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The Production of Space

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Henri LefebrveEdit

The Production of Space [French: 1974 | English 1991]Edit

Spatial materialism? Space as a product within capitalism. Abstract space (space for domination) vs. absolute space (space for everyday). Rejection of "conceptions" of space.

Significant is his triad of the lived (spatial practices), the conceived (representations of space), and the perceived (representational space composed of non-verbal symbols and signs). Pgs. 38-39:

1 Spatial practice The spatial practice of a society secretes that society's space; it propounds and presupposes it, in a dialectical interac­tion; it produces it slowly and surely as it masters and appropriates it.
From the analytic standpoint, the spatial practice of a society is revealed through the deciphering of its space.

What is spatial practice under neocapitalism? It embodies a close association, within perceived space, between daily reality (daily routine) and urban reality (the routes and networks which link up the places set aside for work, 'private' life and leisure). This association is a paradoxi­cal one, because it includes the most extreme separation between the places it links together. The specific spatial competence and performance of every society member can only be evaluated empirically. 'Modern' spatial practice might thus be defined - to take an extreme but significant case — by the daily life of a tenant in a government-subsidized high-rise housing project. Which should not be taken to mean that motorways or the politics of air transport can be left out of the picture. A spatial practice must have a certain cohesiveness, but this does not imply that it is coherent (in- the sense of intellectually worked out or logically conceived).

2 Representations of space: conceptualized space, the space of scien­tists, planners, urbanists, technocratic subdividers and social engineers, as of a certain type of artist with a scientific bent - all of whom identify
what is lived and what is perceived with what is conceived. (Arcane speculation about Numbers, with its talk of the golden number, moduli and 'canons', tends to perpetuate this view of matters.) This is the dominant space in any society (or mode of production). Conceptions of space tend, with certain exceptions to which I shall return, towards a system of verbal (and therefore intellectually worked out) signs.

3 Representational spaces: space as directly lived through its associ-ated 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. This is the dominated — and hence passively experienced — space which the imagination seeks to change and appropriate. It overlays physical space, making symbolic use of its objects. Thus representational spaces may be said, though again with certain exceptions, to tend towards more or less coherent systems of non-verbal symbols and signs.

From page 349:

  1. has a part to play among the forces of production, a role originally played by nature, which it has displaced and supplant­ed;

  2. appears as a product of singular character, in that it is sometimes simply consumed (in such forms as travel, tourism, or leisure activities) as a vast commodity, and sometimes, in metropolitan areas, productively consumed (just as machines are, for example), as a productive apparatus of grand scale;

  3. shows itself to be politically instrumental in that it facilitates the control of society, while at the same time being a means of production by virtue of the way it is developed (already towns and metropolitan areas are no longer just works and products but also means of production, supplying housing, maintaining the labour force, etc.);

  4. underpins the reproduction of production relations and property relations (i.e. ownership of land, of space; hierarchical ordering of locations; organization of networks as a function of capi­talism; class structures; practical requirements);

  5. is equivalent, practically speaking, to a set of institutional and ideological superstructures that are not presented for what they are (and in this capacity social space comes complete with symbolisms and systems of meaning - sometimes an overload of meaning); alternatively, it assumes an outward appearance of neutrality, of insignificance, of semiological destitution, and of emptiness (or absence);

  6. contains potentialities — of works and of reappropriation -existing to begin with in the artistic sphere but responding above all to the demands of a body 'transported' outside itself in space, a body which by putting up resistance inaugurates the project of a different space (either the space of a counter-culture, or a counter-space in the sense of an initially Utopian alternative to actually existing 'real' space).

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