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Social Stratification

Territorialisation of Space

Bhabani Shankar Nayak

The territorialisation of land has not only resulted in a world structured around the concept of land as private property but has also facilitated the formation of territories at various levels, leading to the segregation of private spaces based on gender, property ownership, and subsequently on the grounds of class, race, caste, tribe, and other forms of marginalisation. This process has unfolded through the establishment of private and public spheres, a dynamic that emerged with the advent of agricultural societies based on land as private property. In such societies, the private sphere was predominantly designated for women, while the public sphere was created for men. Remarkably, this societal framework still reverberates across different regions of the globe today. Examples abound to illustrate the enduring impact of this phenomenon.

In Western Europe and America, racialized ghettos stand as stark reminders of spatial segregation. Likewise, in the UK, the phenomenon of postcode poverty underscores how territorialization manifests even within relatively affluent nations. In India, the division of geographical space and residential properties along caste and religious lines vividly demonstrates how the territorialization of land and private property intertwines with broader societal and economic divisions. In this interconnected narrative, the territorialization of land, private property, and space evolves in tandem. The higher classes, castes, and propertied individuals wield significant influence over various spheres of life, controlling resources and shaping the very fabric of the planet.

The gendered division of labour and discrimination, racialized capitalism, caste-based ghettos, and class-based shanty towns and slums all stem directly from the territorialization of space predicated on property ownership, with land retaining a pivotal role in these dynamics. The gendered division of labour, for instance, is deeply entrenched in societies where land ownership dictates social norms and economic structures. Women often find themselves relegated to domestic roles, constrained by traditional expectations rooted in property ownership patterns. Similarly, racialized capitalism perpetuates inequalities by exploiting marginalised communities, relegating them to inferior living conditions and limited economic opportunities, all within the framework of property ownership delineated by historic racial boundaries.

Caste-based ghettos and class-based shanty towns and slums further illustrate how territorialization perpetuates social stratification. In these contexts, land ownership serves as a stark marker of privilege, with marginalized groups relegated to marginalized spaces, perpetuating cycles of poverty and exclusion. In essence, the territorialization of space based on property ownership creates and perpetuates systems of inequality, where access to resources, opportunities, and basic rights is intricately linked to one's position within the property ownership hierarchy. Until these underlying structures are addressed, the consequences of territorialization will continue to shape and perpetuate societal divisions, political marginalization, and economic injustices.

The territorialization of space poses significant challenges for working people, affecting their accessibility to, availability of, and distribution networks for essential resources. These challenges are often shaped by the principles of purchasing power within the market. All kinds of markets themselves are stratified based on the purchasing power of individuals, delineating who frequents which streets for shopping and thereby defining their social status, economic influence, and political standing within society. In this paradigm, individuals become characterized by the commodities they consume, leading to a society where material possessions serve as markers of individualistic identity.

In commodity-conscious societies, where dead commodity defines people with life and consumerism reigns supreme, there is a heightened sense of orderliness and a culture of compliance. In such a society, human beings behave like orderly objects in the markets. Individuals conform to market-led societal norms dictated by consumption patterns, making such societies easier to govern. Consequently, the territorialization of space emerges as both a strategy and a tool of governance, wielded without necessarily instigating revolutionary consciousness or significant social and political upheavals. This dynamic underscores the intricate relationship between space, consumption, and governance, wherein the organization of physical space and access to resources serve as mechanisms of control and social stratification. Until there is a shift away from the commodification of human existence and a re-evaluation of societal values, the territorialization of space will continue to perpetuate systems of inequality and reinforce existing exploitative power structures dominated by propertied class.

The territorialization of space fosters a regressive consciousness rooted in the ideals of 'me,' 'mine,' and 'mine' only. This mindset, entrenched in notions of individual ownership and exclusive possession, promotes a narrow worldview focused solely on personal gain and preservation of one's territory. At its core, this regressive consciousness prioritizes the protection of individual interests above collective well-being, leading to a fragmentation of communities and a breakdown of social cohesion. Rather than fostering collaboration and mutual support, it breeds competition and distrust among individuals and groups vying for control over limited resources and spaces.

Moreover, this mindset perpetuates a cycle of scarcity mentality, wherein individuals perceive resources as finite and hoard them out of fear of scarcity, further exacerbating inequalities and depriving others of access to essential goods and opportunities. Ultimately, the regressive consciousness spawned by the territorialization of space impedes progress toward a more inclusive and equitable society, as it reinforces divisions and hampers efforts to address systemic injustices. To counteract this, it is imperative to cultivate a collective consciousness that prioritizes cooperation, solidarity, empathy and shared responsibility for the well-being of all members of society and the planet.

The fencing of space driven by territorialization has a profound effect on human consciousness, narrowing its scope and eroding the inherent and integral relationship between individuals and both their fellow human beings and the natural world. This separation is not incidental but rather central to the survival of capitalism as a system, which thrives on the principles of private property and profit. By delineating boundaries, destroying collective foundations of society and human lives, and enclosing spaces, territorialization reinforces a sense of individualism and isolation, severing the ties that bind communities together and disconnecting individuals from the ecosystems in which they exist. This isolation serves the interests of capitalism by atomizing society, making it easier to exploit human beings and nature for profit.

The emphasis on private property inherent in territorialization perpetuates a mindset of ownership and control, where the accumulation of wealth and possessions becomes the primary measure of success and status. This mindset fosters competition rather than cooperation, exacerbating inequalities and undermining collective efforts to address pressing social and environmental challenges. In this way, the fencing of space and the separation it engenders not only diminish human consciousness but also perpetuate the conditions that sustain capitalism.

In search of alternatives, it is essential to challenge the notion of private property as sacrosanct and to foster a deeper sense of connection and interdependence among individuals and with the natural world. Only by transcending the boundaries imposed by territorialization can people cultivate a more just, equitable, and sustainable society.

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Frontier
Vol 56, No. 48, May 26 - Jun 1, 2024