Henri Lefebvre called for revolution in everyday life, set in urban environments. His vision of a “right to the city” would be enacted in the collective participation of diverse inhabitants, as they gain open access to urban centres. This conception carries links to 1871 and 1968 uprisings in Paris. Since then, the term has been widely applied — but not consistently. Lefebvre’s account is one of radically inclusive citizenship, sought through contestation, and autonomous expression. In this presentation, I will note some of the ways in which his perspective on urban environments is integrated into his wide-ranging critiques and proposals, developed over the course of more than sixty books. The appropriation of cities that he describes would overturn a history of urbanization — as well as interlocking capitalism, nation-states, mass culture, technocracy, and other such totalizing systems. While offering an alternative to statist and economically reductionist forms of socialism, Lefebvre also turns away from abstract, liberal conceptions of rights, by stressing situated urban praxis. Streets would become places of festivities and embodied creativity, rather than conduits for traffic and consumption. In the process, urban design would be taken out of the hands of cybernetic planners, as residents utilise their capacities for collective self-management.
In the March version of the abstract, I also had noted how Lefebvre’s approach (a) challenges globalization (in a sense), and (b) is comparable to Murray Bookchin’s “communalist” perspective on urban movements. I now have cut those two points out to narrow the scope of the presentation. I still won’t be able to cover all of the points in the abstract well, but the presentation will be more manageable.
The breadth of Lefebvre’s work is great — but difficult to address in the span of 20 minutes.
I will be speaking at a Sociology graduate conference in a couple of days, and this is the abstract that I prepared for the presentation.
To provide entry-points into the works of Henri Lefebvre and Erich Fromm, this presentation contextualizes their approaches to production, class, and wider economic issues. Lefebvre was a neo-Marxist who had ties to Nietzsche, the Situationists, and various other Parisian currents of thought. Fromm was, above all, a neo-Marxist and a neo-Freudian — with significant involvements in the initial formation of the Frankfurt School. Their wide-ranging critical theories include accounts of how economic systems intersect with governments, mainstream culture, and technologies. Fromm often highlights social psychology, and Lefebvre provides distinct insights into geographic and urban topics. Relative to other such attempts to build on and revise Karl Marx’s analysis, Lefebvre and Fromm offer relatively comprehensive accounts. These theorists responded to post-WW2 consumerism, and to various banal forms of conformity, which have extended well beyond the workplace. These contributions included extensions of Marx’s approach to alienation and culture. Their critical accounts of established systems are complemented by attention to social movements, and collective alternatives. Yet, their works stray from a Marxist focus on working class movements. Lefebvre and Fromm also look to locally-based opposition — more along the lines of Marx’s views to the Paris Commune.
The plan for the presentation has been adjusted since I prepared that, but the abstracts for this conference aren’t circulated, so I’m not going to revise this. Any of the points that aren’t covered in the presentation still will be part of my dissertation, so the entire abstract still covers aspects of my ongoing studies.
An earlier version of the title had the term “Western Marxist” in it, but I went with”Neo-Marxist” because I think it’s better for capturing how original the approaches of Lefebvre and Fromm are.
By using the term “revisionism” to describe theorists who I appreciate, I am mocking a history of Marxists and Stalinists who have claimed that revisions generally are bad. While I appreciate how many of those critiques have been directed toward compromise, opportunism, and totalitarianism, the tactic of making “revisionism” into a dirty wood is a dogmatic way of defending orthodoxy. Hence, Stalinists used the term in that same way — to defend their agenda.
This abstract goes over some core aspects of the PhD dissertation that I’m working on. Below I’ll get into details about what I’ve done with this abstract.
To begin to compare the approaches of Erich Fromm and Murray Bookchin, this presentation traces three major themes in their works: gender, affect, and ecology. Fromm was a neo-Marxist and neo-Freudian who had a significant role in the initial formation of the Frankfurt School. Bookchin’s Social Ecology was an offshoot of Marxism, with considerable ties to anarchism, and the Frankfurt School. The wide-ranging critical theories of Fromm and Bookchin includes accounts of bureaucracies, large-scale technologies, and governments — among other societal conditions. Each of these intellectuals offers multiple vantage points on gendering, interpersonal bonds, and other emotions. Their theories intersect directly, in regards to feminized affectual ties between parents and children, across different historical periods. In their works, these themes are interrelated with ecological issues, given their perspectives on how interpersonal relations and societal conditions are associated with nature. Although Fromm tended to neglect ecological topics, Bookchin foregrounded these questions, in works which have considerable ties with subsequent eco-feminism.
That abstract is an updated version of one that I prepared in for an Institute for Social Ecology colloquium in the summer of 2011. I sent in a written version for the colloquium, but I didn’t make it out to Vermont to present and discuss it (due to an unforeseen personal situation). I simply used the title “Gender, affect, and ecology in the works of Bookchin and Fromm” for the abstract, in the summer. Then, in early 2012, I did some more work on the abstract, with the intention of sending it in for a Sociology conference. Yet, I ended up proposing a different presentation, which is about Erich Fromm and Henri Lefebvre — and, primarily, about their approaches to class, production, and other economic topics.
Our “Teach-in on the occupy movement” event was held in the “University Community Centre” (UCC) atrium here in London, Ontario. This teach-in was arranged by some campus students and employees who plan to continue to collaborate with one another.
We had had prepared this pamphlet for the teach-in. Sections of it are about Canadian economy, universities, and local issues. This pamphlet was collectively read out into the “Community Centre” atrium during an assembly, where we also discussed its contents.
A group of guys with ties tried to disrupt the assembly by singing over us, but we just raised the volume of our people’s mic.
Details about how “Students’ Council” administrators tried to stop the teach-in are outlined below.
First, here is the event call-out, which communicates why we arranged this event -
Our occupation has been evicted, but we continue to stand together.
Please join us this Saturday as we rally for democracy. We’ll begin to gather before 2pm, around the Victoria Park gates.
* Fontana must go! *
Occupy London is demanding that mayor Joe Fontana resign, and we are demanding an apology for evicting the occupation.
* Stop the cuts! *
We are standing against privatization, and cuts to government services. Mayor Fontana has been supporting that austerity agenda by cosying up to corporations (like EPCOR and Nestle).
We are workers, students, the poor, and immigrants. We are the many people who make up the 99%.
We stand for democratic participation, and peaceful assemblies in public spaces.
Fontana took the lead in stealing the community tents and supplies that we’ve used for the peaceful democratic assembly at the occupation site. Fontana is siding with the 1% — against the rest of us.
This Saturday, we ask everyone to join us in occupying our streets.
(Please note: this call-out is from members of Occupy London who are trying to capture discussion at the Wednesday afternoon general assembly. These words haven’t been ran by people at an Occupy London meeting — yet. The next assembly was moved to Friday night at 6pm, to give occupiers time to recover from the eviction.)
[Update: We didn't get around to approving a final version of that before the rally.]
The eviction deadline was 6pm that night, and a few of these photos were taken during the rally that evening. One photo shows some of the people who very large tarp covered tents and some supplies. During the rally, people linked their arms together to surround the tarp with a human chain.
On Wednesday, November 9th around 12:30am, the police raided the park, to destroy belongings (in garbage trucks), to take tents and supplies, and to try to pressure everyone out.
Occupy London received eviction notices on November 8th. There was an official press conference, and many “notice and order” papers were taped at the occupation site (on all of the tents, on street poles in the park, on the occupation porta-potty, etc).
I sent the following statement to the London, Ontario mayor, and to the city councillors. These words were e-mailed in to those officials about 9 hours before the occupation site was forcibly evicted.
Please respect the Occupy London safe space statement:
“Everyone has a right to feel safe and valuable. Safe space is a communal responsibility. It means being safe from sexual harassment, physical assault, verbal threat and abuse, racism, sexism, colonialism, classism, ablism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, and all forms of oppression. We encourage the whole assembly to develop their own sense of what a safe space society would look and feel like. We encourage everyone to be conscious and respectful to the safety of others.”
He also mentions:
- The World Health Organization (WHO)’s findings that Sarnia has the worst particulate pollution in Canada
- TODA’s water pollution
- The now inactive, and possibly dead, Lambton Community Health Study
- Free toxic tours around Chemical Valley
This interview follows up another one in which Zak gives updates about how shale gas will be or might be used around Sarnia-Lambton’s Chemical Valley.
Many of these topics had come up in conversation; we then decided to to record some of what Zak has to say about the situations around where he lives.
Nova Chemicals in October, 2011. Photo by Dallas Sinopole.
In this interview, Zak speaks about:
- Nova Chemicals, and how this company plans to use shale gas — for decades
- A related BioAmber facility which will be processing a substance that is similar to the GHB rape drug
- Labour concessions which are connected with these projects
- The Lambton Generating Station, and the possibility that it will be burning ‘natural’ gas (shale gas?) in the future