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Henri Lefebvre in the second volume of The Critique of Everyday Life:

Up until now, one of the great paradoxes of the twentieth century has been that capitalist economy has apparently taken the form of a “pleasure economy.” Like a caricature of itself, this economy some times goes so far as to become organized waste. Since it conceals the economy of power while organizing, controlling and pulverizing pleasure, it is a form of mystification. In fact, as regards quantity and quality, it is very restricted. In a contradictory way it arouses many needs and desires, some artificial, the rest unsatisfied. Satisfaction is characterized by accident and contingency. It is “a stroke of good fortune”, a windfall, a happy piece of luck. In so far as the words mean anything, joy and happiness consist of a series of favourable encounters and chances. Freedom, so frequently exalted, is no more than the skill of making the most of luck and chance…. This explains the importance of luck and chance both in the highest theoretical thinking and in the ideologies some extremely unsophisticated people adopt and “live” on a practical basis.

The last line is a zinger. Sometimes it seems to be that the left-philosophical / theoretical tradition as a whole placed its chips on black when it should have been red, chance and contingency when it should have gone with the opposite of those things (patient waiting? slow building?). As a result, it learned only to dream permissible dreams, became fascinated by the very dynamics of a system that it would replace.

Written by adswithoutproducts

September 18, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Posted in lefebvre

4 Responses

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  1. That’s a great excerpt. Thanks for it.

    I started to read Lefebvre, mostly based on your recommendation, but the opening of the first part was rather windy I thought. This sample seems vastly less so.


    September 18, 2009 at 5:53 pm

  2. I know what you mean, Richard. It comes in little bursts, the brilliance. There’s a lot of wind to wade through first.


    September 18, 2009 at 10:22 pm

  3. It’s not directly related, but this post reminded me of a quote from the Oulipo Compendium regarding chance-based art. (The Oulipo were a French group of writers and mathematicians interested in constrained writing and the exploration of “potential literature.”):

    “The work of the Oulipo is a form of anti-chance.
    “When he first introduced potential literature, Queneau took pains to make this clear: ‘… It has nothing to do with aleatory literature.’
    “The intentional, deliberate nature of restrictions is indissolubly linked for him with the spirited rejection of chance and, even more, with the equating of chance with freedom.
    Another false idea that is current nowadays is the equivalence established between inspiration, the exploration of the subconscious, and liberation; between chance, automatism, and freedom. The kind of freedom that consists of blindly obeying every impulse is in reality a form of slavery. The classical author, who when writing his tragedy follows a certain number of rules that he knows, is freer than the poet who writes whatever comes into his head and is the slave of other rules he is unaware of.”


    September 30, 2009 at 1:19 am

  4. Thanks for the Tim… I don’t know as much as I should about Oulipo… The anti-chance formulation is truly interesting, yes…


    September 30, 2009 at 8:35 am

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