Henri Lefebvre, Production of Space.Posted: June 24, 2014
Dominated Space and Appropriated Space
There is a distinction between those spaces that are dominated and those that are appropriated. The dominated space is a“space transformed – and mediated – by technology, by practice” and is usually “closed, sterilized, emptied out”. Examples of dominated space proliferate in the ‘modern’ world, such as motorways that slice “through space like a great knife”. The concept of dominant space “attains its full meaning only when it is contrasted with the opposite and inseparable concept of appropriation” (Lefebvre, 1991:164-5). The dominant space can become a self-fulfilling circle, as seen in the case of Goodman’s ‘Asphalt Magic Circle’ where the United States federal government collects a tax on petrol sales to spend on urban highway construction which, in turn leads to higher car sales, more journeys, higher petrol consumption, higher tax revenue, more roads, and so on. (1991:374). Lefebvre theorizes that dominated and appropriated space should, ideally, be combined “but history – which is to say the history of accumulation – is also the history of their separation and mutual antagonism. The winner is this contest, moreover, has been domination” (1991:166).
Building upon Nietzsche — and to an extent alongside the work of Deleuze and Guattari — Lefebvre insists on the primacy of space and its reappropriation. For him, capitalist false consciousness is not the false consciousness of time, but the false consciousness of space. To abolish the capitalist state, space must be reappropriated on the planetary scale; historical time will be indeed be rediscovered, but “in and through [reappropriated] space.” And this is because everything (all the “concrete abstractions”) that revolutionaries seek to abolish — ideology, the state, the commodity, money, value, and class struggle — do not and cannot exist independently of space.
..”What is an ideology without a space to which it refers, a space which it describes, whose vocabulary and kinks it makes use of, and whose code it embodies?” Lefebvre demands. “What would remain of the Church if there were no churches?” The answer is nothing, for the Church does and can not guarantee its endurance otherwise. “The state and each of its constituent institutions call for [pre-existing] spaces — but spaces which they can then organize according to their specific requirements; so there is no sense in which space can be treated solely as an a priori condition of these institutions and the state which presides over them,” Lefebvre writes. “The world of commodities would have no ‘reality’ without such [spatial] moorings or points of insertion, or without their existing as an ensemble,” he reminds us. “The same may be said of banks and banking-networks vis-a-vis the capital market and money transfers.” It is only in space that each idea of presumed value “acquires or loses its distinctiveness through confrontation with the other values and ideas that it encounters there”; it is only in space that competing socio-political interests and forces come effectively into play.