Social order and the blank figure

Hetherington, Kevin and Lee, Nick (2000). Social order and the blank figure. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 18(2) pp. 169–184.




Our aim in this paper is to introduce the figure of the underdetermined blank into issues of social and spatial order. We argue that forms of social order habitually make tacit use of blank figures. Beginning with examples of the blank figure as they appear in games of cards and dominos, we show how the joker and the double-blank domino, respectively, allow for the conditions of both stasis and change to develop within an order. Such blanks are underdetermined or ambiguous figures that are constitutionally indifferent to heterogeneity. Blanks have the capacity to figurally represent the presence of absence in a known social order. Through the indifference that absence has to order, blank figures are able to form links and coordinations within heterogeneity to produce what pass for homogeneous social orders. They are figures of topological complexity that allow for connections and spacings to be made that unsettle Euclidean geometric assumptions about order through its representation in terms of regions, scale, and boundedness. Furthermore, this same indifference ensures that any such coordination remains open to change. We describe blank figures' ability to provide the conditions of possibility of both stasis and change in terms of their motility. The blank figure allows us to build an account of social order as a switching between stasis and change which treats both as emergent effects of the same ordering practices.

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