Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Henri Lefebvre – "Notes on the New Town" – summary and review – part 3

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

In the third and last part of his "Notes on the New Town" Henri Lefebvre relates to the paradox imbedded, in his view, in the new industrialized city. On the one hand, as was discussed in the previous section, the new town functions under analytic bourgeois logic which separates everything it can and reduces all objects to their function. On the opposite side for Lefebvre, stands the "tendency tantalization and integration… prevents us from seeing how disjointed everything is becoming". On the one hand we have urban life which is turning more and more fragmented, while on the other hand we have a sense that everything is more centralized, dominated and oppressed.  As Lefebvre puts it: "what is surprising here is that everything is disjointed, and yet all these separate people are governed by a strict hierarchy".   
When people move into the new town they encounter the imperative of adapting to their new surroundings. For Lefebvre "to adapt means being forced into a pre-existing context which has been build without them in mind" and this is because, as mentioned in the previous part of the summary, the links between entities (such as roads) become more important than the entities themselves (and thus highways, filled with moving people, are in fact human wastelands).

In a notion reminiscent of Georg Simmel's "The Metropolis and Mental Life" the urban hierarchy functions for Lefebvre through pride. When everything is the same, when everyone is like everyone else and everyone is at the same time someone and no-one "it becomes enormously important to boost one's pride and prestige no matter how petty the means. Pride is poisoning life".

The way the new town functions on the subject is for Lefebvre "boredom is pregnant with desires, frustrated frenzies, unrealized possibilities. A magnificent life is waiting just around the corner, and far, far away. It is waiting like the cake is waiting when there is butter, milk, flour and sugar. This is the realm of freedom." In this Lefebvre is willing, despite his harsh reservations from the new town, to consider that it might have some potential for human emancipation (for Lefebvre, socialism).  In the closing of "Note on the New Town" Lefebvre holds that the city is transforming the world, and it only remains to be seen, how exactly.

Lefebvre's "Note on the New town can be found at:
The Cultural Studies Reader
 Henri Lefebvre- Notes on the New Town - summary
part 1 - 2 - 3