Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Henri Lefebvre – "Notes on the New Town" – summary and review – part 2

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

When Henri Lefebvre looks at the new town in "Notes on the New Town" his eyes rest on a new housing project which he refers to as "machines for living".  These impersonal, fragmenting structures "act as a mediator between nature and human beings, both as individuals and as groups". This as opposed to the old town in which the connection between people and nature and between members of the community was unmediated.

Lefebvre wonders at the function of such urban spaces, asking "will people be compliant and do what the plan expects them to do, shop at the shopping center, asking for advice at the advice bureau, doing everything that civic center officers demand of them like good, reliable citizens?". At the end of "Note on the New City" Lefebvre concludes that the new city is transforming the world with the question being –"transforming it into what?", and now he is wondering whether the terror of the new town will lead to socialism or supercapitalism.
One of the aspects of the new town that Lefebvre registers, like Georg Simmel, is that everything in it has, and is reduced to, a function ("every object has its use, and declares it"). When the new town will be successfully completed "everything in it will be functional, and every object within it will have a specific function: its own". And when a thing is reduced to nothing but its function, it can only signify itself and nothing else, meaning that the final fate of the city is a kind of total intelligibility, with no surprises of possibilities at hand. The seashell is flattened and functionalized Le Corbusier style, and no traces of the past can be read from it, only the dreads of modernity.

This is related, for Lefebvre, to the Bourgeois capacities for abstraction and separation and their making of analytic thinking their dominant mentality. Under this mentality which rules over the new city "everything which could be has been separated and differentiated: not only specific spheres and types of behavior, but also places and people".  With everything being analytically separated "the links become more important than the 'beings' who are being linked". Bourgeois analysis entails the death of spontaneous organic living which is dissected into categories of monads.

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

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