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The Hermeneutics of the Urban Spatial Sociologies of Simmel, Benjamin and Lefebvre


Sociology as a discipline has a long history of hermeneutic approaches to understanding the complexity of interpreting meanings and actions. However, there is less emphasis on the contribution of sociologists to theories of space and spatial theories. Social life takes place and is shaped and moulded not only by actions but the meanings and values that are attached through everyday life and practice in, through and to space. This chapter will provide a discursive introduction to the works of three seminal sociologists whose theories and analysis explicitly address the spatial dimensions of social interaction, of socio-spatial formations, of the impact and influence of the social production of space. That is, the works of Georg Simmel (the first ‘sociologist of space’), of Walter Benjamin (social and cultural critic of the city of modernity) and of Henri Lefebvre (the major influence in the spatial turn of the social sciences). Whilst I do not claim that any or all of these theorists would have identified themselves with an explicitly hermeneutic approach, philosophy or method a hermeneutic analysis can be applied to their works to elucidate the practical application of their insights and perspectives. Taking space seriously is not only important for the social and human sciences but also for understanding space as an essential element of hermeneutic practice. Each of these theorists has an explicit focus on the city and the urban which can be treated hermeneutically as a text-analogue. That is, from the social, cultural and historical context in which we are situated we can seek to interpret and understand these theorists of space and spatial theories to analyse and explain the similarities and differences, the continuities and contrasts with our own urban times, experiences, spaces and places. Key Words: Simmel, Benjamin, Lefebvre, the city/urban as text-analogue.


(2017). The Hermeneutics of the Urban Spatial Sociologies of Simmel, Benjamin and Lefebvre. In Place Space and Hermeneutics.

Acceptance Date Mar 30, 2017
Publication Date Apr 3, 2017
Book Title Place Space and Hermeneutics
ISBN 978-3-319-52212-8
Keywords phenomenology
Publisher URL

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