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Critique of Everyday Life

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  630 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Henri Lefebvre's magnum opus: a monumental exploration of contemporary society.

Henri Lefebvre's three-volume Critique of Everyday Life is perhaps the richest, most prescient work by one of the twentieth century's greatest philosophers. Written at the birth of post-war consumerism, the Critique was a philosophical inspiration for the 1968 student revolution in France and is
Paperback, 283 pages
Published February 17th 2008 by Verso (first published 1947)
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Jan 08, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After having read all three volumes I contend that the following phrases from Henri Lefebvre's CRITIQUE OF EVERYDAY LIFE (Verso) would make great metal song titles:

"Burdened Living Reality with a Parasitic Growth" (p. 77)
"A Mysterious Punishment" (p. 186)
"Nothingness Activated" (p. 239)
"Capable of Dying" (p. 454)
"Death Grasps the Living" (p. 454)
"Abandoned by Death" (p. 456)
"Betrothed to Death" (p. 457)
"The Black Sun of Empty Anguish" (p. 642)
"The Desolation of Everyday Life (Emptiness And Ennui
I’ve read two books in quick succession – this one and de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life – and I have to say French Philosophers can be a pain in the arse. I don’t mind them being obscure so much, but it would be nice if they actually talked about what it was they said they were going to talk about in their books. I think I got totally lost when de Certeau started talking about Bourdieu and Foucault – which is a bit strange, because I’ve actually read books by these guys and have even r ...more
May 21, 2014 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Hey look at me being a marketing schmo for Verso: all three volumes of Lefebvre's Big Ass Book (848 pgs.) in one BUCH half price right now: I bought one: so might you: what else are you doing with your money?: paying for LOVE?: watching GAME OF THRONES? GRRMARTIN no longer needs your cash: publishers of dead Marxists do:
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
The only way to understand each separate volume is to read all three. To read all three volumes is to realize the masterpiece that is unfolding, to read each volume in isolation would be as experiencing a disjointed set of frustrated notes limited to the time period under consideration. Lefebvre changes while growing over time. One could not pick three more interesting years, 1947, 1961 and 1981 or a more polished author than Lefebvre to have a reflection of what the everyday meant and its poten ...more
Feb 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-bought
I'm very impressed that Volume 1 (273 pages) of the three-part "Critique of Everyday Life" is basically the introduction to the series. Henri Lefebvre does not fool around. One of the first books to focus on the consumption of the 20th-century individual, and how one is placed in such a world. Lefebvre is in good terms with literature, cinema, and history in marking his critical stance in how systems rule the world in such a manner that leaves citizens alienated even in their own culture. His wr ...more
Nicolás Rivas
Nov 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Everyone, in its quest to make sense out of this skydive-without-parachute experience called 'life', creates a personal mythology. We elaborate, some with more craft than others, a divine collage of our own history and social ideas that carefully hides the unbearable senselessness of existence. The social aspect of this is, in brevity, a collection of doctrines, usually condensed in words that Plato would love to show us we don't really understand, but that anyway have a profound influence on ou ...more
Jun 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: urban-stuff
this is really interesting, forward thinking stuff. the thing is, it is not written like philosophy. it is somewhat stream of consciousness, leaving a ton of room for interpretation. which is why it's still important, since every lefty academic thinks they get it since it can be interpreted in whatever form of neo-post-whatever they like. worth reading for the digs at existentialism and sartre alone, though.
C. Quabela
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What I found most intriguing about this work is in how, as a “critique of everyday life,” Lefebvre is trying not to dispel but deepen everyday life. I had been much taken by Surrealism in my early twenties but became disillusioned by it without quite understanding why. As presented here, it is in its denial of quotidian existence, in its search for an other than. No, it is already here. In what we already have. I really liked how Lefebvre asks us to revitalize writers like Kierkegaard and Baudel ...more
Henri Lefebvre kind of invented cultural studies with this book, in 1947! Lefebvre is circuitous, contradictory, poetic, sharp and savvy with a perceptive eye for the ordinary as the essence of an issue. The 'Foreword', about 100 pages long, is a superb introduction to his work and ideas with excellent explorations of work and leisure, of alienation, and of the importance of Bertold Brecht and Charlie Chaplin to left-of-centre political struggles. He makes a powerful case throughout for the impo ...more
Aug 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I won't pretend to be qualified (yet) to write a proper and just review of this book. I will limit myself to say what it was to me: difficult, challenging, exciting, and fun. The first and third volumes are easier to read than the second, mainly because of the way Lefebvre wrote them, in plain language, Volume two on the other hand seemed to have more of an academic and philosophical tone that I could not always get or follow. The whole thing opened my mind to the everyday as I had not seen it b ...more
Ciahnan Darrell
Nov 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
An extremely challenging, often opaque book that yields great riches in its analysis of the deforming forces of commodification and their effect on human society and being.
David Anderson
Jul 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excerpts from and links to two overviews of Lefebvre’s work:

"Historically speaking, Henri Lefebvre’s three-volume The Critique of Everyday Life was a great influence on the New Left, ’68 and all that. Lefebvre also continues to be an influence on the work of David Harvey, Fredric Jameson etc. Rather then discussing Lefebvre’s historical importance, this summary will outline Lefebvre’s argument and emphasizing The Critique of Everyday Life’s contemporary relevance.

"Lefebvre’s premise is that 'the
Daniel Amaral
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
I remember I picked up this book because I wanted to know how to overcome the first step in fighting back against the system of capitalism, and what it is that ought to be targeted. According to Lefebvre, it is the alienation from our work, people, time, activity, and our minds. And I agree with him, alienation, or in other words how capitalism dehumanizes us from the human experience is why people will cling to their ideologies, and some even insist a love of capitalism. Like how Lefebvre argu ...more
Patrick Higgins
Henri Lefebvre’s first volume to his “Critique of Everday Life” often swerves between enlightening and frustrating. Between fascinating insights and revolutionary possibilities (Lefebvre’s thoughts on the Festival and Fetishization are excellent) are excessively venomous polemics and a tendency to justify views by throwing around the term “Marxist Dialectic.” Lefebvre’s tirades against the surrealists and the existentialists can be shallow at best, and hypocritical at worst. His writing about ru ...more
Berk Demir
Marxist writers did not learn organizational skills from Marx. Nice thoughts, but all mixed up, so it is hard to follow.
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: phd, 2019-popsugar
Yes, this book covers a huge range of topics over a span of almost 4 decades, providing a brilliant illustration of the change over time of everyday life in the age of modernism. And yes, the central premise, that a sustained critique of the multiplicity of factors affecting everyday life is the only way to confront alienation and provide a new way of living, was, is, and remains of the utmost importance, regardless of what the individual factors may be at any given point in time (and which Lefe ...more
Jan 12, 2008 added it
There's really two parts to this volume: a 100-page Foreword added in 1958, and the book proper (which is only another 150 pages), which was written in 1947. The foreword is a bit strange and uneven. I liked the discussions of Chaplin and Brecht, which introduce Lefebvre's idea of the "reverse image," which I'd someday like to properly compare to Benjamin's dialectical images (both are notions of image in which the contradictions of a system are embodied and can be made visible, but there are im ...more
Dec 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
(8/10) Despite the title, this is not so much a critique of everyday life as a groundwork for such a critique, and in the process of laying that groundwork Lefebvre creates a fundamentally new conception of the social sciences. I'm still trying to wrap my head around some of it, but I think this is an area that political thought plays far too little attention to. Most of the Big Issues seem to be about exceptional events, whereas the everyday motions of our lives seem to be taken for granted whe ...more
Feb 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lefebvre decries the capitalsit condition of the cult of individualism and the fragmentation of society. We are shown that alienation and mystified consciousness plague humanity, dissolving all sense of community. Broken into six easily digestible chapters with a lengthy forward, The Critique of Everyday Life aims to rebuild that lost community where man was not atomized and social functions, such as festivals, were not perfunctory and corresponded to the sacred. Beginning with avant-garde liter ...more
Dec 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2014
Review of Volume 1 (which the cover above corresponds to):

For some reason at some point I'd gathered the impression that Lefebvre's work was difficult, even impenetrable. How utterly false! On the contrary, his style is lucid, swift, even poetic and beautiful in places. His particular views of the tasks of criticism, and the necessity of reimagining and re-creating our ways of analysis and the creation of meaning are well expressed and still carry some great weight.

A real pleasure (though it is
Dec 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: street-academia
The first in an epic 3-part series, Lefebvre suggests a new field of study- everyday life. His approach is far less rigid than typical Marxist approaches. But like similar Marxist takes (Trotsky's approach to culture, for instance) he's interest in studying everyday culture in order to transform and improve the daily life of society, not simply to chronicle society's approach. In his first attempt, he's outlining that approach, and defending it -- maybe too much so -- from possible critics on th ...more
Oliver Bateman
Apr 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Lefebvre's classic text is anything but rigorous formal philosophy, and his proposed solution to the ills of the world ("think more about everything, transform the everyday rather than transcending it, disdain the fantastic") is the sort of characteristic mushy rah-rah stuff even the greatest minds seem to settle on...but man, the journey to the end is entertaining (his "Notes Written One Sunday" is hilarious). This book, for good or ill, will remain lodged firmly in mind as I muddle through my ...more
Jan 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An uneven case for humanism? Among other things, Lefebvre makes the case that dialectical thinking is the best tool for analyzing the intangibles of human life. And I'm afraid, in the end, his perspective (which thankfully matures over this 35 year project) seems really quiet sensible. This veteran of the French Resistance, unrepentant communist party dissident, and idiosyncratic intellectual, warrants further research.
Bob Reutenauer
Aug 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Verso just put out a beautifully done paperback edition that includes all three volumes of this masterpiece of post war social theory. Volume 1 was finished in 1945. Last 4-5 pages conclude this volume with penetrating, lyrical, easy to follow summary of the key tool.. dialectics.. and the core problem.. alienation.
Need to go back and take notes, and keep them close. Enough said.
Bjørn Kleiven
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A mastermind, I wonder what the volume IV would be, had he written today.
I rate this 5 because of the enormous field covered, the depth of knowledge behind and within.
It's is a hard book, and I had to iron work.
cheers dialectic, I just read that some others find it difficult to explain;
however Henri Lefebvre managed excellently.
Apr 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The thing is, this book is really important--it is just that the ideas have been really watered down by the past sixty years. I'm pretty sure the author did not intend to encourage a bunch of self described revolutionaries to take of puppeteering, but I could be wrong. I usually am.
Jan 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Have been thinking about reading this book for a long time, but it seems to be not as good as I expected. The argument is a bit vague and discrete. For dialectic analysis, I would recommend reading Durkheim.
Feb 22, 2009 rated it it was ok
You guys, help. I hate theory SO MUCH.
Dec 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book. Lefebvre is smarter than the run of the mill philosophers
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Henri Lefebvre was a French sociologist, Marxist intellectual, and philosopher, best known for pioneering the critique of everyday life, for introducing the concepts of the right to the city and the production of social space, and for his work on dialectics, alienation, and criticism of Stalinism, existentialism, and structuralism.

In his prolific career, Lefebvre wrote more than sixty books and t

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