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Henri Lefèbvre (1901 - 1991)

Lifespan: 1901 - 1991

Related: everyday life - French philosophy - Situationism - radical

Critique of Everyday Life, Volume II/Critique de la Vie Quotidienne - Henri Lefebvre [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]


Radical Philosophy magazine wrote of Henri Lefebvre, 1901 - 1991 in his obituary
the most prolific of French Marxist intellectuals, died during the night of 28-29 June 1991, less than a fortnight after his ninetieth birthday. During his long career, his work has gone in and out of fashion several times, and has influenced the development not only of philosophy but also of sociology, geography, political science and literary criticism.
--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Lefebvre [Aug 2004]

The Critique Of Everyday Life [...]

Debord and Vaneigem had attended a course of lectures in 1957-58 given by Henri Lefebvre, who was aided in giving this course by Jean Baudrillard. Lefebvre was the author of ‘The Critique Of Everyday Life’ in which he argued that people’s everyday life (i.e. what was left after work) was taken up by meaningless and trivial wastes of time such as commuting and the consumption of commodities. He was interested in how to free people from the alienation of work, commodity fetishism and money and let them experience everyday life without alienation – ‘man must be everyday, or he will not be at all.’ --Karen Elliot, Oct 1999. No copyright. No rights reserved.

Henri Lefèbvre on the Situationist International

H.L.: Are you going to ask me questions about the Situationists? Because I have something I'd like to talk about.

K.R.: Fine, go ahead.

H.L.: The Situationists . . . it's a delicate subject, one I care deeply about. It touches me in some ways very intimately because I knew them very well. I was close friends with them. The friendship lasted from 1957 to 1961 or '62, which is to say about five years. And then we had a quarrel that got worse and worse in conditions I don't undertsnad too well myself, but which I could describe to you. In the end, it was a love story that ended badly, very badly. There are love stories that begin well and end badly. And this was one of them. --Interview conducted and translated 1983 by Kristen Ross Printed in October 79, Winter 1997, http://www.notbored.org/lefebvre-interview.html [Jul 2004]

Dutch Provos [...]

[a]t the same time that I met Guy Debord [1957] , I met Constant. I knew that the Provos in Amsterdam were interested in the city, and I went there to see what was going on, maybe ten times. Just to see the form that the movement was taking, if it took a political form. There were Provos elected to the city council in Amsterdam. I forget which year, but they pulled off a big victory in the municipal elections. Then, after that, it all fell apart.--Interview conducted and translated 1983 by Kristen Ross Printed in October 79, Winter 1997, http://www.notbored.org/lefebvre-interview.html [Jul 2004]


But I'd like to go farther back in time, because everything started much earlier. It started with the COBRA group. They were the intermediaries: the group made up of architects, with the Dutch architect Constant in particular and the painter Asger Jorn and people from Brussels -- it was a Nordic group, a group with considerable ambitions. They wanted to renew art, renew the action of art on life. It was an extremely interesting and active group, which came together in the 1950s, and one of the books that inspired the founding of the group was my book Critique of Everyday Life. That's why I got involved with them from such an early date. And the pivotal figure was Constant Nieuwenhuys, the utopian architect who designed a Utopian city, a New Babylon -- a provocative name, since in the Protestant tradition Babylon is a figure of evil. New Babylon was to be the figure of good that took the name of the cursed city and transformed itself into the city of the future. The design for New Babylon dates from 1950. And in 1953 Constant published a text called For an Architecture of Situation. This was a fundamental text based on the idea that architecture would allow a transformation of daily reality. This was the conception with Critique of Everyday Life: to create an architecture that would itself instigate the creation of new situations. So this text was the beginning of a whole new research that developed in the following years, especially since Constant was very close to popular movements; he was one of the instigators of the Provos, the Provo movement. --Interview conducted and translated 1983 by Kristen Ross Printed in October 79, Winter 1997, http://www.notbored.org/lefebvre-interview.html [Jul 2004]

Critique of Everyday Life - Henri Lefèbvre

Critique of Everyday Life, Volume II/Critique de la Vie Quotidienne - Henri Lefebvre [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

"The more needs a human being has, the more he exists," quips Lefebvre in a savage critique of consumerist society, first published in 1947. The French philosopher, historian and Marxist sociologist, who died this summer at age 90, meditates on the dehumanization and ugliness smuggled into daily life under cover of purity, utility, beauty. He deconstructs leisure as a form of social control, spanks surrealism for its turning away from reality, and attempts to get past the "mystification" inherent in bourgeois life by analyzing Chaplin's films, Brecht's epic theater, peasant festivals, daydreams, Rimbaud and the rhythms of work and relaxation. Rejecting the inauthentic, which he perceives in a church service or in rote work from which one is alienated, Lefebvre nevertheless seeks to unearth the human potential that may be inherent in such rituals. --From Publishers Weekly via Amazon.com

This translation of the second edition (1958) of French sociologist and philosopher Lefebvre's Critique de la Vie Quotidienne will introduce the English reader to his examination of the forces and structures that govern various aspects of our daily lives and in particular the role played by alienation in its various manifestations. The text includes a lengthy analytical introduction by the author that did not appear in the first edition of 1947. Lefebvre's Marxist orientation and terminology... --From Library Journal via Amazon.com

Henri Lefebvre's three-volume Critique of Everyday Life is perhaps the richest, most prescient work by one of the twentieth century's greatest philosophers. The first volume presented an introduction to the concept of everyday life. Written twenty years later, this second volume attempts to establish the necessary formal instruments for analysis, and outlines a series of theoretical categories within everyday life such as the theory of the semantic field and the theory of moments. The moment at which the book appeared—1962—was significant both for France and for Lefebvre himself: he was just beginning his career as a lecturer in sociology at Strasbourg, and then at Nanterre, and many of the ideas which were influential in the events leading up to 1968 are to found in this critique. In its impetuous, often undisciplined prose, the reader may catch a glimpse of how charismatic a lecturer Lefebvre must have been. --Book Description via Amazon.com

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