Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more
Standard view
Full view
of .
Save to My Library
Look up keyword
Like this
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
[2010] Revisiting Lefebvre

[2010] Revisiting Lefebvre

Ratings: (0)|Views: 501 |Likes:
Published by Stephen Read
Please contact me or find the final published paper before citing.
Please contact me or find the final published paper before citing.

More info:

Published by: Stephen Read on Apr 12, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less





Revisiting ‘Complexification’, Technology and Urban Form in Lefebvre
Stephen Read, Martine Lukkassen, Tadas Jonauskis
Lefebvre’s writing has inspired planners and designers with the sense hiswriting gives of an urban fully implicated with the historical and the social, andof a complex evolving urban order driven at least partly by the force of everyday life. It is this evocation of social urban landscapes of life and power  – whose intensities and differences are at the same time hidden by thenormalising and regularising procedures that are an equal part of the urbanprocess – that we would like to try to begin to address. Lefebvre’s workoutlined a powerful critique of existing urban form and practices, withoutoffering more than some rather obscure hints at how we could turn thesesuggestions into a revolutionary or forward thinking praxis. His analysis hasbeen criticised as vague and imprecise (Castells 1977) and it is true thereseems little in the way of solid recommendations or constructive principles tohold onto. The new praxis demanded of us involves, we will suggest, a better understanding of the way city building is capable of producing spaces of openness and enablement. This is about more than adapting to a changefrom concentric urban growth to polycentricity. It is also not so much about theintegration of “the categories of ‘city’ and ‘space’ ... into an overarching socialtheory” (Schmid 2006, p.165) as it is today, as it has been in the past, aboutthe way “differences are maximised” and maximised differences rearticulatedin new socio-spatial and socio-technical orders. Evolving orders of the urbanengender new forms of society in Lefebvre, and challenge the way we think of the social as producer and production. They also, we will argue, challenge our conceptions of the technological – and perhaps more to the point challengesome of Lefebvre’s own conceptions of the technological. They demand weunderstand better the ways technologies participate in forming cities and howwe can devise means to act against the ever-increasing minimisation of difference in the most developed parts of the world – and the concomitantcollapse of urban systems in the Global South.Lefebvre however never intended his writing as a guide for urban designers.His was a critical writing, carried out in an open version of Marxism, whichaddressed the question of social formation(Charnock 2010). Lefebvre sawwell enough the problems of escaping closure and achieving an open praxisin existing models, and he adopted a ‘metaphilosophy’ of theory and praxiswhich placed him at odds with structuralist Marxism, which he criticised for itsdeterminism and denial of the openings of history and becoming (Elden 2004:24). For Lefebvre this closure of the social heralds a marginalisation of civilsociety dominated by what he calls “absolute politics” in which individuals andgroups are transformed into subjects of power. Power is drained out of everyday action and sociality and its real situations and surrendered to anincreasingly abstract and authoritarian state and its knowledge institutions.“Between [politics and life] lies ... nothing, a void, intermediary bodies havingdisappeared or been rendered ineffective” (McDonough 2008). The task of 
metaphilosophy is to find the instruments to make “the urban ... more or lessthe oeuvre of its citizens instead of imposing itself upon them as a system, asan already closed book” (Lefebvre 1996: 117).Lefebvre’s method was to get “back from the object (product or work) to theactivity that produced and/or created it. It is the only way ... to illuminate theobject’s nature, or, if you will the object’s relationship to nature, andreconstitute the process of its genesis and the development of its meaning. Allother ways of proceeding can succeed only in constructing an abstract object – a model” (Lefebvre 1991: 113). He was committed to opening up thought aswell as social process, and was concerned about overcoming the“dividing-line between the conceived and the directly lived” – going beyondphilosophy in finding an open path to the future. Nevertheless, it was in theorientation of his critical thinking to a necessary
that he could not avoid acertain ‘closure’. Lefebvre was a political thinker before anything else and hispolitics was driven by the finality of the ‘dealienated’ man (Jay 1984), as the‘end’ of social theory. In fact, we will argue, in order to open up a view on the‘productivity’ of the urban and the life of the city, this orientation to a political‘end’ – the assumption in fact of any social or political ‘good’ before the fact –must necessarily be subsumed to this other concern of the open urban. Thereis no open city which guarantees the rights and well-being of its citizens.Openness and this open right is also openness to failure, and to unexpectedmishap or disaster. But it is this open productivity that also opens upmultifarious types of sociability and action that resist systematisation or domination and open creative pathways to the future.It was partly the refusal of the degraded urban ghetto and the “tactic of destruction” of the events of 1871 and 1968 that motivated Lefebvre’s call for this right which was not just a right to housing and sustenance but a right tothe city and the street with its festivity and spontaneity, with its sociability andextended networks as ways to the open possibilities of life (Lefebvre 1996). Itis with this productivity of space, rather that the critique of its production thatwe are concerned here. We will be making some speculative proposals of our own regarding urban relationality and materiality and the ‘ends’ of process,which is to say space-time, in order to try to begin to imagine a way to theextension of this ideal of openness into as yet unknown or undiscoveredurban forms.According to Lefebvre a revolutionary praxis needs to see throughmystifications of both past and present space productions in order todeliberately create new spaces. We need to read, analyse potentials,formulate questions, imagine answers, and build. Lefebvre's proposal beginswith "a counter-space [inserting] itself into spatial reality" against thegeographical gaze that sees only “quantity and homogeneity” (Lefebvre 2003:382) so as to demystify not only the physical arrangements of the city, but allmodes and institutions that those arrangements sanctify and support."Pressure from below must ... confront the state in its role as organiser of space, as the power that controls urbanisation, the construction of buildingsand spatial planning in general (Lefebvre 2003: 383). But, any programme for change must have the creation of space at its core, and “there must be analignment between the macro-structures of politics and economy on the one
hand and everyday life on the other.” What’s more any new arrangements“must display themselves, be tended, and be reinforced through a quotidianexistence aligned with them” (Moloch 1993: 887).We can, we believe, extract from Lefebvre suggestive indications of howthings work and how to further his project, but in order to do this we believewe have to move beyond what was essentially an “adventure of the 20thcentury” (Kipfer et al 2008) guided by some very 19th century ideas, into oneof the 21st century – guided by some ideas of the 20th century, ideasLefebvre in any case would have been well aware of.
Lefebvre described ‘the everyday’ as the ‘connective tissue’ of urban society.This seems from the above to be intended to be more than idle metaphor: thecommitment to a reality beyond metaphysics recalls a discourse around thecomplex sciences of life and he would have known much of the science.Perhaps the closest Lefebvre came though to a readily recognisablecomplexity view of the city was in his and Régulier’s ideas of the polyrhythmyof the city (Lefebvre 2004). Nevertheless a sense of a dynamic and intrinsicorder in the materiality of the urban world pervades all his urban writings andthere could be some mileage in looking at him as some sort of urban biologist.Lefebvre struggled with trying to combine materialist and humanist ideas,recognising the difficulties inherent in the Marxist-Hegelian tendency tofinalism, refusing the regularising orders of classical science andinstitutionalised knowledge production, but being pulled nevertheless betweenhis will for a final ‘end’ of man and his desire for an urban capable of openingpathways to always open futures.Lefebvre based his view of the city around a conception of ‘urban society’ andnew spatial developments he called ‘mondialisation’. He saw fundamentalchanges occurring in the conditions of our inhabitation of this earth and wastrying to describe how these changes were happening and what they meant.Another important commitment however was to moving beyond what he sawas the limitations of philosophy and its “speculative abstractions” to a reality of an urban society embodied in its own material relations (Lefebvre 2003: 64).Urban reality was for him something more than a social or political-economicproduct, it was a productive force in its own right, reacting against socialrelations as well as expressing them (Lefebvre 2003: 15).Lefebvre was concerned with the ‘complexification’ (Lefebvre 2003: 45) of anurban social order by which he meant something other than the simplecomplication of things already understood. He did speak of this complexity asa compounding of the orders of our categories of economy, society andpolitics (45??), and as a Marxist and political thinker it would have been verydifficult for him to abandon these categories. But in his metaphilosophicalambitions he also looked beyond established categories to a certain real-relational ‘proliferation’ implying a progression towards order. Philosophy will,according to Lefebvre, always aim for totality and synthesis, attempting todetach its concepts “from the contexts and philosophical architectures in

Activity (20)

You've already reviewed this. Edit your review.
1 hundred reads
1 thousand reads
Maria Rita Pais liked this
anturija liked this
anturija liked this
Emi Barata liked this
irisaravot liked this
irisaravot liked this
Zeliha K. Larsen liked this

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->