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The Role Of ‘Spaces’ In The Progressive Worldview

A fairly recent development in leftist practice has been the creation of “safe spaces” on college campuses. These are usually rooms filled with plush toys, coloring books, soothing music, and cute cat videos, and are ostensibly intended to comfort students triggered by some microaggression inflicted upon them by an agent of the cis-white-hetero-patriarchy. Lampooning these safe spaces and the coddled children curling up in them has become something of a sport among right-leaning folks: the real world, after all, is nowhere near safe, nor should it be.

With so much attention paid to the safety aspect of safe spaces, the “space” part goes unremarked, and this is a shame. Leftists have grown fond of “space” as an intellectual category. Analysis of space and spaces can shed light on the leftist mind.

First off, when we’re talking about spaces, actual space should not be considered a necessary component. While many spaces do correspond to physical spaces, others do not: online message boards, social media networks, or even more intangible things can all constitute spaces. Indeed, multiple spaces can intersect and overlap in the same space at the same or different times. A given university, being of particular interest here, is a space, and the various classes, departments, dormitories, clubs, Greek organizations, and what-have-you are all sub-spaces; they are contained within the larger space” of the university. Spaces are generated by the interactions of people, which may or may not have anything to do with their physical proximity.

A good analogy for understanding spaces comes by way of mathematics in the form of topology. A topological space is a set equipped with a topology, that is to say that some subsets are declared to be open. Conceptually, topology studies notions of “nearness,” as two points contained in the same open set are in some sense “near” to each other. Metric spaces, sets equipped with a notion of distance, are a special kind of topological space, but a topology need not be generated by a metric. Indeed, it is even possible to have a metric space equipped with a topology completely unrelated to the metric. There isn’t much point in studying such spaces, but they can exist.

Now, leftists must always add a layer of madness to anything they touch, so while spaces are generated by human interactions, when those interactions take place in physical space, that space becomes part of a space or even its own space altogether. A library, a university center, a dorm room—all of these physical locations are spaces, still within the university space. Nearby restaurants, say, are also connected to the university space, even though they are not strictly part of the university itself. The boundaries of a space are often fuzzy and difficult to pin down precisely, always up for debate, just the way the Left likes them.

It is crucial to note, however, that spaces do have boundaries; it is not only possible to move in and out of a space, but such movement has potentially great significance as well, depending on the spaces in question. Nor are these boundaries completely permeable: a student who intrudes on a class may find himself literally run out of the classroom by the instructor (I have personally witnessed this behavior), and the precious snowflakes turn positively bellicose when any hint of racism, sexism, etc. enters into their domain.

Each space is its own miniature polity: it has territory, citizenship, a legal code, and a ruling power. Consider a literature course as an archetypal space: the territory consists of the classroom during class time, as well as the instructor’s office and any online fora utilized by the students; citizenship is limited to the class roster along with the instructor, TAs, and any others the instructor chooses to include; the legal code consists of the syllabus, the university code of conduct, and a variety of unspoken rules concerning proper behavior in class and the range of acceptable opinions; and the ruling power is the instructor, though he is ultimately subordinate to the department, the college, and the university as a whole. This nesting of powers is crucial for the Leftist worldview: at the very top, encompassing all spaces is the “world space” ruled by the evil white Christian capitalist cis-hetero-patriarchy.

The name of the game, as far as the Left is concerned, is to dethrone the evil white guys at the top and seize control of the world space for themselves. While the forces of evil dominate the world space and hold sway over every one and every thing in it, there remain some pockets of resistance which the evil masters of the universe have somehow been unable or unwilling to eradicate. By joining forces, these rag-tag rebels can mount a resistance that will eventually overthrow the evil empire. Until that time, however, the Left remains the underdog; no matter how many spaces annexed by the Left, the dark lords still rule the world space.

Now, by itself, this notion of space isn’t all that interesting. What makes spaces interesting is twofold: 1) the crude structure of space forms the foundation, the base, for various other structures and the world in which political battles take place; and 2) the connections between spaces are often quite intricate. To return to the mathematical analogy, a topological space may not have a lot to speak of, but if you overlay a vector space structure, if you embed the space in a larger one, or if you consider the morphisms between spaces, then it becomes quite fascinating.

Space makes possible a variety of inquiries, and I plan on exploring some of these possibilities in the future, but for now let’s look at some of the pros and cons of this bare-bones concept. Space has a fair bit to recommend it as an intellectual tool, but it is not without flaws.

First, the pros. The most obvious application of space comes from the fact that leftist think in these terms, so understanding space is simply part and parcel to knowing thy enemy. Seeing the world in terms of “spaces” allows one to create a battlemap, identifying enemy strong points and choosing one’s battles and tactics accordingly. Leftists are accustomed to dealing with people who don’t understand a word they’re saying; speaking their tongue provides an advantage in the contest against them.

On a more constructive note, spaces include Männerbünde. A Männerbund meets all the criteria for a space—territory, citizenry, law code, and leadership structure. Much more must be said about Männerbünde in general, but it is reassuring that if we talk about spaces, then we can still speak of this most basic form of human organization.

Finally, use of spaces helps avoid the trap of atomistic individualism. Though individuals bounce around in their respective spaces almost like atoms, they’re still part of their spaces.  Within any given space, individuals may be considered atomic, but of far greater significance are their connections with others, i.e. the spaces to which they belong, and how they interact with, obeying or disobeying, the rules and powers of their respective spaces. The only truly atomistic individual is the hermit off in the desert somewhere, isolated from society altogether.

Now for the cons, really just one, but a big one. I am quite convinced that space as a concept can be disentangled from its many leftist applications, but there is one destructive end to which space lends itself quite readily, and that is total politicization. Because every space is like its own miniature polity, every human interaction is political. If our goal is to remove certain spheres of life from the interminable war of politics, then spaces are singularly unsuited to the task. For now, while the contest with leftism rages, the issue is negligible, but after the Restoration, the concept of space will have to be neutralized to avoid turning every social disagreement into a battleground. Removing insecure power will help solve this problem.

The main thing to remember is that spaces are a tool, and tools are necessarily specialized. Using a hammer to remove food particles from between your teeth is a bad idea, and trying to sink a nail into a board with a toothpick will likewise end poorly. If “space” is a useful concept, then use it; if it is not, then don’t.

  • Nemon

    I’ve also been intrigued by the leftist concept of “spaces” and have thought for a while that it must have evolved from the idea of “Temporary Autonomous Zones” in 1990s-era anarchism.