среда, 30 марта 2011 г.

Анри Лефевр. The Social Production of Space (1).

Henri Lefebvre. The Production of Social Space. Blackwell. 1991. - (I).

translation © 1991 by Donald Nicholson-Smith

Продолжение - (2)



Not so many years ago, the word 'space' had a strictly geometrical meaning: the idea it evoked was simply that of an empty area. In scholarly use it was generally accompanied by some such epithet as 'Euclidean', 'isotropic', or 'infinite', and the general feeling was that the concept of space was ultimately a mathematical one. To speak of 'social space', therefore, would have sounded strange.

Not that the long development of the concept of space had been forgotten, but it must be remembered that the history of philosophy also testified to the gradual emancipation of the sciences — and especially of mathematics - from their shared roots in traditional metaphysics. The thinking of Descartes was viewed as the decisive point in the working-out of the concept of space, and the key to its mature form. According to most historians of Western thought, Descartes had brought to an end the Aristotelian tradition which held that space and time were among those categories which facilitated the naming and classing of the evidence of the senses. The status of such categories had hitherto remained unclear, for they could be looked upon either as simple empiri­cal tools for ordering sense data or, alternatively, as generalities in some way superior to the evidence supplied by the body's sensory organs. With the advent of Cartesian logic, however, space had entered the realm of the absolute. As Object opposed to Subject, as res extensa opposed to, and present to, res cogitans, space came to dominate, by containing them, all senses and all bodies. Was space therefore a divine attribute? Or was it an order immanent to the totality of what existed? Such were the terms in which the problem was couched for those philosophers who came in Descartes's wake — for Spinoza, for Leibniz, for the Newtonians. Then Kant revived, and revised, the old notion of the category. Kantian space, albeit relative, albeit a tool of knowledge, a means of classifying phenomena, was yet quite clearly separated (along with time) from the empirical sphere: it belonged to the a priori realm of consciousness (i.e. of the 'subject'), and partook of that realm's internal, ideal - and hence transcendental and essentially ungraspable -structure.

These protracted debates marked the shift from the philosophy to the science of space. It would be mistaken to pronounce them outdated, however, for they have an import beyond that of moments or stages in the evolution of the Western Logos. So far from being confined within the abstractness with which that Logos in its decline endowed so-called pure philosophy, they raise precise and concrete issues, among them the questions of symmetry versus asymmetry, of symmetrical objects, and of the objective effects of reflections and mirrors. These are all questions to which 1 shall be returning because of their implications for the analysis of social space.


Mathematicians, in the modern sense of the word, emerged as the proprietors of a science (and of a claim to scientific status) quite clearly detached from philosophy — a science which considered itself both necessary and self-sufficient. Thus mathematicians appropriated space, and time, and made them part of their domain, yet they did so in a rather paradoxical way. They invented spaces - an 'indefinity', so to speak, of spaces: non-Euclidean spaces, curved spaces, x-dimensional spaces (even spaces with an infinity of dimensions), spaces of configur­ation, abstract spaces, spaces defined by deformation or transformation, by a topology, and so on. At once highly general and highly specialized, the language of mathematics set out to discriminate between and classify all these innumerable spaces as precisely as possible. (Apparently the set of spaces, or 'space of spaces', did not lend itself very readily to conceptualization.) But the relationship between mathematics and reality physical or social reality — was not obvious, and indeed a deep rift had developed between these two realms. Those mathematicians who had opened up this 'problematic' subsequently abandoned it to the philosophers, who were only too happy to seize upon it as a means of making up a little of the ground they had lost. In this way space became or, rather, once more became — the very thing which an earlier philosophical tradition, namely Platonism, had proposed in opposition to the doctrine ol categories: it became what Leonardo da Vinci had called a 'mental thing'. The proliferation of mathematical theories (topologies) thus aggravated the old 'problem of knowledge': how were transitions to be made from mathematical spaces (i.e. from the mental capapacities of the human species, from logic) to nature in the first place, to practice in the second, and thence to the theory of social life — which also presumably must unfold in space?


From the tradition of thought just described — that is, from a philosophy ol space revised and corrected by mathematics — the modern field of inquiry known as epistemology has inherited and adopted the notion i hat the status of space is that of a 'mental thing' or 'mental place'. At the same time, set theory, as the supposed logic of that place, has exercised a fascination not only upon philosophers but also upon writers and linguists. The result has been a broad proliferation of 'sets' (ensembles), some practical,1 some historical,2 but all inevitably accompanied by their appropriate 'logic'. None of these sets, or their 'logics', have anything in common with Cartesian philosophy.

No limits at all have been set on the generalization of the concept of mental space: no clear account of it is ever given and, depending on the author one happens to be reading, it may connote logical coherence, practical consistency, self-regulation and the relations of the parts to the whole, the engendering of like by like in a set of places, the logic of container versus contents, and so on. We are forever hearing about the space of this and/or the space of that: about literary space,3 ideological spaces, the space of the dream, psychoanalytic topologies, and so on and so forth. Conspicuous by its absence from supposedly fundamental epistemological studies is not only the idea of 'man' but also that of space - the fact that 'space' is mentioned on every page notwithstanding.4 Thus Michel Foucault can calmly assert that 'knowledge [savoir] is also the

1 See J.-P. Sartre, Critique de la raison dialectique, I: Theorie des ensembles pratiques
(Paris: Gallimard, 1960).

2 See Michel Clouscard, L'etre et le code: proces de production d'un ensemble precapitali-
(The Hague: Mouton, 1972).

3 See Maurice Blanchot, L'espace litteraire (Paris: Gallimard, 1955).

4 This is the least of the faults of an anthology entitled Panorama des sciences humaines
(Pans: Gallimard, 1973).

space in which the subject may take up a position and speak of the objects with which he deals in his discourse'.5 Foucault never explains what space it is that he is referring to, nor how it bridges the gap between the theoretical (epistemological) realm and the practical one, between mental and social, between the space of the philosophers and the space of people who deal with material things. The scientific attitude, understood as the application of 'epistemological' thinking to acquired knowledge, is assumed to be 'structurally' linked to the spatial sphere. This connection, presumed to be self-evident from the point of view of scientific discourse, is never conceptualized. Blithely indifferent to the charge of circular thinking, that discourse sets up an opposition between the status of space and the status of the 'subject', between the thinking T and the object thought about. It thus rejoins the positions of the Cartesian/Western Logos, which some of its exponents indeed claim to have 'closed'.6 Epistemological thought, in concert with the linguists' theoretical efforts, has reached a curious conclusion. It has eliminated the 'collective subject', the people as creator of a particular language, as carrier of specific etymological sequences. It has set aside the concrete subject, that subject which took over from a name-giving god. It has promoted the impersonal pronoun 'one' as creator of language in gen­eral, as creator of the system. It has failed, however, to eliminate the need for a subject of some kind. Hence the re-emergence of the abstract subject, the cogito of the philosophers. Hence the new lease on life of traditional philosophy in 'neo-' forms: neo-Hegelian, neo-Kantian, neo-Cartesian. This revival has profited much from the help of Husserl, whose nonc-too-scrupuious postulation of a (quasi-tautologous) identity of knowing Subject and conceived Essence - an identity inherent to a 'flux' (of lived experience) - underpins an almost 'pure' identity of formal and practical knowledge.7 Nor should we be surprised to find the eminent linguist Noam Chomsky reinstating the Cartesian cogito or subject,8 especially in view of the fact that he has posited the existence

' L'archéologie du savoir (Paris: Gallimard. 1969), p. 238. Elsewhere in the same work, Foucault speaks of 'the trajectory of a meaning' (le parcours d'un sens) (p. 196), of space of dissensions' |p. 204)), etc. Eng. tr. by A. M. Sheridan Smith: The Archaeology of Knowledge (London: Tavistock, 1972), pp. 182, 150, 152 respectively.

* See Jacques Derrida, Le vivre et le phénomène (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1967).

' See Michel Clouscard's critical remarks in the introduction to his L'être et le code. Lenin resolved this problem by brutally suppressing it: in Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, he argues that the thought of space reflects objective space, like a copy or photograph.

* See his Cartesian Linguistics: A Chapter in the History of Rationalist Thought (New York: Harper and Row, 1966).

of a linguistic level at which 'it will not be the case that each sentence is represented simply as a finite sequence of elements of some sort, generated from left to right by some simple device'; instead, argues Chomsky, we should expect to find 'a finite set of levels ordered from high to low'.9 The fact is that Chomsky unhesitatingly postulates a mental space endowed with specific properties - with orientations and symmetries. He completely ignores the yawning gap that separates this linguistic mental space from that social space wherein language becomes practice. Similarly, J. M. Rey writes that 'Meaning presents itself as the legal authority to interchange signified elements along a single horizontal chain, within the confines [l'espace] of a coherent system regulated and calculated in advance.*10 These authors, and many others, for all that they lay claim to absolute logical rigour, commit what is in fact, from the logico-mathematical point of view, the perfect paralogism: they leap over an entire area, ignoring the need for any logical links, and justify this in the vaguest possible manner by invoking, as the need arises, some such notion as coupure or rupture or break. They thus interrupt the continuity of their argument in the name of a discontinuity which their own methodology ought logically to prohibit. The width of the gap created in this way, and the extent of its impact, may of course vary from one author to another, or from one area of specialization to another. My criticism certainly applies in full force, however, to Julia Kristeva's 'semeiotike', to Jacques Derrida's 'grammatology', and to Roland Barthes's general semiology." This school, whose growing renown may have something to do with its growing dogmatism, is forever promoting the basic sophistry whereby the philosophico-epistcmological notion of space is fetishized and the mental realm comes to envelop the social and physical ones. Although a few of these authors suspect the existence of, or the need of, some mediation,12 most of them

* Noam Chomsky. Syntactic Structures (The Hague: Mouton, 1957}, pp. 24-S.

'"J. M. Rev. L'en,eu des signes (Paris: Seuil, 1971), p. 13.

11 And it extends to others, whether on their own account or via those mentioned here. Thus Barthes on Jacques Lacan: 'His topology docs not concern within and without, even less above and below; it concerns, rather, a reverse and an obverse in constant motion — a front and back forever changing places as they revolve around something which is in the process of transformation, and which indeed, to begin with, is not' - Critique et vérité (Paris: Seuil, 1966), p. 27.

12 This is certainly not true of Claude Levi-Strauss, the whole of whose work implies that from the earliest manifestations of social life mental and social were conflated by virtue of the nomenclature of the relationships of exchange. By contrast, when Derrida gives precedence to the 'graphic' over the 'phonic*, to writing over speech, or when Kristeva brings the body to the fore, dearly some search is being made for a transition or articulation between, on the one hand, the mental space previously posited (i.e. presupposed) by these authors, and, on the other hand, physical/social space.

spring without the slightest hesitation from mental to social.

What is happening here is that a powerful ideological tendency, one much attached to its own would-be scientific credentials, is expressing, in an admirably unconscious manner, those dominant ideas which are perforce the ideas of the dominant class. To some degree, perhaps, these ideas are deformed or diverted in the process, but the net result is that a particular 'theoretical practice' produces a mental space which is apparently, but only apparently, extra-ideological. In an inevitably circu­lar manner, this mental space then becomes the locus of a 'theoretical practice' which is separated from social practice and which sets itself up as the axis, pivot or central reference point of Knowledge.13 The established 'culture' reaps a double benefit from this manoeuvre: in the first place, the impression is given that the truth is tolerated, or even promoted, by that 'culture'; secondly, a multitude of small events occur within this mental space which can be exploited for useful or polemical ends. I shall return later to the peculiar kinship between this mental space and the one inhabited by the technocrats in their silent offices.14 As for Knowledge thus defined on the basis of epistemology, and more or less clearly distinguished from ideology or from evolving science, is it not directly descended from the union between the Hegelian Concept and that scion of the great Cartesian family known as Subjectivity?

The quasi-logical presupposition of an identity between mental space (the space of the philosophers and epistemologists) and real space creates an abyss between the mental sphere on one side and the physical and social spheres on the other. From time to time some intrepid funambulist will set off to cross the void, giving a great show and sending a delightful shudder through the onlookers. By and large, however, so-called philo­sophical thinking recoils at the mere suggestion of any such salto mort-ale. If they still see the abyss at all, the professional philosophers avert their gaze. No matter how relevant, the problem of knowledge and the 'theory of knowledge' have been abandoned in favour of a reductionistic return to an absolute — or supposedly absolute — knowledge, namely the knowledge of the history of philosophy and the history of science. Such a knowledge can only be conceived of as separate from both ideology and non-knowledge (i.e. from lived experience). Although any separation of that kind is in fact impossible, to evoke one poses no threat to — and indeed tends to reinforce — a banal 'consensus'. After

13 This pretension is to be met with in every single chapter of the Panorama des sciences
(above, note 4).

14 See also my Vers le cybernanthrope (Paris: Denoel-Gonthier, 1971).

all, who is going to take issue with the True? By contrast, we all know, or think we know, where discussions of truth, illusion, lies, and appenrance-versus-reality are liable to lead.


Epistemologico-philosophical thinking has failed to furnish the basis for a science which has been struggling to emerge for a very long time, as witness an immense accumulation of research and publication. That

science is - or would be — a science of space. To date, work in this area has produced either mere descriptions which never achieve analytical, much less theoretical, status, or else fragments and cross-sections of space. There are plenty of reasons for thinking that descriptions and cross-sections of this kind, though they may well supply inventories of what exists in space, or even generate a discourse on space, cannot ever give rise to a knowledge of space. And, without such a knowledge, we are bound to transfer onto the level of discourse, of language per se — i.e. the level of mental space - a large portion of the attributes and 'properties' of what is actually social space.

Semiology raises difficult questions precisely because it is an incom-plete body of knowledge which is expanding without any sense of its own limitations; its very dynamism creates a need for such limits to be set, as difficult as that may be. When codes worked up from literary texts are applied to spaces — to urban spaces, say — we remain, as may easily be shown, on the purely descriptive level. Any attempt to use such codes as a means of deciphering social space must surely reduce that space itself to the status of a message, and the inhabiting of it to the status of a reading. This is to evade both history and practice. Yet did there not at one time, between the sixteenth century (the Renaissance -and the Renaissance city) and the nineteenth century, exist a code at once architectural, urbanistic and political, constituting a language common to country people and townspeople, to the authorities and to artists - a code which allowed space not only to be 'read' but also to be constructed? If indeed there was such a code, how did it come into being? And when, how and why did it disappear? These are all questions that I hope to answer in what follows.

As for the above-mentioned sections and fragments, they range from the ill-defined to the undefined — and thence, for that matter, to the undefinable. Indeed, talk of cross-sectioning, suggesting as it does a scientific technique (or 'theoretical practice') designed to help clarify and distinguish 'elements' within the chaotic flux of phenomena, merely adds to the muddle. Leaving aside for the moment the application of mathematical topologies to other realms, consider how fond the cognoscenti are of talk of pictural space, Picasso's space, the space of Les demoiselles d'Avignon or the space of Guernica. Elsewhere we are forever hearing of architectural, plastic or literary 'spaces'; the term is used much as one might speak of a particular writer's or artist's 'world'. Specialized works keep their audience abreast of all sorts of equally specialized spaces: leisure, work, play, transportation, public facilities -all are spoken of in spatial terms.15 Even illness and madness are supposed by some specialists to have their own peculiar space. We are thus confronted by an indefinite multitude of spaces, each one piled upon, or perhaps contained within, the next: geographical, economic, demographic, sociological, ecological, political, commercial, national, continental, global. Not to mention nature's (physical) space, the space of (energy) flows, and so on.

Before any specific and detailed attempt is made to refute one or other of these approaches, along with whatever claim it may have to scientific status, it should be pointed out that the very multiplicity of these descriptions and sectionings makes them suspect. The fact is that all these efforts exemplify a very strong — perhaps even the dominant — tendency within present-day society and its mode of production. Under this mode of production, intellectual labour, like material labour, is subject to endless division. In addition, spatial practice consists in a projection onto a (spatial) field of all aspects, elements and moments of social practice. In the process these are separated from one another, though this does not mean that overall control is relinquished even for a moment: society as a whole continues in subjection to political practice — that is, to state power. This praxis implies and aggravates more than one contradiction, and I shall be dealing with them later. Suffice it to say at this juncture that if my analysis turns out to be correct it will be possible to claim of the sought-for 'science of space' that

1 it represents the political (in the case of the West, the 'neocapitalist') use of knowledge. Remember that knowledge under this system is integrated in a more or less 'immediate'

15 [English-speaking experts tend perhaps not to use the word 'space' with quite the same facility as their French-speaking counterparts use the word espace, but they do have a corresponding fondness for such spatial terms as 'sector' and 'sphere' - Transl

way into the forces of production, and in a 'mediate' way into the social relations ol production.

2 it implies an ideology designed to conceal that use, along with the conflicts intrinsic to the highly interested employment of a supposedly disinterested knowledge. This ideology carries no flag, and for those who accept the practice of which it is a part a is indistinguishable from knowledge.

3 it embodies at best a technological Utopia, a sort of computer simulation of the future, or of the possible, within the frame­work of the real - the framework of the existing mode of production. The starting-point here is a knowledge which is at once integrated into, and integrative with respect to, the mode of production. The technological Utopia in question is a common feature not just of many science-fiction novels, but also of all kinds of projects concerned with space, be they those of architecture, urbanism or social planning.

The above propositions need, of course, to be expounded, supported by logical arguments and shown to be true. But, if they can indeed be verifled, it will be in the first place because there is a truth of space, an overall truth generated by analysis-followed-by-exposition, and not because a true space can be constituted or constructed, whether a general space as the epistemologists and philosophers believe, or a particular one as proposed by specialists in some scientific discipline or other which has a concern with space. In the second place, confirmation of these theses will imply the necessity of reversing the dominant trend towards fragmentation, separation and disintegration, a trend subordi­nated to a centre or to a centralized power and advanced by a knowledge which works as power's proxy. Such a reversal could not be effected without great difficulty; nor would it suffice, in order to carry it through, to replace local or 'punctual' concerns by global ones. One must assume that it would require the mobilization of a great many forces, and that in the actual course of its execution there would be a continuing need, Stage by stage, for motivation and orientation.


Few people today would reject the idea that capital and capitalism 'influence' practical matters relating to space, from the construction of buildings to the distribution of investments and the worldwide division of labour. But it is not so clear what is meant exactly by 'capitalism' and 'influence'. What some have in mind is 'money' and its powers of intervention, or commercial exchange, the commodity and its generaliz­ation, in that 'everything' can be bought and sold. Others are concerned rather with the actors in these dramas: companies national and multi­national, banks, financiers, government agencies, and so on. In either case both the unity and the diversity - and hence the contradictions -of capitalism are put in brackets. It is seen either as a mere aggregate of separate activities or else as an already constituted and closed system which derives its coherence from the fact that it endures - and solely from that fact. Actually capitalism has many facets: landed capital, commercial capital, finance capital - all play a part in practice according to their varying capabilities, and as opportunity affords; conflicts between capitalists of the same kind, or of different kinds, are an inevitable part of the process. These diverse breeds of capital, and of capitalists, along with a variety of overlapping markets - commodities, labour, knowledge, capital itself, land - are what together constitute capitalism.

Many people are inclined to forget that capitalism has yet another aspect, one which is certainly bound up with the functioning of money, with the various markets, and with the social relations of production, but which is distinct from these precisely because it is dominant. This aspect is the hegemony of one class. The concept of hegemony was introduced by Gramsci in order to describe the future role of the working class in the building of a new society, but it is also useful for analysing the action of the bourgeoisie, especially in relation to space. The notion is a refinement of the somewhat cruder concept of the 'dictatorship' first of the bourgeoisie and then of the proletariat. Hegemony implies more than an influence, more even than the permanent use of repressive violence. It is exercised over society as a whole, culture and knowledge included, and generally via human mediation: policies, political leaders, parties, as also a good many intellectuals and experts. It is exercised, therefore, over both institutions and ideas. The ruling class seeks to maintain its hegemony by all available means, and knowledge is one such means. The connection between knowledge (savoir) and power is thus made manifest, although this in no way interdicts a critical and subversive form of knowledge {connaissance); on the contrary, it points up the antagonism between a knowledge which serves power and a form of knowing which refuses to acknowledge power.16

16 This is an antagonistic and hence differentiating distinction, a fact which Michel Foucault evades in his Archéologie du savoir by distinguishing between savoir and con-

Is it conceivable that the exercise of hegemony might leave space untouched? Could space be nothing more than the passive locus of social relations, the milieu in which their combination takes on body, or the aggregate of the procedures employed in their removal? The answer must be no. Later on I shall demonstrate the active - the operational or instrumental - role of space, as knowledge and action, in the existing mode of production. I shall show how space serves, and how hegemony makes use of it, in the establishment, on the basis of an underlying logic and with the help of knowledge and technical expertise, of a 'system'. Does this imply the coming into being of a clearly defined space - a capitalist space (the world market) thoroughly purged of contradictions? Once again, the answer is no. Otherwise, the 'system' would have a legitimate claim to immortality. Some over-systematic thinkers oscillate between loud denunciations of capitalism and the bourgeoisie and their repressive institutions on the one hand, and fasci­nation and unrestrained admiration on the other. They make society into the 'object' of a systematization which must be 'closed' to be complete; they thus bestow a cohesiveness it utterly lacks upon a totality which is in fact decidedly open - so open, indeed, that it must rely on violence to endure. The position of these systematizers is in any case self-contradictory: even if their claims had some validity they would be reduced to nonsense by the fact that the terms and concepts used to define the system must necessarily be mere tools of that system itself.


The theory we need, which fails to come together because the necessary critical moment does not occur, and which therefore falls back into the state of mere bits and pieces of knowledge, might well be called, by analogy, a 'unitary theory': the aim is to discover or construct a theoreti­cal unity between 'fields' which are apprehended separately, just as molecular, electromaenetic and Gravitational forces are in phvsics. The fields we are concerned with are, first, the physical- nature, the Cosmos; secondly, the mental, including logical and formal abstractions; and, thirdly, the social. In other words, we are concerned with logico-epis-

naissance only within the context of an espace du jeu or 'space of interplay* (Кг. edn, p. 241 ; Eng. tr., p. 185), and on the basis of chronology or 'distribution in time' (Ft. edn, p. 244; Eng. п.. p. 187). (The savoir/connaissance distinction cannot be conveniently expressed in English. Its significance should be clear from the discussion here; see also below pp. 367—8. Wherever the needs of clarity seemed to call for it, I have indicated in parentheses whether 'knowledge' renders savoir or connaissance - Translator.\

temological space, the space of social practice, the space occupied by sensory phenomena, including products of the imagination such as projects and projections, symbols and Utopias.

The need for unity may be expressed in other ways too, ways that serve to underscore its importance. Reflection sometimes conflates and sometimes draws distinctions between those 'levels' which social practice establishes, in the process raising the question of their interrelationships. Thus housing, habitation — the human 'habitat', so to speak — are the concern of architecture. Towns, cities - urban space - are the bailiwick of the discipline of urbanism. As for larger, territorial spaces, regional, national, continental or worldwide, these are the responsibility of plan­ners and economists. At times these 'specializations' are telescoped into one another under the auspices of that privileged actor, the politician. At other times their respective domains fail to overlap at all, so that neither common projects nor theoretical continuity are possible.

This state of affairs, of which the foregoing remarks do not claim to be a full critical analysis, would be brought to an end if a truly unitary theory were to be developed.

Our knowledge of the material world is based on concepts defined in terms of the broadest generality and the greatest scientific (i.e. having a content) abstraction. Even if the links between these concepts and the physical realities to which they correspond are not always clearly established, we do know that such links exist, and that the concepts or theories they imply - energy, space, time - can be neither conflated nor separated from one another. What common parlance refers to as 'mat­ter', 'nature' or 'physical reality' - that reality within which even the crudest analysis must discern and separate different moments — has thus obviously achieved a certain unity. The 'substance' (to use the old vocabulary of philosophy) of this cosmos or 'world', to which humanity with its consciousness belongs, has properties that can be adequately summed up by means of the three terms mentioned above. When we evoke 'energy', we must immediately note that energy has to be deployed within a space. When we evoke 'space', we must immediately indicate what occupies that space and how it does so: the deployment of energy in relation to 'points' and within a time frame. When we evoke 'time', we must immediately say what it is that moves or changes therein. Space considered in isolation is an empty abstraction; likewise energy and time. Although in one sense this 'substance' is hard to conceive of, most of all at the cosmic level, it is also true to say that evidence of its existence stares us in the face: our senses and our thoughts apprehend nothing else.

Might it not be possible, then, to found our knowledge of social practice, and the general science of so-called human reality, on a model borrowed from physics? Unfortunately not. For one thing, this kind of approach has always failed in the past.17 Secondly, following the physical model would prevent a theory of societies from using a number of useful procedures, notably the separation of levels, domains and regions. Physical theory's search for unity puts all the emphasis on the bringing-together of disparate elements. It might therefore serve as a guardrail, bin never as a paradigm.

The search for a unitary theory in no way rules out conflicts within knowledge itself, and controversy and polemics are inevitable. This goes for physics, and mathematics too, for that matter; sciences that philosophers deem 'pure' precisely because they have purged them of dialectical moments are not thereby immunized against internal conflicts. It seems to be well established that physical space has no 'reality' without the energy that is deployed within it. The modalities of this deployment, however, along with the physical relationships between

central points, nuclei or condensations on the one hand and peripheries on the other are still matters for conjecture. A simple expanding-universe theory assumes an original dense core of matter and a primordial explosion. This notion of an original unity of the cosmos has given rise to many objections by reason of its quasi-theological or theogonic character. In opposition to it, Fred Hoyle has proposed a much more complex theory, according to which energy, whether at the level of the ultra small or at that of the ultra-large, travels in every direction. On this view a single centre of the universe, whether original or final, is inconceivable. Energy/space—time condenses at an indefinite number of poits (local space-times).18

To the extent that the theory of supposedly human space can be linked at all to a physical theory, perhaps Hoyle's is the one which best fits, the bill. Hoyle looks upon space as the product of energy. Energy cannot therefore be compared to a content filling an empty container. Causalism and teleology, inevitably shot through with metaphysical abstraction, are both ruled out. The universe is seen as offering a multiplicity of particular spaces, yet this diversity is accounted for by a unitary theory, namely cosmology.

This analogy has its limits, however. There is no reason to assume an

' Including Claude LeVi-Strauss's attempts to draw for models on Mendeleev's classifi-cation of the elements and on general combinatorial mathematics. 1 See Fred Hoyle, Frontiers <</ Astronomy (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1955).

isomorphism between social energies and physical energies, or between 'human' and physical fields of force. This is one form of reductionism among others which I shall have occasion explicitly to reject. All the same, human societies, like living organisms human or extra-human, cannot be conceived of independently of the universe (or of the 'world'); nor may cosmology, which cannot annex knowledge of those societies, leave them out of its picture altogether, like a state within the state.


What term should be used to describe the division which keeps the various types of space away from each other, so that physical space, mental space and social space do not overlap? Distortion? Disjunction? Schism? Break? As a matter of fact the term used is far less important than the distance that separates 'ideal' space, which has to do with mental (logico-mathematical) categories, from 'real' space, which is the space of social practice. In actuality each of these two kinds of space involves, underpins and presupposes the other.

What should be the starting-point for any theoretical attempt to account for this situation and transcend it in the process? Not philos­ophy, certainly, for philosophy is an active and interested party in the matter. Philosophers have themselves helped bring about the schism with which we are concerned by developing abstract (metaphysical) representations of space, among them the Cartesian notion of space as absolute, infinite res extensa, a divine property which may be grasped in a single act of intuition because of its homogeneous (isotropic) character. This is all the more regrettable in view of the fact that the beginnings of philosophy were closely bound up with the 'real' space of the Greek city. This connection was severed later in philosophy's development. Not that we can have no recourse to philosophy, to its concepts or conceptions. But it cannot be our point of departure. What about literature? Clearly literary authors have written much of relevance, especially descriptions of places and sites. But what criteria would make certain texts more relevant than others? Céline uses everyday language to great effect to evoke the space of Paris, of the Parisian banlieue, or of Africa. Plato, in the Critias and elsewhere, offers marvellous descrip­tions of cosmic space, and of the space of the city as a reflection of the Cosmos. The inspired De Quincey pursuing the shadow of the woman of his dreams through the streets of London, or Baudelaire in his Tableaux parisiens, offer us accounts of urban space rivalling those of Victor Hugo and Lautréamont. The problem is that any search for space in literary texts will find it everywhere and in every guise: enclosed, described, projected, dreamt of, speculated about. What texts can be considered special enough to provide the basis for a 'textual' analysis? Inasmuch as they deal with socially 'real' space, one might suppose on first consideration that architecture and texts relating to architecture would be a better choice than literary texts proper. Unfortunately, any definition of architecture itself requires a prior analysis and exposition of the concept of space.

Another possibility would be to take general scientific notions as a basis, notions as general as that of text, like those of information and communication, of message and code, and of sets of signs — all notions which are still being developed. The danger here is that the analysis of space might become enclosed within a single area of specialization, which, so far from helping us account for the dissociations mentioned above, would merely exacerbate them. This leaves only universal notions, which seemingly belong to philosophy but not to any particular specialization. Do such notions exist? Does what Hegel called the con-crete universal still have any meaning? I hope to show that it does. What can be said without further ado is that the concepts of production and of the act of producing do have a certain abstract universality.

Though developed by philosophers, these concepts extend beyond phil-osophy. They were taken over in the past, admittedly, by specialized disciplines, especially by political economy; yet they have survived that annexation. By retrieving something of the broad sense that they had in certain of Marx's writings, they have shed a good deal of the illusory precision with which the economists had endowed them. This is not to say that it will be easy to recover these concepts and put them back to work. To speak of 'producing space' sounds bizarre, so great is the sway still held by the idea that empty space is prior to whatever ends up filling it. Questions immediately arise here: what spaces? and what does it mean to speak of 'producing space'? We are confronted by the problem of how to bring concepts that have already been worked out and formalized into conjunction with this new content without falling back on mere illustration and example — notorious occasions for sophistry. What is called for, therefore, is a thoroughgoing exposition of these concepts, and of their relations, on the one hand with the extreme formal abstraction of logico-mathematical space, and on the other hand with the practico-sensory realm of social space. To proceed otherwise would result in a new fragmentation of the concrete universal into its original Hegelian moments: the particular (in this case descriptions or cross-sections of social space); the general (logical and mathematical); and the singular (i.e. 'places' considered as natural, in their merely physical or sensory reality).


Everyone knows what is meant when we speak of a 'room' in an apartment, the 'corner' of the street, a 'marketplace', a shopping or cultural 'centre', a public 'place', and so on. These terms of everyday discourse serve to distinguish, but not to isolate, particular spaces, and in general to describe a social space. They correspond to a specific use of that space, and hence to a spatial practice that they express and constitute. Their interrelationships are ordered in a specific way. Might it not be a good idea, therefore, first to make an inventory of them,19 and then to try and ascertain what paradigm gives them their meaning, what syntax governs their organization?

There are two possibilities here: either these words make up an unrecognized code which we can reconstitute and explain by means of thought; alternatively, reflection will enable us, on the basis of the words themselves and the operations that are performed upon them, to construct a spatial code. In either event, the result of our thinking would be the construction of a 'system of space'. Now, we know from precise scientific experiments that a system of this kind is applicable only indirectly to its 'object', and indeed that it really only applies to a discourse on that object. The project I am outlining, however, does not aim to produce a (or the) discourse on space, but rather to expose the actual production of space by bringing the various kinds of space and the modalities of their genesis together within a single theory.

These brief remarks can only hint at a solution to a problem that we shall have to examine carefully later on in order to determine whether it is a bona fide issue or merely the expression of an obscure question about origins. This problem is: does language - logically, epistemologi-cally or genetically speaking - precede, accompany or follow social space? Is it a precondition of social space or merely a formulation of it? The priority-of-language thesis has certainly not been established. Indeed, a good case can be made for according logical and epistemologi-cal precedence over highly articulated languages with strict rules to those

19 Cf. Georges Matoré, L'espace humain (Paris: La Colombe, 1962), including the lexicographical index.

activities which mark the earth, leaving traces and organizing gestures and work performed in common. Perhaps what have to be uncovered are as-yet concealed relations between space and language: perhaps the 'logicalness' intrinsic to articulated language operated from the start as a spatiality capable of bringing order to the qualitative chaos (the practico-sensory realm) presented by the perception of things.

To what extent may a space be read or decoded? A satisfactory answer to this question is certainly not just around the corner. As I noted earlier, without as yet adducing supporting arguments or proof, the notions of message, code, information and so on cannot help us trace the genesis of a space; the fact remains, however, that an already produced space can be decoded, can be read. Such a space implies a

process of signification. And even if there is no general code of space,

inherent to language or to all languages, there may have existed specific codes, established at specific historical periods and varying in their effects. If so, interested 'subjects', as members of a particular society, would have acceded by this means at once to their space and to their

status as 'subjects' acting within that space and (in the broadest sense of the word) comprehending it.

If, roughly from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth, a coded lannguage may be said to have existed on the practical basis of a specific relationship between town, country and political territory, a language founndcd on classical perspective and Euclidean space, why and how did this coded system collapse? Should an attempt be made to reconstruct that language, which was common to the various groups making up the

society - to users and inhabitants, to the authorities and to the tech-nicians (architects, urbanists, planners)? A theory can only take form, and be formulated, at the level of a 'superrcode'. Knowledge cannot rightly be assimilated to a 'well-designed' lannguage, because it operates at the conceptual level. It is thus not a privileged language, nor a metalanguage, even if these notions may be appropriate for the 'science of language' as such. Knowledge of space cannot be limited from the outset by categories of this kind. Are we looking, then, for a 'code of codes'? Perhaps so, but this 'meta' function of theory does not in itself explain a great deal. If indeed spatial codes have existed, each characterizing a particular spatial/social practice, and if these codifications have been produced along with the space corresponding to them, then the job of theory is to elucidate their rise, their role, and their demise. The shift I am proposing in analytic orientation relative to the work o( specialists in this area ought by now to be clear: instead of emphasizing the rigorously formal aspect of codes,

I shall instead be putting the stress on their dialectical character. Codes will be seen as part of a practical relationship, as part of an interaction between 'subjects' and their space and surroundings. I shall attempt to trace the coming-into-being and disappearance of codings/decodings. My aim will be to highlight contents — i.e. the social (spatial) practices inherent to the forms under consideration.


Surrealism appears quite otherwise today than it did half a century ago. A number of its pretensions have faded away, among them the substitution of poetry for politics, the politicization of poetry and the search for a transcendent revelation. All the same, though a literary movement, it cannot be reduced to the level of mere literature (which surrealism initially despised), and hence to the status of a literary event, bound up with the exploration of the unconscious (automatic writing), which had a subversive character to begin with but which was sub­sequently co-opted by every means available — glosses, exegeses, com­mentaries, fame, publicity, and so on.

The leading surrealists sought to decode inner space and illuminate the nature of the transition from this subjective space to the material realm of the body and the outside world, and thence to social life. Consequently surrealism has a theoretical import which was not orig­inally recognized. The surrealists' effort to find a unity of this kind initiated a search which later went astray. It is discernible, for example, in André Breton's L'amour fou, where the introduction of imaginary and magical elements, though perhaps strange, detracts in no way from the annunciatory value of the work:

Sometimes, for example, wishing for the visit of a particular woman, I have found myself opening a door, then shutting it, then opening it again; if this device proved inadequate to the task, I might slip the blade of a knife randomly between the pages of a book, having previously decided that a certain line on the left-hand or right-hand page would inform me more or less indirectly as to her inclinations and tell me whether to expect her soon or not at all; then I would start moving things around once more,

scrutinizing their positions relative to each other and rearranging them in unusual ways.20

Still, the scale of the failure of surrealism's poetic project should also be pointed out. Not that surrealist poetry lacked an accompanying conceptual apparatus designed to explain its orientation; indeed, so numerous are the movement's theoretical texts — manifestoes and others - that one might well ask what would remain of surrealism were they left out of consideration. The intrinsic shortcomings of the poetry run deeper, however: it prefers the visual to the act of seeing, rarely adopts a listening' posture, and curiously neglects the musical both in its mode of expression and, even more, in its central 'vision'. 'It was as though the deep night of human existence had suddenly been pierced', writes Breton, 'as though natural necessity had consented to become one with logical necessity and so plunged all things into a state of total transparency.'21

As Breton himself acknowledges,22 a project of Hegelian derivation was to be pursued solely via an affective, and hence subjective, overbur-dening of the (loved) 'object' by means of a hyper-exaltation of symbols. Thus the surrealists, proclaiming - though none too loudly and certainly without any supporting evidence — that the Hegelian 'end of history' lay within, and would be advanced by, their poetry, succeeded only in producing a lyrical metalanguage of history, an illusory fusing of subject with object in a transcendental metabolism. Their purely verbal meta­morphosis, anamorphosis or anaphorization of the relationship between 'subjects' (people) and things (the realm of everyday life) overloaded meaning — and changed nothing. There was simply no way, by virtue of language alone, to make the leap from exchange (of goods) to use. Like that of the surrealists, the work of Georges Bataille now has a meaning somewhat different from the one it had originally. Bataille too sought (among other things) a junction between the space of inner experience on the one hand, and, on the other, the space of physical nature (below the level of consciousness: tree, sex, acephal) and social space (communication, speech). Like the surrealists — though not, like them, on the trail of an imagined synthesis — Bataille left his mark everywhere between real, infra-real and supra-real. His way was Nietz-sche's eruptive and disruptive. He accentuates divisions and widens

'" André Breton, L'amour fou (Paris: Gallimard, 1937), p. 23. The same might be said, despite the passing of so many years, of much of Eluard's poetry. ' Ibid,, p. 6. Ibid., p. (-1.

gulfs rather than filling them, until that moment when the lightning flash of intuition/intention leaps from one side to the other, from earth to sun, from night to day, from life to death; and likewise from the logical to the heterological, from the normal to the heteronomic (which is at once far beyond and far short of the anomic). In Bataille the entirety of space - mental, physical, social - is apprehended tragically. To the extent that centre and periphery are distinguished, the centre has its own tragic reality - a reality of sacrifice, violence, explosion. So too has the periphery — after its fashion.

In diametrical opposition to Bataille and the surrealists, though con­temporary with them, a theorist of technology named Jacques Lafitte also glimpsed the possibility of a unitary theory of space. Lafitte, a writer too often forgotten, proposed what he called a 'mechanology' as a general science of technical devices and systems, and made this science responsible for exploring material reality, knowledge and social space.23 Lafitte was following up certain writings of Marx, an account of which has since been given by Kostas Axelos.24 He did not have all the essential elements and concepts at his disposal, because he knew nothing of information science and cybernetics, and consequently of the distinction between information-based machines and machines calling for massive energy sources; but he did give effective form to the unitary hypothesis. To this project he brought all the 'rigour' of technocratic-functionalist-structuralist ideology; characteristically enough, this led him to the most outrageous propositions, and to conceptual links worthy of science fiction. In short, Lafitte produced a technocratic Utopia. He sought, for example, to explain history by comparing 'passive' (and hence static) machines to architecture and to the vegetable kingdom, and 'active' machines, deemed more dynamic, more 'reflex', to animals. Basing himself on such notions, Lafitte worked out evolutionary series occupy­ing space, and boldly schematized the genesis of nature, of knowledge and of society 'via the harmonious development of these three great segments, series at once convergent and complementary'.25

Lafitte's hypothesis was the forerunner of many others of a similar stamp. Such reflexive technocratic thinking emphasizes the explicit and avowed - not just the rational but also the intellectual - and completely

23 See Jacques Lafitte, Réflexions sur la science des machines (1932), republished in
1972 (Paris: Vrin) with a preface by J. Guillerme.

24 See Kostas Axelos, Marx penseur de la technique (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1961).
Eng. tr. by Robert Bruzina: Alienation, Praxis and Techne in the Thought of Karl Marx
(Austin: University of Texas Press, 1976).

25 Lafitte, Réflexions, pp. 92ff.

eschews the lateral and heterological realms which lie concealed in praxis; rejected too, on the same basis, is the kind of thinking that uncovers what is thus concealed. It is as though everything, in the space of thought and in social space, could be reduced to a frontal, 'face-to-face' mode.

Продолжение - (2)

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