Postmodern Space, Postcolonial Resistance, '99 -- Postmodernism -- Literary Criticism -- IACD
Henri Lefebvre
  • "Plan of the Present Work" from The production of Space
  • Other views on or usages of Lefebvre:Soja, Harvey and 夏鑄九
    Issues for discussion:
    • How is space "produced"?   How is space commodified, made absolute or abstract?
    • How do we apply Lefebvre's spatial triad to literary or cultural texts?  Bear in mind the different interpretations of Lefebvre by Ligget, Soja, and Harvey.
I. Background:
  • Lefebvre: Lefebvre 的「全面的人」和日常生活批判 (《西方馬克斯主義》p. 442; 445; 450)
  • The Production of Space as a response to Manual Castells' criticism.
  • Main Argument:

      1. "[T]here there are different levels of space, from very abstract, crude, natural space ('absolute space') to more complex spatialities whose significance is socially produced ('social space')."
      2. Social space is a social product.
      3. Every society produces its own social space. The social production of urban space is fundamental to the reproduction of society (its social control). [e.g. Soviet Union failed to produce a socialist space." (reference)

II. "Plan of the Present Work"

        The Theoretical Background
    I. The traditional philosophy of space--becoming categories of an immanent order
    • e.g. Aristotle space and time as categories facilitating the naming and classing of evidence of the senses; (unclear)
    • e.g. in the Cartesian logic, space enters to realm of the absolute.
    • e.g. Kantian space --still separate from empirical sphere.

II. Science of space (mathematics). --

    • invented spaces -- an infinity, curved spaces, etc.
    • question p. 3 "How were transitions to be made from mathmatical spaces (i.e. from the mental capacities of the human species, from logic) to nature in the first place, to practice in the second, and thence to the theory of social life--which presumably must unfold in space?"

III. The Modern Field of Epistemology

  • Space as a mental thing.
  • Over-used: e.g. literary space, ideological spaces, etc. (p. 3)
  • critiqued: Foucault -- in not explaining the connection between the subject and the object, or the mind and the physical/social space.
  • critiqued: Chomsky, Derrida, Kristeva, etc.--in not explaining the mediation between the mental and the social; in averting their gaze from "the abyss between the mental space on the one side and the physical and social spheres on the other" (6).

IV. A Science of Space

  • An indefinite multitude of spaces (geographic, economic, demographic, etc.)
  • The present discourse on space and its multiplicity (p. 8)
    • The very multiplicity of these descriptions and sectionings makes them suspect. --> It reveals how this mode of production subject to endless division. (8)
    • Society as a whole continues in subjection to political practice, that is, state power.
  • Science of Space (8-9)
    • represents the political use of knowledge --in more immediate way in the forces of production, and in a 'mediate' way into the social relations of production.
    • implies an ideology designed to conceal that use ....
    • embodies at best a technological utopia, a sort of computer simulation of the future ...

V. Space and the Capitalist Hegemony p. 9-11

  • The many facets of capitalism; --all play a part in practice according to their varying capabilities, ...--> conflicts
  • The hegemony of one class;
  • Space-- taking an active role but not being a passive locus of relations] (11)

    VI. Lefebvre's theoretical position
  • a unitary theory of space-- which combines the physical, the mental and the social; draws distinctions between those levels, and finds out their interrelations without ignoring the conflicts among them.

    VII. Division of These Spaces Critiqued

  • p.14 -- The ideal and the real 'each of these two kinds of space involves, underpins and presupposes the other" (14)

    VIII. Spatial Code and his System of Space

  • the aim:
    • The project I am outlining. . . does not aim to produce a (or the) discourse on space, but rather to expose the actual production of space by bringing the various  kinds of space and the modalities of their genesis together within a single theory.(16)
    • dialectical -- A theory can only take form, and be formulated, at the level of a 'supersede'.  . . . instead of emphasizing the rigorously formal aspect of codes, I shall instead be putting the stress on their dialectical  character.  Codes will be seen as part of a practical relationship, as part of an interaction between 'subjects' and their space and surroundings.  I shall attempt to trace to coming-into-being and disappearance of codings/decodings. (18)

IX. Examples of the Switching of Spatial Codes --

    • surrealists [from subjective space to the material realm of the body and the outside world]
    • George Bataille [the entirety of space --mental, physical, social -- is apprehended tragically.]
    • theorist of technology Jacque Lafitte [technocratic utopia with 'active' machines and 'passive' machines]

    X Fetishization of Space in the service of the State. (Marxist focus on history and spatial control explained )

  • p. 24  [The book] aims to foster confrontation between those ideas and propositions which illuminate the modern world even if they do not govern it, . . .treating them . . .as prefigurations lying at the threshold of modernity.
  • XI

    XII. (Social) Space is a (Social) Product p. 26-27

  •   Lefebvre's critique of two illusions (of transparency and realist) pp. 27-

  • The illusion of transparency -- space appears as luminous, as intelligible, as giving action free rein.  [Related to the ideology which privileges speech and/or writing; has a kinship with philosophical idealism. ]
  • The realist illusion -- the belief that 'things' have more of an existence than the 'subject,' his thought and his desires.   [Closer to materialism]
  • His argument: (social) space is a (social) productImplications:
  1. XIV (physical) natural space is disappearing. p. 30
  2. XV every society--and hence every mode of production with its subvariants . .. --produces a space, its own space.
    • Social space contains (1) the social relations of reproduction, i.e. the bio-physiological relations between the sexes and between age groups, along with the specific organization of the family; and (2) the relations of production, i.e. the division of labour and its organization in the form of hierarchical social functions.
    • Three interrelated levels in capitalist society: (1) biological reproduction (the family); (2) the reproduction of labour power; (3) the reproduction of the social relations of production.  p. 32
    • Space may be said to embrace a multitude of intersections.
    • The conceptual triad p. 33


XVI examples of different representation of space for society's self-presentation or self-preservation pp. 34-36

  • precapitalist use of religious and political sites
  • the need to signify higher reality
  • family's role
  • the use of reserved spaces for the absolute power
  • prohibition
    3. XVII If space is a product, our knowledge of it must be expected to reproduce and expound the process of production.  The 'object' of interest must be expected to shift from things in space to the actual production of space.  (36-37)
    • space studies in its totality p. 37

    [how is space produced?]
        Lefebvre's  spatial triad: the perceive, the conceived, and the lived pp 38-39
1. Spatial practice
--p. 33 which embraces production and reproduction, . . . Spatial practice ensures continuity and some degree of cohesion.
-- p. 38 The spatial practice of a society secretes that society's space; it propounds and presupposed it, in a dialectical interaction; it produces it slowly and surely as it masters and appropriates it.
e.g. In the Middle Ages -- embraced not only the network of local roads ... but also the main roads between towns and the great pilgrims' ways.
2. Representation of space:
--p. 33 tied to the relations of production and to the 'order.'
-- p. 38  conceptualized space, the space of scientists, planners, urbanists, technocratic subdividers and social engineers. . . all of whom identify what is lived and what is perceive with what is conceived.
E.g. In the Middle Ages -- including the Earth, the world, the Cosmos, ... a fixed sphere within a finite space, diametrically bisected by the surface of the Earth; below is Hell, and above the Firmament.

3. Representational spaces:
--p. 33  embody complex symbolisms, sometimes coded, sometimes not, linked to the clandestine or underground side of social life, as also to art.  
-- p. 39  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.
 E.g. In the Middle Ages -- the village church, graveyard, hall and fields, or the square and the belfry.
E.g. In the Middle Ages --

      absolute space -- made up of fragments of nature. . . but [the sites'] very consecration ended up by stripping them of their natural characteristics and uniqueness.  .  ..  religious and political in character, was a product of the bonds of sanguinity, soil and language, but out of it evolved a space which was relativized and historical.  p. 48
      abstract space -- . . . the forces of history smashed naturalness forever and upon its ruins established the space of accumulation (the accumulation of all wealth and resources: knowledge, technology, money, precious objects, works of art and symbols).

Spatial Practices: Critical Explorations in Social/Spatial Theory
Lefebvre's triad --p. 6-7  space as process--as produced in inseparable, yet shifting physical and social contexts.  Lefebvre (1991) focuses attention on the production of space by, among other things, constructing a model of various "processes of assembly" (pp. 31-33).  These include "representations of space," "spatial practices," and "representational spaces."  The model tends to distinguish professional practices such as planning (representations of space) from spatial patterns of everyday life (spatial practices) from the symbolic meanings enacted in spatial form (representational spaces).

Combining time and space--p. 7   Helen Liggett suggests in Chapter 9 that the constitutive relations among various modes of assembly can be seen as modes of articulation or ways of making sense.  She relates the time/space of analysis to the time/space of social production through the creation of photographic images and narratives that re(enact) spatial patterns.

Helen Liggett "City Sights/Sites of Memories and Dreams"
introducing Lefebvre
p. 245  A unitary theory of space as process--By unitary he means applicable to all levels, .