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Cover slide: From the cover page of Uniting Struggles: Critical Social Research in Critical times: edited by Carlo Fanelli and Priscille Lefebvre

Henri Lefebvre, a French Philosopher, was born in 1901, in Hagetman, in the Pyrenees a mountainous region that forms a natural border between Spain and France. His mother was a passionate or even fanatic (according to his autobiography) Catholic mother and an urban anti-clerical father. [1] His intellectual consciousness was shaped by his experience in the First World War, the Russian Revolution and an intellectual change , which he describes in his book. The Production of Space, around 1910 where a certain space, the space of common sense, knowledge, social practice and political power was shattered. [1]


The 1920s were a period of intellectual effervescence and political turmoil. Lefebvre joined a group jeune philosophes (young philosophers) who sought to redefine philosophical endeavours by means of intellectual encounters with the thought of philosophers like Spinoza, Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger and Marx. [2] In 1928, he joined the French Communist Party (PCF). His early years in the party were marked by the investigation of daily life in various industrial sectors. He also preoccupied himself with the search of some kind of philosophical foundation or position that could be related to political practice. This was no easy task, given the requirements and imperatives of the fight against fascism, the emergence of Popular Front politics in France and the growing Stalinism of the French Communist Party. By the outbreak of World War II he was already established as a major intellectual figure in the French Communist movement. Fleeing Paris in the face of the Nazi occupation he joined the French Resistance, first in Marseilles and then in the Pyrenees, where he mixed Resistance activities with detailed studies of the life and history of peasant society. [2]

marx hegelnietzscheheidegger spinoza


Lefebvre took on the role of popularizing Marxian ideas a role he evidently relished - he used his position as an established researcher with the governmentfunded Centre National de Recherche Scientifique to publish a whole stream of critical but accessible evaluations of thinkers such as Descartes, Diderot, Pascal, Alfred de Musset, Rabelais and Pignon. The point of these studies was not only to locate the thought and work of such creative writers in the material context of the day, but also to enquire into the creative potentiality of ideas and thought in history. These studies were complementary to major works on dialectical materialism, Marxism, and 'the critique of everyday life'.
The break with the Party came in the wake of the publication of the Khruschev Report of 1956, which revealed many of the horrors of Stalinism, but which the French Communist Party refused at first to acknowledge. Lefebvre, having access to the report via German colleagues, entered into an internal oppositional movement within the Party and was ultimately excluded in 1958. [3] The years after 1968 were taken up with an intense enquiry into the nature of urbanization and the production of space. The two themes of urbanization and the production of space are interlinked in Lefebvre's thought. Lefebvre came to recognise the significance of urban conditions of daily life (as opposed to narrow concentration on work-place politics) as central in the evolution of revolutionary sentiments and politics. Daily life, the topic that had engaged his attention before 1968, as well as Marxist theory and revolutionary politics, had to be reinterpreted against this background of a changing production of space. [4]

"I became a Marxist in the name of a revolutionary romanticism that comprises a radical and total refusal of things as they are. I did not enter the party to make politics, but because Marxism announced the end of politics. [5]
Image Source: 3

By Production Lefebvre means b strictly economic production of things but also the larger philosophical concept, the production of oeuvres, the production knowledge, of institutions, of all that constitutes society. In Hegelianism, production has a cardinal role:
1. the absolute (Idea) produces the


world, 2. nature produces the human being, 3. and the human being in turn, by struggle and labour, produces at once history, knowledge and self consciousness.



Concept of Space- Geometric Meaning- An Empty Area

Space was formulated on the basis of extension, thought in terms of coordinates, lines and planes, as Euclidean Geometry. However, Descartes brought an end to the understanding of space and time categorized by the evidence of the senses. A wax, in a solid state has certain physical characteristics such as shape, texture, colour, size, smell and so forth. But these characteristics change when they melt, but we still deduce it as wax because of our mind. So, this brought an end to the understanding of space, characterized by space and time (an Aristotle tradition). [7]
Image Source: Jennifer Sanchez

Perception is unreliable- deduction is a system of knowledge I think, therefore, I AM. [8] The modern field of epistemology has adopted the notion that space is a mental thing
Ren Descartes This Principles of Philosophy 1644


We are forever hearing about the space of this and/or the space of that: about literary space, ideological spaces, the space of the dream, psychoanalytic topologies, and so on and so forth. Conspicuous by its absence from supposedly fundamental epistemological studies is not only the idea of 'man' but also that of space - the fact that 'space' is mentioned on every page notwithstanding. Thus Michel Foucault can calmly assert that 'knowledge [savoir] is also the space in which the subject may take up a position and speak of the objects with which he deals in his discourse'. Foucault never explains what space it is that he is referring to, nor how it bridges the gap between the theoretical (epistemological) realm and the practical one, between mental and social, between the space of the philosophers and the space of people who deal with material things. [9]


Space, according to Lefebvre, is created by the flows and movements of relational networkssuch as capital, power, and informationin, across, and through a given physical area. A building, in Lefebvres reading, is a map of the interactions of the people who inhabit it; an architect is not a builder in an otherwise empty wilderness, but an observer, chronicler, and shaper of the networks that exist around herin short, a map maker. [10]

Social space is a social product.

Lefebvre posts a theory that understands space as fundamentally bound up with social reality. It follows that space in itself can never serve as an epistemological starting position. Space does not exist in itself, it is produced. Lefebvre proceeds from a relational concept of space and time. Space stands for simultaneity, the synchronic order of social reality, and time denotes the dichronic order, thus the historic process of social production [11]

Everyday discourse serves to distinguish particular spaces, and in general to describe a social space. They correspond to a specific use of that space, and hence to a spatial practice that they express and constitute.

A spatial code is not simply a means of reading or interpreting space: rather it is a means of living in that space, of understanding it, and of producing it.
These codes will be seen as part of a practical relationship, as part of an interaction between 'subjects' and their space and surroundings.

Knowledge cannot rightly be assimilated to a 'well-designed' language, because it operates at the conceptual level. It is thus not a privileged language, nor a metalanguage, even if these notions may be appropriate for the 'science of language' as such. Knowledge of space cannot be limited from the outset by categories of this kind. [12]

Space is a social morphology: it is to lived experience what form itself is to the living organism, and just as intimately bound up with function and structure [13]

Inside the wrinkles of the city, spaces exist in transit have grown, territories in continuous transformation in time. These are the places where today it is possible to go beyond the age-old division between nomadic space and settled space. -Francesco Careri

Everyone has a story, after all, and it's the juxtaposition and intersection of citizen's many stories that creates the truest impression of a city. -Andrea Moed, Conversations With Maps
The Invisible Trajectories was an Exhibition hosted by the Wignall Museum, Chaffey College, California, tracing different paths and intersections that create social space. [14]

Communication technology has transformed space in amazing ways, and can even be seen to have created new space: virtual space.

Spatial practice: the everyday [direct experience] Perceived Space Representations of space: planners, maps, verbal signs [interpretive experience] Conceived Space Representational Spaces: imagination [imagined experience] Lived Space

Source: Robert Cowherd Sciography- The spatial Operation of Social Forces

According to this Lefebvre, (social) space can be analysed in relation to these three dimensions. In the first, social space appears in the dimension of spatial practice as an interlinking chain or network of activities or interactions which on their part rest upon a determinate material basis (morphology, built environment). In the second, this spatial practice can be linguistically defined and demarcated as space and then constitutes a representation of space. This representation serves as an organizing schema or a frame of reference for communication, which permits a (spatial) orientation and thus co-determines activity at the same time. In the third, spaces of representation the material order that emerges on the ground can itself become the vehicle conveying meaning. In this way a (spatial) symbolism develops that expresses and evokes social norms, values, and experiences. [14]

Material space practices refer to the physical and material flows, transfers and interactions that occur in an across space in such a way as to assure production and social representation. [15] The spatial practice of a society secretes that society's space; it propounds and presupposes it, in a dialectical interaction; it produces it slowly and surely as it masters and appropriates it. From the analytic standpoint, the spatial practice of a society is revealed through the deciphering of its space. Spatial practice under neo-capitalism embodies a close association, within perceived space, between daily reality (daily routine) and urban reality (the routes and networks which link up the places set aside for work, 'private' life and leisure). This association is a paradoxical one, because it includes the most extreme separation between the places it links together. The specific spatial competence and performance of every society member can only be evaluated empirically. [16]

A Spatial practice has a certain cohesiveness, but it need not be intellectually worked out or logically conceived

Source: http://spatialpracti category/space/ April 8, 2009


Representations of space: conceptualized space, the space of scientists, planners, urbanists, technocratic subdividers and social engineers, as of a certain type of artist with a scientific bent - all of whom identify what is lived and what is perceived with what is conceived. (Arcane speculation about Numbers, with its talk of the golden number, moduli and 'canons', tends to perpetuate this view of matters.) This is the dominant space in any society (or mode of production). Conceptions of space tend, towards a system of verbal (and therefore intellectually worked out) signs. [17] Representations of space are certainly abstract, but they also play a part in social and political practice: established relations between objects and people in represented space are subordinate to a logic which will sooner or later break them up because of their lack of consistency. [17] This component of spaces encompasses all the signs and significations, codes and knowledge that allow such material practices to be talked about and understood, no matter whether in terms of everyday common sense or through sometimes arcane jargon of the academic disciplines that deal with spatial practices (engineering, architecture, geography etc.,) [15]

Representational spaces: space as directly lived through its associated images and symbols, and hence the space of 'inhabitants' and 'users', but also of some artists and perhaps of those, such as a few writers and philosophers, who describe and aspire to do no more than describe. This is the dominated and hence passively experienced space which the imagination seeks to change and appropriate. It overlays physical space, making symbolic use of its objects. This is the third dimension of space the symbolic dimension of the production of space. Representational space does not refer to the spaces themselves but to something else: a divine power, the logos, the state, masculine or feminine principle, and so on. This dimension refers to the process of signification that links itself to a material symbol. These symbols could be taken from nature, such as trees or prominent topographical formations; or they could be buildings and monuments, the built environment. [16] This third dimension of space comprises of mental inventions- codes, signs, spatial discourses, imaginary landscapes, and even material constructs such as symbolic spaces, particular built environments, paintings, museums and the like- that imagine new meanings or possibilities for social practice [15]

Representation depends upon the subject: a peasant does not see his landscape in the same way a city-dweller enjoying a walk there. Lefebvre combines it with concept of spatial practice in order to that perception not only takes place in the mind but is presentational space can be essentially identified with perception. Evidently based on a concrete, produced materiality. [15] In the Phenomenology of Perception, published 1945, Maurice Merleau-Ponty distinguishes a physical space constructed by perception, a geometrical space conceptually comprehended and finally a lived space: the mythical space, the space of dreams, of schizophrenia and of art. This space is based on the relationship of the subject to his or her world and is embodied in the corporeality of this subject.

In his book, the Poetics of Space Gaston Bachelard seeks to define the human value of possessed space. Bachelard means here spaces defended against hostile forces, beloved spaces or extolled spaces. Attached to its protective value, which can be a positive one, are also imagined values which soon become dominant. Space that has been seized by the imagination cannot remain indifferent space subject to the measures and estimates of the subject. It has been lived in, not in its positivity, but with all the partiality of the imagination. [15]


Lefebvre explains the space of a city with the analogy of Venice, Ive tried to take this is analogy further to understand it with reference to a more familiar context like Delhi.


Consider the case of a city like Venice or Delhi, a space which is fashioned, shaped and invested by social activities during a finite historical period. Lefebvre questions, is this city a work or a product?


Old Delhi works as unique , original, as occupying a space yet associated with a particular time, a time of maturity between rise and decline, then Old Delhi can only be described as a work. As a space, it is just as highly expressive and significant, just as unique and unified as a painting or a sculpture. This space holds different meanings to different people, the residents, the traders, the tourists, the visitors. Everyone experience Old Delhi differently, some might find comfort in the close-knit streets and houses, others might see the same space as claustrophobic. But at the same time the city has born witness to the existence of Delhis history and there exists a unitary code or common language of the city. This social space combines the city's reality with its ideality, embracing the practical, the symbolic and the imaginary. The representation of space and representational space and the material space is mutually reinforces each other. [17]


Material Spaces Everyday Spaces Spatial Practice


m a r k e ts



archaeology/ preservation

plans map

setbacks bye-laws


artist impression


Michael Kluckner





The State is consolidating on a world scale. It weighs down on society in full force; it plans and organizes society 'rationally', with the help of knowledge and technology, imposing analogous, if not homologous, measures irrespective of political ideology, historical background, or the class origins of those in power. Space in its Hegelian form comes back into its own. This modern state promotes and imposes itself as the stable centre it flattens the social and 'cultural' spheres. It enforces a logic that puts an end to conflicts and contradictions. In this same space there are, however, other forces on the boil, because the rationality of the state, of its techniques, plans and programmes, provokes opposition. The violence of power is answered by the

violence of subversion.

Stateimposed normality makes permanent transgression inevitable. These seething forces are still capable of rattling the lid of the cauldron of the state and its space, for differences can never be totally quieted. Though defeated, they live on, and from time to time they begin fighting ferociously to reassert themselves and transform themselves through struggle . Nor has the working class said its last word. It continues on its way, sometimes underground, sometimes in the light of day. It is not an easy matter to get rid of the class struggle, which has taken myriad forms not accounted for by the impoverished schema. [18]

In the Production of Space, Lefebvre questions the space of a nationhood, Commonly, it is a territory with natural borders, grown to maturity with historical time. In relation to space, an Nation may be seen to have two moments,

Firstly, the existence of a market gradually built up over a historical period of varying length. Such a market is a complex ensemble of commercial relations and commercial networks.
Secondly, nationhood implies violence the violence of a military state, be it feudal, bourgeois, imperialist, or some other variety. It implies, in other words, a political power controlling and exploiting the resources of the market or the growth of the productive forces in order to maintain and further its rule. These two 'moments' indeed combine forces and produce a space: the space of the nation state. [19]


Lefebvre argues that the emergence of an awareness of space and its production can be identified in the historic role of the Bauhaus. The Bauhaus not only located space in its context and supplied it with a new perspective; it also developed a new conception of space. The faade as face directed towards the observer and as privileged side or aspect of a work of art or a monument disappeared. The Bauhaus understood that things could not be created independently from each other in space, with out taking into account there interrelationship and relationship to the whole. Gropius understood that social practice was destined to change. Architecture was no longer simply a question of introducing forms, functions and structures together in accordance to some unitary conception. Space then opened up to perception, and conceptualization, some of the resulting consequence were that a new consciousness of space occurred. There was a new understanding of the faade, it which its conception as a face directed to the observer was abolished. Within this framework a global space established itself. [20]


Lefebvre stresses on the three levels on which space is produced in Pessac: in his view the original Modernist project of the architect was initially transformed because of site conditions and the requirements of the client, and then after construction, appropriated by the inhabitants for their own purposes. The practice of appropriation manifests, a higher, far more complex concrete rationality than the abstract rationality of Modernism. Below is an example of Le Corbusier's housing produced in Pessac, a suburb in the Bordeaux in the 1920s and changes accumulated over time.

Instead of installing themselves in their containers, instead of adapting to them and living in them passively, they decided that as far as possible they were going to live actively. In doing so they showed what living in a house really is: an activity. They took what had been offered to them and worked it, converted it, added to it. What did they add? Their needs. They created distinctions . . . They introduced personal qualities. They built a differentiated social cluster. [21] Robert Venturi, as an architect and a theorist of architecture, wants to make space dialectical. He sees space not as an empty and neutral milieu occupied by dead objects but rather as a field of force full of tensions and distortions. Painting on buildings certainly seems like a rather feeble way of retrieving the richness of 'classical' architecture, Is it really possible to use mural surfaces to depict social contradictions while producing something more than graffiti? That would indeed be somewhat paradoxical if, as I have been suggesting, the notions of 'design', of reading/writing as practice, and of the 'signifiersignified' relationship projected onto things in the shape of the 'form-function' . [23]

Lefebvre observes, architects seem to have established and dogmatized an ensemble of significations, as such poorly developed as functionalism, formalism, and structuralism. They elaborate them not from the significations perceived and lived by those who inhabit but from their interpretation of inhabiting. [21]

1. Afterword, David Harvey, The Production of Space, Henri Lefebvre (Blackwell Publishing, 1991) Page 424 2. Afterword, David Harvey, The Production of Space, Henri Lefebvre (Blackwell Publishing, 1991) Page 426427 3. Afterword, David Harvey, The Production of Space, Henri Lefebvre (Blackwell Publishing, 1991) Page 428 4. Afterword, David Harvey, The Production of Space, Henri Lefebvre (Blackwell Publishing, 1991) Page 430431 5. Henri Lefebvre, L Somme et le reste, vol. 2 (Paris: Editions NEF, 1959) 671 In English, 7. Ren Descartes, Wikipedia Page 8. Ren Descartes This Principles of Philosophy 1644

11. Lefebvres Theory of the Production of Space: Towards a Three Dimensional Dialectic by Christian Schmid Page 29 12. The Production of Space, Henri Lefebvre (Blackwell Publishing, 1991) Page 16 13. The Production of Space, Henri Lefebvre (Blackwell Publishing, 1991) Page 94 14. Lefebvres Theory of the Production of Space: Towards a Three Dimensional Dialectic by Christian Schmid Page 237 15.Invisible Trajectories: Passing Through the Inland Empire, Wignall Museum / Chaffey College Rancho Cucamonga, California January 22 March 3, 2007 16. The Production of Space, Henri Lefebvre (Blackwell Publishing, 1991) Page 33-40 17. The Production of Space, Henri Lefebvre (Blackwell Publishing, 1991) Page 73-74 18. The Production of Space, Henri Lefebvre (Blackwell Publishing, 1991) Page 23 19. The Production of Space, Henri Lefebvre (Blackwell Publishing, 1991) Page 110-112 20. Henri Lefebvre, preface to Phillipe Boudon, Lived-in Architecture: Le Corbusiers Pessac Revisited, trans. G. Onn (London: Lund Humphries, 1979 [1969]). 21. Space as Concrete Abstraction: Hegel, Marx and Modern Urbanism in Henri Lefebvre by Lukas Stanzek 22. The Production of Space, Henri Lefebvre (Blackwell Publishing, 1991) Page 145