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The Production of Space [Paperback]

Henri Lefebvre
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

15 Aug 1991 0631181776 978-0631181774 1
Henri Lefebvre has considerable claims to be the greatest living philosopher. His work spans some sixty years and includes original work on a diverse range of subjects, from dialectical materialism to architecture, urbanism and the experience of everyday life. The Production of Space is his major philosophical work and its translation has been long awaited by scholars in many different fields. The book is a search for a reconciliation between mental space (the space of the philosophers) and real space (the physical and social spheres in which we all live). In the course of his exploration, Henri Lefebvre moves from metaphysical and ideological considerations of the meaning of space to its experience in the everyday life of home and city. He seeks, in other words, to bridge the gap between the realms of theory and practice, between the mental and the social, and between philosophy and reality. In doing so, he ranges through art, literature, architecture and economics, and further provides a powerful antidote to the sterile and obfuscatory methods and theories characteristic of much recent continental philosophy. This is a work of great vision and incisiveness. It is also characterized by its author′s wit and by anecdote, as well as by a deftness of style which Donald Nicholson–Smith′s sensitive translation precisely captures.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (15 Aug 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0631181776
  • ISBN-13: 978-0631181774
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.2 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 104,774 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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" The Production of Space reveals Lefebvre at the height of his powers: imaginative, incisive and immensely suggestive." Derek Gregory, University of British Columbia <!––end––>

From the Back Cover

Henri Lefebvre has considerable claims to be the greatest living philosopher. His work spans some sixty years and includes original work on a diverse range of subjects, from dialectical materialism to architecture, urbanism and the experience of everyday life. The Production of Space is his major philosophical work and its translation has been long awaited by scholars in many different fields. The book is a search for a reconciliation between mental space (the space of the philosophers) and real space (the physical and social spheres in which we all live). In the course of his exploration, Henri Lefebvre moves from metaphysical and ideological considerations of the meaning of space to its experience in the everyday life of home and city. He seeks, in other words, to bridge the gap between the realms of theory and practice, between the mental and the social, and between philosophy and reality. In doing so, he ranges through art, literature, architecture and economics, and further provides a powerful antidote to the sterile and obfuscatory methods and theories characteristic of much recent continental philosophy. This is a work of great vision and incisiveness. It is also characterized by its author′s wit and by anecdote, as well as by a deftness of style which Donald Nicholson–Smith′s sensitive translation precisely captures.

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First Sentence
Not so many years ago, the word 'space' had a strictly geometrical meaning: the idea it evoked was simply that of an empty area. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the production of confusion 1 Oct 2006
Format:Paperback
this is great book and rewards repeated reading. in fact, it demands repeated reading - the concept of "abstract space" and how it relates to capitalist production, allusions to surrealism and his clear kinship with the situtionists are all sources of fascination, but it is written in such a obfuscatory style that it is hardly penetrable without several engagements. It really is deeply absorbing, passionate and constantly surprising. Why not have a lefebrve season? Critique of Everyday life volume one is especially good.
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
93 of 98 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Space is produced by, and produces, society 31 July 2002
By H-S - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Thinkers have long analyzed things in space, but it is time to analyze space itself and "the social relationships embedded in it" according to Lefebvre. He wants to analyze the form, structure, and function of something he calls "social space" and explore how such spaces have been produced.
"Social space" partly consists of a certain configuration of actual space in actual time. Space also encompasses and includes physical objects that participate in discourse (as Foucault would say). Thus, space is also a container of relationships. It is also the receptacle of history, "the outcome of past actions." Lefebvre uses the example of a mountain. It does not have to have been produced or even physically altered by human hands to be considered a social space. Lefebvre's mountain participates in many relationships. The mountain space participates in a dialectic with humans, other spaces (social, representational, and represented), and history (it is produced in history and plays a role in history). It is at once a locus, a node on a network, a path, and place of potentials (i.e. of possible material exchange). "Its `reality' [is] at once formal and material." In short, the mountain cannot be reduced to a simple object, writes Lefebvre.
Space is powerful. Space, according to him, is anything but the "passive locus of social relations." It has an "active-operational or instrumental role," it is "knowledge and action." It instructs. It is also nothing less than a new mode of production. It contributes to "the establishment...of a system" and those in power (the bourgeois, most recently) frequently have made use of it. Space produces society, writes Lefebvre. He writes, "a decisive part is played by space in this continuity [of the reproduction of society]."
At the same time space produces society, space is produced. What Lefebvre sets out to do is identify "the actual production of space," to bring the different kinds of space and the modes of their production into a theory. Space is not "produced in the sense that a kilogram of sugar or a yard of cloth is produced." Nor is it produced like an aspect of superstructure. Social space is produced by (and produces) power to serve its goals.
Lefebvre laments that, in the work of philosophers, there has been an "abyss" between mental ("ideal") space and real space, between the internal "sphere", the realm of mental categories, and the external, physical, social. Lefebvre rejects the res cogitans/res existensa duality of Descartes, and separating mental space from real space strongly reinforces this. Lefebvre's belief that real minds in real bodies inhabit real space-at the same time spaces participate in the mental realm-is the most basic reason The Production of Space is useful for environmental historians. His ideas hint at new opportunities to bridge the culture/matter gap.
Lefebvre also believes that physical environments have histories and humans are a part of them. "In short, every social space has a history, one invariably grounded in nature, in natural conditions that are at once primordial and unique in the sense that they are always and everywhere endowed with specific characteristics (site, climate, etc.)." He even sounds like an environmental historian at times. "The departure point for this history of space is not to be found in geographical descriptions of natural space, but rather in the study of natural rhythms, and of the modification of those rhythms and their inscription in space by means of human actions, especially work-related actions. It begins, then, with the spatio-temporal rhythms of nature as transformed by a social practice."
Criticisms: Lefebvre frequently returns to a critique of the space produced by capitalism, a powerful (abstract) space that spans the globe and has left few pockets free from it. The space produced by something like capitalism is extremely powerful because one can not choose but be obedient to it; to live in it is "lived obedience." That is, to follow its dictates, move about in it in an orderly fashion, to be directed in some paths, prohibited from others, is to follow its instruction. This space is totally concerned with reproducing (bourgeois-serving) social relationships at the cost of "[creative] works, ...natural reproduction, over nature itself, and over natural time."
His point is well taken, but I think these frequently tangential moments detract from his exposition of a new analytical tool. I get tired of hearing that the point of this analysis is to uncover the social relationships latent in spaces for the ostensible purpose of inspiring revolution. I'd rather he left such an analysis to a historian employing Lefebvre's idea rather than having Lefebvre try to make his exposition of a theoretical tool double as a manifesto. (I am also really weary of his defending himself against hardcore Marxists-his concentration is greatly lessened for the effort. I understand that he is fighting personal battles with his old friends at these moments.)
40 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and intellectually nourishing 25 July 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Production of Space is a thick yet engaging introduction to Postmodern spatial theory, providing insights to a variety of philosophical concepts centering on how we perceive, construct, and reproduce both physical and mental spaces. While complex and eclectic, Lefebvre's book provides ample food for thought for those interested in the means by which we as human beings understand space in the world and how we negotiate and transpose it in our minds.
Overall, it's damned good stuff. I read this book and the idea for my Masters thesis came exploding out of me like one of those creatures from "Alien."
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as it should have been... 10 Aug 2014
By Elie G. Haddad - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Lefebvre intended to use the marxist concept of 'production' to space, and to analyze it from this perspective, which would have produced a very interesting book. Unfortunately, in his florid style that mixes between analysis and metaphors, Lefebvre failed to do this, and instead produced a work which is not devoid of some 'illuminating' ideas, but doesn't carry the idea to its end, nor does it address for instance the function of individual property and its transformations through different epochs, as a fundamental component in the analysis of the production of space.
5.0 out of 5 stars "In the beginning was the Topos..." 23 April 2013
By Geoffrey Fox - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"In the beginning was the Topos. Before - long before - the advent of the Logos, in the chiaroscuro realm of primitive life, lived experience already possessed its internal rationality; this experience was producing long before thought space, and spatial thought, began reproducing the projection, explosion, image and orientation of the body." (p. 174)

In Henri Lefebvre's terms, living things "produce" space simply by moving. What he meant was that an animal's or plant's "gestures," that is, the movements of its body relative to other things, create new spatial relationships of left and right, above and below, in front and behind, inside and outside. Of course these spaces are all created within another, larger Topos including things that do not move on their own, and others that do -- what we call the natural environment. The human beings must adapt themselves to it (when they run into immovable objects) as they try to adapt it to themselves.

In short, humans had to domesticate their environment, beginning perhaps by domesticating each other - establishing the hierarchies and other rules that made it easier for them to live together -- and then domesticating some plants and animals, long before they had sufficient experience to reflect on what they were doing or its probable consequences. Brilliant.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read for Anti-Capitalists 2 April 2013
By Sausage Genie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Anyone interested in political or academic Marxism or in joining their organizing efforts with solid theory should get this book. As a student of post-Marxism, poststructuralism, and Lacanian psychoanalytic theory (from Althusser to Zizek I guess you could say), I can a appreciate Lefebvre's solid body of theory. Unlike many other theorists (Baudrillard, for example), Lefebvre connects his theory to direct, concrete practice in the real world and skewers other academics who are prone to oblivious abstraction. Some theories cheaply "apply" their theories to examples, but Lefebvre actually has an object in mind (capitalist space and revolutionary space) when outlining his considerable argument, which he compares to Marx's project in Capital. Whereas Marx uncovered the "secret of the commodity" and all of the implications of its denuding, Lefebvre's task is to describe, as precisely as possible, the theoretical and pragmatic aspects of the production of (social) space, not as a mere empty container to be filled with content, but something that is made by society. The result is a compelling toolbox for analyzing the spaces around us.

Most summaries of Lefebvre emphasize perceived (visual) space, conceived (abstract) space, and lived (concrete, physical, actual) space. There are other schemata that are important in the whole argument. For example, there are induced/minimal and produced/maximal differences within a system of spatial practice. Similar patterns apply to more "contradictions within space." This all sounds a bit abstract but I am only outlining a few of the broad terms that might give a brief hint at the larger scope for anyone looking to do more research on this.
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