San Diego Law Review


Paul Babie

Library of Congress Authority File


Document Type



This Article explores, such a spatial turn in the case of property theory requires further elaboration and exploration. First, analytically, the spatial turn can be used to reassemble what we already know about property to recognize expressly the spatial dimension of property, thus revealing what has always been there but which has rarely been named and discussed: property emerges from, exists in, and is replicated through space. Second, and equally important, normatively, revealing the spatial dimension adds context to the social understanding of property and thereby allows us to see and encourage further exploration of the role of property as both the source of spatial injustice and a vehicle for achieving “spatial justice.” Part II uses the work of urban sociologist and planning theorist Edward W. Soja to argue that human life comprises three components: (1) history and temporality, or what Soja calls “historicality”; (2) social context and society, or “sociality”; and (3) space, both physical and socially constructed, or “spatiality.” Taken together, and to emphasize their interrelatedness, Soja calls these an ontological “trialectic.” Rather than privileging historicality and sociality over spatiality, as most theoretical discussions of human ontology traditionally do, it is important to give each dimension of this trialectic equal importance with the others. In the absence of any of the three elements, it is impossible to understand fully human life lived in society and those instances where justice is denied to its members. Parts III and IV of this Article use Soja’s spatial scaffolding to see property anew, with the obvious spatial dimension brought to the foreground of a discussion of property. Part III of this Article uses the ontological trialectic to reassemble what we already know about property. This demonstrates that the theory of property implicitly recognizes the importance of addressing and responding to each of the three ontological fields. Overlooking any of the three makes it difficult to understand how property is central to human life. Part IV shows why this restructuring is important. Recognizing the interwoven complexity to and inseparability and interdependence of the ontological elements of property allows space an explicit role in defining what property is, when it exists, and how it is central to and affected by human life. But more importantly, it reveals how property is the cause of spatial injustice, which opens the possibility of using property as a vehicle both to seek and to achieve spatial justice. This latter task, how it is that property can seek and achieve spatial justice, is not one that is fully developed in this Article. Rather, although it points to that possibility, this Article identifies the types of spatial injustice in which property can be implicated, leaving to future work the task of recrafting property as a vehicle of achieving spatial justice. Still, although that task is left for another day, it is clear that the path, at least in a rough way, lies in the same processes through which injustice occurs. Part IV, therefore, reflects upon the emerging definition of spatial injustice, how property is one source of such injustice, and how recognizing the spatial dimension may allow us to see and to remedy instances of it. Part V concludes.