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cognitive mapping

  A term first used in geography (see mental map) and in planning (Lynch, 1966), then taken up and adopted by the literary theorist, Fredric Jameson, as a metaphor to describe both one of the chief symptoms of, and a possible solution to, the cultural condition of late capitalism. For Jameson, this latest global form of capitalism has produced a state of radical unrepresentability. Our situation as individual subjects within this new global network leaves us shorn of the ability to grasp any but our most immediate surroundings. We are unable to extrapolate from these surroundings to any larger spatial imaginary which might allow us to represent and understand the new relations of domination.

What we therefore need are \'cognitive maps\', a term that stands for a new aesthetic which is an essential precondition for the renewal of socialist politics in postmodernism. With these mental maps we will once again be able to navigate the totality in which we find ourselves, thereby heightening our sense of our place in the global system and consequently boosting our political passions.

The notion is not without its critics. It seems to rely on a misappropriation of the work of both Kevin Lynch and Henri Lefebvre, an all-or-nothing reduction of time to space, and an implicit denigration of the political understandings of ordinary people (see Homer, 1998). (NJT)

References Homer, S. 1998: Fredric Jameson. Marxism, hermeneutics, postmodernism. Cambridge, Polity Press. Jameson, F. 1991: Postmodernism, or the cultural logic of late capitalism. London: Verso. Jameson, F. 1994: The seeds of time. New York: Columbia University Press. Lynch, K. 1966: The image of the city. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.



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