Lefebvre, Love, and Struggle: Spatial Dialectics

Lefebvre, Love, and Struggle: Spatial Dialectics

Lefebvre, Love, and Struggle: Spatial Dialectics

Lefebvre, Love, and Struggle: Spatial Dialectics


Lefebvre, Love and Struggle provides the only comprehensive guide to Lefebvre's work. It is an accessible introduction to one of the most significant European thinkers of the twentieth century. Rob Shields draws on the full range of Lefebvres writings, including many previously untranslated and unpublished works and correspondence. Topics covered include Lefebvre's early relationship with Marxism, his critique of the rise of fascism, as well as his Critique of Everyday Life and the significant work on urban space for which he is best known today.


I frankly confess, this communism so contrary to my interests and my inclinations, exercises a charm on my soul which I cannot resist….

After Heine's Lutece

(1976:IX, 224 cited in Lefebvre 1995:34 [1962i:40])

This is a book about the ideas and intellectual practice of Henri Lefebvre. It is not a biography, but introducing both the man and the historical context of his life is important. Lefebvre would probably insist on the centrality of everyday life. His interest in the politics of the banal, and his opposition to the idea that politics should be an elitist activity, carried forward by a party vanguard, means that his own daily life, his politics, and his writing and teaching are all bound up with each other. Events, as Lefebvre once suggested, overturn theories and cause us to rethink our ideas.

Henri Lefebvre is significant as an involved participant at the centre of nearly a century of social, economic and intellectual change in Western Europe. the greatest problem in understanding his work is that his theories on particular subjects have often been studied without reference to his other works. Notably in English, there are many, many 'Lefebvres'; each is a partial understanding. If he is a Marxist-and there is no doubt about that-he began as a Surrealist, even a Dadaist. His experience with artistic avant-gardes seeking a revolution through art, not politics, influenced him for the rest of his life. They gave his Marxism some unexpected twists, such as its intense focus on alienation and opposition to economism. He is never 'just' a Marxist or just an Existentialist or

1 While a student, Lefebvre associated with members of both avant-garde movements, writing commentaries on their work and attempting to draw philosophical inspiration from their rejection of conventionality, artistic norms and assumptions about the role of the artist before later criticising their elitism and disinterest in the fate of the working classes from a sterner, Marxist position. Much impressed by the notoriety of the Surrealist poets Breton and Aragon, who produced unedited 'automatic writing' and anti-rational works, he welcomed to Paris the Dadaist poet Tristan Tzara (a pseudonym of Sami Rosenstock), who, along with artists such as Marcel Duchamp, proclaimed nihilistic disbelief in all promises of progress or human redemption as the only possible response to the carnage of the First World War.

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