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Brief review of the ideas of social space and time

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2.2. Brief review of the ideas of social space-time

TetraSociology[1] is a variant of the multidimensional, pluralistic model of the social world based o­n the theory of social space-time. This is a global model of society in construction of social space-time (SST). It poses a complicated epistemology problem. However, solving it, o­ne will be enabled to socially construct[2] qualitatively new global models of society, o­ne of which - TetraSociology - is outlined below.

Usually, SST gets reduced to physical, natural space-time or substituted with it. Certainly, SST includes the physical o­ne and is based o­n it, but can not be reduced to it. When A.Giddens discusses the virtues of four spatial zones/distances suggested by E.Hall, which arise in interpersonal communication, or peculiarities of spatial-temporal zoning in urban architecture and planning[3], he speaks about physical space-time within the framework of socium and not about social. However elsewhere he says it is necessary to "integrate time into social theory"[4].

SST is not just a form of society's existence - it is society itself. As Castells argues, social space is not a reflection or a photograph of society - "it is society itself"[5]. The same is true about social time. Construction of SST is a simultaneous modelling of the social world o­n all levels, from world-systems down to the micro-individual. Let us review some ideas about SST.

One of the first sociologists to raise the question of SST was G.Simmel (1858-1918). He reduced society to the interaction of individuals, and interaction, to space and time as pure "social forms" in the Kantian sense. Purity of these forms means that they are o­nly necessary conditions, but not at all agents of interaction. Thus, detaching the "form of space and time" from social content Simmel in fact reduced it to a physical characteristic and didn't go beyond raising the question of a truly social space and time. In some cases, however, he does treat spatial phenomena as having a specific social characteristic. For instance, writing about borders between states and communities he defined them as "sociological facts having a spatial form"[6].

I.Wallerstein argues that the traditional sociological culture of Durkheim, Marx and Weber was blind to the problem of social time (and space, we would add - L.S.) and posited its perpetuity, as in Newton's mechanics, or a simple sequence of events. This culture recognised, o­n o­ne hand, an eternal time, o­n the other, an episodic o­ne. However, neither is social time, i.e. time conditioned and created by society. F.Braudel's concept fundamentally challenged this culture, suggesting a social reality that occurs in two kinds of social time: in structural time, which is long but not eternal, and medium cyclical time within the structures. Both kinds of time are grounded in systemic analysis of society. Both are social facts. Braudel is a pioneer of the notion of the social construction of time. This sort of time had been basically ignored by historians and sociologists. Braudel's concept is a protest against ignoring social time[7].

P.Sorokin and R.Merton were probably the first to explore specifically social time in a sociocultural form. They formulated a fundamental dependence of social time o­n social structures: "system of time varies along with social structure," while the reference points of social time are defined by socially significant events. Their social time has social roots and cultural content[8].

P.Sorokin contributed a lot to the theory of social space as well. He distinguished social space from geometrical space and reduced it to the human population of the Earth and to the system of social relations between individuals, groups and populations, which constitute the space's coordinates. If Euclidean space is three-dimensional, then social space is multidimensional, having more than three dimensions. Sorokin distinguished in it horizontal and vertical (stratified) parameters[9].

P.Bourdieu creates a fundamental model of social space. He approaches society as multidimensional space, sociology being "a social topology." Sociology "can represent the social world as a multidimensional space." The structure of social space consists of the "ensemble" of four "fields" of practice: economic, social, cultural, and political, which determines its multidimensionality. The fields are connected by "habitus." The struggle for social space and for power over it is centred around four appropriate resources as "capitals": economic, social, cultural, political or "symbolical." "The structure of social space is determined ... by the structure of distribution of capital and profits specific for each particular field"[10].

P.Sztompka argues that "time, as space, is a universal context of social life." He approaches time as a constituent of any social change. He distinguishes two types of time: "quantitative," i.e. physical - hours and calendars -, and "qualitative," social, which is regulated by society. He distinguishes six functions of social time, which are determined by society's activity. Time has the form of a resource which can be consumed, skimped, distributed[11].

The need in specifically social spatial-temporal generalisation is realised most fully in M.Castells' concept of the network/ information society. This concept identifies society with social structure and reduces to three very general components: space, time, technology[12]. New society's space is built upon streams of capitals, information, technologies, organisational interactions, with these streams forming a network. The space of resources streams is the prevailing spatial form of network society, this form being built over the physical space of places[13].

Network society creates new temporality, which Castells calls "timeless time" engendered by information networks' attempts to annihilate time. Streams space changes the time's shape. "Timeless time, as I called our society's prevailing temporality, emerges when network society's characteristics create systematic perturbation in the sequence of things... Abolishment of sequence creates undifferentiated time identical with eternity... Momentary transactions of capital, flexible enterprise, varied working time of life, erosion of life cycle... are fundamental phenomena characterised of network society... In fact, most people and most places in our world live in a different temporality"[14]. With all the due credit given to Castells' concept of time, it has, first, a certain fantastic and utopian quality, and second, it lacks constructive parameters of network society's SST.

The general conclusion of this brief review is that SST is not just a physical place or a sequence of events in eternal time. Social space and time are fundamental social facts, parameters and dimensions of society, which constitute it as a whole, supplementing physical space-time, incorporating it and are incorporated into it. TetraSociology elaborates these topological ideas integrating them in a new, postpluralistic theory of SST as four-dimensional social topology and chronology.

[1] TetraSociology (till 1998 it named 'Sphere approach') , it ground and more 70 examples of it application during 25 years are represented in dozens of publications, including three monographs of the author:

  • Sphere Approach: Philosophy, Democracy, Market, Human. St.-Petersburg, 1992, 368 pages.
  • Sociology for Pragmatics. From Monism to Tetrism. Part 1, St.-Petersburg, 1999, 376 pages.
  • TetraSociology is the Revolution of Social Thinking, the Way of Harmonization and Prosperity. St.-Petersburg, 2000, 168 pages.
  • Last common article for the first time published in the central sociological journal: TetraSociology - sociology of four measurements. To statement of a problem // Sociological studies, 2001, № 9, p.20-28.

[2] Berger, P. and Luckmann, T. Social Construction of Reality. Moscow, 1995, Academia-Center.

[3] Giddens A. Sociology. M., 1999, p.108-113, 525-526.

[4] Giddens A. Central Problems in Social Theory. London: Macmillan, 1979, p.198.

[5] Castells, M. Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. Moscow, 2000, p.385.

[6] Simmel G. Lebensanschauung: Vier metaphysische Kapatel. Munchen; Leipzig, 1918, 687-698.

[7] Wallerstein I. The Heritage of Sociology, the Promise of Social Science // Current Sociology, 1999, Vol. 47 No. 1, p.12-15.

[8] Sorokin P., Merton R. Social time. A methodological and functional analysis // American Journal of Sociology, 1937, 42, 5, p.615-629.

[9] Sorokin, P. Man. Civilization. Society. Moscow, 1992, p.298-302.

[10] Bourdieu, P. Sociology of Policy. Moscow, 1993, p.36-37.

[11] Sztompka, P. Sociology of Social Alterations. Moscow, 1996, p.67-83.

[12] Castells, M. Power of Identity // A New Postindustrial Wave o­n West: Anthology. Moscow, 1999, p.302.

[13] Castells, M. Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. Moscow, 2000, p.384-394. Castells, M. Materials for an Exploratory Theory of Network Society. - The British Journal of Sociology, 2000, 51 (1), p.5, 10-11.

[14] Castells, M. Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. Moscow, 2000, p.402-433. Castells, M. Materials for an Exploratory Theory of Network Society. - The British Journal of Sociology, 2000, 51 (1), p.14.

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