No theory forbids me to say "Ah!" or "Ugh!", but it forbids me the bogus theorization of my "Ah!" and "Ugh!" - the value judgments. - Theodor Julius Geiger (1960)

Space and Spatial Order of Society

Immanuel Kant defined space as the possibility of being together. Indeed, space becomes meaningful through social interactions.

Social structures like states can occupy specific spaces exclusively. Boundaries – either natural (mountains, rivers) or purely geometric (political borders) - define the unity and cohesiveness of social groups. Boundaries reflect the internal coherence of social groups and the dynamic relationship between neighboring groups. The narrowness or breadth of the boundary's framework depends on how well internal tensions are managed; it affects how the group's cohesive energy is distributed and how tensions within the group are managed. A broad framework allows for internal expansion without hitting boundaries, while a narrow framework constrains even small groups, causing outward pressure.

Spatial frameworks affect any group congregation; they influence behaviors like impulsivity and mob mentality. Large open spaces foster feelings of freedom, while overcrowded or confined spaces amplify individual and collective fervor. Darkness can merge the significance of narrow and wide frameworks, creating a feeling of closeness among individuals while simultaneously evoking a sense of limitless space, enhancing collective excitement and unpredictability.

The settling of groups and individuals influences their structure. Settled groups often have more defined legal and social frameworks than nomadic groups. Spatial immobility, such as fixed property, stabilizes economic and social relationships. Fixed spatial points, like cities or churches, act as pivots for social and economic interactions, fostering commerce and community solidarity. The presence of a fixed point stabilizes otherwise fluid and dynamic interactions.
Historical naming of houses, rather than numbering, reflected a sense of spatial individuality and personal connection to place, contrasting with the modern rational and systematic identification by numbers and straight, systematic streets. Modern planning reflects a rational and time-saving approach to space, contrasting with the organic, intuitive layout of rural areas. This rationalization mirrors broader social and political shifts towards more constructed, organized communities.

The physical distance between individuals or groups influences their relationships. Proximity can foster strong bonds or intense conflicts, while distance may necessitate abstraction and intellectual connections. The capacity to manage these spatial tensions depends on the group's level of abstraction and intellectual development. For primitive societies, physical proximity is crucial for social cohesion as their imagination struggles to conceptualize solidarity at a distance. This is contrasted with more developed societies, where abstract connections can be maintained despite physical separation. In urban environments, close physical proximity often leads to indifference due to constant contact with numerous people. Conversely, in rural settings, relationships with neighbors play a significant role, and direct democracy thrives in spatially compact areas where citizens can frequently gather.
A minority group's spatial arrangement—whether dispersed or concentrated—affects its power dynamics. Dispersed groups may avoid persecution through invisibility, while concentrated groups can offer mutual support and effective resistance.

The spatial arrangement of populations influences governance structures. For instance, a dispersed population may favor centralization to maintain order, whereas a concentrated group might support decentralized, autonomous governance. Spatial factors significantly shape sociological forms and relationships, influencing the balance between centralization and autonomy, as well as the intensity and nature of social interactions.

Human mobility

Nomadic life, characterized by endless wandering and returning to familiar places, leads to a suppression of internal group differentiation and often results in despotism. This is due to the mobility of property and the lack of stable land-based support, which fosters male despotism in patriarchal structures. In contrast, sedentary societies develop more complex political organizations due to stable land ownership.
Wandering creates a dependency among group members, promoting a form of spiritual communism and intimacy that transcends individual differences. The need for protection drives nomads together, while spatial separation for resources leads to mental separation. This dynamic is seen in traveling merchants and military groups, where mobility fosters a unique social unity. Wandering individuals form transient yet intense bonds due to their liberation from familiar environments and the imminent separation from new acquaintances. This phenomenon also extends to temporary communities, like those of traveling merchants or soldiers, where brief interactions can lead to remarkable confidences and a sense of anonymity.
Examples include medieval kings and judges who traveled to maintain political unity and the mobility of religious figures to promote religious cohesion. Modern parallels are seen in political and religious propaganda using mobile units to reach dispersed populations.

The ethical obligation to aid travelers reflects the broader social interaction and unity they produce. Religious and social systems have historically supported travelers, recognizing their unique vulnerabilities and contributions to societal cohesion. Within a group, there can be a division between those who are settled and those who are mobile, leading to inherent antagonism. Mobile individuals, like vagabonds and adventurers, embody restlessness and often become societal outcasts, perceived as threats by the settled population. This dynamic creates a parasitic relationship, where the mobile members rely on the settled ones for survival but are simultaneously persecuted. Mobility provides both offensive and defensive advantages for vagabonds, allowing them to evade persecution.

From physical presence to mobility

The organization of society can transition from kin-based to spatially-based systems, facilitating political and economic unity. In economic terms, the differentiation of production spaces can either lead to wandering tradespeople or localized market areas, with the latter being more rational and organized. Territorial governance often symbolizes sovereignty over people, with historical examples showing a transition from feudal land ownership dictating personal governance to more abstract territorial sovereignty.
Centralized governance often leads to distinct spatial arrangements. Changes in political conditions often necessitate moving capitals. Among tribes, the ruler's city moves with him, illustrating the personalized nature of governance.

Social entities (families, clubs, regiments, universities) often have fixed localities, distinguishing them from more fluid associations like friendships or temporary work groups. Early communities relied heavily on shared spaces to maintain social unity, a practice seen in various cultures. Historically, legal and social bonds were tied to physical presence, as seen in medieval guilds and communal laws, reflecting a time when spatial proximity was essential for social unity. The modern state's allowance for mobility contrasts with the earlier necessity of physical presence for maintaining social bonds.

Empty Spaces as Social Dividers and Connectors

Empty spaces, such as deserts or neutral territories, often served to separate groups, providing protection while maintaining distance. These spaces also facilitated neutral grounds for trade and interaction, especially among groups in constant conflict, embodying a principle of neutrality in spatial terms. Neutral spaces, such as those used for commerce among primitive groups, highlight the impartiality of space in facilitating interactions without hostility. This principle extends to various social and economic interactions, where neutral zones allow for engagement without encroaching on the other's territory.

Simmel, G. (1908), Der Raum und die räumlichen Ordnungen der Gesellschaft, in: Soziologie, p. 617-708, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot.