclaimto be a grounding
Indeed, no particulardisciplinehas exclusive
rightsto thisstatus.Whatis foundationalis a
clusterof ontologicaland epistemologicalissues,withpracticaland methodologicalimplications,whichare not the exclusiveprovince
ofanycurrently
designatedacademicdiscipline
bytheoreticians
and whichcan be investigated
froma range of fields.Philosophyis one of
thesefields.Hence, it is in the positionto deforempirical
velop theses withramifications
work.
BeforeproceedingI wanttocommentbriefly
to myanalysis.In
on twometa-issues
pertinent
firstsketchingan ontologyand thenderiving
consequences fromit,I conepistemological
travenethosewhowouldpressepistemological
questionspriorto ontology.
(and/orlinguistic)
My view on the relationof ontologyto epistemologyis that,justas anyontologypresupso too everyepisteposes an epistemology,
mology presupposes an ontology. Neither

Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 81(4), 1991, pp. 650-670


? Copyright 1991 by Association of American Geographers

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Spatial Ontology and Explanation


ontology nor epistemology is systematically
more fundamental.One or the other is strategicallymore basic depending on where a theoristchooses to cut into the circle of ontology
and epistemology. Of course, it is incumbent
upon the theoristto be aware ofthe ontological
or epistemologicalpresuppositionsof his or her
startingpoint. I have chosen to begin with ontology, and the epistemological presuppositionsof myparticularontology lie in the nature
of phenomenological description. It lies beyond the scope of this paper, however, to examine this presupposition.
All ontologies and epistemologies arise,
moreover, in particularsociohistoricalcircumstances. Some conclude fromthisfactthat sociohistorical investigationand criticism must
accompany the formulationor development of
such theories.This mightseem especiallycalled
forin the case of accounts such as mine which
purport to sketch universal(though probably
not necessary)featuresof human life.However,
itseems to me thatifmyaccount is incomplete,
inadequate, or parochial,thisfactariseslessfrom
itssociohistoricalembeddedness thanfromunsuccessfulabstractionand generalization.What
we should learn fromboth the sociohistorical
embeddedness ofanalysisand the inadequacies
of earlier theories is not that we should abandon the search for generality,but ratherthat
of our
we should be conscious of the fallibility
attempts.It is in this spiritthat this work aims
to contributeto the best understandingattainable today of general features of human existence.

Spatial Ontology
Spaces and Society
By way of introduction,I wish to discuss a
pairof conjunctions: objective space and social
space, and society and space.
The distinctionbetween objective space and
social space marksa divide in the conceptualization of social spatiality(the spatial nature of
social existence). There are two sortsof objective space: absolute and relational(see Gatrell
1983, ch. 1). In its absolute version, space is a
self-subsistent,homogeneous, isotropic medium in which objects exist. In its relational
version,itisa systemof relationsamong objects
and thus not independent of the latter.In ei-

651

itcan be measuredbya metric


therrendition,
and equallythroughthatappliescontinuously
out it.

The idea ofobjectivespace arose principally


applicationto physical
inviewofand hasitsfirst
space, the space composed by or containing
physicalobjects.Itappliesmorewidelyto the
spaces composed byor containinganysortof
object. Since social realityembracesa multitude of objects,e.g., humanbeings,tools,and
ofobjectivespace.
itexhibits
features
buildings,
For instance,people occupy spatialpositions
are
relativeto one another,and theiractivities
distributedin objective space. Social reality,
however,is not merelycongeriesof objects.
mightnot
Thisfactsuggeststhatsocialspatiality
be exhaustedby whateverobjectivespace it
encompasses.
In thisessay,I willmaintainthatsocial spatialityhas a second dimension,social space,
which is distinct,thoughnot separate,from
objective space. Social realityis interrelated
section).Socialspace
humanlives(see following
istheopeningand occupationofthe"wheres"
occurs
of humanexistencethatautomatically
lives.Such a space is
along withinterrelated
intrinsic
to suchlives.As Heidegger(1978,171)
writes,
The entitywhichis constitutedby being-in-theworldis itselfin everycase its 'there.'... [The]
existential
[of humanexistence],which
spatiality
its'location',is itselfgroundedin
thusdetermines
being-in-the-world....'Here' and 'yonder' are
possibleonly in a 'there'-that is to say,only if
thereis an entitywhichhas made a disclosureof
as the beingofthe 'there.'
spatiality

Whereasobjectivespace isa mediumor set of


relationsat leastto some extentindependent
of humanexistence,socialspace,as the opening and occupationof sites for humanexistence,is by itsnaturepresentonlyso longas
humanlifeoccurs.Ifpeople wereto disappear,
physicalspace alone would be leftbehind.
The idea that humanexistenceipso facto
constitutes
a space is relatedto the claimthat
humanagencyis inherently
spatial.Whatthis
meansis thathumanagencyis alwaysembedded within
a spacewhichitshapesand isshaped
by. Proponentsof thisclaim usuallythinkof
thisspace as a relationalspace of socialactivities.My conception,on the otherhand,takes
offfromHeidegger'sideathathumanexistence
its"there."Thismeansthat
alwaysconstitutes
humanlifeautomatically
opens (inHeidegger's

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652

Schatzki

a nexusofplaceswhereit
language,erschliesst)
itselfoccurs.,Of course,since social realityis
lives,a perratherthanindividual
interrelated,
sonalwaysproceedsthroughnexusesofplaces
of humanlives have opened
thata plurality
together.Humanagencyis indeedspatial.The
thatmakeit more
dimensionsof thisspatiality
thanmerelyobjectivein charactermust,however,be recognized.
Sincesocialspace isopened byand thusdoes
ofhumanlives,itclearnotexistindependently
mediumor sublycannotbe a self-subsistent
since it is a space occustance.Furthermore,
it cannotbe a system
pied by humanactivity,
of relationsamong such activities.Unfortutreatsonately,most,thoughnotall,theorists
as an objectivespace.
cial spatiality
exclusively
Accordingto AndrewSayer(1985,53),forinto socialspace are infact
stance,all references
referencesto its constituentsbecause social
space is merelyan abstractionfromthe relaForTorsten
tionsbetweentheseconstituents.
the space
(e.g.,1970),meanwhile,
Higerstrand
an
of societyis a web of life-paths
traversing
objectiveEuclideanspace. NeilSmith(1984,7475), as a finalexample,contrastsgeographical
space, the physicalspace of cities,fields,and
hurricanes,
withsocialspace,thefieldofsocial
space
activities
and events,whichisa relational
andevents.Itbears
composedbytheseactivities
of socialspace and of
notingthatdescriptions
objectivespace can resembleone anrelational
other:
and societies
Giddensis arguingthatindividuals
are not just located in lineartimeand absolute
timeand space sociallysuch
space but structure
thattheyproducerelativeconfigurations
of both
specificto particulartimesand places (Gregson
1986,185).

On boththisviewand Heidegger's,socialspavariesoverobjectivespace and timeina


tiality
mannersomehow dependent on action. But
is a relawhile,forGiddens,social spatiality
tionalspace varyingas different
developing
that"regionofsocialactivities
configurations
forHeidegger,
alize" space in changingways,2
as diverseevolving
it is a social space varying
ocofopened andsubsequently
configurations
Note that,because
cupied places foractivity.
socialspace is an openingof placesforactivity
it is the
(and hence is a "medium"of activity),
forthe developing
precondition
omnipresent
of activitiesthatpartlyconsticonfigurations
dimensionofsocialspatiality.
tutetherelational

It is importantto realize that social space is


not experientialspace. Experientialspace is the
spatial character of experience (see Bollnow
1963; Bachelard 1964; Buttimer 1976; Kruse
1974; Tuan 1977; and Waldenfels 1985). Experientialspace differsfromsocial space because
experience isalwayssomeone's experience and
experiential space is always some individual's
experientialspace, centered about the individual who serves as the "zero point of[a] personal
referencesystem"(Bollnow 1971, 180) opening
onto surrounding regions of relative "nearness" and "farness,"attractivenessand repulsion, and so on. Social space, in contrast,is not
centered about nor does itbelong to particular
individuals.It is the shared opening and interrelated occupation of places by pluralitiesof
lives. Since many features of social space, for
instance, the occupation of particularplaces,
are possible objects of experience, it can, like
objective space, be encountered in experience. But since other features,forinstance,the
opening of mostplaces,are, likeobjective space,
independent of experience, social space is not
the space of experience. Social space is not
"mental" or "subjective," even though different groups of people can open differentnexuses of places at one and the same set of objects. Hence, social space is neithera subjective
nor objective space. It lies outside the traditional dualism operating in, for instance,Werlen 1988 and Entrikin1991 (though I am not
sure whether Entrikinmeans something more
by the expressions 'experience' and 'subjective' than: relative to actors). For parallel reasons, social space must not be equated with
conceptualized space, with people's conceptions and images of space (e.g., Sack 1980). As
we shall see, conceptions and images of space
are among the determinantsand components
of social space.
On the other hand, my account is a development withinhumanisticgeographyinsofaras
the latterstudies the meaningsthatentitiesand
world have for people. The world Heidegger
envisionspeople inhabitingis largelya practical
world of action where meaningfulnessis articulated in part as arraysof places. Unlike some
types of meaning that the world can contain
for people, places forma space-the practical
world is a space foractivity.My use of 'place,'
however, diverges fromthat of figuressuch as
David Lowenthal, Yi-Fu Tuan, and Denis Cosgrove forwhom place is a locus of attachment,

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Spatial Ontology and Explanation

emotionand feeling,which"incorporatesthe
ofa people" (Tuan
experiencesand aspirations
1974,213),oftenservesas a centerof activity,
and throughall of thisprovidesmeaningto
people's lives.On myaccount,placesare simThey
activities.
plyplacesto carryoutparticular
be the object of
need not incarnateanything,
or conemotionor attachment,
anyparticular
tainanymoremeaningthanthispracticalone.
(I notethatsome ofTuan'slaterwork,e.g.,the
discussionof house and theaterin Tuan 1982,
convergeswithmy use of 'place' in treating
as micrositesfor
places and spaces primarily
I do notfollowthose
Further,
humanactivity.)
theorists
who speakof objects,e.g., landscape
elements,as symbolsexpressiveofnorms,ideals,and values(e.g., Cosgrove1984).Such elementsdo exist.The objects at whichplaces
are anchored(see laterdiscussion),however,
do not"symbolize"theseplaces.Anobjectcan
have a meaningwithoutsymbolizingor exit.Thisistrue,I believe,ofmosthuman
pressing
includingwords.The meaningsuch
artifacts,
entitieshaveaccrueto themfromtheuse people make of them,and only occasionallydo
expressthesemeantheysymbolizeor directly
ings.
A second conjunction,prominentin recent
isspaceand
ofsociospatial
ontology,
discussions
society.Whereas'objective space and social
positionson the proper
space' marksdifferent
'space and soconceptionof social spatiality,
ciety'asks about the relationbetween social
The twoalterphenomenaand theirspatiality.
nativeconceptionsofobjectivespace yielddifferentviewson thisrelation.
At one timethreedecades or so ago, some
viewedspace as a realmof forms
geographers
and relationsautonomousfromand governed
by lawsmakingno referenceto the socialentitiesthathave spatialproperties.Space was
with
viewedas a kindofsubstancethatinteracts
a secondsortofsubstance,society,to produce
concrete social life. In contrastto absolute
space, relationalspace has no independent,
natureand is incapableof interactsubstantial
ingwithsocial entities.All thereis are social
whoseinteractions
entities
yieldspaceas a pure
thereisno reciprocal
Accordingly,
by-product.
relationbetween space and societyas in the
absolutistconstrual,only a one-way dependence of space on society.Now, it is obvious
thatthe notionof interacting
substancesdoes
not apply to social space. One-way depen-

653

dence also cannot be the basic relationbetweensocietyandspace sincetheopening(and


occupying)ofplaces byhumanlife,as we shall
amonghusee, cannotbe reducedto relations
and artifacts.
manactivities
Heidegger(1978,146) writesthatthe world
is notin space; rather,space is in theworld.A
similarrelationholds between space and society.Societyis not in space,as the absolutists
haveit;nor,forthatmatter,
does space reduce
to relationsamongsocial entities,as the relationalists
maintain.Rather,space is in society.
In the languageof thisessay:socialspace is in
socialreality.
Thatis,thisspace is opened and
withand as
occupiedwithand as socialreality,
lives.
people's interrelated
AsI willdetaillater,myaccountconcurswith
both the currently
popularidea thatspace is
sociallyproducedand theoftenaccompanying
idea thatspace is the mediumof social production(e.g., Soja 1985). Advocatesof these
ideasusuallytreatspace as a systemofrelations
When itis
and artifacts.
amongsocialactivities
said thatsocialentitiesproducespace,whatis
meantis thatsocialentitiesbringabout objecof these phenomena.Altive configurations
thoughtrue,thisclaim covers up the social
of socialspace: thatsocial lifeis
11production"
an openingofplacesforactivity,
one result
itself
of whichis theseobjectiveconfigurations.
Social Space
ElsewhereI have arguedthat
Social Reality.
social realityis interrelatedongoing lives
(Schatzki1988a).In the presentcontext,itwill
be simplestto introducethe idea via Heidegger's philosophy,summarizeits content,and
I rely
forspatiality.
thendiscussitsimplications
on Heidegger'sanalysis
ofhumanexistencebecause, in myopinion,thoughI cannotjustify
thishere,it offersthe mostaccurateanalysis
availableof the universalfeaturesof momentlivedhumanexistence.WhatI am
to-moment,
attemptingis to couple his analysiswiththe
livesand
claimthatsocialrealityis interrelated
to tracetheconsequencesthatfollowfromthe
accountof social realityfora variety
resulting
issues.
of ontologicaland epistemological
In Beingand Time,Heideggerwrites:"The
isthehappeningofbeinghappeningofhistory
altered).Being(440;translation
in-the-world"
ofongoing
isHeidegger'sanalysis
in-the-world

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654

Schatzki

life,the passageof humanexistence.It is analyzed as an ongoing continuously-being-attuned-to-and-interacting-with


entitiesand
people encounteredin the seriesof local settingsin whichone frommomentto moment
exists.Accordingto Heidegger,historytakes
place as ongoinglives.It consists,accordingly,
inthephenomenacomprising
theselives,e.g.,
local settings,attunementto and interaction
with things.Unfortunately,
Heidegger confinedhisattentionmostlyto the natureof individualexistenceand did not pursuethe idea
that,because individualexistencesare interrelated,historical
consistsnotonly
(social)reality
in ongoinglifebut,more broadly,in interrelated lives. Formulatedin Heidegger's lanispeople's interrelated
guage,socialreality
being-inan interconnected
world.
To develop thisanalysis,considerongoing
lifeto be a seriesofactions,takingplace inlocal
settings
and structured
bya rangeofwhatI will
call'action-governing
factors.'Actionsinclude
not only interventionsin the world but
omissionsof intervention
as well as some occurrencesof thinking.The action-governing
factorsthatstructure
thecontinuousbeing-directed-toward-and-performing
one actionafter anotherthatpervadesthe streamof moment-to-moment
existenceare: ends, ideas
(includingconceptsand thoughts),
moodsand
emotions,knownstatesofaffairs,
projectsand
tasks,rules,paradigms,and customs.Sets of
these factorsstructureaction in the sense of
specifying
why,at a givenmomentina partican actorperformed
ularsituation,
a particular
action.Endsare statesofexistenceforthesake
ofwhicha personiswillingto act.'Rules'refer
to explicitly
formulated
directives
and instructions,while'paradigms'referto waysof being
and actingthatare exemplary
forsome group
of people. By 'customs,'I mean widespread,
accepted waysof actinginto the practiceof
whichpeople are"socialized."The otheritems
on thelistrequireno explication.
Threepoints
shouldbe notedabout thesefactors.First,my
simplylistingthemdoes not mean thatthey
themselvesare not in need of theorization.
Second, factorsof these types can govern
someone'sactionwithouthe orshebeingaware
of knowingof them.And third,these factors
are not "mental"(or "subjective")entitiesin
sense of "mental."Thismeans
anytraditional
thatsocialspace, whichI willlaterdescribeas

isagainnota "mena productofthesefactors,


tal" space. It is a space opened by and as interrelatedlives,notsomethingtuckedawayin
people's minds.
onNow, since social realityis interrelated
going lives,one of its componentsis the interrelations
amonglives.The idea of such interrelationscan be conveyed with a few
is
typeofinterrelation
examples.An important
moldingofgovernance.This
the interpersonal
factorsare distribis thewayaction-governing
subtypeof inutedacrosslives.An important
the same
terpersonalmoldingis commonality:
of
factorgoverningwhat each of a plurality
in
people does. Two examplesofinterrelations
the realmof settingare people respondingto
setting
the same phenomenonin a particular
respondingto the teach(e.g.,schoolchildren
er's entranceintothe classroom)and physical
connectionsbetweensettingssuch as bridges
and the telephonesystem.A finalexampleof
interrelations
is chainsofaction,whichare seriesofactions,each memberof whichis a responseto thepreviousmemberor to a change
the (possibly unknown) previous member
broughtabout in the world.
ofseries
Insum,socialreality
isa multiplicity
of interlinking
actions,governedbyinter-and
structuresof action-governing
intra-personal
setfactors,and occurringin interconnected
tings.Threeconsequencesofthisviewimportantforthisessayshouldbe notedstraightaway.
whatthisviewpointexcludesfromsocial
First,
realityis all relationsand structuresthatare
somethingin additionto or distinctfromfeaturesof interrelated
lives.An exampleis the
abstractsocialrelationsutilizedin manystrucaccountsas the
tural-functionalist
and marxist
On myacbuildingblocksofsocialstructures.
are eithernamesforsets
count,socialrelations
offeaturesof interrelated
livesor typesunder
whichsuchsetscan be subsumed.Second,socialrealityis to a greatextentlocal.Apartfrom
communications
and other physicalconnecall eventsand features
tionsbetweensettings,
of thisrealityexistwithinthe perceptualand
purview of human beings.
interventionary
studies
Hence,third,wheneveran investigator
social reality,
whatshe studiesare mostlysectorsand aspectsof the manifoldof local realities.Thisfactdoes not reduce social science
to the scrutiny
local happenings,
of particular
becausea secondessentialcomponentofsocial

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Spatial Ontology and Explanation

investigation
is the construction
of surveyability-providing
overviewsof these happenings.
In any case, the interestsocial science has in
localnessis identicalwithitsinterestin social
affairs.
Itis notinterested
in localcontextsonly
because social reproductionand socialization
take place there(Pred 1981,6; cf. Thrift
and
Pred1981,279).
SocialSpatiality.
Since social realityis interrelatedongoinglives,the spatiality
of interrelatedlivesisthespatiality
ofthisreality.
We can
beginour investigation
of socialspatiality
with
the builtenvironment.
The builtenvironment
(including
thenatural
environment
confinedwithinit) mustnot be
viewedfirst
as a physicalenvironment.
Rather,
itis partofsocialrealityin the firstplace as an
organizednexusof places and paths.A place
is a place to X,e.g.,a bed is a place to sleep,a
tablea place to eat,and a bus stop a place to
catchthebus.As theseexamplesdemonstrate,
placesare definedby referenceto humanactivities.
Theyare anchored,moreover,in built,
or naturally
modified,
occurring
objects;a place
to X alwaysexistswheresome object(s)exists.
Whatplaces can existwhere,consequently,
is
conditionedand constrained
bytheproperties
ofobjects.Paths,moreover,
area particular
type
of place: places on whichto reach Y fromX
(routes).Likeall places,theyare anchoredin
objects.
Pathsand places are organizedin turninto
largerentities:settings,
locales,and regions.A
settingisa looselyor tightly
of
bundledtotality
places.Examples
frommodernWesternsociety
are streetcorners,factory
assembly-line
floors,
and mountaintops.
Ingeneral,since
classrooms,
placesare anchoredinobjects,settings
are anchored in configurations
of objects. Consequently,whatsettingscan existwhereis constrained
and conditionedbytheproperties
and
objectivespatialrelationsof such configurations.Often,moreover,settings,forinstance
thoseinan apartment
aredemarcated
building,
by barriersthatlimitexperientialand mobile
In the absence of such barriers,
penetrability.
forinstanceina park,settings
can stilloftenbe
identifiedand differentiated
by referenceto
eitherorganizational
structures
or the bundles
of activitiesthatare to occur in them.Organizationalstructure
is the wayobjectsare laid
out ina setting(e.g.,an assembly-line
floor)to
establishan organizedarrayof placesat which

655

actionsthatwill,need, or are supposedto ocin the


cur therecan be performed
efficiently,
propersequence, and in a coordinatedmanner.
Just
as placesare organizedintosettings,
settingsare connectedto and organizedwithone
anotherinto locales, and these in turninto
regions.Examplesof locales and regionsare,
respectively,
factories,nomadic settlements,
villages,parks,and urbansprawls,huntingpreserves,cities.Likeplaces and settings,locales
and regionsare anchored in objects. Hence,
oflocalesand regionsare
again,thepossibilities
conditionedbythe propertiesof,and the objective spaces formedby, objects. For these
reasons,together
withthefactthatpeople build
structures
to be theanchorsofparticular
places
andsettings,
theaggregation
ofcomplexity
and
scale markedbytheprogression
fromplacesto
of comregionsis matchedbyan aggregation
plexityand scale in the realmof objects and
objectivespace. It should be noted thatthe
divisionofthe builtenvironment
intoregions,
locales,and settingsis not relativeto the interestsof scientists.
Eventhoughsettingsand
locales are sometimesindistinct,and even
thoughtheterm'region'encompassesbuiltenvironmentsstretchingfromcities to metropolitanand agricultural
areas,the builtenviinitself
ronment
isarticulated
intotheseentities.
Places,settings,
locales,and regionsarewhere
humanlifetakesplace. Taken togetheras an
overlapping,hierarchicalorder of "wheres,"
theycomprisethe "space" whereinterrelated
livestranspire.
One can thinkof thisorderas
"Imaking
room"forhumanlives.As Heidegger
(1971,157)writes,"indwelling,
[people]persist
throughspaces by virtueof theirstayamong
and
thingsand locations."Inhisview,buildings
thingsare locationswhichopen up spaces for
humanactivity.
Despite formulaicsimilarities,
thisviewmustnot(pace Gregory1989,194)be
to Hagerstrand's
assimilated
(1973)conception
ofspaceas a "providerofroom"sincethespace
Hagerstrand
has in mindis objectivephysical
space (e.g.,Gregson1986).On theotherhand,
since this overlapping,hierarchicalorder of
thisconcep11wheres"
has a nodal structure,
tionofspatiality
does dovetailwithSoja's(1989,
ofthespatiality
ofsociallifeas
148)description
a 11multilayered
ofsociallycreatednodal
system
of differentiated
and
regions,a configuration
hierarchically
organizedlocales."

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656

Schatzki

As indicated,
thespace ofplacesisanchored
inandconditionedbyconfigurations
ofobjects
alongwiththe objectivespaces these objects
compose. Moreover,since places can be attributedthe locationsof theiranchors,social
realitycontainsa distribution
of places in objectivespace.Socialspace,however,cannotbe
treatedas a relationalspace. No amountof relationsamonga setofobjects,includinghuman
beings,suffices
to establishthatparticular
places orsettings
areanchoredatthesesets.Rather,
as I willdiscussshortly,
humanlivesare whatis
responsibleforwhatplacesexistwhere.A forof places does not reduce to a
tiori,a totality
ofrelationsamongobjects.Social
combination
space and objectivespace are distinct
butconnecteddimensionsof socialspatiality.
Althoughsocial space is clearlynot a relationalspace, it does resembleabsolutespace
inbeinga "medium"inwhichentitiesofa particularsort(activities)
occur. The parallelcollapses,however,forat leasttwoimportant
reasons.First,
whileabsolutespaceishomogeneous
and continuous,a nexusof places is inhomogeneous,overlapping,
and at timesdiscontinuous. Second, whileabsolutespace existsinoftheobjectsoccurringin it,the
dependently
space of places is not apartfromthe human
livesthatopen and occupyit.
We can now concretizethisidea thatsocial
space is opened and occupied bylives.Human
lives open places at which they themselves
transpirebecause what places are anchored
wheredependson actionsand action-governingfactors.Places depend on these phenomena intwoways.First,
the environment
and its
conobjective space is usuallyintentionally
structedto anchorparticular
arraysof places,
settings,and locales. This occurs whenever
people buildenvironments
withan eyeto their
own ends and projectsand/orthe ends,projects,and actionsthatfutureoccupantsofthe
willpursueand carryout. But
builtstructures
the existenceof places depends on people in
a way much more immediatethan this.The
"wheres"atwhichhumanlifehappensarecontinuously
opened bythelivesthatoccupythem
(see Heidegger1978, sects. 22-24; also Merleau-Ponty1962,part1,ch. 3). Thismeansthat
whatplaces existat anymomentat anyset of
objectsdependson theends,projects,actions,
and also moods,rules,and ideas ofthe people
livingamid them. Depending on a person's
moodsand thoughts,
a cohort'sdesk can be a

place to confidea secret,to upstagea cola design.Similarly,


an open
league,orto further
expansebetweentwo assemblylinescan be a
place to gossip,to plana strike,or to harassa
malignedcolleague,dependingon the worker's moods, ideas, ends, etc. Of course,treinthe
mendouscontinuities
and commonalities
and
factorsgoverninglivesensurecontinuity
inthearrays
which
commonality
ofplaceswithin
people live.Whatplaces and pathsoccur at a
givenconfiguration
ofanchorscanalso depend
on what actions are performedthere. "I'm
waiting,in myroom,whichis now a waiting
room.When I go to bed it'sa bedroom"(Atchangesinwhat
wood 1987,66).Consequently,
places are anchoredwhere resultboth from
in whichlivestranspireamid the
fluctuations
in
objects involvedand fromtransformations
thoselives.Whatplaces existin a givenarena,
can differ
fromthosethatwere intherefore,
tendedby itsplanners,builders,or managers.
We can fillout the idea thathumanlivesocway.
cupythe space of places in thefollowing
factorsnotonly
Actionsand action-governing
are responsibleforopeningplaces,butalsoare
distributed
amongplaces:actionsare foundat
while
the places where theyare performed,
factorsare foundat the places wherethe actionstheygovernoccur.The projectofbuildinga tree-house,forinstance,mightbe found
at a seriesof places and settings:the tree,a
thickbranch,the hardwarestore,the dining
fromtheporchto the
roomtable,thewalkway
and so on. Ingeneral,theoccupation
backyard,
ofplacesbyhumanlivescan be representedas
an overlappingdistribution
of actions,factors,
and interrelations
amongarraysof places and
settings.Noticethatsince factorsand actions
determineplaces and settings,theyhelp determinetheirown spatiallocation.
Insum,thesocialspace thatinterrelated,
oncomprise,the opengoinglives(socialreality)
ingand occupancyof places,is a distribution
offactors,
amongaractions,and interrelations
raysof places, paths,and settingsthemselves
determinedby actions and factors."To be
isto helpconstitute
somewhere,"accordingly,
socialspace (cf.Norberg-Schulz
1971,34): it is
forone's lifeto determineplaces and to be a
offactors
distribution
and actionsamongthem.
Hence, it is possibleto agree withthe increasinglypopularslogan thathumanbeings
maketheirown geography,justas theymake
theirown history.We mustrecognize,how-

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Spatial Ontology and Explanation

ofwaysinwhichpeople make
ever,theplurality
the
geography.Theydo so (1) by performing
and built
activities
and producingthe artifacts
relationsamongwhichconstienvironments,
tute relationalspaces encompassingactivities
and objectsor objectsalone; (2) by specifying
andenforcing
boththatspecificplacesand setconfigurations
tingsare anchoredat particular
of objectsand thatcertainends,projects,and
actionsare realizedat particular
placesand settings;(3) by virtueof actionsand action-govdetermining
arrays
erningfactorscontinuously
of places; and (4) by occupyingplaces. Social
evolvesnot onlywhen people build
spatiality
anchorplacand transform
theirenvironment,
es at specificlocations,and prescribefactors
and actions,but also in tandemwithchanges
intheiractions,moods,ends,and projectsand
along withthe trajectoriesof theirlives.Of
course,it is a bit misleadingto speak of the
of places byactionsand factors
determination
as a "making"of socialspace. Humanlivesinopen a space ofplaces
trinsically
and constantly
withoutanyonehavingto makeit. Thisspace,
ofall otherformsof
moreover,isthecondition
making.Humanbeingsmaketheirown geogthattheirliveshave
raphywithinthegeography
alwaysalreadyopened forthem.
To close thissection,I will
SocialPhenomena.
use theaccountofsocialspace justelaborated
to analyzethe spatiality
of social phenomena.
is interrelated
Sincesocialreality
ongoinglives,
whatthereis to it is elementsof and interrelationsamonglives(whereby'elements'I mean
actions,factors,objects,places,and settings).
Social phenomenaare by definitionpartsor
aspectsof social reality.Theyconsist,accordi.e.,what
ingly,in elementsand interrelations,
thereis intheworldto suchphenomenaissets
of theseitems.
typeofsocialphenomThe mostprominent
whichare statesof
enon is social formations,
humancoexistence.(Forbriefremarkson the
socialstructures,
see
second mostprominent,
Schatzki1990.)Examplesare economies,wars,
and groups.Since theyare by
governments,
definition
theyconsistin
partsofsocialreality,
sets of elementsof and interrelations
among
lives.More specifically,
theyconsistin usually
of the sumdiscontinuoussubconfigurations
totaloforganizedplacesand settings,
together
withcollectionsof actions,factors,and interrelations,distributedamong places and setand collections
tings.These subconfigurations

657

usually
formnoncenteredmosaicsofnodesand
peripheries.
Noticethattheycan also coincide
and overlap.Itshouldbe pointedout thatexare eisocialformations
pressionsdesignating
ther:(1) namesforcombinationsof elements
e.g.,Americangovernment,
and interrelations,
Penguins;(2)types
English
economy,Pittsburgh
underwhichsuch combinationscan be subopsumed,e.g., racialprejudice,government
pression,mass hysteria;or (3) constructions
themselves
upon measuresof statesof affairs
in elementsand interrelations,
e.g.,
consisting
(forfurGrossNationalProduct,the multiplier
therdiscussion,
see Schatzki1988a).As thislist
suggests,the onlytermspermissiblein social
are those the use of whichdoes
investigation
moreto social
notimplythatthereis anything
lives.An exampleof
realitythan interrelated
termis 'socialrelation'as utian impermissible
and structural-functional
lized in manymarxist
accounts.
is a cutoutof social
Since a socialformation
it
reality
and thespacesthisrealityconstitutes,
spatiality
definedbyand as this
hasan inherent
cut:the distribution
of itsconstitutive
actions,
amonga parfactors,
places,and interrelations
ofplacesandsettings.
Note
ticularconfiguration
of a social formation
is also
thatthe spatiality
its spatiallocationin social reality.That is, a
socialformation
is locatedwhereitsconstituare (cf.Ruben
tiveelementsand interrelations
1985,ch. 2).

Spatial Explanation
Explanationin General
of explaOne prominentcharacterization
nationsis as answersto questionsofthe form,
or to questionsthatcan be recastwithoutloss
of inquisitory
intentin the form:Whyis itso?
withthisdefinitionis
One obvious difficulty
we call an
thatit does not cover everything
explanation,e.g., an explanationof a word's
meaning.Definingexplanationsas answersto
a typeof question,however,promotesan elbetween different
cogegant differentiation
insocialscience.Whileexnitiveachievements
planationsare answersto whyquestionsand
descriptionsanswersto queries of the form,
What happened?, interpretationsare responsesto requests,Whatdoes it mean?,and

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658

Schatzki

portrayalsto those of the form,What is it like


to X? (On such a typology,see Runciman 1983.)
Ifwe accept thisrough-and-readydefinitionof
explanation, then social explanations are answers to questions of the form,Why thissocial
phenomenon?
A markof the theoryofsocial realityoutlined
in the firstpart of this essay is that certain features of this realityare responsible for how
thingsare there. These featuresare action-governingfactorsand three types of causal transaction (see next section). Since these factors
and transactionsare what is responsible forsocial affairs,descriptions of them supplyinganswers to why questions about social phenomena are true explanationsof these phenomena.
To the extent,therefore,that truthis a goal of
social inquiry,profferedexplanations of social
affairsshould describe these factorsand transactions.Of course, since explanatorypower (the
abilityto dissolve a whyquestion) is dependent
upon thingssuch as the interestsof those seeking explanations, disciplinaryframeworksabsorbed in education/training,moods, and general intellectual-culturalpresuppositions (see,
e.g., van Fraassen 1980; Kuhn 1962; and Mannheim 1936, ch. 5), descriptions of these items
mightfailto possess explanatorypower. Nevertheless,true explanations are of this form.
Thinkingof explanations as descriptions of
the factorsand transactionsresponsible forsocial phenomena implies that explanations are
descriptionsput to a certainuse: the answering
of why questions (see Oakeshott 1933, ch. 2).
This conception of explanation is an alternative
to the two that Andrew Sayer (1982, 1984) has
identifiedas the explanatoryoptions open to
spatial science: generalization and abstraction.
'Generalization' refers to the "covering-law"
model which views an explanation as the deduction of a description of the phenomenon
under explanation (the explanandum) from a
statementof law plus a statementof initialconditions.'Abstraction'refersto the more recent
abstract realist philosophy developed by Roy
Bhaskar(1979, 1986) which construes an explanation of a social event as the reconstruction
of the set of abstract,law-governed, and mutually-influencing"generative" mechanisms
(constitutingthe "causal powers" of social entities)thatcombined to produce it. Despite the
manifolddifferencesbetween these two conceptions, theyagree in viewingexplanationsas
demonstrationsthat the explanandumwas re-

quired given certain laws or conjunctions


thereof.
as I construe
In contrast,
socialexplanations,
them,are descriptionsof the causal transacof action-governing
tionsand configurations
factorswhichare actuallyresponsibleforthe
socialphenomenon.(I willreto-be-explained
ferto configurations
offactors
as the"structure
ofintelligibility.")
Explanations
exhibittheplace
thattheexplanandum
occupied in the nexuses
in the world(for
of causalityand intelligibility
in nata parallelpositionvis-A-vis
explanations
uralscience,see Salmon(1984)).Theyare descriptionsof the actual world,not law-based
of
deductionsor conjunctorial
reconstructions
it. So theydo not implythatthingswere requiredto occuras theydid. In fact,since cauarenotgovernedbylaws,
sality
and intelligibility
speaklawshave no role,at leasttheoretically
PaceSayer,spatialsciing,insocialexplanation.
ence is not faced withan either-orbetween
positivism
and abstractrealism.

Social Causality
By 'social causality'I mean the ways,apart
frommerelyphysical
processes,inwhichevents
bringaboutstatesofaffairs
and statesofaffairs3
and
andeventsinsocialreality.
(Forjustification
elaboration,see Schatzki1988b.)Causal transactionsinsociallifecanbe cataloguedintothree
by making
types:actionscause statesofaffairs
themhappen,statesofaffairs
cause actionsby
cause
inducing
peopletoact,andstatesofaffairs
whichfactorsgovern
actionsby determining
them.4I willreferto the thirdtypeof transactionas the"moldingofbehavior."Notethatall
threetypespertainto actionand eitheritsdeor consequences.
terminants
Foranyoneunfamiliar
withHumeanskeptiitis obviousthatactingis
cismabout causality,
are brought
one wayin whichstatesof affairs
about in sociallife.In cleaninga room,writing
a paper,or rakingleaves,a personintervenes
in the world,bringsabout changes,and experienceshim-or herselfmakingthingshappen. Thisformof causalityis so obviousthat
nothingmoreneed be said about it.
occurs
A second typeof causal transaction
Conwhenpeople respondto statesofaffairs.
sider a chain of actions,which is a series of
actionseach ofwhichis a responseto the pre-

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Spatial Ontology and Explanation

viousmemberor to a changein theworldthe


(possiblyunknown)previousmemberbrought
to one another's
about(e.g.,boxersresponding
jabs and parries).Such a chainembodiescausalityinthesensethateach precedingmember
leadsto and givesriseto thesucceedingmember,and this"leadingand givingriseto" is a
of course,
type of bringingabout. It differs,
fromthe "makinghappen" sort of bringing
in action.IfI swatyou with
about manifested
a bat,I maymakeyou fallto the ground.ButI
mightalso induceyou to parrythe blow with
a glove.In leadingyou to respondin thisway,
myactionbringsabout and thuscauses yours.
Of course,thissecond sortof causalityoccurs
morewidelythanin chainsof actionalone. It
inducessomeexistswhenevera stateofaffairs
an action.
one to perform
The thirdtypeof causalityis the moldingof
behavior.It existswhenevera person'sexperienceor acquisitionof knowledgeis responfactorsgoverninghisor her
sibleforparticular
subsequentbehavior.Witnessinga dramatic
rescue,forinstance,mightmakesomeonesubLikecausal
sequentlyseek to be a firefighter.
transactions
of the second sort,those of the
thirdoccur when lived-through
(and known)
phenomenacause actions.But,whereascauses
ofthesecondtypeare phenomenathatinduce
responses,thoseofthethirdsortare phenomfactors
ena thathelpbringaboutthatparticular
governsubsequentaction.Biologicaland neufactorsmightalso help bring
rophysiological
thisabout.
I claimthatsocial causalityis exhaustedby
Thereare no
thesethreetypesoftransactions.
causal transactions,
forinstance,ones
further
eithersocialphenomenaor solinking
directly
or ones otherwiselinkingsocial
cial structures
structures
to action. Social change is caused
neitherby social goals and needs, contradictionsbetweentheforcesand relationsof prothe
duction,conjunctionsof socialstructures,
ortheimmechanisms,
operationofgenerative
perativesof systemmaintenance.Or, more
preciselystated:such phenomenacan cause
socialaffairs
onlyiftheyfigurein causaltransactionsofthethreedescribedsorts.Letus considerhow thismightwork.
cannotlitSocial formations
and structures
intheworldand makechanges
erallyintervene
happeninthewaypeople can. Theycan,however,be causes of the second or thirdtypes
sincetheycan induce responsesor be some-

659

thing the experience/knowledgeof which


moldsbehavior.For instance,Johnmightrespondto a U.S. Senatedebateon restoring
the
tax-exempt
statusof intereston individualretirement
an impassavingsaccountsbywriting
sionedletterto hissenator.Inthisexample,the
congressionaldebate causes John'saction by
inducinghimto performit. Two pointsmust
be made about thissortof case. First,Johnis
able to respondto the debate onlyifhe has
the concept of a Senate debate as well as
knowledgeofthisparticular
one. Second,what
determines
whetherJohnrespondsto the debate as opposed to the particular
speakershe
heardon televisionishisunderstanding
ofwhat
he respondsto. IfJohnunderstands
theSenate
to be whathe is respondingto,
deliberations
whatcaused himto act was not the speakers
he watchedbutwhathe learnedfromwhathe
watched:thatthe Senate is debatingrestorationof the tax-exemptstatusof a typeof interest.In general,when a person,afterexperiencingactionsand statesof affairs,
responds
to somethingthathelpsconstitutea widersocial phenomenon,theresponseis to thewider
phenomenon,nottheexperiencedactionsand
statesof affairs,
onlywhen the personunderstandsthatthe responseis to thatphenomenon.
As forthe thirdtype of causality,when a
social phenomenonis sufficiently
localized in
timeand space thata personcan livethrough
all of it,e.g.,a family
squabble,a greatathletic
feat,or a dramaticrescue,thenthe phenomenon itselfcauseswhatevermoldingof behaviorresultsfromexperiencingit.Usually,howa person
ever,the actionsand statesof affairs
experiencesare partsof dispersedsocial phenomenasuch as governments
and economic
Wheneverbehaviorismoldedthrough
systems.
suchexperiences,thewiderphenomenon,and
not the particular
actionsand statesof affairs,
willbe thecause onlywhenthefactthatthese
itemsare partofthe dispersedpheparticular
nomenonplaysa roleintheireffecton action.
This will usuallyrequirethatthe actor concernedhaveknowledgeandtheconceptofthe
social phenomenonin question. So, for example,ifZico's missedpenaltykickputsJose
in a rageforthe following
week,it is probably
Brazil'slossto Francethateffects
this,sincethe
factthatZico'sshotispartoftheBrazilian
side's
mostlikelyplaysa role in the efperformance
fectthe missedshothas on him.

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660

Schatzki

are the
I claimthattheabove circumstances
onlyones in whichsocial phenomenaplaya
the mere
causalroleinsociallife.In particular,
fact that a response-inducingor behaviorhelpsconstimoldingactionor stateof affairs
tutea widersocialphenomenondoes notimply
thatthiswiderphenomenoncauses behavior.
help constituteinActionsand statesofaffairs
definitenumbersof social phenomena.So, if
the social phenomenaconstitutedby causally
efficaciousactionsand statesof affairswere
any givenacthemselvescausallyefficacious,
number
tionwouldbe caused byan indefinite
ofphenomena.Thisresultwouldofcourserenuseless.Fortunately,
derthenotionofcausality
the discussion in the previous paragraphs
thwartsthisconclusionby describingconditionsunderwhichwidersocialphenomenaare
causallyefficacious.
to cause
Itisstillpossibleforsocialformations
one another,but theydo so onlyby working
intheabovedescribedways.
individuals
through
causesanotherwhen
one formation
Simplifying,
to perform
in thesewaysit causes individuals
the
theactionsbringing
aboutand constituting
other.Juvenile
delinquencyinU.S.ghettos,for
mainstance,iscausedby,amongotherthings,
a hostileworld,easy drug
terialdeprivation,
because theseare
money,and flashylifestyles
among the centralphenomena(1) to which
and (2) through
youthrespondin performing
the experienceof whichis molded the perteenage
formanceof the actionsconstituting
delinquency.
The foregoingaccount of causalitycontrathetwoexplanatory
venesthoseaccompanying
tospatialscience.For"genmodelsSayeroffers
eralization"causalityimpliesuniversalsuccession:'a causes b' impliesthatthereis a law to
the effectthatphenomenaof a's typeare alwaysfollowedbyphenomenaofb's type.Withagainstthis
outgoingintodetails,myargument
view is thatcausalityexistswhen thingsbring
otherthings
about,andthewaysinwhichthings
are notlawbringthingsabout in socialreality
on theotherhand,
governed.For"abstraction,"
aboutofeventsbysets
isthebringing
causality
of abstract,mutually-influencing
generative
mechanisms.
Thisschoolofthoughtclaims,further(see Bhaskar1979,ch. 2), thatthe genersocialeventsarise
ativemechanisms
governing
fromthe propertiesof systemsof social relations(wheresocial relationsare not between
but betweensocialposiindividuals
particular

tionsand practices,e.g., the relationbetween


and Worker).Againstthisposition,it
Capitalist
can be arguedthatsince it is notobvioushow
linkup to the
socialrelationsand mechanisms
deimmediately
and causaltransactions
factors
action,it is unclearhow theycan
termining
"generate"actionbycausingit(forelaboration,
see Schatzki1990).
can be interpreted
Bhaskarand hisfollowers
govern
thatgenerativemechanisms
as claiming
actionsnotbycausingthembutinsteadbydeofaction.(Itdoes notmatpossibilities
limiting
terforthepresentessaywhether"makingposIn my1990article,
sible"is a typeofcausality.)
Bhaskar'sgenI pointout that,so interpreted,
claims
arereallytheoretical
erativemechanisms
alone is the
of the form:whensuch-and-such
case, the onlypossiblecourse of actionis soand-so. However,because real circumstances
are never simplythe ones specifiedin such
claims,thatso-and-sowould be the sole posalonewere
ifthespecifiedcircumstances
sibility
the case has no specifiablebearingon whatis
So thesemechpossiblein realcircumstances.
anismscannotgovernactionin the realworld
There are further
possibilities.
by restricting
problemswiththe idea thatsocialrelationsreeven whensuchrelationsare
strictpossibilities
analyzed,in line withGiddens's(1979, 1984)
as sets of resources
conceptionof structure,
andrules.Forexample,therearestrongreasons
sortinto
forbelievingthatrulesofthe implicit
whichGiddensand Bhaskaranalyzesocial relationsdo notexist.
It is trueof course thatpeople face limited
Whatdelimitsa person's
fieldsof possibilities.
however,are neithergenerative
possibilities,
abstractsocial relations,nor immechanisms,
speaking,
butstrictly
plicitrules.Mostgenerally
are determinedbywhat
a person'spossibilities
othersmightdo, bythefactorsthatmightgovernhisor herown behavior,bypracticalskills,
and by certainfeaturesof the worldsuch as
connectionsbephysicaland communications
the layoutofthebuiltenvirontweensettings,
and possibleusesofmanment,theproperties
biological
made or naturalobjects/processes,
(cf.
facts,and space-timepackingconstraints
1975).A crucialfeatureofthe deHaIgerstrand
does
isthatsomething
ofpossibilities
limitation
on itsown. Whatposnot delimitpossibilities
itopensandclosesdependon theends,
sibilities
knowledge,moods,and otherfactorsgovernforwhomitdoes this.One
ingthe individuals

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Spatial Ontology and Explanation

and the same phenomenon,therefore,


might
and usuallydoes open/closeoffdifferent
posfordifferent
sibilities
people.
One musttreadcarefully
withthe notionof
a restricted
fieldofpossibilities.
Thoseopen to
people arealmostalwayswiderthanthisnotion
suggests.In any set of circumstances,
certain
actionsare impossible.Whatis possible,however,is extensivesince whatothersmightdo
and whichfactors
might
governa person'sown
are manifold.
Of course,an analystcan
activity
construct
a reducedfieldofpossibilities.
What
people are mostlikelyto do, includingwhat
theyhabitually
or customarily
do, is considerablynarrower
thanwhattheymightdo. So ifa
person'spossibilities
are viewedas depending
on whatothersare likelyto do, her fieldof
possibilities
narrows.If,moreover,she pursues
sociallyacceptableends and acts deliberately,
indoingso,shewill
efficiently,
and intelligently
enjoy,in anyset of circumstances,
a rangeof
possibilities
further
restricted
to thoseopen to
a "rational"person.So an investigator
might
analyzesocial lifewiththe idea of restricted
fieldsofrationalpossibilities
whichreflecthow
people are likelyto act.
One muststillbe cautiousin employingthis
concept.Theextenttowhichactualpeople are
rational
isan empirical
matter.
Moreover,a field
of rationalpossibilitiesis neveras narrowas
one. Onlya lackof imagination
leadsan investigatorto thinkotherwise.Most importantly,
thisconceptcan lead an investigator
(or actor)
to forgettheinventiveness
ofhuand plasticity
manactivity.
The meanspeople hiton, the innovationstheythinkup, theirbehaviorin trying,desperate,or novel circumstances-such
phenomenaare unpredictableand oftensurprising.In retrospectwe can usuallyaccount
forthem,butprefacto,theysometimesare not
countedamongthe rationalor widerpossibilities.Hence,whileitistrueinallsituations
that
certainpossibilities
areadmittedand othersexofour
cluded,we mustnotbe overlyconfident
representations
of whichthese are. When we
claimthattherationalpossibilities
aresuchand
such,rationaland nonrational
actorswillcontranscendor supplementthem,thereby
stantly
limiting
the usefulnessof our representations
inanalyzing
sociallife.Andwe mustneverforgetthatbecauserestricted
fieldsofpossibilities
reflectassumptions
aboutrationality
and likely
therealmofactualpossibilities
isalso
behavior,
wider.

661

Types of Explanation in
Social Science
Social explanations are descriptions of the
features of social realityresponsible for social
phenomena. Since these features are causal
transactionsand the structureof intelligibility,
there are two basic types of explanation in social science: causal explanation and intelligibilityexplanation. The causal explanation of a social phenomenon documents the causal
transactionsbringingit about. An intelligibility
explanation of an action or set of actions lays
out the factorsgoverning it. In advocating intelligibility
explanations, I linkonto a tradition
stretchingat least from Dilthey that has opposed the hegemony of causal explanation in
social science. I do not, however, agree with
the view prevalentin thistradition,even among
some of its current members including Peter
Winch,CliffordGeertz, and Charles Taylor,that
causal explanation has littleor no role to play
in social investigation.In any case, intelligibility
explanations of wider social phenomena are
descriptionsof the factorsgoverningtheirconstitutiveactions. All explanations in social science should be mixes of explanations of these
two sorts.
Causal explanations of all aspects of social
realityare the same in form:descriptionsof the
causal transactionsresponsible forthe actions,
factors,objects, and places constitutingthe explanandum.Of course, mostsocial phenomena,
e.g., stock market crashes, Napoleon's rise to
power, suicide rates,and modern Westerncapitalismare composed of extremelylarge numbers of components. Even ifitwere possible to
describe exhaustivelythe complex nexuses of
causal transactionsgiving rise to these components, such descriptions could not dissolve
perplexities about why the phenomena concerned exist(no one could take in the descriptions). The practical task of causal explanation
in social science, consequently, is to fashion
overviewsofcausal nexuses thatcondense these
nexuses into surveyable form. In carryingout
this task,an investigatormay use several stratagems. For instance, she mightidentifywhich
of the phenomenon's components are typical,
central,distinctive,or constitutiveof itsorigin,
and aim to document the causal transactions
responsible forthese alone. She mightalso describe only those causal transactions(or types

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662

Schatzki

thereof)whichtypically
or centrallybrought
about the phenomenonor those of itscomponentsupon whichshe focuses.In outline,
the procedureof constructing
causal explanationscontainsthe followingstages:the investigator
mustfirstidentify
the components
of the phenomenonunder explanationand
judge whichof these to focus on. She must
then uncoverthe actionsand statesof affairs
responsibleforthe membersof the subset.Finally,in orderto constructan overviewofthe
causalnexusresponsibleforthephenomenon,
she mustjudge5which of these actionsand
statesofaffairs
are universal,
typical,or salient.
The entireprocessis hampered,of course,by
limitedinformation;
and it is not necessaryeitherto carryout completelya priorstagebeforeexecutinga subsequentone or to proceed
throughthesestagesintheorderoutlined.An
willinsteadusuallymovebackand
investigator
forthamongthem.
Social formations
can be cited in the causal
ofa socialphenomenonwhenever
explanation
theyare eitherwhatpeople respondto inperor that throughthe experienceof
forming,
whichis molded the performance
of,the actionsconstituting
the phenomenon.Whether
theyare cited depends on the judgmentsof
typicality,
saliency,centrality,
and so on with
whichoverviewsare constructed.Since social
phenomenahave no further
role in causality,
theyhave no additionalrole in causal explanation.Inparticular,
forreasonssketchedinthe
previoussection,the mere factthatcausally
efficacious
actionsandstatesofaffairs
helpconstitutea social phenomenondoes not imply
thatthatphenomenonis itselfcausallyefficacious.Thisdoes notimplythatsocialphenomena playa negligibleroleincausalexplanation.
On the contrary,
people oftenrespondto socialstatesofaffairs
andare moldedbythesocial
phenomenathroughwhichtheylive.
ofactionsand sets
Intelligibility
explanations
thereofare descriptions
of theaction-governingfactorsstructuring
them.When the explanandumis a social phenomenoncomposed of
numerous actions, the investigatorshould
which of its constitutive
identify
actionsare
central,typical,or distinctive
and focusupon
the factorsgoverningthemalone. Then,as in
thecase ofcausalexplanation,
she shouldfashionan overviewofthesefactors,
judgingwhich
of themare essential,salient,or distinctive.
In

some cases an investigator


willmentionbut a
singlefactorjudged to be mostcruciallydeterminative
of a largenumberof actions,e.g.,
the claim thatAmericansturnedagainstthe
Vietnamwarinthebeliefthatitwasunjustified.
Social phenomenacan serveas the explanantia
ofintelligibility
explanations
whenevertheyare
objects of the factorsthatgovernthe actions
underscrutiny,
e.g., when a personperforms
an actionbecause he or she knowssomething
abouta particular
socialphenomenon,orwhen
someoneaimsto bringaboutorto preventone.
It shouldbe clearthatthe procedureof constructing
intelligibility
explanations
parallels
that
pertaining
to causalexplanations.
In sum,we can definea completeexplanation of a social phenomenonas an overview
descriptionof (1) the actionsand statesof affairs,includingsocial phenomena,thatbring
about,and (2) the factorsgoverningthe performanceof,theactionsand otheritemsconthe phenomenon.Such a description
stituting
providessurveyability
overthenexusesofcausalityand intelligibility
the phedetermining
nomenon.Explanation
does not requirelaws,
or invocations
ofabstract
generalizations,
causal mechanisms.
Itsimplyrequiresoverviewsof
actuality.
I willclose thissectionbyrelating
myanalysis
ofsocialexplanation
toan empiricist
distinction
betweenbehavioral
andstructural
explanations
whichis widespreadin contemporary
spatial
science. I will show thatthese two typesof
explanationare not independentof one anotherand are infacttwosidesofa morecomprehensive"behavioral"approach.I willfocus
on the representative
formulations
found in
Wekerleand Rutherford
(1989).
ForWekerleand Rutherford,
the behavioral
of inapproachfocuseson the characteristics
dividualsresponsibleforhow theyact, while
the structural
approachfocuseson characteristicsoftheenvironment
withinwhichtheydo

so. They write: "[our focus] ... permitsatten-

tionto thebehavior[i.e.,actions]ofindividuals
and groupswithinthe laborforce,at thesame
timeas it allowsan examinationof the environmental
contextto whichtheyare responding"(162).As thisquotationsuggests,the distinctionbetween behavioraland structural
explanationsis notan either-or:completeexofpeople's livesmustcombineboth
planations
approaches.Thisis obviousfromthe perspec-

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Spatial Ontology and Explanation

tiveof the currentessay.The behavioralapproachcorrespondsto intelligibility


explanation, while the structuralapproach can be
assimilatedto causal explanation;and a complete explanationof action alwaysrequiresa
as
graspofthefactorsgoverningit(behavioral)
wellas theworldlystatesofaffairs
determining
it(structural).
The behavioraland structural
approachesare reallytwosidesofa "behavioral"
approachconstruedmorebroadlyas thestudy
of the determinants
ofaction.A centralthesis
of thisessayis thatall social explanationsare
behavioralin thissense.
Thestructural
approachcan be describeddifferently,
viz.,as thestudyofthedetermination
ofconstrained
fieldsofpossibilities.
In suchan
approach,statesofaffairs
are examinedas determinants
not of actionsbut of possibilities.
Forexample,Wekerleand Rutherford
statethat
theirworkcombines-thestructural
and behavioralapproachesbecauseitjoinsa concernwith
the determination
of "specificenvironmental
opportunities
and constraints"
to a concern
with"the behavioralissueof howactualwomen respondto" these(150).As discussed,however,whichpossibilities
a stateofaffairs
delimitsdependson thefactorsgoverning
behavior
(moods,ends,etc.).So partoftheobjectofthe
structural
approachare the phenomenastudied by the behavioralapproach.The two approachesare not independent.
Of course,the structural
approachwillalso
examinewhatis responsibleforthe statesof
affairs
thatdelimitpossibilities.
Since itshould
do thisbyfashioning
overviewsof theactions,
andstatesofaffairs
factors,
responsible
forthese
states,thiscomponentof the structural
task
also pursuesa generally
For
behavioralstrategy.
instance, Wekerle and Rutherforddepict
"structural"
analysesof industriallocationas
thestatesoftheworldto whichplanstudying
nersand executivesrespond in choosinginsites(144-46).In thesestudies,a stateof
dustry
whichdelimitsjob possibilities
affairs
forworkers (industry
location)is itselfexplainedin a
behavioralmannerby examiningwhatdeterminestheactionsgivingriseto it.Thesestudies
as oponlylookliketheyfocuson "structural"
posed to "behavioral"ingredients
because the
action-governing
factors,in conjunctionwith
whichstatesofaffairs
determineplanners'and
executives'decisions,go unmentioned
as they
are so obvious,e.g.,the goalsof makingmuch

663

or sufficientprofit.There is only one approach


to social explanation: the more broadly construedbehavioralapproach thatfocuses on both
the factorsand states of affairsdeterminingaction.
Spatial Explanation
Explanationsof spatial phenomena are of the
same formas explanationsof social phenomena
generally,for a spatial phenomenon is a social
phenomenon. It is the spatial aspects or form
of some social phenomenon. Thus, when an
investigatorseeks to explain a spatial phenomenon, he or she seeks to explain why some
social phenomenon has itsparticularspatialaspects or form. A social scientist interested in
industriallocation, for instance, mightseek to
explain the spatial patternor distributionof industrialsites. The explanation of this patternis
of the same formas the explanation of any other aspect of industriallocation, for it is an explanation of industriallocation constructed so
as to account foritsspatialform.In the language
of this essay: the nexuses of causalityand intelligibilityresponsible for a social phenomenon are, ipso facto, responsible for its spatial
form.But certaincomponents of these nexuses
will be more pertinentthan others in accountingforthisform.So an explanation of itsspatial
formwill consist in a description of these particularcomponents. Other components might
be cited in explanations of other aspects of the
phenomenon. These remarks,incidentally,apply to all spatial features of social reality,including featuresof objective space.
Consider the spatial distributionof welfare
payments. An investigatormight seek to explain variationsamong states in such payments.
Suppose he judges that state legislativedecisions about payment levels are key junctures
(or "controlling filters,"cf. Giddens 1979, 79)
in the causal chains leading to such payments.
If so, then explanations of payment levels in
individual states would be overviews of the
nexuses of causalityand intelligibility
responsible forthese decisions: the financial,economic, or personal (etc.) states of affairsto which
legislators reacted; the ideas, thoughts, and
customs concerning welfarerecipients,minorities,state finances,and political ideology that
governed their actions; and whatever experiences determined that these factorsgoverned

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664

Schatzki

is extheirdecisions.Since the investigator


aminingspatialvariationin welfarepayments,
he mightseek to identify
differencesin the
factorsand statesofaffairs
thatlead legislators
indifferent
statesto supportpayments
at what
happento be different
levels.Ifpaymentlevels
remainrelatively
constantover large regions
(e.g.,"thesouth"),he mightattemptto identify
whichstatesofaffairs
and factorsseem typical
ofthatregionincontrast
or distinctive
to those
of otherregions.Ifthere
typicalor distinctive
is one stateina widerregionwherepayments
fromthosesurrounding
differ
it,he willprobwhatis distinctive
about
ablyessayto identify
thefactors
and statesofaffairs
determining
decisionsin thatstate.And so on. Whateverthe
will
the investigator
particular
spatialvariation,
ofstatesofaffairs
describewhichofthetotality
and factorsdetermining
welfarelegislation
accountforthe variation.So the explanationof
the spatialpatternof welfarepaymentis no
in formthanthatof anysocial phedifferent
nomenonwhatsoever.
Asanotherexample,considerthespatialdistributionof officelocation. An investigator
mightwantto knowwhyofficesclusterin certainlocalesor censustracts,are sparsein othofhighers,and are constructedinthevicinity
ways.Such matters
are explainedviaoverviews
ofthenexusesofcausality
and intelligibility
that
determinethe decisions responsiblefor the
construction
ofofficesin particular
localesand
regions.The investigator
mightdiscover,for
reactto, or
instance,thatplanners/executives
act in the knowledgeof,zoninglawsand the
locationoflaborpools;orthathideboundideas
orexperiencesaboutcertaincategoriesofpeoincertainlocales;
ple leadthemto locateoffices
for
or thattheplanners/executives
responsible
thedifferent
a clusterina given
offices
forming
locale have respondedto the same statesof
decided on the basisofthe same ideas,
affairs,
orreactedto one another'sdecisions.She might
further
and ideas
learnthatthesestatesofaffairs
differfromthose determining
locationdecisionsin different
locales.And so on. In every
willofferan overviewof
case, the investigator
thestatesof affairs
and factorsthatdetermine
the decisionsresponsibleforthe locationof
sites.
officesat particular
In explainingindustrial
locationor the patan investigator
ternof welfarepayments,
may
judgethatwhatare responsibleforthesephe-

nomenaare notthestatesofaffairs
thatdeterminetheactionsof legislators
or planners/executivesbut,instead,whatin turndetermines
these statesof affairs.
One typeof judgment
requiredofinvestigators
intheconstruction
of
explanationsis decidinghow farback in the
indefinitely
longand complexnexusesof determining
phenomenalie the mostsalientdeterminants
oftheexplanandum.
Identifying
what
determinesthe statesofaffairs
responsiblefor
legislators'
and planners'actions,however,is a
taskofa kindwithidentifying
thedeterminants
of any social phenomenon.If,for instance,
plannersrespondto a certaineconomicstate
of affairs,
one accountsforthisstateof affairs,
and perhapstherewithexplainsthe planners'
decisions,byanalyzingit intoitscomponents
an overviewof the nexusesof
and fashioning
forthese
causality
and intelligibility
responsible
components.
Just
as explanations
ofspatialphenomenaare
ofa kindwiththoseofsocialphenomenagenuses of spatial
erally,the possibleexplanatory
properties
are identicalwiththoseofotheraspects of social reality.As discussed,thereare
can
fourwaysinwhichfeaturesofsocialreality
determineand be used to explainotherfeatures:(a) by actingand bringingthese other
features
about,(b) byinducingresponses,(c) by
being somethinglived throughwhich molds
behavior,and (d) by being the object of the
factorsgoverning
action.Actionsalone realize
(a). Spatialphenomena,likeall otherfeatures
of social life,can determineactionand social
phenomenain ways(b)-(d).
Forinstance,a plannerdecides to locate an
officebuildingina givenarea ofa citybecause
a particular
pool oflaborisfoundthere.Insuch
case,a spatialaspectofa socialphenomenonofa particular
theconcentration
kindofworker
in a certainlocale-determinesbehavioras a
it.Spatialphenomenacan also
factorgoverning
determine
actionsbyinducingthem,e.g.,when
in
decide to locatemedicalfacilities
legislators
a particular
area of a statein responseto the
as reported
ofsuchfacilities
spatialdistribution
in a newlyreleasedstudy.Finally,
spatialphenomenadetermine
socialaffairs
bymoldingbehaviorwhenlivedspatialaspectsofphenomena
affecthow people act. Manifoldresearchdiscussesthislastphenomenon,e.g.,Oswald'spioneeringstudy(1970) of how the designand
locationof roomsand objects,togetherwith

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Spatial Ontology and Explanation

the resulting
setupof placesand paths,affects
patientbehaviorin mentalasylums.
These cases demonstratethat space can
"makea difference"
to sociallife.Sayer(1985)
iswrongto maintain
thatitisthecausalpowers
of whatfillsspace, and not also space per se,
thatmake a difference.
When causal powers
are modeledon the powersofan actor,thisis
of course true.When, however,we thinkof
causalpoweras theabilityto induceresponses
or to mold behavior,and acknowledgeadditionallythatspatialpropertiescan be somethingout ofthe knowledgeofwhicha person
performs
a particular
action,itisclearthatsuch
properties,
andnotonlythoseofwhatfills
space,
help determinesocial life.Sayer'spointgoes
through
onlyifcausalpowerisconstruedmerely
as the capacityto open and constrictpossibilitiesand ifspace is conceivedtoo narrowly
as
a powerlessset of relationsamongthe entities
whichdelimitpossibilities.
Itshouldbe notedthattheactionsand states
of affairsthat determinesocial phenomena
themselvesexhibitspatialpropertiesand configurations.
The conditionsunderwhichthese
propertiesand configurations
explain social
phenomenaarethesameas thoseunderwhich
anyaspectof socialrealitydoes. Suppose legislatorsin stateA determinewelfarepayments
partlyon the basisofthe livingconditionsand
job opportunities
of the state'spoorestresidents.Althoughlivingconditionsand job opportunitieshave spatialpropertiesand form
spatialpatterns,
itdoes notfollow,forreasons
parallelto ones discussedabove, that these
propertiesand patternsare partof the explanationof the state'swelfarepayments.
In thiscontext,it is also worthnotingthat,
sincethe phenomenathatdelimitpossibilities
are distributed
oversocialreality,
the possibilitiesopen to people varyfromplace to place.
Forinstance,
foran individual
withspecificsorts
of skills,experience,and knowledge,job opportunitiesare partlydelimitedby available
meansof transportation,
by where particular
sortsof jobs are available,and by what employersat these locales mightdo when confrontedwithpotentialemployeeswiththese
characteristics.
Spatialvariationin job opportunitiesforworkerswiththese characteristics
mightthenbe explainedby the layoutof the
transportation
systemand the different
states
ofaffairs
localesand regions,
that,in different
determineemployerpractices.

665

Sociospatial Connectedness
This section furtherconcretizes my claims
about causalityand explanation by considering
three concepts of sociospatial connectedness.
The firstis a notion of spatial determination
advanced by abstract realism. This school (see
Sayer 1982, 1984) argues thatabstractstructures
govern action. A particularlyclear example
where the structuresconcerned are spatial is
found in Urry(1985). Urrydescribes six types
of spatial division of labor, including regional
specialization,regionaldispersal,and threesorts
of functionalseparation, and then writes:
As we havealreadynotedwe shouldnotanalyze
a givenarea purelyas the productofa singleform
ofthespatialdivisionof labour.To do so, as Sayer
pointsout, is to 'collapseall the historical
results
of severalinteracting
"spatialdivisionsof labor"
intoa rathermisleading
termwhichsuggestssome
simpleunitary
empiricaltrend.'Rather,anysuch
area is 'economically'the overlappingand interdependentproductof a numberof these spatial
divisions
oflabourandattendant
forms
ofindustrial
restructuring
(39;theSayerquotationisfromSayer
1982,80).
The term 'product' is meant literally:the industrial state of any particular region is generated by these divisions. EarlierUrrywrites:
the social world ... is comprised of four-dimen-

sionaltime-spaceentities;
whichbearcomplexand
intime-space
interrelations
with
mutually
modifying
each other;and these have the consequence of
of socialactiviproducingempiricaldistributions
tieswithintimeand space as a resultofthe partial
and variablerealisationof the respectivecausal
powersof theseentities(22).
Can we interpretthese claims compatiblywith
the determinationof social affairsby nexuses
of causalityand intelligibility?
Consider the "functionalseparation" among
management/researchand development in the
"center," skilled labor in old manufacturing
centers,and unskilledlabor in the "periphery."
Interpretthis spatial division of labor as a distributionof differentbundles of activities,factors,and objects among differentsortsof places and paths in differentlocales and regions.
Such an interpretationis necessarylestthis"abstract" structure be disconnected from the
causality and intelligibilitydetermining social
life.Now, such a distributionhas no directgenerativepower in the mannerhumanaction does.
But itprobablydoes determinesocial phenomena at least by being something in response to

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666

Schatzki

or in the knowledgeof whichmanagers,governingofficials,


and workers,
etc. perform
particularactions,and maybealso bybeingsomethingtheexperienceofwhichmoldsbehavior.
So functional
separationsof thissortgenerate
regionalindustrial
featuresbydetermining
the
actionsthatconstitute
orbringaboutthesefeatures.(Recallthatseparationscan do thisonly
iftheactorsinvolvedhave conceptsof them.)
Andtheindustrial
featuresofa regionare "the
and interdependent
overlapping
productof a
numberof thesespatialdivisionsof labour"if
a numberofthesedivisionsdeterminetheactionsthatconstituteor bringabout thosefeatures.These divisionsof labormightalso open
and close offpossibilities
forpeople. It seems
misleading,
however,to referto the delimitaas a "generation"ofaction
tionof possibilities
ifonlybecause the possibilities
such divisions
engenderare moreextensivethanthe actions
thatoccur. In anycase, onlyifabstractstructurescan be insertedintothe nexusesof causalityand intelligibility
determining
social affairscan theygeneratesocialphenomena.
A second concept of sociospatialconnectednessisthesociospatialdialectic,theidea that
socialphenomena"are bothspace-forming
and
. ." (Soja 1980,211;cf.1985,
space-contingent.
98).Thisis clearlya propitiousidea sincesocial
phenomena create social spatialityand are
themselvesto varyingextentsdeterminedby
We mustbe clear,howspatialstatesofaffairs.
ever, about exactlywhat this "dialectic,"or
rathermutualdetermination,
amountsto. Social phenomenaformsocialspace sincesocial
phenomenaare elementsof the nexuses of
and intelligibility
thatgiveriseto discausality
ofactions,factors,
and objectsamong
tributions
places and paths.Spatialphenomenain turn
determinesocialphenomenabecause theyare
amongthe elementsofthesenexusesthatdeterminetheactions,factors,
objects,and places
socialphenomena.
constituting
in hand,we are also
Withthisinterpretation
able to evaluatea more specificcontentthat
Soja gives to his general concept. Capitalist
production,he maintains,
both createsand is
contingentupon uneven developmentbetweencoresand peripheries.
Thisclaimis correctif:(1)thosedistributions
ofactions,factors,
locales
and objectsamongplaces in different
thatconstituteuneven developmentare determinedby the actionsand statesof affairs
constituting
capitalistproduction;and (2) the

developmentoftheactionsand statesofaffairs
productionis inturndecapitalist
constituting
It
terminedby aspects of such distributions.
are metquite
seemsto methattheseconditions
manoftenin economic life.Profit-pursuing
agers designand otherwisehelp bringabout
and financial
the locationpoliciesof industrial
thatcreatecores and peripheries;
institutions
reand how theyconstructthese institutions
flectseconomic and politicalcore-periphery
inlabor
suchas spatialvariations
statesofaffairs
pools.
A thirdconcept of sociospatialconnectedness is spatialdialectics.It is kinto the notion
ofsociospatialdialecticsbutinone ofitsforms
space intothedialectic.Richard
bringsphysical
Peet definesspatialdialecticsas "the nature
movementof the spatialrelaof the historical
tions between environmentally-embedded
suchas that
processes"(1981,107).Distinctions
and environmentallybetweenspatialrelations
embedded processessuggestthat Peet confrom
distinct
assomething
struesspatialrelations
social processes. His claim that we need to
autono"grantto spatialrelationsa relatively
inpartofitsown,with
mousposition,a history
a dialectic in part of its own .. ." (108) only

Accordingto Neil
thatimpression.
strengthens
Smith,Peet erectsa rigid,nevertranscended
"dichotomy"between space and social processes(1981,112; cf.1979,376).
When Peet speaksof spatialrelations,however,he meanssocial relationsand processes
occurringover physicalspace. Thisis evident
onlyinan earlierarticle(1978)wherehe writes
that"spatialrelationsare actuallyrelationsbetween componentsof the social formations
embedded into geographicallocalities..
from
aretheflowofinvestment
(151).Examples
to "periph"worldcentralsocial formations"
and thereturnflowofsurplus
eralformations"
are understoodas
value.Whenspatialrelations
over space, spatial
social relationstranspiring
dialecticsbecomes the developmentof the
connections
over-physical-space-transpiring
between differentsocial phenomena, the
acrossspace betweendif"complexinterplay
. . ." (152).
ferentversionsofa wholeformation
unlikeSoja's,dialecticsdoes
Inthisformulation,
and
betweenspatiality
notconcerninteraction
social phenomenabut the evolutionof social
cum spatialrelations.And the onlysocial-spatialdichotomyPeet need countenanceis one

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SpatialOntologyand Explanation
betweensocialprocessesandthephysical
space
in whichtheyoccur.
PaceSmith,thisdichotomyis perfectly
legitimateand in no need of transcendence.Even
ifsocialphenomenaare partlyphysicaland accordinglyhelp constitutephysicalspace reladifPeetcanstilllegitimately
tionally
construed,
ferentiate
between the space constitutedby
physical
objectsotherthanpeople and thehuwithinit. Ifphysical
manactivitiestranspiring
space istreatedas absolute,thenthereisclearly
nothingwrongwiththe dichotomybetween
space and society.Onlyifone objects,as Smith
of a physicalspace
does, to the incorporation
fromsocialprocessesintothe analysis
distinct
ofsociallife(forhim,the space relevantto social analysisis the spatialpropertiesof matter
understoodas use-values[1981,115]),can one
accuse Peet of a needless,thoughnot illegitiItseemsto me,thatthis
mate,dichotomization.
we wantto retain.Justas there
is a dichotomy
is a sociospatialdialecticbetween social and
spatialphenomena,so, too, is thereone between social phenomenaand physicalspace,
factforsocial
and thisis a not-inconsequential
existence.
Peet does, however,advance one falsedichotomy:that between social relationsand
processesqua abstractentitiesand theirconcretespatialmanifestations.
He differentiates,
forexample,betweenthe abstractprocessof
the build-upof contradictions
between the
forcesand relationsof productionand the
"geographicalspecificities"this process assumesin particular
geographicallocalities.He
even (1977,254) characterizesthisdistinction
as one between social processes and spatial
processes,e.g., the social contradictionbetweencapitaland laborand thespatialcontradictionbetweenthefirst
andthirdworlds.Now,
thereis a perfectly
belegitimatedistinction
tween a type of process(or relation)and its
varyinginstances.It is a mistake,however,to
treata typeofprocessas an abstractentityand
itsinstancesas spatialmanifestations
ofthisentity.One reasonforthisis thattypesof processes,unlikethe abstractprocessesPeet enareconcepts.Theydeterminesociallife
visions,
only when they are factorsgoverningwhat
people do. Peet is wrong,therefore,to aver
thattheabove-mentioned
abstractprocesslies
atthebottomofhistorical
development.There
are no abstractsocial processes with causal
social life,onlyideas of such
powersvis-A-vis

667

processes, ideas which govern action. A claim


of this scope can be true only if historicaldevelopment is determined in the waysdiscussed
earlier by instances of the process now reinterpreted as a type concept.

Conclusion
This paper has outlined an individualistaccount of social spatialityand spatial explanation. Social realityis interrelatedindividuallives.
This conception differsfromprevious formsof
individualismby expanding the "individualist
level" beyond actions and mental states to include a wider range of items constitutiveof
human life:objects, places, settings,a range of
action-governingfactors,and a numberofcausal
transactions.What makes thisaccount individualist is its claim that these items provide the
"material" out of which social realityand phenomena consist. Of course, the account is in
one sense nonindividualistsince it maintains
thatsocial realityis interrelated,not individual,
lives.I claim,however,(1) thatsocial realitycontains nothing that does not consist in features
of interrelatedindividuallives,and (2) that the
above items,into which most featuresof nexuses of lives resolve,are forthe most partcharacteristics of, and identified through a phenomenological analysis of, individual life.
Combined, these two claims justifythe label
'individualist,'thoughadmittedlythisusage differsfromprevious ones.
The above itemsalso provide the "material"
out of which the spatialityof social realityconsists.Social space is a distributionof such items
among places and paths, which automatically
happens along withinterrelatedlivesand which
underlies both the objective dimensions of social spatialityand the constructionof the built
environment.Social phenomena, moreover,as
slices of the nexus of lives, are spatial entities
that consist in distributionsof the above items
among discontinuous configurationsof places
and paths.
Hence, to explain a social phenomenon, including itsspatialfeatures,is to explain a certain
collection of such items. Social explanation in
general, and spatial explanation in particular,is
inherentlyan account of action, its determinants,and itsproducts. This individualismdoes
not implythat social phenomena such as institutions, economic processes, and wars play a

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668

Schatzki

negligiblerole in the marchof history.


Overarchingsocial phenomenacan and do determineactionsinthewaysotherphenomenado.
When,moreover,
one socialphenomenongives
riseto the componentsof another,it causes
the other.Thissituationoccursoftenin social
life.Butall determination
betweensocialphenomena is focused throughindividuals.And
thismeansthat,in orderto graspexactlywhat
rolessocialphenomenado playinsocialaffairs,
we muststudyactionand whatmovespeople
to act. Thisis as trueforthe spatialfeaturesof
socialaffairs
as itisforall otherfeatures.Spatial
featuresmakea difference
to sociallife,but in
the samewaysas otherphenomenado.
I can now summarizethe relevanceof my
analysesforempiricalinvestigation.
First,my
accountofsocialspace,bysupplementing
conceptionsof objectivespace,enablesresearchers to enrichtheirunderstanding
of the spatialityof theirobjects of study.Thisaccount,
however,leavesa numberoffeaturesofsocial
space in need of further
forintheorization,
stance,the relationsbetweensocialspace and
objectivespace, the spatiality
of varioustypes
ofsocialformations
and structures,
and thenatureofspatialoverlapand coincidenceamong
socialphenomena.
Second, my account allows researchersto
evaluateascriptions
ofexplanatory
significance
to spatialaspectsofsocialphenomena.To evaluate the claimthatspatialphenomenonX explainssocial phenomenonY, Y mustfirstbe
analyzedintoitscomponents.The investigator
mustthenascertainwhetherspatialaspectsof
X are elementsof the nexusesof causality
and
intelligibility
responsibleforY's components
(orsomesubsetofthem).Ifcitingtheseaspects
is a defensibleoverviewof the causalityand
intelligibility
at work,the claimis vindicated.
Parallelremarks
applyto theevaluationofpurportedexplanationsof the spatialaspects of
socialphenomena.
My analysisenables investigators,
third,to
renderideascompatiblewiththeactualdeterin social life.An exminingrole of spatiality
isfoundintheanalysis
ampleofsuchrendering
ofsociospatialdialecticsabove,whichgrounds
it in the nexusesof causalityand intelligibility
responsibleforsocialaffairs.
effort
Systematic
could profitably
be directedtowardrescuing
inthiswaythefullpanoplyofsocialtheoretical
conceptsfromthe clutchesofabstracttheory.
What'smore,myaccountidentifies
whatin-

to
mustsearchforiftheyare rightly
vestigators
role to space. Ifa sciascribean explanatory
entistsuspectsthatspatialstatesof affairslie
behindofficelocation,he or she mustuncover
governingand
the factorsand statesof affairs
causingofficelocationdecisions.For,spatial
of office
willbe determinants
statesof affairs
locationonlyiftheyare numberedamongthese
(or are whatin turn
factorsand statesofaffairs
applyto
thelatter).Similarremarks
determines
theexplanationofspatialphenomena.It is imthe
portantto pointout that,sinceuncovering
phenomenathatcause or governaction requiresa graspofactors'concepts,knowledge,
of spatialexplaand moods,the construction
nationsrequiresconsiderablequalitativeand
research.
interpretive
I mightindicatetwoadditionalareas
Finally,
of furtherresearch.First,I have said nothing
about power.I believe,however,thatmyaccount offersa perspectivefromwhichto anbetweenpower
alyzethe mutualconditioning
thistopic
and space, and I plan to investigate
in futurework.7Second, I have ignoredthe
and economic "proactual social, historical,
cesses" responsibleforthe varyingarraysof
lives
places and pathsopened by interrelated
societies.Inat different
timesand in different
theseprocessesisan empiricaltask,
vestigating
out ofwhichwouldintroducethe
thecarrying
and cultural
as yetmissingelementsof history
variationintomyaccount.
Acknowledgments
severalanonI wouldliketo thankJohnPaulJones,
and the Editorof the Annalsfor
ymousreviewers,
commentson earlierversionsofthispaper.I would
also liketo thankJohnPicklesforassistancein preparingthe finalmanuscript.

Notes
1. It mightbe helpfulto explain that phrases such as
"human lives open a nexus of places" mean that
certain featuresof human lifeare responsible for
there being arraysof places, anchored at collections of objects, at and amid which human activity
takes place (this idea is discussed below). For human activityor lifeto "occupy" a place, moreover,
means basicallythat activityoccurs at that place.
Forexample, a place forsleeping is occupied when
someone goes to sleep on the object, say, a bed,
at which that place is anchored.
The idea of space as an opening of places for

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Spatial Ontology and Explanation

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

human activityoriginates with Heidegger and is


discussed with reference to geography by Pickles
(1985). Heidegger, however, did not construe the
occupation of places as a second component of
social space. He thus misses an essential insightof
time-geography,which, in turn, overlooks Heidegger's insight.Pickles's discussion follows Heidegger on this issue.
Giddens's use of the expression 'locale' to encompass rooms, street corners, towns, and the territoriesof nation-statesmightseem to argue against
the claim that he conceives of social spatialityas
an objective space. He writes,for instance, that,
although locales can usually be "designated" in
termsoftheirphysicalproperties,theycan be fully
described only by reference to the routinized social practices that occur withinthem (1984, 118).
Locales are defined solely by reference to interactions and the rules and resources governinginteractionsand not also by reference to what I call
places (and settings).Social space is for Giddens a
preexisting,relationalphysicalspace upon which
is imposed an organization into regionalized domains as a post hoc by-product of what people
do at particularphysical points as governed by
particularrules and resources. Thus, he does not
acknowledge that human lifeautomaticallyopens
arraysof places organized into settingsand that
people occupy theirenvironmentson the basis of
the pre hoc and sometimes intentional organization of environmentsinto such arrays.
A state of affairsis: such and such being the case.
The expression is completely general and encompasses anythingthat can be the case, e.g., actions
being performed,structuresdeveloping, and social phenomena existing.
In sayingthere are differenttypes of causal transaction in social life,I do not mean that there are
differenttypesof causalityat work in social reality,
each with different"metaphysical" properties.
Rather, I mean simplythat the multitudeof specificinstances of entitiesbringingthingsabout in
social lifecan be catalogued into types.
judgments of this sort are extremelysensitive to
factorssuch as interests,existingaccounts, comparisonswithsimilarcases, counterfactualconsiderations,experience, and the contrasts in which
the investigatoris interested.
In a still earlier article (1977), Peet writes that
"[m]arxistgeography ... deal[s] with the interrelationship between social processes on the one
hand and the naturalenvironmentand spatial relationson the other.. . . These processes occur in
certain environments composed of elements of
the natural world and various types of relationships across space" (254). Since in this and other
passages,"spatial relations"are not social relations
stretchedover physicalspace, thisarticleformsan
apt targetfor Smith's jabs. The 1978 article best
clarifiesPeet's intention.
A growingnumber of geographers are examining
the relations between power and space, though
none have approached the subject through the
notion of social space developed here. See, e.g.,
Sack (1986), Agnew (1987), Harvey (1989), Philo
(1989), and Pred (1990).

669

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Submitted

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