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Place and Space: A Lefebvrian Reconciliation

Andrew Merrifield

Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, New Series, Vol. 18, No. 4. (1993), pp.
516-531.

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Place and space: a Lefebvvian veconciliafion

ANDREW MERRIFIELD
Lecturer in Geography, Department of Geography, University of Southampton, Highfield, Soufhunzpfon
SO9 5NH

Revised M S received 26 June 1993

ABSTRACT
This paper offers a dialectical interpretation of place. It argues that much of the confusion in the literature on place stems
from its failure to engage with the ontological nature of place. This has led to much research implicitly accepting a
restrictive Cartesian view of socio-spatial reality. Entrikin's (1991) 'betweenness of place' thesis is a notable recent
illustration. In this paper I suggest that the problematic nature of place and its relationship to space can be resolved
through a dialectical mode of argumentation. The spatialized dialectic of Henri Lefebvre offers a fruitful framework for
reconciling the interaction between place and space insofar as it strives to overcome dualistic conceptions of capitalist
spatiality. Lefevbre's dialectical approach will be counterposed to Entrikin's argument. The paper concludes by outlining
the implications of the respective perspectives for robust place theorization and place politics.

KEY WORDS: Place, Spatial theory, Henri Lefebvre, Dialectics, Ontology, Marxism

INTRODUCTION debate, culminating with the Changing Urban and


Regional Systems (CURS) initiative, is, of course, a
Arguments centring around the concept of place further attempt to reinstate the importance of place
have reappeared on the agenda of many human within the geographical agenda (Cooke, 1987, 1989;
geographers in recent years. The insistence that but see also Massey, 1991; Smith, 1987). Attempts
'place matters' became something of a clarion call to come to grips with place (and related concepts
during the 1980s (Massey, 1984; Massey and Allen, such as region and locality) have, in short, become
1984) and reoeated invocations about issues of widesoread and diverse in recent vears.
'uniqueness', 'contextuality' and 'place perspective' But amid this resurgence of interest in place and
have accordingly intensified within the geographical eagerness to engage in empirical research on place
imagination (Agnew, 1987, 1989; Agnew and and locality, certain deep-rooted philosophical and
Duncan, 1989). Thus the recognition that places methodological shortcomings have revealed them-
differ and that this difference is significant in affect- selves. For me, this boils down to the failure of
ing explanation has gained prominence once again. much research to establish more thorounhlv u .
the
Yet lessons have been learned from the earlier basic onfologic~~l nature of place itself. There has, for
days of idiographic regional geography. Recent instance, been a relative neglect of the basic ground
research on place is, to be sure, much more sophis- rules from which manv theorists and researchers
ticated insofar as it has, in broad terms, attempted construct their understandings of place; which is to
to reconcile the traditional spatial analyst's con- say, the manner in which they construct their
cern for space (chorological 'areal differentiation' in specific 'object' of inquiry. This neglect is problem-
~ a r t s h o r i e ' sneo-Kantian lexicon), Marxists' con- atic for a number of reasons, not least of which is
cern with social relations and structural factors, and that it has orecluded the formulation of a dinlecficill
humanists' appeals for subjectivity, place meaning approach to the question of place and so trapped
and place experience (see Entrikin, 1991). That this much research on place (often unwittingly) within a
interest in place and region has grown during the restrictive Cartesian philosophical straitjacket.
last decade is confirmed by the development of the The present contribution sets out to expose the
so-called 'new' regional geography (Gilbert, 1988; tacit Cartesian foundation of certain strands of place
Jonas, 1988; Pudup, 1988). The recent 'locality' research by invoking the necessity for a dialectical
Trails Br Iilst Gellgr. N.S. 18: 510-531 (1993) ISSN: 0020-2751 Pr~ntedin Great Britain
Place and space: a Lefebrlvian reconciliation 517
reinterpretation. To do so, I shall draw upon Henri kinds of change (which may, for example, manifest
Lefebvre's (1991a,b) pioneering formulations on itself as apparent stasis) and different degrees of
space and everyday life. Herein I argue that movement, interconnection and interaction (Engels,
Lefebvre's maverick, non-dogmatic spatinlized read- 1934; Ollman, 1990; see also Harvey, 1993a). For
ing of Marx's materialist dialectic (a project he most dialecticians, therefore, dynamism is funda-
termed spatiology) offers the most fruitful route for mental to all matter and reality. Apparent stability
broaching the problematic of place as well as can itself be shown to be a peculiar manifestation of
permitting the formation of a robust politics of change which necessitates explanation. As Ollman
place. I propose that a reassertion of an explicit (1990, 34) insists, 'given that change is always a part
dialectical mode of argumentation can make a major of what things are, the problem for research can
contribution to the goal that has hitherto effectively only then be how, when and info what they change
eluded geographers: that of reconciling the way in and why they sometimes appear not to change'
which experience is lived and acted out in place, and (original emphasis).
how this relates to, and is embedded in, political and In order to perceive change, dialectics emphasizes
economic practices that are operative over broader process, movement, flow, relations and, more par-
spatial scales. ticularly, contradiction. Contradiction has often
In this light, the argument will proceed as fol- been singled out as the principal feature of dialectics
lows: first, I will contrast the dialectical and (Kojeve, 1980; Lefebvre, 1968; Mao, 1954); it may
Cartesian world views. Secondly, I will crystallize be understood as some kind of incompatible devel-
the deficiencies and limitations of Cartesianism opment or movement of different elements within
within geography by briefly examining Entrikin's the whole whereby each element within a relation-
recent 'betweenness of place' thesis (see Entrikin, ship simultaneously supports and undermines the
1991). Thirdly, I will offer a corrective to the defects other (see Ollman, 1993).
of Cartesian geography by framing the question of All contradictions, however, must be viewed
place within an explicit dialectical framework. Here relationally within an internally-related holistic
the relationship between space and place will be framework (Ollman, 1976, 1993). Implicit here is the
discussed. Grappling with this interconnection is concept of totality (Marx, 1973, 101). From this
tantamount to understanding the interaction standpoint, 'each part is viewed as incorporating in
between the global and the local, and the general what it is all its relations with other parts up to and
and the particular; it holds the key to resolving the including everything that comes into the whole'
thorny issue of deriving universal statements about (Ollman, 1990, 38). So it is not possible to under-
specific instances and changes in socio-spatial prac- stand different interrelated parts of a whole without
tices. The space-place dilemma can be reconciled, I understanding how the parts relate to each other
shall argue, by putting Lefebvre's (1991a) 'spatial within this whole. This position simply implies that
triad' through its conceptual paces. Lefebvre's the manner in which 'things cohere become essential
framework can transcend the dualistic Cartesian attributes of what they are' (Ollman, 1993, 37).
thinking prevalent in many geographical treatises Totality thereby represents 'the way the whole is
on place. present through internal relations in each of its
parts'; it is a dynamic, emergent and open construct,
and is not to be confused with totalization or
THE DIALECTICAL WORLD VIEW
closure (Lefebvre, 1968, 111).Assumed within dia-
Dialectics is both a statement about what the world lectical method this sense of totality offers a
is and a method of organizing this world for the conceptual device that can be employed for under-
purpose of study and presentation (Ollman, 1990, standing the totalizing nature of capitalism without
1993). Dialectical argumentation has a long and itself being a totalizing ti~eory. It concurs with
variegated legacy in philosophy. Its origins - in the Haraway's (1990, 223) notion that 'the production
Western world at least - stem from the ancient of universal, totalizing theory is a major mistake
Greek classicists such as Democritus, Plato and that misses most of reality, probably always, but
Heraclitus, before passing - mainly via Spinoza and certainly now'. Failure to assert a commitment to a
Leibniz - through to Hegel and Marx. Despite the critical reading of the totalizing character of the
diversity of this legacy, a common thread is the contemporarly wpifalist system - which comprehends
concern to address the question of change, different only the difference and otherness that is expressed
518 ANDREW I\
through the market - is, however, another matter. his declared goal of understanding the 'full dimen-
This shortcoming merely succeeds in anaesthetizing sionality of the concept of place' is restricted owing
critical sensibility and results in an lrlienated recon- to its unwitting Cartesian philosophical under-
struction of the world that 'lap[ses] into boundless pinning. To this end, it is revealing here to outline
difference and giv[es] up the confusing task of the central thrust of Entrikin's viewpoint and
malung partial, real connection' (Haraway, 1990, pinpoint its limitations - pari pnssu a dialectical
202). Consequently there is, following quantum conceptualization - for explanation and for praxis.
physicist David Bohm (1980, 11), always 'a need to
look on the world as an undivided whole' (original
THE 'BETWEENNESS OF PLACE'?
emphasis).
This rellrtionlrl ontology contrasts markedly with Entrikin stresses that geographers have tended to
atomistic, mechanistic, empiricist viewpoints. These study place by way of a continuum polarized
latter, Cartesian-inspired, conceptions tend to sep- between a sl4bjective, idiographic and unique descrip-
arate out and 'thingify' different aspects of social tive interpretation and a relatively objective, nomo-
reality, treating it as consisting of 'discrete objects' thetic and general explanatory understanding. What
without any sense of relational interconnectivity. this engenders is a
Capra (1982) insists that Cartesianism - which
emerged through the philosophical inquiries of large intellectual gap [which] exists between our sense
of being actors in the world, of always being in place.
Descartes in the seventeenth century - has had an
and the 'placelessness' that characterizes our attempts
enormous and frequently limiting influence on the to theorise about human actions and events. (Entrikin.
social and scientific development of Western civiliz- 1991, 7)
ation. As a method it is analytic, being directly
opposed to dialectics, since it consists of the 'break- According to Entrikin, geographers throughout the
ing up of thoughts and problems into pieces and i ~ . twentieth-century have sought - largely in vain -
arranging these in their logical order' (Capra, 1982, to reconcile this dualism between science and art,
44). The 'whole' from this perspective amounts to between explanation and description, between a
nothing more than the sum of the parts. Levins and decentred universalism and a centred particularism, via
Lewontin (1985, 269) remark that this reconstructs some middle-ground. Entrikin, too, maintains that a
an 'alienated' and 'reductionist' view of the world. deeper understanding of place requires access to
The Cartesian world view holds, furthermore, to a both objective and subjective reality:
sharp separation between thinking and the material
world, between the mind and matter, between the From the decentred vantage point of the theoretical
observer and the observed, and between the analy- scientist, place becomes either location or a set of
generic relations and thereby loses much of its signifi-
ser and the analysed. Most forms of empiricism
cance for human action. From the centred viewpoint of
acknowledge a Cartesian atomized ontology. the subject, place has meaning only in relation to an
Cartesianism posits an essentially mechanical individual's or group's goals and concerns. Place is
and mathematical representation of reality. For best viewed from points in between. (5)
Descartes, the universe and living organisms were
little more than machines governed by iron laws, Drawing upon French philosopher and literary
much the same as the operation of a clock. critic, Paul Ricoeur, Entrikin argues that the key
Descartes' atomized and mechanical view of the element straddling this relationship - or 'getting
world profoundly influenced Newtonian physics between' place - is the process of emplotment (25).
wherein space was seen, as indeed it frequently is This is a form of narrative which gives structure to
today in much geographical literature (cf. Sayer, the particular connections that people have with
1985), as absolute, a passive empty container in- places and, in so doing, 'draw[s] together agents and
dependent of physical phenomena (see Capra, 1982, structures, intentions and circumstances, the general
ch. 2; Smith, 1984, ch. 3).' and the particular, and at the same time seek[s] to
Confirmation of geography's failure to shed its explain causally'. Entrikin readily admits that he is
Cartesian baggage may be witnessed in Entrikin's offering neither a method nor an instructional guide
(1991) recent confrontation with the nature of place for the study of place and, while it can be debated as
in his The Betweenness of Place. Although Entrikin's to whether this failure to provide exemplars of
thesis marks the latest reassertion that place matters, emplotment is a basic weakness of his book (see
Place and space: a Lefejl~lrinnreconcilintion 519
Johnston, 1992), my criticism is nonetheless aimed position 'between an objective pole of scientific
at a slightly different and arguably deeper target: theorising and a subjective pole of empathetic
the restrictive philosophical tradition within which understanding' (113-4) - all of which surely implies
the book is couched. that the researcher did not have an i m ~ l a n e nposition
f
Entrikin's evident starting point is human experi- in the material world as a fellow thinking subject in
ence and the meaning given to place by conscious the first place. This sounds like Descartes' belief that
individuals. He aims to hold on to this phenomeno- rational knowledge can be employed to mediate the
logical perspective while integrating a more decen- assumed division between the external material
tred and objective component. But all of this begins world and the internal world of the mind although,
with a tacit assumption that place is dualistic to for Entrikin, 'rational' humanist knowledge can
begin with; Entrikin's attempts to reconcile this somehow 'get between' external place and internal
dualism from the humanist point of view is tanta- consciousness. Such a dualistic Cartesian conception
mount to a reversion to the classical Cartesian pos- is further reinforced through Entrikin's assumption
ition, though with a different emphasis.' So even if that the 'theoretician seeks a level of abstraction and
Entrikin had wished to put his thesis into motion, it decentredness that diminishes the significance of the
would, to my mind, have foundered sooner or later, specificity of place and period for both the object of
simply because of the implicit Cartesian foundation. study and for the viewpoint taken toward the
As noted above, the Cartesian viewpoint assumes object' (133). Therein surely lurks an implicit ac-
a duality between the material (external) world knowledgement that the observer (viz. the view-
and the (internal) world of human consciousness. point toward the object) and the observed (viz. the
Rational knowledge became the potential source of object itself) are somehow detached. Again, this is
mediation between the body and the mind, between pure Cartesianism, for it seems to posit that intellec-
the external and internal world. Duality is, therefore, tual knowledge can be mustered to reconcile this
the leitmotiv of Cartesian reality and this quality externallinternal world dichotomy.
carries over into Entrikin's thinlung on place. To The shortcomings of Entrikin's argument emerge
begin with, Entrikin constructs his argument from from the ontological nature in which the question is
the postulation that place can be viewed b y bridging framed. Its central tenets are dualistic and linear
two ends o f a c o n t i n u u ~ ~There
. is thus a pol~~ritly rather than unitary and dialectical; by involving the
between subjective and objective realms of place (as notion of an 'in between' it seeks to understand
if there is an a priori division); the objective and the how two polar opposifes can be brought togefher rather
subjective are, as he repeatedly insists, 'both sides o f than to comprehend how the locus of place is a
this divide' (Entrikin, 1991, 134) (emphasis added). unifly confalning within itself differenf nspecfs.
He talks, furthermore, of place being the fusion of The dialectical standpoint opposes the reification
space and experience (as if the two are divided in the of fragmentation and the separation of different
first place) which gives the earth's surface a aspects of reality. Instead, its epistemological and
"'wholeness' or an 'individuality"' (6) (emphasis ontological commitment affirms the unity of h o w l -
added). The notion of 'or' here implies that space edge and the total character of reality. It is in this
and experience and wholeness and individuality are sense that a spatialized version of the dialectic can
in some sense two domains. This is Cartesian offer a powerful corrective to geographical thought
thought par excellence. A dialectical viewpoint sug- on place that is rooted in the Cartesian tradition.
gests that the earth's surface is 'wholeness' and
'individuality' since, following Hegel (1969, 606),
THE DIALECTICS OF SPACE AND PLACE
wholeness contains individuality and individuality,

'through its determinateness', contains the whole. Before proceeding, it may be helpful to clarify how

This dualism persists in the way Entrikin deploys dialectical thought remains distinctively uncartesian.
emplotment. The 'large intellectual gap' (Entrikin, This can best be done by a reconsideration of the
1991, 7 ) (emphasis added) that he perceives between conception of fetishism, through which Marx devel-
our sense of being actors in place and our attempts oped a dialectical interpretation of the commodity.
to theorize about place, represents a 'basic polarify of Marx recognized that, although commodities as
human consciousness' (9) (emphasis added). In tell- material 'things' are produced through a labour
ing the story of place through the narrative (emplot- process that involves specific social relations, the
ment), the geographer is thus forced to occupy a thing character (the money-form) tends to mask the
520 ANDREW MERRIFlELD
underlying social processes once these commodities this extent, the global capitalist system does not
enter daily life via the market. Marx (1967, 71-83) occur solely in some abstract sense; it has to ground
terms this obfuscation the 'fetishism of com- itself and be acted out in specific places if it is to
-
modities'; at and after market exchange, it is im-
possible fully to apprehend anything about the
have any meaning (cf. Lefebvre, 1991b). The space
of the whole thus takes on meaning through place;
social relations, activities or struggles of private and each part (i.e. each place) in its interconnection
labour in the 'hidden abode of production' i ~ a r x , with other parts (places) engenders the space of the
-
1967, 176). Marx argues that commodities, like whole.
other phenomena, are processes which appear in the The capitalist space-place relationship does not
form of things - a conclusion difficult to acknowl- arise out of some kind of abstract concrete determi-
edge in 'common-sense' empiricist understandings, nation. Space is not a high level abstract theoriz-
since it asserts the bold postulation that the material ation separated from the more concrete, tactile
world is simultaneously both a thing and a process.3 domain of place which is frequently taken as syn-
Lefebvre's 'production of space' thesis effectively onymous with an easily identifiable reality such as a
represents a spatialized rendition of Marx's concep- specific location or 'locality'.6 An attempt to over-
tion of f e t i ~ h i s m Thus:
.~ come this absolute separation is made here by
arguing that both space and place have a real
The ideoiogicaily dominant tendency divides space up ontological status since they are both embodied in
into parts and parcels in accordance with the division material processes - namely, real human activities.
of labour. It bases its image of the forces occupying
Their distinction must, therefore, be conceived by
space on the idea that space is a passive receptacle.
capturing how they melt into each other rather than
Thus, instead of uncovering the social relationships
(including class relationships) that are latent in spaces, by reifying some spurious fissure.
instend of concentrating our attention on the prodltction o f Marx's discussion on fixed and circulating capital
spare and the socinl relationships inherent to it - relation- in the Grundrisse is exemplary in framing the dialec-
ships which introduce specific contradictions into pro- tical interconnection between space and place. For
duction, so echoing the contradiction between the Marx, all capital is circulating capital in the sense
private ownership of the means of production and the that its nature is one of movement and process
social character of the productive forces - we fall into (1973, 618-26). Yet while circulating capital is the
the trap of treating space as space 'in itself, as space as flow of going from one phase to the next - that is,
such. W e corne to think in terms o f spatiality, and so
from commodities to money to capital and so on -
fetishise space in n ulay reminiscent of the old fetishism o f
at the same time within each phase, it is 'posited in
corntnodities, where the trap lay in exchange, and the
error was to consider 'things' in isolation, as 'things in a specific aspect, restricted to a particular form,
themselves' (1991, 90) (emphases added). which is the negation of itself as the subject of the
whole movement' (26). In short, it becomes fixed
Such a conceptualization alerts us to the fact that the capital:
material landscape (as fixed capital) is produced, of
necessity, as a thing in place and becomes imbued [a]s the subject moving through all phases, as a moving
unity, the unity-in-process of circulation . . . capital is
with meaning in everyday place-bound social prac-
circulating cnpital; capital as restricted into any of these
tices. But this physical and social landscape emerges phases, as ~ o s i t e din its divisions, is fixated capital,
through processes that are simultaneously operative tied-douw capital. As circulating capital it fixates itself,
over varying spatial and temporal scales and may and as fixated capital it circulates (621) (original
have a broader significance within the whole - that emphases)
is, they are operative over the domain of space The
interaction between space and place here is a crucial The formal nature of Marx's understanding here is
one. Equally vital is that while we must distinguish suggestive for our own discussion: '[tlhe distinction
between these different realms if we are to appre- between circulating capital and fixed capital appears
hend place construction and transformation, we initially as a formal characteristic of capital, depend-
must simultaneously capture how they are in fact ing on whether it appears as . . . the unity of the
forged together in a dialectical unity. The material process or as one of its specrfic moments' (621) (latter
landscape and practices of everyday life occurring in emphasis added). Marx, therefore, makes a qualitat-
different places under capitalism5 are inextricably ive distinction whereby he identifies 'fixed' capital
embedded within the global capitalist whole. To whose form directly opposes that of 'circulating'
Place and space: a Lefebz~rian reconciliation 521
capital, despite the fact that one takes on meaning (such as labour-power and means of production)
only through the other and, in the end, they are but which are themselves constituted by specific pro-
different 'moments' or characteristic forms of the cesses. The production of space is thus the process as
same - i.e. circulating - capital. In other words, fixed well as the outcome of the process (i.e. the produced
capital is the uppurentl~y static material thing-form social space); it is the totality of the 'flow' and
quality of the embodied process of circulating 'thing' qualities of capitalist material geographical
capital. landscape (Lefebvre, 1991a, 86-92). I should point
What, then, does this all mean for space and out here, nevertheless, that Castells (1985, 14) fails
place? If we have recourse to the above dialectical to comprehend this double-edged dialectical inter-
logic, the following picture emerges. Social space connection with his rhetorical phrase that the 'space
must be posited as a material process. This process of flows [is] substituting a space of places'. What
represents the rootless, fluid reality of material flows Castells fails to recognize is that it is not one or the
of commodities, money, capital and information other - that is, the space of flows or the space of
which can be transferred and shifted across the places - but rather space is already flow arid place -
globe. Put simply, we can say that capitalist social it is sin~zrl~aneously
a process and a thing. It is only
space is subsumed under the domain of capital, since by identifying this feature theoretically, as we shall
its command of property, money power, technol- see later, that a prospective 'place-bound' radical
ogy and mass media enable it to dominate and political practice can emerge, since flows d o take on
appropriate the space of global capitalism. This a thing form in place and hence are always vulner-
command is essential if it is to reproduce and able in that place. The problem for this practice is
expand a system based on commodity production that the processes that embody this fixity are
and exchange and the accumulation of capital. From diffusive insofar as they are operative over varying
this standpoint, social space becomes a force of spatial scales.
production itself (Lefebvre, 1979; Harvey, 1982; This 'moment' of apparent fixity of capital in
Swyngedouw, 1991, 1992), representing simul- place is never merely uniform as each fraction of
taneously a network of exchange and a flow of capital responds t o competitive economically-
commodities, communication, energy and resources. conditioned exigencies. And while Lefebvre himself
This characteristic harks back to the ontological and rightly accredits significance to the economic
dialectical proposition that the quality of capitalism sphere, he is also careful t o avoid economism.' To
as a 'thing' (it appears as a network organized in be sure, Lefebvre is adamant that this overall
space) cannot be dissociated from its 'processual' process of space and place production is a deeply
aspects (it is also a diffusive flow over space). Again, political event. Consequently, space internalizes
quantum theory echoes precisely these notions: all conflictual and contradictory social forces and social
matter, recall, is a pnrticle (a concentrated entity in conflict is thereby 'inscribed in place'. This conflict
space) and a wave (a dispersive non-spatially con- arises from the inextricable tension between the
centrated process) at one and the same time. usage and appropriation of place for social purposes
Capital is an inexorably circulatory process diffu- and the domination of place (and space) as a
sive in space which also fixates itself as a thing in productive and commercial force through private
space and so begets a built environment. The fixity ownership. Only class and social struggles, there-
nature (the thing quality) of the geographical land- fore, have the capacity t o 'generate differences
scape is necessary to permit the flow and diffusive which are not intrinsic to economic growth'
nature of capital; and vice versa. Capital fixity must, (Lefebvre, 1991a, 55). In the ideal world of capital-
of necessity, take place somewhere, and hence place ism, capital would be just a 'free-floating' flow
can be taken as a specific form emergent from an liberated from any constraints of space and place.
apparent stopping of, or as one specific momenf in, The whole space of capitalism would then represent
the dynamics of capitalist social space. This 'thing' the homogeneous economic space of exchange
and 'flow' feature of reality implies, too, an inextri- value. Although individual capitalists may them-
cable interconnection between time and space since selves be relatively free-floating, this normative
one takes on meaning only through the other and landscape can never be generalized in reality if
they cannot effectively be distinguished. The pro- capitalists are to fulfil their historical roles as
cess of capital circulation must take place as a thing personific~ztions of capifal since actual production,
somewhere so as to combine with other 'things' realization and distribution of surplus value is
522 A N D R E W MERRIFIELD
necessarily place-dependent and hence always broader scale than the realm of place itself. Place
vulnerable to political contestation. emerges through the interpenetration of objective
It follows here that place is not merely ab- and subjective forces; it is a 'state of being' (Relph,
stract space: it is the terrain where basic social 1989; Seamon and Mugerauer, 1989) as well as a
practices - consumption, enjoyment, tradition, self- formative political-economic process (cf. Harvey,
identification, solidarity, social support and social 1993b). Yet from the dialectical viewpoint these
reproduction, etc. - are lived out. As a moment of qualities are d ~ f e r e n nlonlerifs
t of the same uriity. They
capitalist space, place is where everyday life is should not be grasped, as I earlier argued contra
situated. And as such, place can be taken as practiced Entrikin, as the un{fication of t w o difererit realnls. The
space.' What is practiced is the basic problematic here lies in understanding the
mode of determination between space and place
clash between a consumption of space which produces
and, specifically, how these two realms are nlediafed.
surplus value and one which produces only enjoyment
Reconciling the way experience is lived and acted
- and is therefore 'unproductive'. It is a clash, in other
words, between capitalist 'utilisers' and community out in place, and how this relates to political and
'users'. (Lefebvre, 1991a, 359, 60) economic developments on a global and national
scale, remains a most challenging concern for theor-
Consequently, spatial contradictions - that is, politi- etical endeavour. These difficulties can, however, be
cal conflicts between socio-economic interests and overcome by way of an alternative dialectical con-
forces - express themselves in place. It is only, pace ceptualization, the germ of which is found in
Castells, in place that such conflicts come effectively Lefebvre's spatialized dialectic. Lefebvre's framework
into play, and in doing so they become contradic- is an extremely suggestive and flexible heuristic
tions of space (cf. 365). Place is not, therefore, a device for interpreting the mode of mediation
tabula rasa upon which these broader capitalist between space and place which can shed light on
(economic) forces unfold, for place-specific ingredi- the nature of place and how it, in turn, relates to the
ents and the politics of place are not innocent and broader social whole. Let us, therefore, elucidate
passive in the formation of overall capitalist social Lefebvre's spatiology more closely.
space; the significance of these qualitative aspects of
place and how they, in turn, shape space and politi-
TOWARDS A RECONCILIATION:
cal conflicts and meaning centring around everyday
LEFEBVRE'S SPATIAL TRIAD
life cannot, needless to say, be downplayed.
It is not too difficult to see, furthermore, how this Lefebvre's explorations in T h e Production o f Space
state of affairs could erupt into a political struggle to (1991a) are the culmination of a life-long intellectual
define place (space): Whose place? What kind of project in which he sought to understand the role of
place? Which place? And, as Lefebvre has noted, it space, the nature of the urban and the importance of
'hardly seems necessary to add that within this everyday life in the perpetuation and expanded
space violence does not always remain latent or reproduction of the capitalist mode of production.
hidden. One of its contradictions is that between In T h e Survival o f Capitalisnl (1976) [19731, Lefebvre
the appearance of security [is] the constant threat, had earlier made explicit that capitalism was indeed
and indeed the occasional eruption, of violence' a deeply geographical project:
(1991a, 57). Violence is therefore invariably con-
nected with spontaneity of action and hence place- what has happened is that capitalism has found itself
specific contestation (see Lefebvre, 1969). Still, the able to attenuate (if not resolve) its internal contradic-
tions for a century, and consequently, in the hundred
power of capital to organize, control, counteract
years since the writing of Capital, it has succeeded in
contestation, and forge place in its own exchange achieving 'growth'. We cannot calculate at what price,
value image is usually predicated on its superior but we know the means: by occnp!ling space, by pro-
ability to dominate space (Harvey, 1989; cf. Ross, ducing a space (1976, 21) (original emphasis)"
1988). As Lefebvre (56) soberly argues, 'there is no
getting around the fact that the bourgeoisie still has But it wasn't until the following year with the
the initiative in its struggle for (and in) space'. publication of the The prodzrction of space that
Within the very moment of place, in short, there Lefebvre pursued more directly the idea of produc-
lies a copresence of heterogeneous and conflictual ing space. Lefebvre's originality stems from the
processes, many of which are operative over a fact that he invoked the need for a 'unity theory'
Place and space. a Lefeburinn reconciliafion 523
(1991a, 11) between different 'fields' of space which ligible the complex interplay between the different
had hitherto been apprehended separately in aspects of this process in its totality through the use
Western intellectual (Cartesian-Newtonian) practice. of a 'conceptual triad' (1991a, 33). Incorporated
Lefebvre's aim was to 'detonate this state of affairs' therein are three moments identified by Lefebvre as:
(24) since he rightly saw fragmentation and concep- representations of space, representational space and
tual separation as serving distinctively ideological spatial practices. Let us ponder each in turn.
purposes. His approach aimed both 'to reconnect
elemerits that have been separated. . . [and] to rejoiri the Representations o f space refers t o conceptualized
severed and reanal~sethe commingled' (413, empha- space, the discursively constructed space of profes-
sis added). Lefebvre strove for a unity theory of sionals and technocrats such as planners, engineers,
space, a rapprochement between physical space developers, architects, urbanists, geographers and
(nature), mental space (formal abstractions about those of a scientific bent. This space comprises the
space) and social space (the space occupied by various arcane signs, jargon, codifications, objecti-
'sensory phenomena, including products of the fied representations used and produced by these
imagination such as projects and projections, sym- agents. According to Lefebvre, it is always a cori-
bols and utopias' (12)). Implicated in this project ceived and abstract space since it subsumes ideology
was Lefebvre's own particular brand of Marxism and knowledge within its practice. It is the dominant
which stressed the importance of everyday life, of space in any society and is 'tied to the relations of
alienation and of the writings of the early, humanist production and to the "order" which those relations
~ a r x . " ~ o n s e ~ u e n t l yhis
, project on space does impose, and hence to knowledge, t o signs, to codes,
not simply reduce the mental to the material in a and to "frontal" relations' (33). Because it is effec-
'vulgar' Marxist fashion. For Lefebvre, the realms of tively the space of capital, conceived space has a
perception, symbolism and imagination, although 'substantial role and a specific influence in the
distinguishable, are not separable from physical and production of space' (42) and finds its 'objective
social space." expression' in monuments, towers, factories and in
According to Lefebvre, bringing these different the 'bureaucratic and political authoritarianism
modalities of space together within a single theory immanent to a repressive space' (49).
would expose space, decode space, and read space.I2
This could be achieved only by thinking about the Representational space is directly lived space, the
dialectical character of their interaction; thinking, in space of everyday life. It is space experienced
other words, about the manner in which they come through the complex symbols and images of its
together as a conflictual process of creation, as a 'inhabitants' and 'users'. This space 'overlays physi-
process of producing. At first sight, Lefebvre admits, cal space, making symbolic use of its objects' (39)
to speak of 'producing space sounds bizarre, so which may be linked to some underground, clandes-
great is the sway still held by the idea that empty tine side of social life. Lived representational space
space is prior to whatever ends up filling it' (1991a, has no need to obey rules of consistency or
15). But the method by which he elucidates this cohesiveness because it is, as Lefebvre (1991a, 42)
argument is provocative, subtle and, as I hope to says, alive:
illustrate shortly, particularly germane for our own
purposes. it speaks. It has an affective kernel or centre: Ego, bed,
Lefebvre immediately urges that if we are to shift bedroom, dwelling, house: or: square, church, grave-
yard. It embraces the loci of passion, of action and of
our attention from the conception of 'things in
lived situations, and thus immediately implies time.
space' to the 'actual production of space', our theor-
Consequently it may be qualified in various ways: it
etical understanding must capture the generative may be directional, situational or relational, because it
process of space (37). For Lefebvre, the process of is essentially qualitative, fluid and dynamic.
producing space (process) and the product (thing) -
that is, the produced social space itself - present Equally, it is an elusive space which the imagination
themselves as two inseparable aspects, not as two (conceived) must seek to change and appropriate.
separable ideas. Thus space as a material product is a Lived space, therefore, is the dominated, passively
present space: a moment absorbed in a complex experienced space that the conceived, ordered,
dynamic process which 'embraces a multitude of hegemonic space will intervene in, codify, rational-
intersections' (33). Lefebvre attempts to render intel- ize and ultimately attempt to usurp. Architects,
524 ANDREW MERRIFIELD
planners, developers and the like are, of course, all (erotic knowledge). Significantly, such a reading
active in this very pursuit. implies a political and geographical programme
wherein 'reappropriation of the body, in association
Spatial practices are practices that 'secrete' with the reappropriation of space . . . [is] a non-
society's space. For Lefebvre the spatial practices of negotiable part of its agenda' (167).
any society are revealed by 'deciphering' its space Relations between conceived-perceived-lived
(38). Spatial practices, however, have close affinities moments are never stable and exhibit historically
to perceived space. In other words, people's percep- defined qualities, attributes and interconnections.
tions condition their daily reality with respect to the But the problem under capitalism is, according to
usage of space: for example, their routes, networks, Lefebvre, that primacy is given to the conceived; all
patterns of interaction that link places set aside for which renders insignificant the 'unconscious' level
work, play and lei~ure.~"hese practices result from of lived experience (34). What is lived and perceived
a perceived space, a space, for example, that embraces is subsumed under what is conceived. The social
both production and reproduction. Spatial practices space of lived experience is crushed, vanquished by
structure daily life and a broader urban reality and, what he calls an abstract conceived space which
in so doing, ensure societal cohesion, continuity and dances to the tune of the homogenizing forces of
a specific spatial competence (33). money, commodities, capital and the phallus. It
Lefebvre is, nevertheless, tantalizingly vague on denies the celebration of lived difference, of tra-
the precise fashion in which the conceived-lived- dition, of jouissance, of sensual diferential space.
perceived triad interrelate. He certainly points to a Capitalism demands an abstract masculine space of
dialectical as opposed to a causal mode of detemi- capital accumulation and repression which it con-
nation; but this demands further clarification. ceives in accordance with the exigencies of banks,
Lefebvre gives centrality to the body in the under- business centres, productive agglomerations and
standing of the relationship between these different information networks. Henceforward it is class and
moments. He brings t o bear a libertarian, humanist social struggle which 'prevents abstract space from
Marxism here which made him acutely sensitive to taking over the whole planet and papering over all
quotidian lived experience.'" Bodily experience differences' (55)
towards space as lived, he argues, is 'strangely Lefebvre here prioritizes the lived and perceived
different' from when it is thought of and perceived. over the conceived. Or, put more accurately, he
And spatial practices are lived directly before they upbraids their factitious separation under modern
are conceptualized. The relationship to space of a capitalism. His fierce invectives on alienation in
'subject' who is a member of a group or society everyday life invoke the necessity for a reconcili-
implies a certain relationship to their body and vice ation between thinking and living. For Lefebvre, the
versa (40). As a result, Lefebvre's discussions on distinction has led to a separation of different
space and the body leave plenty of room for spheres of human activity and a 'despoliation' of
dialogue with both phenomenological perspectives everyday life, since the latter remains in the thrall of
and feminist geographers. For example, he empha- abstract space. Hence, for Lefebvre (1991b, 1971),
sizes (1991a, 286f0 the way in which abstract space there is no knowledge of everyday life without a
is not solely the repressive economic and political critique of everyday life. While, however, there is a
space of capital, but it is equally a repressive male powerful phenomenological moment in his writings
space which invariably finds its representation in the here, there is, as might be surmised, equally a rejec-
phallic aspect of towers - symbols of force, male tion of the hyper-phenomenology of Heidegger.15
fertility and masculine violence. 'Phallic erectility', In consequence, Lefebvre rejected appeals to any
Lefebvre declares, 'bestows a special status on the atavistic model as a source of 'authenticity'.
perpendicular, proclaiming phallocracy as the orien- His nostalgia was firmly for the future and, as an
tation of space' (287). For Lefebvre, abstract space active Marxist within and later outside the French
functions 'objectally' (49) insofar as it is formal, Communist Party, repeatedly pointed to the
homogeneous and quantitative, erasing all differ- necessity of revolt.
ences such as those which originate in the body In itself, though, Lefebvre's conceived-perceived-
(age, sex, ethnicity). In sum, conceived, abstract lived triad does not explain anything about capital-
space is a quintessentially masculine priapic space ist spatiality. Lefebvre himself admits that it is
where Logos (logical knowledge) prevails over Eros essentially a hollow, abstract device which has to be
Place and space: a Lefebvuian re con cilia ti or^ 525
employed in concrete situations. Indeed, if treated and hence the Lefebvrian struggle to 'change life'
solely as an abstract 'model', he argues, it loses all (borrowing Rimbaud's phrase) has to launch itself
its force and its import is severely limited (1991a, from a place platform. Equally, place is more than
40). Furthermore, just lived everyday life. It is the 'moment' when the
conceived, the perceived and the lived attain a
spatial practice, representations of space and represen- certain 'structured coherence' (to borrow Harvey's
tational spaces contribute in different ways to the term). Lefebvre puts it majestically in Critique of
production of space according to their qualities and Everyday Life (1991b, 6 ) :everyday life in place is 'the
attributes, according to the society or mode of produc- supreme court where wisdom, knowledge and
tion in question, and according to the historical period. power are brought to judgement'.
(36) There are important issues emerging from this.
First, while space-place/conceived-lived evinces a
The space-relations identified by Lefebvre, then, separation of human relations, it is only in particular
take on meaning through, and are permeated by, places - in, if you will, particular lived experiences -
historically defined social relations (and vice versa). that this distinction is realized. The dualism is not,
As for unravelling the present dilemma, however, as previously noted, indicative of an abstract/
Lefebvre's triad becomes remarkably suggestive concrete affair. What is conceived in thought
when projected onto the space-place problematic. expresses a specific representation of space, but this
Consider the following scenario. is actualized materially only in place. To paraphrase
I suggested earlier that space represented the Lefebvre (1991b), it is something which must be
realm of flows of capital, money, commodities and everyday, or it will not be anything at all. This is
information, and remained the domain of the hege- why place (actual daily life) has to be the starting
monic forces in society. From this viewpoint, place point of theoretical and political analysis. But dia-
comprises the locus and a sort of stopping of these lectical inquiry must, as I have suggested, also
flows, a specific moment in the dynamics of space- acknowledge that within place there is an antagon-
relations under capitalism. Place is shaped by the istic movement. There lies within lived experience,
grounding (the 'thingification', if you will) of these for example, an objective force that thinks and
material flows, though it concomitantly serves to mobilizes this knowledge to control a broader
shape them too by way of social and class struggle domain than simply the lived alone. And it is such
over place necessitating, for example, that abstract an abstract material power that must be woven into
capital takes a particular physical and social form in an understanding of place and recognized in any
place. I shall now argue that space is always set to political praxis occurring around daily life.
a particular conceived representation because it is the Nevertheless, there is another implication of a
dominant conception - an ideal type of homog- Lefebvrian articulation of space-place relationships,
enized global capitalist space - that is tied to the involving the nature of spatial practices. If, as
hegemonic relations of production and sexuality. It Lefebvre insists, spatial practices are fundamental in
is the realm of dispassionate 'objects' rationally ensuring continuity and cohesion in terms of overall
'ordered in space'; a deracinated space where repre- capitalist social space through the way space is
sentation is simply the representation of the ruling perceived, then they are afforded a certain mediating
groups, just as the ruling ideas were for Marx. Here, role in reproducing the space-place separation. The
knowledge and power attempt to reign supreme corollary of this is that spatial practices are dialec-
and impose what they know onto lived sensual and tically implicated in both conceived space and lived
sexual experience. Correspondingly, everyday life place. The images, symbols and perceptions of local
becomes a practical and sensual activity acted out in people, subcultures, gangs, for example, all embrace
place. The battle becomes the moment of struggle different spatial practices. This imagery, too, may
between conceiving space through representation centre around symbolic representations of landscape
and living place through actual sensual experience (monuments, landmarks) which, while put in place
and representional meaning. Place is synonymous through dominant spatial practices, become imbued
with what is lived in the sense that daily life with meaning in daily life.'" So we can witness how
practices are embedded in particular places. Social spatial practices become blurred with respect to the
practice is place-bound, political organization conceived (space)/lived (place) distinction (see, e.g.
demands place organization. Life is place-dependent, Merrifield, 1993, 107-18).'~
526 ANDREW A
All this suggests that spatial practices fulfil an global whole is dependent on the local lived level
ambiguous regulatory role. They become the is somehow integral for informing subversive
pressure point in keeping the space-place relation- spatial practices. Lefebvre thus points to the bale-
ship together, yet apart. The manner in which space ful effects of thinking and acting out one's daily
is perceived in place gets played out in daily life. spatial practices in terms of separation: on the one
But these daily spatial practices reproduce a spatial hand there is the global, and, on the other is the
and political hierarchy which I have identified as a local, the everyday. Taken in this way, the domi-
space-place dualism. Furthermore, the perpetuation nation of the 'whole' over the 'parts' is actively
of the global space of capitalism is both acted out, reproduced. In other words, the sum of the parts
and dependent on, these spatial practices operating is somehow dominant over each part. This latter
as they do. Any challenge to this political power conce~tualizationis Cartesian and one from which
must recognize that the political power of repre- Lefebvre, as a supreme dialectician, would want to
sented space over representational lived space is not distance himself. As he rightly says, it is 'fatal . . .
a detachment of differentiated forces. Lefebvre to keep the moments and elements of social
(1991a, 366) captures this in a vitally important practice away from one another' (1991a, 366). So
passage for the purpose of the present argument: he is pointing to the way in which, at the level of
everyday life, this dualism is perceived and per-
It would be mistaken in this connection to picture a petuated by the way localized spatial practices-are
hierarchical scale stretching between two poles, with acted o u t . ' v h i s opinion appears to corroborate
the unified will of political power at one extreme and the argument that the Cartesian atomized world
the actual dispersion of differentiated elements at the view is deeply ingrained in popular consciousness
other. For eoeryti~ing ithe 'whole') zoeighs d o w n on the (Capra, 1982).
lozoer or '~nicro'leoel, on the local and the localizable - in Yet Lefebvre certainly holds that social practice
short, on the sphere of everyday life. Everything ithe and spatial practice are interconnected at whatever
'whole') also depends on this leoel: exploitation and dorni- scale; and a spatial practice, as he says above, has
nation, protection and - inseparably - repression. The l~asis
the capacity to destroy social practice. He argues,
and foitndation of the 'whole' is dissociation and separation,
mairltairled a s sitch b y the zoill abooe; such dissociation furthermore, that those spaces most effectively
and separation are inevitable in that they are the appropriated are those occupied by symbols: spatial
outcome of a history, of the history of accumulation, practices are ~rofoundlyaffected by the perceived,
b u f they are fatal as soon a s they are maintained in this symbolic landscape. The symbolic meaning, for
w a y , because they keep the m o m e n f s and elernents of social example, of parks and gardens (that emphasize an
practice a w a y frorn one another. A spatial practice destroys absolute nature), religious buildings (that symbolize
social practice; social practice destroys itself l ~ ymeans of absolute wisdom, reverence and power) and monu-
spatial practice. (emphasis added) ments (charged with psychological power, repre-
senting desires, past events and battles waged or to
'A spatial practice destroys social practice; social come, etc.) are legion. The landscape is thus im-
practice destroys itself by means of spatial practice.' pregnated with symbols and imagery that have an
This is an intriguing proclamation. But what does it explicit and insidious impact in spatial practices of
signify? Understanding its intent, arguably, relates everyday life. To this end, for Lefebvre, the
specifically to the manner in which any theory symbolic landscape is fecund with myths and
about the space-place interconnection can inform an legends, and hence remains a formidable means of
actual political programme around place, an agenda appropriating space.'9
so clearly at the core of Lefebvre's argument all O n the other hand, while the 'micro' level 'does
along. contain both the resources needed and the stakes at
Lefebvre is speaking here in terms of political issue', it is not always the 'sphere in which contend-
strategy, wherein he clearly accords a specific role ing forces are deployed' (1991a, 366). Recall that
to spatial practices. For Lefebvre, any emancipatory lace (what we can variously term the 'local' or a
politics presupposes a dialectics of space, a particular 'part') is constitutive of flows and practices that
set of theoretically informed spatial practices aimed operate over varying spatial scales. For Lefebvre, it
at overcoming separation and dissociation between follows that challenging the hegemony of the whole
the global 'whole' and the 'local' everyday. Appre- must likewise incorporate spatial practices that per-
hending that the maintenance of the conceived ceive of how the whole is in fact constituted; and
Plnce nnd space n Lefi'barinn reconciliation 527
how, moreover, the foundation and perpetration of as the wave and aspect of matter is assumed
this whole is actively based on a Cartesian under- in quantum physics. Under these conditions, a dis-
pinning that emphasizes separation and dissociation tinction between these two realms is made; though
of spheres. This deeper knowledge of the whole and only insofar as it represents different 'moments' of a
the part, space and place, the global and the local contradictory and conflictual process. The necessity
must also be acted upon politically. The utopian to understand how the space-place, global-local,
element of Lefebvre's arguments on space and macro-micro levels are articulated and mediated is, I
political practice are evidence enough.20 But there is further argued, vital for theory and for a robust,
still something very important to be learned here. progressive politics of place.
For his message suggests that place-bound spatial Here Lefebvre's 'triadic' analysis, which estab-
practices must be formulated in such a way as to lishes the different dimensions through which capi-
confront the spatial sphere in which hegemonic talist social space is produced and appropriated, can
forces are deployed: in other words, these spatial help inform such a project and in the process pioneer
practices occurring in place have to be mindful of the development of a non-Cartesian critical human
the dominant conceived spatial practices operative geography, one that is sensitive to bodily lived
over space. Place, therefore, has the resources and experience and is broad and subtle enough to enable
capacity to transform space, but it cannot do so a practical project that can embrace, in undogmatic
from the vantage point of place alone: political fashion, a class, gender, ethnic and affinity group
practices must thus be organized around place in politics. M y purpose in propounding a Lefebvrian
form yet extend in subsflince to embrace space. For formulation was to set up a framework capturing the
Lefebvre, the dialectical interconnection of this different moments of space - i.e. phenomenological,
ostensible disjuncture poses a pressing dilemma for perceptual and the material - dialectically in a way
theorization and, above all, for practical politics. To that could be projected onto the space-place prob-
this degree, a politics that is informed by a theory lematic; without, however, suggesting that the realm
founded upon dualism and separation - one which we call place can be 'read off' from a different realm
divides and fragments space, consciousness and the we call space in a vulgar materialist and Cartesian
material world, and the body and spatiality - is, in mechanistic fashion or, alternatively, to reduce place
the last instance, likely to be retrogressive in its to the purely phenomenological realm of experience
praxis. And herein, in short, lie the dangers of and metaphysical meaning.
Entrikin's 'betweenness' thesis. 'Every social space', Lefebvre (1991a, 110) has
written, 'is the outcome of a process with many
aspects and many contributing currents.' The goal
SUMMARY of theoretical inquiry, finally, must be to grasp how
this outcome and internally-heterogeneous process
This paper has sought to lay out a philosophical is inextricably bound up with the other. The current
and theoretical framework for understanding the difficulties with interpreting the production, mean-
construction, meaning and reconstruction of the ing and frequent destruction of particular places
geographical landscape in place. Via Lefebvre's spa- could, following Lefebvre's dialectical invocation,
tialized dialectic, I stressed the need for a dialectical 'be brought to an end if a truly unitary theory of
mode of analysis, one that questioned Cartesian- space were to be developed'. Though this reunifi-
inspired geographical formulations and recognized cation in no way 'aspire[s] to the status of a
the flowlthing relationship of space and place. In completed "totality"' (1991a, 413), Lefebvre's intel-
this way, the broader mechanisms through which lectual project has strategic objectives and these, as
the built environment is produced, becomes imbued I have attempted to illustrate, are worth spelling out
with meaning and undergoes transformation in at a time when the spectre of Cartesianism haunts
specific places. I suggested throughout that the task the geographical agenda. Lefebvre's brilliance, to
of place theorization is not one of achieving knowl- say nothing of his value to the geographer, stems
edge of the way the dualism between the different from his realization that the struggle for empower-
realms of space and place is bridged - as with ment, emancipation and the 'right to difference' (for
Entrikin's 'betweenness' thesis - but rather in theor- the spatial and social body) is an intensely geo-
izing how space and place are different aspects of a graphical project: nothing and no one, he implores,
unity - that is, two facets of a dialectical process just can ever avoid a 'trial by space'.
528 ANDREW MERRlFlELD
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS particular form and dynamics assumed by this law
were historically and geographically specific - it is
I a m grateful t o D a v i d Harvey, M i k e Kelly, R o g e r also evident that the form and constituent orocesses
Lee a n d three a n o n y m o u s referees for their critical embodied in the space-place interconnection are like-
c o m m e n t s o n a n earlier version of this paper. I a m wise specific to particular modes of production.
also indebted t o Bertell O l l m a n for rendering t h e art 6. Cox and Mair (19891 also advocate the need to " eet
of dialectical argumentation less opaque. away from viewing space-place, global-local as an
abstract concrete distinction. (See, too, Graham and
St Martin (1990) who 'delve' into the philosophical
NOTES and epistemological 'origins' of these dualistic con-
1. Einstein's theory of relativity, for example, which ceptual formulations.) Cox and Mair argue, for
showed the interconnection between time, space and example, that the 'seeming lmpasse between the
matter, exposed the limitations of Newtonian- abstract and the concrete can be substantially allevi-
Cartesian physics, even though Einstein himself ated through the recognition and adoption of differ-
remained a recalcitrant Cartesian as his historic debate ent levels of abstraction' (122). Under this agenda,
with Bohr in the 1920s demonstrated (see Capra, Cox and Mair pinpoint how a methodology incor-
1982). Today, quantum physics cogently emphasizes poratlng a hierarchy of abstractions - regimes of
the shortcomings of Cartesianism (Bohm, 1980; accumulation, local dependence, local social structure
Bohm and Peat, 1989; cf. Massey, 1992). and coalitions, etc. - that refer to various asoects of
2. Cf. Werlen's (1993: 52-6) critique of the phenomeno- the locality could be adopted to make more general
logical tradition and the similarities it holds with the statements about locality per se. These general
Cartesian world view. insights could then inform particular local studies
3. It is precisely this understanding of matter, inciden- (128). While the method that Cox and Mair invoke
tally, that informs the epistemological and ontologi- may differ from my own, common ground is found
cal bases of quantum physics. Moreover, such a because we all recognize the importance of abstract
viewpoint also cogently demonstrated the limitations theorization in reconstructing and understanding
of the Cartesian-Newtonian world view (Capra, 1982 observable localized processes and, following Smith's
ch. 3). Indeed, quantum theory points to the dual (1987, 67) neat summation, that the 'essence of the
nature of matter and light: it can be simultaneously a intellectual enterprise . . . is to construct sustainable
'particle' - viz. an entity - and a 'wave' - viz. a generalisations'.
process or flow. As Capra illustrates, '[wlhile it 7. Economism is simply the thesis asserting that the
[matter] acts like a particle, it is capable of developing economic has absolute priority in any social for-
its wave nature at the expense of its particle nature, mation. Yet, by the same token, in eschewing econ-
and vice versa, thus undergoing continual transfor- omism ~t is simultaneously vital that economic factors
mations from particle to wave and from wave to and their significance in conditioning the geographi-
particle'. This means that neither the electron nor any cal landscape of capitalism are not downplayed.
other atomic 'object' has any intrinsic properties Fredric Jameson (1988, 354) is, to my mind, bang on
independent of its environment [the error of absolut- the mark in affirming that 'anyone who believes that
ist Newtonian physics]. The properties it shows - the profit motive and the logic of capital accumula-
particle-like or wave-like - will depend on the ex- tion are not fundamental laws of this world, who
periental situation [i.e. on the relational context] believes that these do not set absolute barriers and
(68-9) (cf. Bohm, 1980; Bohm and Peat, 1989). See limits to social changes and transformations under-
also Kojeve (1980) who underscores the similarities taken in it - such a person is living in an alternative
between Hegel's dialectical interpretation of science universe'.
and quantum physics, especial1.q Heisenberg's re- 8 . I have here reversed Michel de Certeau's (1984, 117)
lations of 'uncertainty' and Bohr's 'complementary formulation where he argues that 'space is a practiced
notions' between the wave and the particle (177, n2). place'. De Certeau's distinction between space and
4. Lefebvre, rightly in my mind (pnce Althusser), points place, however, bears close affinities to my own
to the manner in which Marx's mature scientific argument above. According to de Certeau, place (lieu)
conception of fetishism derives its basis from his is 'the order (of whatever kind) in accord with which
earlier philosophical writings on alienation. elements are distributed in relationships of coexist-
5. In saying this, though, it is apparent that the space- ence. It thus excludes the possibility of two things in
place dialectic IS not uniquely capitalist in orientation the same location . . . The law of the "proper" rules in
since the relationship would seem to hold for the place: the elements taken into consideration are
non-capitalist social formations Just, then, as Marx beside one another, each situated in its "proper" and
posited that each mode of production did possess a distinct location, a location it d e h e s . A place is thus
labour theory of value - though of course the an instantaneous configuration of positions. It implies
Place and spnce: a Lefeborinn reconciliation 529
an indication of stability'. Space (espace), on the other 15. Though this was never an outright rejection. Indeed,
hand, is 'composed of intersections of mobile ele- Lefebvre (1991a, 121) acknowledges the important
ments. It is in a sense actuated by the ensemble of influence of Heidegger's 'ontological excavations'
movements deployed within it . . . in relation to (see Heidegger,
- - 1971) as well as Bachelards 'movlng
place, space is like the word when it is spoken, that is, and emotional' writings on the 'poetlcs of space'
when it is caught in the ambiguity of an actualisation, (Bachelard, 1969).
transformed into a term dependent upon many dif- 16. The writings of John Berger (1992) in a different
ferent conventions, situated as the act of a present (or context (rural peasant llfe in the French Alps) are
of a time), and modified by the transformations analogous to Lefebvre's here (accepting that
caused by successive contexts'. Lefebvre's early studies did focus on Pyrenean
9. In the Anglo-Saxon world, for example, this is peasant rural sociology), as are some of Raymond
something David Harvey has repeatedly asserted Williams's. Like Lefebvre, both Berger and Williams
over the last twenty years or so His concept of concern themselves with how landscapes have the
'spatial fix' and space being an 'active moment' were potential to obfuscate and articulate positive lived
formulated precisely to emphasize this point See, experience (cf. Daniels, 1989). In this regard all three
too, Soja (1989 ch. 2). insist that the 'manipulative' and 'redemptive' dimen-
10. This, I should add, also made him something of a sions of landscape should be kept in dialectical
heretic in the post-war French Marxist Communist tension.
tradition, as his early autobiographical account, Ln 17. An excellent example of this very phenomenon is the
Somme et le Reste (1959) confirms. For details see Beaubourg (Pompidou) centre in Paris which,
Trebitsch's informative preface to Lefebvre's Cr~tique although conceived as a bourgeois representation of
of Eaeryday Life (1991b) See, too, Kelly (1982) for a space (necessitating, incidentally, the partial destruc-
critical account of Lefebvre's stormy relationship with tion of Lefebvre's own vibrant neighbourhood of the
the French Communist Party. Marais), the interstitial spaces of the project have
11. I thus find Werlen's (1993, 4-5) accusations - in an become reshaped and thoroughly amalgamated into
otherwise engaging book which offers a non-Marxist local neighbourhood and Parsian daily life, becoming
challenge to Cartesian 'geo-determinism' within in the process something of a 'spectacle of the people'
geography - that Lefebvre's formulations of space in now expressive of a lived representntionnl space.
The Production of Space are a 'reductive materialist 18. I should point out in this respect that the construction
view' to be totally unfounded. His suggestions that and reproduction of daily life practices is something
Lefebvre lapses into 'vulgar materialism' in defining central to Bourdieu's concept of 'habitus'. This is a
space is so startling that I have to wonder whether he 'generative' mechanism whereby distinctive subjec-
has read the book. tive practices and dispositions reproduce themselves
12. Lefebvre (l99la), in this latter instance, is nonetheless on the bass of their given objective position. Habitus
careful to distance himself from a purely semiological thus conditions the thoughts, perceptions, actions,
'reading' of space. While he generally concurs etc., of individual subjects, complicitiously setting the
with Barthes that it is possible to read space as a parameters in such a way as to maintain the current
text (see 142-44, 159-64), left at such a level this objective conditions (Bourdieu, 1977. 95). T o illus-
would overlook a vital point: 'space is produced before trate the mode of enactment of habitus, Bourdieu (80)
being read'; and it was, according to Lefebvre. pro- cites Lelbniz: 'Imagine,' says Leibniz. 'two clocks or
duced not in order to be read 'but in order to be lioed watches in perfect agreement as to the time. This may
by people with bodies and lives' (143) (original occur in one of three ways. The first consists in

13. Cf. Kevin Lynch's seminal text. The iinnge of the city
..
mutual influence; the second is to auuoint a skilful
workman to correct them and svnchronize them at all
(1960), where he first expounded how the realm of times; the third is to construct these clocks with such
perception conditions an individual subject's actual art and precision that one can be assured of their
spatial practices in the city. As Lynch highlighted, the subsequent agreement'. Writers such as Harvey
perceptual 'imageability' of the urban landscape - (1987) and Budd (1992) have shown how habitus is a
monuments, distinctive landmarks, paths, natural generative principle that structures spatial practices.
boundaries, etc. - simultaneously aids and deters city More specifically, Harvey (1987. 268) suggests that
dwellers' sense of location and the manner in which Bourdieu's theorization is a 'very strlking depiction'
they act. of the constraints to the power of the lived over the
14. Lefebvre frequently draws on the dialectical inter- conceived.
pretations of the body and signs of the body (via :9. This was something the Situationists also recognized
mirrors) found in the political and spiritual poetry of at the time. So much so in fact that, throughout
Mexican poet and critlc, Octavio Paz. The production the 1950s and 1960s, thev a t t e m ~ t e dto redirect
of spnce is laced throughout with Paz's work. dominant urban symbolism and transform and
A N D R E W 1\
reappropriate its meaning for their own subversive BACHELARD, G. (1969) The poetics of space (Beacon
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an acrimonious squabble in 1963 (when the Situation- BOHM, D. (1980) TAiholeness and the implicate order (ARK
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Focusing on the notion of everyday 'situations' as the (Routledge, London)
battleground for transforming society, the Situation- BOURDIEU, P. (1977) Outline of a theory of practice
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strategies (artistic and practical), many of which BUDD, L. (1992) 'An urban narrative and the imperatives
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environment and architectural symbolism. D tourne- Globnl finance and urban liaing (Routledge, London)
rnent (literally 'hi-jacking'), for example, which is 'first 260-81
of all a negation of the value of the previous CAPRA, F. (1982) The turning point - science, society nnd the
organisation of expression' (Debord, 1989, 29). was a rising culture (Flamingo, London)
case in point. Here, everyday situations, meanings CASTELLS, M. (1985) 'High technology, economic
and symbols would to be subtended, transformed and restructuring, and the urban-regional process in the
reappropriated in order to create new, 'free activity'. United States', in CASTELLS, M. (ed.) High technology,
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Place and Space: A Lefebvrian Reconciliation
Andrew Merrifield
Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, New Series, Vol. 18, No. 4. (1993), pp.
516-531.
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The Struggle over Place: Redeveloping American Can in Southeast Baltimore


Andrew Merrifield
Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, New Series, Vol. 18, No. 1. (1993), pp.
102-121.
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Territorial Organization and the Space/Technology Nexus


Erik A. Swyngedouw
Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, New Series, Vol. 17, No. 4. (1992), pp.
417-433.
Stable URL:
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