Basics of property spaces
Why do people have Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers in their cars or
smartphones? Probably to knowwhere they are or how to getwhere theywant to go.
This is achieved by a system of coordinates, based on latitudes in relation to the
equator and longitudes in relation to the Greenwich meridian. These are properties,
building a property space that makes it possible to orient, to answer the questions
‘where am I?’ and ‘how do I get to where I want to go?’ In an analogous way, we can
build property spaces with other dimensions in social science. In similarity with the
property space that is the basis ofGPS, this is not only to find outwherewe are but also
how to go further. Where we are means to keep track of concepts and typologies as
building blocks of theories, while where to go means how to theorize. We start this
chapter on the basics of property spaces by presenting the way in which they are built
up, or what constitutes them. After pointing out that authors sometimes let the
property space they build on stay hidden behind the text, we discuss three basic
procedures for using property spaces in social science theoretical work: house-
keeping, developing a terminology and elaborating on already existing theories.