Shaun McVeigh

lefebvre-coverSpatial Politics is published as part of Routledge’s Nomikoi critical legal thinkers series. It presents a law-sensitive account of the broad range of Henri Lefebvre’s scholarship. For some the body of Lefebvre’s work is best left to the history of Marxist scholarship in France. This would be a pity. Chris Butler offers an erudite, concise, and coolly humorous account of Henri Lefebvre’s work as part of a tradition of humanist Marxism. Lefebvre is known through cultural studies and geography (and law) scholarship as the analyst of the abstraction of urban space and the administrative ordering of everyday life.  Chris Butler analyses Henri Lefebvre’s technical understanding of the production of abstract space and the processes of abstraction of and for law and legal form, the spatial form of the modern (neo-liberal) state, and the role of technological in the ordering of administration of everyday life. These accounts are held in place by paying careful attention to Henri Lefebvre’s quest for new forms and conducts of life in the city.

The best chapters in this book concern the ways in which Henri Lefebvre presents differential space and life as the alternative to the abstract space of contemporary industrial and urban space. Chris Butler’s account of the rhythm of the city and everyday life is exemplary (Chapter 5). It is with the analysis of the rhythm of ‘inhabitance’ and ‘dwelling’ in the city that Chris Butler sets in place Lefebvre’s humanism (both for and against Heidegger and Bachelard). By paying attention to this aspect of Lefebvre’s work Chris Butler is able to show how Lefebvre links the body’s relation to space, politics of self-management, and rhythms and counter-rhythms of bodily and political existence. This chapter contains some fine analysis of the body as a ‘bundle of rhythms’ not rights, and critique of ‘automobility’ that drawn out Lefebvres distinct practice of human emancipation and ‘everyday utopianism’ (p.132). Along the way Chris Butler joins his voice, and Lefebvre’s, to the revival of forms of humanist jurisprudence that see human rights and the right to the city as forms of ‘creative political expression’ (p.157).