Essay Example on Henri Lefebvre a French Sociologist








In 1974 Henri Lefebvre a French sociologist and one of the most important and enduring theorists of space and society introduced a concept of the Right to the City in his book The Production of Space Lefebvre 1974 This key idea has influenced many social scientists when creating and transforming social public spaces in the last decades Indeed it has resulted in an entirely new branch of the sociology of space and cultural geography within the Marxist tradition from which Lefebvre himself emerged Our current understandings of urban space within the concept of capitalism would not exist without the work of Lefebvre and there exists a substantial bibliography and critical heritage concerned with his thinking Merrifield 2006 Within the complex contributions of The Production of Space one of the most influential idea was Lefebvre s conceptualisation of the Right to the City In contrast to Mayhew who claimed that it is the right to make full use of the city and to live a richly urban life

 Lefebvre stresses the inseparable worth of cities to the urban population and not merely based on the physical or economic value This essay will investigate into the idea of the Right to the City as outlined in Lefebvre s work as well as how it has been influenced and amplified in the work of other cultural geographers in order to evaluate the extent to which it has formed the general understanding and shaping of spaces in social science research Theorisation of space in The Production of Space In the Production of Space the French theorist Henri Lefebvre asserted that space embodies social relations Lefebvre 1974 27 and hence he believed that social space is the product of society He claimed that the space thus produced also serves as a tool of thought and of action that in addition to being a means of production it is also a means of control and hence of domination of power Lefebvre 1974 26 Accordingly it can be argued that different places at different times may have produced different spaces While Lefebvre emphasises the dominating role of spatial production he is also clear about the fact that socially produced space escapes in part from those who would make use of it and moves towards an uncontrollable autonomy Lefebvre 1974 26 As his key idea is driven from Marxism philosophy Lefebvre supports the idea that revolution is considered to be a means of social change While this is not relevant to every social situation it can be at least seen that socially produced spaces are contested and in some circumstances it could be adopted to control or have power over others and others may use them to escape from domination

The term spatial practices is defined as secret society s space they propound and propose it in dialectical interaction Merrifield 2006 110 and have a role to play in breaking down of spaces Space may exist in its natural condition and be produced through society but in everyday experience space becomes significant to the individual through their own perceptions and through practices which structure lived realities Lefebvre claimed that these practices are constituted through the understanding of other post War philosophers and sociologists in particularly the Situationist International It was an inventive radical socialist and philosophical movement allied to progressive politics which sought to find ways to bring on the liberation of the global labour workers The French social theorist Michel de Certeau for example described how the everyday process of walking traces the body onto its environment inscribing space with the palimpsest of that encounter with the body whose necessary absence allows that space to become the place of memory a symbolic spatial structure from which subjectivity might emerge Waxman and Grant 2011 81 We consider walking as a daily practice and at the same time it is spatial as it evidently takes place in and through space In addition it is a spatial practice which relates the body of the walker to the larger collective spaces of the city and hence it is a social activity It can therefore be argued that these overlapping conceptions of space are particularly crucial in being utilised as an explanation for understanding the experience of space This applies to Lefebvre s work as in his publication of the

Right to the City he defined the city as a work where the inhabitants collectively turn it into an artistic creation and write their own account of the space Lefebvre 2008 Through linking the spaces in a city imaging its monuments landmarks and natural or artificial boundaries Merrifield argues that this aid s or deter a person's sense of location and the manner in which a person acts 2006 110 As such spatial practices form a means of producing social cohesion by ensuring a shared level of competence in the way the city is navigated and used Furthermore spatial practices can be recognised as a product of materialisation with regards to concrete physical items such as monuments and landmarks Burgin 2006 has noted how spatial practices form one part of three key components which constitute what we understand overall as social space In addition to spatial practices Lefebvre 1974 presents the notion of representations of space and spaces of representation Representations of space is where spaces are thought to be abstract plans and mental processes and they are in a dialectical relation and also are relative to each other Gregory et al 2009 590 Spaces of representation on the other hand is where spaces are shaped by those who occupy and lived and through their experiences and actions of using the space While this idea of dividing social space into three components can challenge the overall understanding it can be summarised that social space is a differentiated phenomenon in practice with overlapping components which requires different means of analysis describing space

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