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Archive for the ‘lefebvre’ Category

cross your fingers

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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.

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September 18, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Posted in lefebvre

“thanks to its own powers of persuasion….”

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Henri Lefebvre in his foreword to Critique of Everyday Life, Vol. I:

We ask ourselves: ‘What is socialism exactly? How does it intervene in everyday life? What does it change?’ And the answer is unclear. The elimination of the bourgeoisie and class antagonisms? The suppression of capitalist relations of property and production? These are only negative definitions. We find the picture of a bourgeois society without a bourgeoisie neither reassuring nor satisfying. We think that there is, or will be, something else. But what? Accepting one’s work, making it – willingly if possible – one’s first priority, working harder, willing productivity to increase rather than merely putting up with it? These ideas are fine as far as they go. Admittedly they are probably all essential, very important for the social relations of production, and perhaps they would go some way towards defining a mode of production economically. But as a definition of a culture, a civilization, a humanity, they are inadequate. Nor can they define a worthwhile way of living which could come into being thanks to its own powers of persuasion. *

Ah, that last line is a killer. Perfect! And here’s what he says in the footnote attached to the end of that passage:

* Unfortunately materialism is presented in far too many publications as the most depressing of platitudes, In fact it appears to reach the heights of platitude (so to speak). If it were a completed system, or simply a weapon for the working-class struggle, why indeed would it have to be interesting? After all, when philosophy lost metaphysics, it might also be said to have lost its picturesqueness!….

Exciting to be re-reading Lefebvre. I had forgotten, in the way that one does, the fact that every line of thought that I follow on just about any topic that matters very clearly started nowhere and nowhen else than with my first reading of this book.

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April 8, 2009 at 11:22 am