Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Henri Lefebvre – "Notes on the New Town" – summary and review


Henri Lefebvre- Notes on the New Town - summary
part 1 - 2 - 3

Henri Lefebvre's "Notes on the New Town" seems at first as a somewhat poetic lamentation on the fate of the old natural or organic working class society with the development of the new industrialized "New Town". The better part of "Notes on the New Town" is an inner monologue Lefebvre has with himself while standing on a hilltop overlooking the new town. Lefebvre hardly holds back on the scorn he pores down on this enslaving, segmented bourgeois way of living, but he finally comes around to considering the potential for emancipation in the new town (very much like Simmel's "The Metropolis and Mental Life")

Lefebvre starts "Notes on the New Town" with a nostalgic account of the old town which soon turns into a somewhat (intentionally?) exaggerated glorying and idealizing portrayal of the Meadville and ancient Greek town. In relating to the old town Lefebvre offers the metaphor of a seashell on the back of a mollusk which without its shell is shapeless (and helpless). This link between animal and shell (that is, humans and their dwellings) "summarizes the immense life of an entire species, and the immense effort this life has made to stay alive and to maintain its own characteristics". Lefebvre sees the old town as the organic continuum of the community which harmonically functions within it.

But this small town, Lefebvre laments, is vegetating and emptying, and has turned boring. As Lefebvre puts it :"it was always boring, but in times gone by that boredom had something soft and cosy about it", but that disappeared in the age of the new town, now the old town is "the pure essence of boredom" with the loss of it vitality and sense of "being in its being as perhaps Heidegger would have phrased it.

In the next part of "Note on the New Town" Lefebvre looks at the new town with a terrified gaze at first, but eventually one that is willing to retreat to the Marxist hope of "things need to get worse before they can become better". 
Henri Lefebvre on Space: Architecture, Urban Research, and the Production of Theory

Henri Lefebvre- Notes on the New Town - summary
part 1 - 2 - 3

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