The Sociology of Space – by Martina Löw

Academic writing and the research problem
November 19, 2016
Cities as systems of encounter
December 19, 2016

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We finally have the English version of Raum-soziologie, by German urban sociologist Martina Löw. Bringing to mind Simmel’s well known expression, The Sociology of Space: Materiality, Social Structures and Action has just been published by Palgrave McMillan from the 2001 original.

Personally, I appreciate how Löw relates concepts of space to views of society deeply nurtured in social theory, bringing theorists – from Simmel to Giddens and Bourdieu – to interpretations of how space is part of action – something I also have tried to explore through different social theories and ontologies.

“In this book, the author develops a relational concept of space that encompasses social structure, the material world of objects and bodies, and the symbolic dimension of the social world. Löw’s guiding principle is the assumption that space emerges in the interplay between objects, structures and actions. Based on a critical discussion of classic theories of space, Löw develops a new dynamic theory of space that accounts for the relational context in which space is constituted. This innovative view on the interdependency of material, social, and symbolic dimensions of space also permits a new perspective on architecture and urban development.”

Despite the ‘spatial turn’ in the social sciences since the works of Giddens, Soja and Harvey among others in the 1980s and 1990, space is still far from being a central condition in the theorisation of the social world.

In that sense, Löw has been a maverick of the study of society-space relations – and one emerging from the field of sociology. This publication shall bring her work to a much larger attention in the English speaking world – especially considering intellectual territories still distant from each other, such as social theory and urban studies.

About the Author

Martina Löw is Professor of Sociology at the Technische Universität Berlin, Germany. Her areas of specialization and research are sociological theory, urban sociology, space theory, and cultural sociology. She had been visiting scholar at universities in the United States, Sweden, Brazil, France and Austria. From 2011 until 2013 she was president of the German Sociological Association, and as a member of numerous advisory boards, she is currently involved in several urban development projects.

Endorsements

“In an intellectual landscape whose dominant voice is from cultural geography, this is a true sociological theory of space: a critique of positivist and Newtonian subject-object space, in whose place Löw proffers, neither consciousness nor being-in-the-world, but (with Georg Simmel) a figurational and social-relational constitution of space.”

Scott Lash, Research Director, Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths University of London

“This translation of Martina Löw’s book is an important contribution to the theorizing of space and place. Enormously rich in its breadth and deeply rigorous, Löw engages with a range of theoretical positions from the global/local debate to those on bodies in space and with spatial forms as diverse as networks, neighborhoods, and territories. She presents complex concepts with absolute clarity. The Sociology of Space is an essential read for sociologists but also for all students of the city, its planning, and design.”

Jyoti Hosagrahar, Director, Sustainable Urbanism International, Columbia University

“This book helps the reader to better grasp what seems like a paradox: the category of ‘space’ in social sciences is neither spaces of flows nor spaces of places. Martina Löw develops the idea of relational space, the inter-relationship of human agency and material structure. A highly recommended read!”

Alain Thierstein, Professor of Urban Development, Technical University of Munich

This highly recommended book may be found here.

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