Lively debates on the spatiality of social relations occur regularly in the social sciences. However, these debates often run their course without major impact on empirical inquiries into matters spatial, especially where they appear too abstract, abstruse, or one-dimensional to bear on concrete research. This essay seeks to reframe these debates. As previous advocates of a scalar turn, we now question the privileging, in any form, of a single dimension of socio-spatial relations, scalar or otherwise. We believe that this contributes to an unreflexive ‘churning’ of spatial turns, leading to short intellectual product life cycles for key socio-spatial concepts, limiting opportunities for learning through theoretical debate, empirical analysis, and critical evaluation of such concepts. The limits of one-dimensionalism are also reflected in several methodological tendencies in contemporary socio-spatial theory, including: theoretical amnesia and exaggerated claims to conceptual innovation; the use of chaotic concepts rather than rational abstractions; overextension of concepts and their imprecise application; concept-refinement to the neglect of empirical evaluation; and an appeal to loosely defined metaphors over rigorously demarcated research strategies. After sketching these problems and their reflection in more or less one-sided analyses, we argue for a more systematic recognition of polymorphy– the organization of socio-spatial relations in multiple forms and dimensions – in socio-spatial theory.
"Bob Jessop, Neil Brenner, Martin Jones, 2008. The definitive, peer-reviewed and edited version of this article is published in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 26, 3, 389-401, 2008, doi:10.1068/d9107"