The journal Environment and Planning D: Society & Space published a previously untranslated text by Henri Lefebvre entitled ‘Dissolving City, Planetary Metamorphosis’ that was published in  Volume 32 Number 2. The same issue also published an introduction to the essay by David Wachsmuth and Neil Brenner. As Society & Space indicate,  open access to these pieces in the journal is available for two months. In addition, five commentaries on Lefebvre’s brief, still-timely, and provocative essay are available as part of a forum and can be accessed here.  My own commentary, ‘The Survival of Henri Lefebvre’, was part of those five commentaries and was included in the forum with great thanks to Stuart Elden.  

The translation into English of Henri Lefebvre’s essay, ‘Dissolving City, Planetary Metamorphosis’, prompts an opportunity to pose afresh some questions about the intersection of politics and space, the state organisation of space, and the production of space. While the history of capitalism is intrinsically linked to how the modern state organises space­­—to engender social relations in space and bind itself to space­—the attention to these concerns has been dawdling in historical sociology. Whenever struggling to understand state space, my attention turns inter alia to Henri Lefebvre’s chapter ‘Space and the State’ that reveals how the state becomes a pivot in the production of space. ‘Is not the secret of the state, hidden because it is so obvious, to be found in space?’, asks Henri Lefebvre (1978/2009: 228).

Of course, the state partitioning of space, how spatiality is hierarchised and how the class contradictions of space result in convulsions, crises, and wars animates his wider enquiries too. Related to that focus is the right to space, struggles over spaces of differences (differential space) and the ‘right to the city’ that represents for capitalism an antagonistic tendency. These interests come to the fore in ‘Dissolving City, Planetary Metamorphosis’. Enfolded in the essay is the call to arms: ‘The right to the city implies nothing less than a revolutionary concept of citizenship’ (Lefebvre 1989/2014: 205). Whenever struggling in, through and with state space and the city form, then, attention should equally turn to the vivid analysis of this most recently translated essay. But what of historical sociology and the political economy of capitalism in treating the history of space and entreating a focus on the spatial logistics of the state?

 To read more on ‘The Survival of Henri Lefebvre’ click here.

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