Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space (1991)

Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space (1991)

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Repetitious spaces are the outcome of repetitive gestures (those of the workers) associated with instruments which are both duplicable and designed to duplicate. It is in their nature as things and products co conceal that truth. Not they only don’t speak at all: they use their own language, the language of things and products, to tout the satisfaction they can supply and the needs they can meet; they use it too to lie, to dissimulate not only the amount of social labour that they can contain, not only the productive labour that they embody, but also the social relationships of exploitation and domination on which they are founded. Things lie, and when, having become commodities, they lie in order to conceal their origin, namely social labour, they tend to set themselves up as absolutes. Let us consider a primary aspect, the simplest perhaps, of the history of space as it proceeds from nature to abstraction. Imagine a time when each people that had managed to measure space had its own units of measurement, usually borrowed from the parts of the body: thumb’s, breadths, cubits, feet, palms, and so on. The spaces of one group, like their measures of duration, must have been unfathomable to all others. A mutual interference occurs here between natural peculiarities of space and the peculiar nature of a given human group. But how extraordinary to think that the body should have been part and parcel of so idiosyncratically gauged a space. The body’s relationship to space, a social relationship of an importance quite misapprehended in later times, still retained in those early days an immediacy which would subsequently degenerate and be lost: space, along with the way it was measured and spoken of, still held up to all the members of a society an image and a living reflection of their own bodies.

—Lefebvre, The Production of Space (1991)

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