Leibniz, Lefebvre and the spatial turn in law – Isolde de Villiers

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This contribution takes as its point of departure the spatial turn in law and the notion of spatial justice. It traces the term ‘spatial justice’ as introduced through the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act and it looks at the underlying view of space that has influenced the spatial turn in law. It furthermore investigates the ways in which the spatial turn in law has been influenced by the thinking of Henri Lefebvre, who relies on a Leibnizian conception of space. Lastly the link between Leibniz and legal positivism is considered in order to reach the final conclusion in the form of a caution against merely adding the language of spatial justice to an approach to space that remains caught up in abstract space. This will only further entrench existing fault lines in society. For this conclusion the work of Roger Berkowitz is central. Berkowitz argues convincingly that the work of Leibniz was central in the development of legal positivism, despite Leibniz in general being considered as a natural law thinker. The same applies to spatial justice theory, where the work of Leibniz is central: it may present the possibilities of another law – the law as it ought to be. The law conceptualised as ‘ought’ instead of ‘is’ would promote reconciliation. Alternatively, spatial justice can simply present the law as it ‘is’ and reconfirm and deepen the chasms in our world.

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