[UPDATE — May 12, 2014: Here’s the full post I said I’d put here when I first created this slot a couple weeks ago. I’ve deleted the place-holder text that was previously here.]
Part 1 rendered my sense of Lefebvre’s main argument in The Production of Space. Part 2 focused on how he sees the history and science of space, and the categories and distinctions he uses for analyzing social space.
This Part 3 documents what I most want to see: how much his analysis includes time and action orientations, along with space. The more he does so, the better for the verification of STA — both its theoretical potential and its possible practical potential for designing a new approach to cognitive mapping and forensics.
I find that Lefebvre devotes a lot of attention to time, some to action, in interesting ways. This validates my inquiry, though I’m still up-in-the-air what to do about it for STA’s sake.
At the end are some wrap-up comments about Lefebvre’s book — mostly a reminder about the ideas I liked best: spatial codes, spatial chaos, and trial by space; abstract space and counter-space; and his strategic hypothesis based on space; plus, of course, his inclusion of time and action-like orientations in his theorizing about space.
This is another of my unexpectedly long posts — good for storage, but not easy to read. Most readers may be well-advised to skip the long quotes. I’ve tried to put the main points in my text heading the quotes; just peruse that text if you want to hurry.
Explicit inclusion of time orientations
Lefebvre’s emphatic focus is space, but he focuses a lot on time as well. Indeed, he regards time as a co-equal concept in terms of nature, physics, and philosophy. But as for the social world, much as he would like time to be co-equal to space there as well, he argues that time has been “confined”, crushed, and even “murdered” by the modern state and capitalism — hence the ever-growing significance of space, especially abstract space.
Lefebvre observes right up front that time matters — and so does action, though he mostly refers to cognates, such as “energy”, “force”, and “strategy”. This starts with his recognizing the cardinal importance of space, time, and energy in physics and philosophy:
“The 'substance' (to use the old vocabulary of philosophy) of this cosmos or 'world', to which humanity with its consciousness belongs, has properties that can be adequately summed up by means of the three terms mentioned above [energy, space, time]. When we evoke 'energy', we must immediately note that energy has to be deployed within a space. When we evoke 'space', we must immediately indicate what occupies that space and how it does so: the deployment of energy in relation to 'points' and within a time frame. When we evoke 'time', we must immediately say what it is that moves or changes therein. Space considered in isolation is an empty abstraction; likewise energy and time. Although in one sense this 'substance' is hard to conceive of, most of all at the cosmic level, it is also true to say that evidence of its existence stares us in the face: our senses and our thoughts apprehend nothing else.” (p. 12)Then, while observing that knowledge of social practice cannot be built on a model borrowed from physics (p. 13), he proceeds to analyze the philosophical import of space, time, and action-like concepts in the writings of Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche. According to Lefebvre’s critique, thinking about space and time has been “split” and “broken up” — so he concludes aggressively that his aim is to “detonate” old thinking about the separation of space and time:
“Confrontation of the theses and hypotheses of Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche is just beginning - and only with great difficulty at that. As for philosophical thought and thought about space and time, it is split. On the one hand we have the philosophy of time, of duration, itself broken up into partial considerations and emphases: historical time, social time, mental time, and so on. On the other hand we have epistemo-logical thought, which constructs an abstract space and cogitates about abstract (logico-mathematical) spaces. Most if not all authors ensconce themselves comfortably enough within the terms of mental (and therefore neo-Kantian or neo-Cartesian) space, …
“The aim of this [Lefebvre’s] book is to detonate this state of affairs.” (p. 24)If I understand Lefebvre correctly, he insists on the “unity” of time and space, but shows that one or the other has tended to prevail in different historical periods. In general (as noted in Part 2), the history of space is always interlaced with the history of time — “the history of space should not be distanced in any way from the history of time” (p. 117). Yet, the two have tended to be kept separate and to alternate in importance. Long ago, there was a period in metaphysics as well as real life when time concepts held priority over space. But in the modern era, the state and capitalism have imposed the dominance of space over time. What Lefebvre seeks is a resurgence of time, plus a new unity, as part of a revolutionary process.
That, in brief, is how I would summarize his take on time and space. Now for some details and long documentary quotes — several of which, an expert on the book would notice, I have split in two, so that I can group the top parts together, and then the bottom parts, the better to highlight Lefebvre’s various somewhat-repetitive paragraphs about past/present versus possible future trends. I like these long quotes; but for the sake of other readers, I’ll try to cover their main points in the head text, enough so that a reader may skip the long quotes.
Lefebvre maintains in various passages that social space and social time should — and long ago did — co-exist in a kind of unity. Accordingly, people cannot live in one without the other — time is “inscribed in space” and “space implies time”. The two are “distinguishable” but “not separable” — “different yet unseverable”. Their “dissociation” is a “late development” that goes against the reality that they can only be “known” and realized through each other — hence, “Unity in difference, the same in the other (and vice versa), are thus made concrete.” In other words, while space may form “the envelope of time”, this does not mean that time can be reduced into space, for “real social time is forever re-emerging complete with its own characteristics and determinants”. Here are the full quotes from which these points are drawn:
“Let everyone look at the space around them. What do they see? Do they see time? They live time, after all; they are in time. Yet all anyone sees is movements. In nature, time is apprehended within space — in the very heart of space: the hour of the day, the season, the elevation of the sun above the horizon, the position of the moon and stars in the heavens, the cold and the heat, the age of each natural being, and so on. … Time was thus inscribed in space, and natural space was merely the lyrical and tragic script of natural time.” (p. 95)
“Time and space are not separable within a texture so conceived: space implies time, and vice versa. These networks are not closed, but open on all sides to the strange and the foreign, to the threatening and the propitious, to friend and foe. As a matter of fact, the abstract distinction between open and closed does not really apply here.” (p. 118)
“Time is distinguishable but not separable from space. … Phenomena which an analytical intelligence associates solely with 'temporality', such as growth, maturation and aging, cannot in fact be dissociated from 'spatiality' (itself an abstraction). Space and time thus appear and manifest themselves as different yet unseverable. Temporal cycles correspond to circular spatial forms of a symmetrical kind. It may even be that linear temporal processes of a repetitive and mechanical character are associated with the constitution of spatial axes (along which a repeated operation may be performed). At all events, the dissociation of spatial and temporal and the social actualization of that dissociation can only be a late development, a corollary of which has been the split between representations of space and representational spaces. It is by taking representational spaces as its starting-point that art seeks to preserve or restore this lost unity.” (p. 175)
“The fact is that space 'in itself is ungraspable, unthinkable, unknowable. Time 'in itself, absolute time, is no less unknowable. But that is the whole point: time is known and actualized in space, becoming a social reality by virtue of a spatial practice. Similarly, space is known only in and through time. Unity in difference, the same in the other (and vice versa), are thus made concrete.” (p. 218)
“Space is the envelope of time. When space is split, time is distanced - but it resists reduction. Within and through space, a certain social time is produced and reproduced; but real social time is forever re-emerging complete with its own characteristics and determinants: repetitions, rhythms, cycles, activities. The attempt to conceive of a space isolated from time entails a further contradiction, as embodied in efforts to introduce time into space by force, to rule time from space — time in the process being confined to prescribed uses and subjected to a variety of prohibitions.” (pp. 339-340)Lefebvre associates the rise of “the temporal” — the priority of time over space — with Hegel above all. But in Lefebvre’s view, “[t]his theoretical posture cried out to be overturned” in metaphysics and other sciences. As a result, “these sciences are already the battleground of an immense confrontation between the temporal and the spatial.” But he frets about those critics who would then turn to elevate space over time.
“Knowledge has been built up on the basis of (global) schemata. Once such schemata were atemporal, as in the case of classical metaphysics. After Hegel, however, they became temporal in character, which is to say that they proclaimed the priority of historical becoming, of mental duration, or of socio-economic time, over space. This theoretical posture cried out to be overturned — something that has indeed been attempted, though on indefensible grounds, by those eager to assert a priority of geographical, or demographic, or ecological space over historical time. In point of fact all these sciences are already the battleground of an immense confrontation between the temporal and the spatial.” (p. 415)In Lefebvre’s view, what mostly explains the dominance of space over time is the development of capitalism. Capitalism has operated, mainly through its treatment of labor, to separate space and time — time has been “vanished”, expelled, and “murdered” — in order to enable capitalism to “master space by producing it”, thereby “reducing time in order to prevent the production of new social relations.” The “spatial practice” of capitalism thus “tends to confine time to productive labour time” — that’s the kind of time that matters most for this system. Here are the corresponding quotes with page references:
“With the advent of modernity time has vanished from social space. It is recorded solely on measuring-instruments, on clocks, that are as isolated and functionally specialized as this time itself. … Economic space subordinates time to itself; political space expels it as threatening and dangerous (to power). The primacy of the economic and above all of the political implies the supremacy of space over time. …
“This manifest expulsion of time is arguably one of the hallmarks of modernity. … Time may have been promoted to the level of ontology by the philosophers, but it has been murdered by society.” (pp. 95–96)
“But with the development of capitalism and its praxis a difficulty arises in the relations between space and time. The capitalist mode of production begins by producing things, and by 'investing' in places. Then the reproduction of social relations becomes problematic, as it plays a part in practice, modifying it in the process. And eventually it becomes necessary to reproduce nature also, and to master space by producing it — that is, the political space of capitalism — while at the same time reducing time in order to prevent the production of new social relations.” (p. 219)
“The standing of time as it relates to this space is problematic, and has yet to be clearly defined. When religion and philosophy took duration under their aegis, time was in effect proclaimed a mental reality. But spatial practice — the practice of a repressive and oppressive space - tends to confine time to productive labour time, and simultaneously to diminish living rhythms by defining them in terms of the rationalized and localized gestures of divided labour.
Clearly time cannot achieve emancipation at one stroke, or en bloc.” (p. 408)And it’s not just capitalism but also the modern state that is having such effects. According to Lefebvre, “The state is consolidating on a world scale” to a degree that “weighs down on society” and “crushes time”. Thus the state “flattens” society and culture, as it “enforces a logic that puts an end to conflicts and contradictions” and “neutralizes whatever resists it” in harsh ways:
“This is perhaps a convenient moment to consider what has been happening in the second half of the twentieth century, the period to which 'we' are witnesses.
“1 The state is consolidating on a world scale. It weighs down on society (on all societies) 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. The state crushes time by reducing differences to repetitions or circularities) dubbed 'equilibrium', 'feedback', 'self-regulation', and so on). Space in its Hegelian form comes back into its own. This modern state promotes and imposes itself as the stable centre - definitively - of (national) societies and spaces. As both the end and the meaning of history - just as Hegel had forecast — it flattens the social and 'cultural' spheres. It enforces a logic that puts an end to conflicts and contradictions. It neutralizes whatever resists it by castration or crushing. Is this social entropy? Or is it a monstrous excrescence transformed into normality? Whatever the answer, the results lie before us.” (p. 23)Abstract space plays a key role in all this. According to Lefebvre, “oppressive and repressive powers” use their ideological domination of abstract space in ways that “relegates time to an abstraction of its own — except for labour time” — to assure it serves capitalist production:
“As a space that is fetishized, that reduces possibilities, and cloaks conflicts and differences in illusory coherence and transparency, it clearly operates ideologically. Yet abstract space is the outcome not of an ideology or of false consciousness, but of a practice. Its falsification is self-generated. Conflicts nevertheless manifest themselves on the level, precisely, of knowledge, especially that between space and time. The oppressive and repressive powers of abstract space are clearly revealed in connection with time: this space relegates time to an abstraction of its own — except for labour time, which produces things and surplus value.” (p. 393)But this domination of time in favor of space should not go on forever, or even much longer. According to Lefebvre’s dialectical analysis, “other forces [are] on the boil, because the rationality of the state … provokes opposition.” He expects “incessant violence” by “seething forces” to rattle “the state and its space,” so much so that the importance of time re-emerges “explosively”* and a “threshold” will be crossed that produces “new social relations” and a re-unification of time and space.
“2 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. With its wars and revolutions, defeats and victories, confrontation and turbulence, the modern world corresponds precisely to Nietzsche's tragic vision. State-imposed normality makes permanent transgression inevitable. As for time and negativity, whenever they re- emerge, as they must, they do so explosively. This is a new negativity, a tragic negativity which manifests itself as incessant violence. 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.” (p. 23)
“But capitalism is surely approaching a threshold beyond which reproduction will no longer be able to prevent the production, not of things, but of new social relations. What would those relations consist in? Perhaps in the unity, at once familiar and new, of space and time, a unity long misapprehended, split up and superseded by the rash attribution of priority to space over time.” (pp. 218-219)Abstract space will prove to be a key battleground. Capitalist and statist forces will try to keep time “reduced to constraints placed on the employment of space”. But they will fail in the end, for it is bound to be the case that “time resists any such reduction, re-emerging instead as the supreme form of wealth, as locus and medium of use, and hence of enjoyment.” People will harbor the importance of time in their inner and private lives.
“Time might thus be expected to be quickly reduced to constraints placed on the employment of space: to distances, pathways, itineraries, or modes of transportation. In fact, however, time resists any such reduction, re-emerging instead as the supreme form of wealth, as locus and medium of use, and hence of enjoyment. Abstract space fails in the end to lure time into the realm of externality, of signs and images, of dispersion. Time comes back into its own as privacy, inner life, subjectivity. Also as cycles closely bound up with nature and with use (sleep, hunger, etc.). Within time, the investment of affect, of energy, of 'creativity' opposes a mere passive apprehension of signs and signifiers. Such an investment, the desire to 'do' something, and hence to 'create', can only occur in a space — and through the production of a space. The 'real' appropriation of space, which is incompatible with abstract signs of appropriation serving merely to mask domination, does have certain requirements.” (p. 393)If I understand Lefebvre correctly, when he elaborates on what he means by the production of space, he means a set of operations that gear actions to an orderly way of using space and time — not just space (pp. 71-73). Thus he wants his analysis — his “science of space” — to lead to a new synthesis of space and time in the future for the sake of “another (possible or impossible) society.”
“What is urgently required here is a clear distinction between an imagined or sought-after 'science of space' on the one hand and real knowledge of the production of space on the other. Such a knowledge, in contrast to the dissection, interpretations and representation of a would-be science of space, may be expected to rediscover time (and in the first place the time of production) in and through space.
“… The real knowledge that we hope to attain would have a retrospective as well as a prospective import. Its implications for history, for example, and for our understanding of time, will become apparent if our hypothesis turns out to be correct. It will help us to grasp how societies generate their (social) space and time - their representational spaces and their representations of space. It should also allow us, not to foresee the future, but to bring relevant factors to bear on the future in prospect — on the project, in other words, of another space and another time in another (possible or impossible) society.” (pp. 91–92)
Implicit inclusion of action orientations
From an STA standpoint, Lefebvre does not give STA’s action component the status that he gives to space and time. In his discussion of physics he recognizes “energy” or “force” (cognates of STA’s action element) as an essential part in a triad along with space and time (e.g., p. 22). But when discussing social space, he refers only to time as a co-equal, as discussed above.
Lefebvre comes closest to STA’s action element when he refers to forces, instruments, and strategies. Indeed, all sorts of “forces” figure in his theorizing: above all, the iconic “forces of production”; but also, various social, political, and economic forces; “forces of good and evil”; creative forces; forces that contend and compete; revolutionary forces; and so forth. He also refers occasionally to instruments and “instrumental space” — e.g., he says that social space, especially abstract space, often “shows itself to be politically instrumental in that it facilitates the control of society” (p. 349). And he is constantly concerned with strategy — with “strategic space” and “spatial strategy”— as it is used by ideological hegemons, but also as it may yet be used by revolutionary forces.
Such forces, instruments, and strategies don’t correspond exactly to my sense of STA’s action element. But they’re related to it, for they imply agency and efficacy, a deliberate effort to conquer nature, a will to power, a quest for control, a volitional view of cause and effect, an unwillingness to bow to fate and accept things as they are. Thus, in Lefebvre’s approach, STA’s action element is more implicit than explicit; it isn’t laid out in ways that make it co-equal to space and time and operate independently of them. But it’s not neglected; it’s there to a degree, embedded.
STA’s action element is evident particularly in Lefebvre’s discussions about strategy, especially future revolutionary strategy. Part 1 laid out some of his views about strategy. But there’s more to say (even as I re-use some quotes from Part 1).
Where space, time, and action coalesce: Lefebvre’s sense of revolutionary strategy
Strategy is where he joins together his analyses of space, time, and action elements, for the sake of pointing the way to revolutionary change. Strategy is where his views of history and science meet, with an eye on the future.
Here are several quotes that caught my eye regarding his disposition toward strategy (though I’m not sure I really understand them). These quotes speak to his concerns about how the state and capitalism tend to use strategy. Note the association of abstract space with ideology, and both of them with strategic space and spatial strategy. Note also his claim that strategic space is used to “force”, “sort”, “classify”, and “separate” people in ways that suit the spatial strategy of the state and capitalism:
“And in point of fact such ideologies relate to space in a most significant way, because they intervene in space in the form of strategias. Their effectiveness in this role - and especially a new development, the fact that worldwide strategies are now seeking to generate a global space, their own space, and to set it up as an absolute - is another reason, and by no means an insignificant one, for developing a new concept of space.” (p. 10)
“We also forget that there is a total object, namely absolute political space - that strategic space which seeks to impose itself as reality despite the fact that it is an abstraction, albeit one endowed with enormous powers because it is the locus and medium of Power.” (p. 94)
“Each spatial strategy has several aims: as many aims as abstract space — manipulated and manipulative — has 'properties'. Strategic space makes it possible simultaneously to force worrisome groups, the workers among others, out towards the periphery; to make available spaces near the centres scarcer, so increasing their value; to organize the centre as locus of decision, wealth, power and information; to find allies for the hegemonic class within the middle strata and within the 'elite'; to plan production and flows from the spatial point of view; and so on.
“The space of this social practice becomes a space that sorts — a space that classifies in the service of a class. The strategy of classification distributes the various social strata and classes (other than the one that exercises hegemony) across the available territory, keeping them separate and prohibiting all contacts - these being replaced by the signs (or images) of contact.” (p. 385)To oppose this system — to benefit from the coming “spatial chaos” and “trial by space” (see Part 1) — Lefebvre recommends his “strategic hypothesis based on space” (p. 63). It would bring “disassociated aspects” back together, in both theory and practice, in order to achieve “the mobilization of differences in a single movement” around the world:
“[I]ts basic principle and objective is the bringing-together of dissociated aspects, the unification of disparate tendencies and factors. Inasmuch as it tries to take the planetary experiment in which humanity is engaged for what it is - that is to say, a series of separate and distinct assays of the world's space - this hypothesis sets itself up in clear opposition to the homogenizing efforts of the state, of political power, of the world market, and of the commodity world — tendencies which find their practical expression through and in abstract space. It implies the mobilization of differences in a single movement (including differences of natural origin, each of which ecology tends to emphasize in isolation): differences of regime, country, location, ethnic group, natural resources, and so on.” (pp. 63-64)To this end, he makes what I gather is his single most famous, most quoted statement:
“'Change life! 'Change society!' These precepts mean nothing without the production of an appropriate space.” (p. 58)Placing it in context with other quotes about changing life helps illuminate its importance — and shows that what matters to Lefebvre is not only changing political, economic, and cultural life in general, but also “everyday life” down to its most mundane and intimate details. This can only be accomplished through radical spatial changes, for “A revolution that does not produce a new space has not realized its full potential.” Just altering a society’s “ideological superstructures, institutions or political apparatuses” will not suffice, because “new social relationships call for a new space” to be created. What Lefebvre seeks is “total revolution”:
“A revolution that does not produce a new space has not realized its full potential; indeed it has failed in that it has not changed life itself, but has merely changed ideological superstructures, institutions or political apparatuses. A social transformation, to be truly revolutionary in character, must manifest a creative capacity in its effects on daily life, on language and on space — though its impact need not occur at the same rate, or with equal force, in each of these areas.” (p. 54)
“'Change life! 'Change society!' These precepts mean nothing without the production of an appropriate space. ... [N]ew social relationships call for a new space, and vice versa. … So long as everyday life remains in thrall to abstract space, with it's very concrete constraints; … the project of ‘changing life’ remains no more than a political rallying cry to be taken up or abandoned according to the mood off the moment.” (pp. 58–59)
“A total revolution — material, economic, social, political, psychic, cultural, erotic, etc. — seems to be in the offing, as though already immanent to the present. To change life, however, we must first change space. Absolute revolution is our self-image and our mirage — as seen through the mirror of absolute (political) space.” (p. 190)Those are evocative exhortations. All in keeping with his fundamental view that “each mode of production has its own particular space,” and thus “the shift from one mode to another must entail the production of a new space.” (p. 46) Fully in keeping as well with his view that “Space is becoming the principal stake of goal-directed actions and struggles.” (p. 410) As he says in the quote immediately above, “To change life … we must first change space.” (p, 190)
Accordingly, if I read correctly, what he expects is “a transitional period between the mode of production of things in space and the mode of production of space.” The result would be a Marxist kind of revolution that spells a “withering-away” of the state and capitalism:
“We may therefore justifiably speak of a transitional period between the mode of production of things in space and the mode of production of space. The production of things was fostered by capitalism and controlled by the bourgeoisie and its political creation, the state. The production of space brings other things in its train, among them the withering-away of the private ownership of space, and, simultaneously, of the political state that dominates spaces. This implies a shift from domination to appropriation, and the primacy of use over exchange (the withering-away of exchange value). If these events do not occur, the worst surely will — as suggested by a number of 'scenarios of the unacceptable' scripted by the futurologists.” (p. 410)What Lefebvre wants, then, is the creation of a radical new “mode of production” that realizes “the collective management of space” (p. 103, 422; as noted in Part 1). He does not describe it in detail, but it is clearly Marxist (if not communist, even anarchist, not to mention socialist) in origin and intent. Today, it seems reflected in how Occupy!, commonism, and other P2P-oriented undertakings would like to see society reorganized.
In light of what all I’ve learned here, however, I’d suggest that Lefebvre’s proposal implies the collective management not only of space but also of time and action. This would mean that STA implies an ideological as well as analytical framework. That’s not what I have in mind, but it’s interesting to see it implied.
I’ve gained in appreciation for this book. It was a good choice to read and review. My three-part write-up feels jumbled and repetitive, but hopefully it conveys Lefebvre’s key points, at least the ones that interest me from an STA standpoint. He goes farther, I now realize, at recognizing time and action-like orientations than most space-oriented theorists.
Nonetheless, whether and how his distinctions and categories can be useful for my STA efforts, I’m far from sure. At some point, I’d like to be able to draw up a really good typology for helping to assess the spatial (as well as temporal and actional) orientations that define people’s mindsets. I don’t come away from reading Lefebvre with a sense I’ve gained much in that regard. Sure, he points out the importance of global/local, center/periphery, and connected/disconnected distinctions, for example. But so do most writers about spatial orientations.
While finishing this final Part 3, I looked around a bit to see whether Lefebvre persisted in later writings with the ideas I liked most: e.g., spatial codes, spatial chaos, trial by space, abstract space, counter-space, and his strategic hypothesis based on space. Where my search led was mainly to the volume edited by Neil Brenner and Stuart Elden, State, Space, World: Selected Essays by Henri Lefebvre (2009), particularly Ch. 11 titled "Space and the State (1978). That and other chapters provide additional material about spatial chaos (pp. 205, 240, 250), trial by space (pp.198, 206), and collective management of space (pp. 122, 174, 193, 195, 288). Thus it appears that he persisted with some ideas (e.g., those just listed), but not so much with others (e.g., his strategic hypothesis about space).
I also browsed a bit to see what academic experts have said about the presence of time and action concepts in Lefebvre’s The Production of Space. I've yet to find as comprehensive a lay-out as I provide here. But I learned that one scholar in particular, Stuart Elden, notably in his book Understanding Henri Lefebvre: Theory and the Possible (2004), highlights that:
“Lefebvre therefore wished to make two main moves in his work. First to put space up with and alongside time in considerations of social theory, and in doing so correct the vacuity of the Kantian experiential containers. Spatiality is as important as, but must not obscure considerations of, temporality and history: 'space and time appear and manifest themselves as different yet inseparable'. Secondly he wished to use this new critical understanding to examine the (modern) world in which he was writing. This is accomplished through an analysis of how space is produced, and how it is experienced. Space is produced in two ways, as a social formation (mode of production), and as a mental construction (conception).” (2004, p. 185)Or to put i more succinctly,
“Lefebvre makes two main moves in his work: an assertion of the importance of space in tandem with that of time; and an analysis of the spaces of the modern age” (Elden, 2007; also, 2004, p. 193).This reassures me about my take. Otherwise, such experts have mostly focused on Lefebvre’s later temporal concept rhythmanalysis, which so far I find less pertinent to STA.
While this series of posts is about space-time action orientations (STA), Parts 1 and 2 noted that Lefebvre was an early proponent of thinking about networks, which interests me for TIMN purposes. This showed up in his book in two ways that still represent rival ways of thinking about networks: one way emphasizes that nothing can be understood fully without taking into account the social and other networks in which an object is embedded; the other emphasizes that network forms of organization are now coming into their own as a form of organization, distinct from say tribes, hierarchical institutions and markets. Lefebvre writes mostly in terms of the former, but mixes in the latter at times too. His analysis of space-time-action dynamics focuses primarily on institutions and markets, but at least he leans toward analyzing networks as well.
By now, I’ve scouted a bit to see whether other analysts have picked up on his network theme. My finding so far is that some have, some haven’t — none of them to the extent I’d like to see. Passing references appear in Elden (2004, esp. p. 236), Brenner and Elden (2009, esp. pp.151, 187-190). Also in the volume edited by Kanishka Goonewardena et al., Space, Difference, Everyday Life: Reading Henri Lefebvre (2008), notably the chapters by Lukasz Stanek (esp. p. 64) and by Sara Nadal-Melsió (esp. p. 170). Doreen Massey’s article “Politics and Space/Time” in New Left Review (1992, esp. pp. 80-81) also has interesting comments about networks and spatial order/chaos, but she keys off other theorists more than Lefebvre. Beyond that, it’s my impression, as written up in a prior blog post (go here, see especially the addendum), that Occupy! activists have had much more to say about space, time, and network matters in often Lefebvrian ways.
That’s all for this series. While reading the book and preparing this post, I happened across various writings on the Web and elsewhere that resonated with my reading of Lefebvre. I’ve compiled too many gleanings to paste here as an addendum, so I’m putting them in a series of follow-up posts next.
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FOOTNOTE* I put an asterisk above where Lefebvre says that time may re-emerge “explosively” as an aspect of radical change, because I’ve wondered whether this might be an oblique nod to French sociologist Georges Gurvitch’s concept of “explosive time”, which he describes as follows in a typology of social time orientations:
“8. Finally, as the eighth and last kind I shall point out explosive time, which dissolves the present as well as the past in the creation of the future immediately transcended. … Such a time is that of collective acts of creation which always play some role in social life but which arise from beneath the surface and become open and dominant during revolutions. … When it is real, explosive time places the global and partial social structures before complicated dilemmas, for it carries the maximum risk and demands the maximum effort to overcome it.” (Gurvitch, 1963, p. 178)I continue to suppose, but cannot yet verify, that it may well be such a nod, for I’ve learned that Gurvitch and Lefebvre were close intellectual and ideological colleagues. Gurvitch wrote about both social space and time orientations years before Lefebvre did. I’ve long regarded Gurvitch’s analyses as interesting for STA, and I’ve used his explosive-time concept — indeed, that very quote — several times, including at this blog, usually in regard to analyzing time orientations found among terrorists. I’ll probably bring it up again when I review the next book on my list for this STA-oriented series: Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd’s The Time Paradox (2008).