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Writings On Cities [Paperback]

Henri Lefebvre , Eleonore Kofman , Elizabeth Lebas
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: 26.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

25 Nov 1995
The work of Henri Lefebvre – the only major French intellectual of the post–war period to give extensive consideration to the city and urban life – received considerable attention among both academics and practitioners of the built environment following the publication in English of The Production of Space. This new collection brings together, for the first time in English, Lefebvre′s reflections on the city and urban life written over a span of some twenty years. The selection of writings is contextualized by an introduction – itself a significant contribution to the interpretation of Henri Lefebvre′s work – which places the material within the context of Lefebvre′s intellectual and political life and times and raises pertinent issues as to their relevance for contemporary debates over such questions as the nature of urban reality, the production of space and modernity. Writings on Cities is of particular relevance to architects, planners, geographers, and those interested in the philosophical and political understanding of contemporary life.

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Writings On Cities + The Urban Revolution + The Production of Space
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Product details

  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell (25 Nov 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0631191887
  • ISBN-13: 978-0631191889
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 14.7 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 452,313 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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From the Back Cover

The work of Henri Lefebvre – the only major French intellectual of the post–war period to give extensive consideration to the city and urban life – received considerable attention among both academics and practitioners of the built environment following the publication in English of The Production of Space. This new collection brings together, for the first time in English, Lefebvre′s reflections on the city and urban life written over a span of some twenty years. The selection of writings is contextualized by an introduction – itself a significant contribution to the interpretation of Henri Lefebvre′s work – which places the material within the context of Lefebvre′s intellectual and political life and times and raises pertinent issues as to their relevance for contemporary debates over such questions as the nature of urban reality, the production of space and modernity. Writings on Cities is of particular relevance to architects, planners, geographers, and those interested in the philosophical and political understanding of contemporary life.

About the Author

Eleonore Kofman is Professor in the Department of International Studies at Nottingham Trent University. Elizabeth Lebas is Senior Lecturer in the School of Geography at Middlesex University. Both have researched and written extensively on French urbanization and urban theory.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The title for the introduction reflects an important aspect of our selection and translation of writings on the city by Henri Lefebvre, French Marxist philosopher and sociologist, whose life spanned the century and whose major publications begin in the 1930s and end with his death in 1991. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book, poor translation 12 Mar 2010
Format:Paperback
I love how Lefebvre opens up the city and how we look at it, how we study it, how we create it, and most importantly how we live it. This is a good selection of texts, and the only place you can find a translation of The Right to the City, which is a pivotal text in so many ways, and a source of potentially revolutionary thought. It only gets 4 stars however, because the texts themselves are riven with typos, and without having read the original French, I am rather certain that the translation is not at all what it could be...and certainly seems to make an understanding of the central ideas even harder. It definitely doesn't fare well in contrast to State, Space, World.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Classic text terribly edited 4 Oct 2012
Format:Paperback
This is such an important text, and yet the introductory essay by the two translators is so full of typos and grammatical and syntactical errors that one could very easily be put off from going any further. The translation is very shaky throughout. Did anyone at Blackwell even proofread this book? Time for a new translation; The Urban Revolution got a good translation not so long ago, The Right to the City is due a revisit too. It couldn't be more timely.
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Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
3.0 out of 5 stars The Right to the City - a should-read for urban theorists and geographers, but very theoretical and dense 6 Jun 2014
By D.K. Thompson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As with Lefebvre's "Production of Space," "Writings on Cities" is broken down into digestible sections, but is still a fairly dense and complicated read. This work provides a translation of Lefebvre's "Right to the City," a seminal work in urban studies literature and the foundation of a lot of more recent work on the subject. It also contains a selection from "Space and Politics", two interviews with Lefebvre that shed some light on his personal life and clarification of his views, and two chapters on rhythmanalysis that are interesting and worth reading, but (in my opinion) not as thought-provoking as "Right to the City," given that their subject matter is more descriptive and is subsumed in the essential theoretical development of Lefebvre's "Right to the City."

The introduction by Kofman and Lebas provides a useful overview of Lefebvre's life and philosophy, and I found the introduction useful in situating Lefebvre's work, having previously read some articles as well as "Production of Space" without being familiar with Lefebvre's life. Lefebvre is one of the seminal thinkers on the right to the city, a theme that was taken up in the Anglo-American world by the likes of geographer David Harvey ("Social Justice and the City" is a very good read), Neil Brenner, and Don Mitchell, among others. I am not very familiar with the background of either Kofman or Lebas, and I do not know who copy edited this book, but there were quite a few spelling errors that I found a bit distracting.

Lefebvre's work develops based on the idea of the city as the inscription of specific times and "simultaneities" (e.g. interactions between people, modes of production, trade, religious and political power) in physical reality, giving rise to specific urban morphology. Lefebvre conceptualizes the history of cities up to the critical period of capitalist industrialization, which drove (drives) rapid urbanization in industrial countries, followed by urbanization in more distant non-industrial societies where industrial production undercuts agrarian livelihoods and leads to the development of shanty-towns on urban peripheries. His theoretical argument traces the abandonment of the old urban cores for suburbs as new industries develop on the edges of cities, followed by the re-appropriation of the urban cores by commercial interests.

Unlike other urban histories that deal primarily with urban form and population dynamics, however, Lefebvre focuses on the philosophy, strategy, and ideology of industrial urbanization, the ideology of "habitat" and the "right to nature" associated with suburbanization, and the city as a center of power, albeit in reality a cog in the organizing machine of state or global planning. Usefully, he separates and develops three concepts that are often conflated in thought and practice: (1) the city as a morphological entity, in and through which organizing and planning power is exercised and applied; (2) the urban as the social space of interactions and relations between people, relations of difference, discourse, and (potentially) increasing understanding; and (3) the urban fabric as the networks and relationships stretching from the city into surrounding areas, characterized by the subtle domination of countryside by the city. The basic argument, reminiscent of Marx and yet more specifically urban and updated, is that industrial urbanization has generated urban society, which provides the setting in which people ("the people" or "the workers", the majority), through their increased interactions and the combination of knowledge with lived practice of interaction, have the potential to reclaim the city as a space of both production and interaction, public space, play, etc.

There is a lot to this book - it is somewhat dense, but as a researcher it provided me with numerous ideas and concepts that have proven useful in my research and writing, not only about cities, but also about political economy and economics. Lefebvre develops quite a few philosophical starting points for deeper analysis and thinking about our society today, about the relationship between the city and the suburb, about the ideology of habitat, the commodification of nature and escape, and public transportation, among other topics.

The bottom line: If you want a book that makes you think more theoretically or philosophically about the city and urban society, and about the relationship between power, urbanization, and political economy in the world today, I recommend this book. In order to really grasp where Lefebvre was going, I had to summarize each chapter in a couple sentences as I went, which really helped to put it all together (otherwise he appears to jump around). If you are not up for active, engaged reading of what is basically philosophy rather than history, then I recommend David Harvey or Neil Brenner as alternatives. I also found Don Mitchell's work of a more practical/tangible nature than Lefebvre's.
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