The Everyday and Everydayness
Two Works Series Vol. 3
Published by Walther König, Köln/Afterall Books.
By Henri Lefebvre. Edited by Amber Husain. Art by Julie Mehretu.
A new, affordable edition of French Marxist and proto-Situationist Henri Lefebvre’s classic text on the everyday, illustrated by Julie Mehretu
The work of French Marxist sociologist and philosopher Henri Lefebvre radically transformed the discourse of political geography. Witness to the rapid urbanization of the 20th century, Lefebvre conceptualized public space as socially produced—a mirror image of capitalist ideology—and levied a humanitarian slogan in response: “the right to the city,” a notion that has energized the thought of leading American geographers such as David Harvey and Edward Soja. Lefebvre also worked closely with the Situationist International, collaborating with them on urban experiments in the ’50s and ’60s. Arguably his greatest legacy, however, is his theory of “the everyday”—a topic he returned to throughout his life, culminating in his three-volume magnum opus, The Critique of Everyday Life. Like public space, Lefebvre argued, the everyday is a social structure concurrent with modernity: “the everyday is a product, the most general of products in an era where production engenders consumption.”
In this edition of Lefebvre’s classic but largely unavailable text, New York–based artist Julie Mehretu responds to Lefebvre’s 1987 essay, reflecting upon its implications during a time when conceptions of “the everyday” are both heightened and obscured. She identifies thematic connections between his text and her own work, casting into relief the enduring relevance of Lefebvre’s consideration of time, space and place.
An immensely prolific author, Henri Lefebvre (1901–91) is best known for his books Critique of Everyday Life (1947–81), The Production of Space (1974) and The Urban Revolution (1970).