Lefebvre and real abstraction.

Beginning to rewrite my chapter on the role of Henri Lefebvre’s interpretation of fetishism in his theory of social domination. The Lefebvre chapter is the last chapter I need to rewrite. After that I need to write a conclusion and then work on putting everything together. I assume this will include more tweaking and polishing. But the end is in sight, which is good because my registration ends on the 30th of September.

In many ways Lefebvre is the most interesting theorist of fetishism and social domination that I examine. This is because Lefebvre hasn’t received as much attention as Lukacs and Adorno. When he has he is usually treated as a seminal Marxist Humanist theorist of alienation. However, I think this characterization is too simplistic. On one hand it does capture the focus of much of Lefebvre’s writing. But, on the other hand, I feel like the employment of the term alienation: (a) designates themes in Lefebvre’s writings rather than explaining them and (b) doesn’t account for his later writings on cities and space that moved away from using the theory of alienation.

What is of particular interest in what is generally accounted for as Lefebvre’s theory of alienation is his interpretation of fetishism. For it seems to me that Lefebvre is generally not recognized as someone who got fetishism as far back as the 1930s. Nor is he someone that is discussed in relation to theories of real abstraction. Yet Lefebvre used this term as far back as the 1930s and moved to using Marx’s idea of concrete abstraction in The Grundrisse as the basis for his writings on cities and abstract space.

I’m sure I will be posting more about this in the coming weeks. For the time being here is a fragment Lefebvre wrote on fetishism as alienated real abstraction in Mystification: Notes for a Critique of Everyday Life in 1933. I should also add that this quote indicates that Lefebvre’s humanism is negative and critical rather than normative.

“To talk about the mechanization of man, to say that machines have turned against him, has become a commonplace that only conceals the true situation. It is not only machines that have become detached from man. All the immense machinery of capitalism – ideas, values, institutions, culture—all this civilization has taken on a sort of independent existence that weighs on man and wrenches them apart from themselves; the very expression ‘man’ is drenched in mystification, because man still has no real existence. Alienation, that real abstraction, that false life that exists only through him and feeds on man- the ‘human’ that has lost its way on the road towards his realization—inevitably is dispersal, and a mutual exteriority of the elements of culture. But in this very exteriority, the elements have a unity in the movement of alienation.” 75 key writings


About HR

Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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