Thursday, December 01, 2005

Naturalism in Lefebvre

If it's not abundantly clear by now, I'm a big admirer of Henri Lefebvre, particularly his writings on everyday life. Obviously, I'm also taken by his understanding of the relationship of everyday life and repetition, or better yet the relationship of everyday life and two forms of repetition: a deadened repetition of the Same and a more open, vital form of repetition in which the act of repeating holds forth possibilities for creation, improvisation, and change.

I'm struggling, though, with the scant examples he gives of the latter form of repetition. My favorite, which I quoted in my entry, "Why do I write?" concerns the sense of promise and wonderment one might receive from watching the sun rise. This example speaks, I think, to a persistent naturalism in Lefebvre, as though the kind of repetition to which we ought to be striving is a cosmic one that's intimately connected with the heavens and the earth. I wonder if that kind of "return," for lack of a better word, is tenable in (post-)industrial societies? Is there, perhaps, a less naturalistic form of repetition that also might open pathways for change?


Kent said...

I have just read most of The Production of Space, and I don't understand it very well. Do you understand it? One problem is that the writing is so dispersed that concepts that are central are only peripherally mentioned. Also what is the relation between this work and Deleuze's Difference and Repetition. Who influenced who? Do you understand enough about this book to explain that to me? I have not read the Critique of Everyday life series. So maybe that is the problem.

Kent Palmer

Kent said...

I have a blog called Ultrawild at which is a locus for the possible exchange of repartees if you are so inclined.

Kent Palmer

Ted Striphas said...

Hi Kent,

For whatever it's worth, I read the introduction of Lefebvre's Production of Space as programmatic for the work as a whole and the rest of the book largely as an elaboration. The basic message, though, is that to change social relations, you can't just change social relations: you must also change how people relate to and understand space. This corresponds to Lefebvre's insights from the Critique of Everyday Life project, in which he says, there, that to change social relations you must chnage people's practiced and experienced relationships to time. It's an old philosophical argument, really, but one updated for the 20th century.

If you're having trouble, you might want to troll some of the secondary literature that's emerging on Lefebvre. Rob Shield's Lefebvre, Love, and Struggle is a standard, if sometimes contested, work. Another is Stuart Elden's Understanding Henri Lefebvre. I particularly like the latter.

As for Lefebvre and Deleuze's relationship: that's a more difficult matter. It's unclear to what extent, if any, the two influenced one another (one one influenced the other). I find them to be at their closest, though, in Deleuze's D&R and in Lefebvre's Rhythmanalysis, where they both seem to be trying to develop theories of difference without negation. I suspect the question you're asking would make for a quite interesting essay.....