Critique of Everyday Life

“A man’s consciousness, his condition, his possibilities, do not depend upon a relation with some timeless Reason, a permanent human nature, a ready-made essence or some indeterminate freedom. His consciousness depends upon his real life, his everyday life.”

Coincidently, as my life converges into an overall pleasant routine, and I start to live the life of all men, my appreciation and interest for the every-day raised. “Coincidently” meaning here that I desperately needed something to give meaning to this material situation in which I suddenly found myself in. Or if meaning was too much to ask, then at least I was looking for a way to criticize my life smartly and thus live as a satisfied intellectualoid: comforted and bitterly. Once again, I underestimated literature, as I found so much more than consolation reading Lefebvre; strange thing in me, I found ideas which I’m willing to follow and preach. Finally, a book that fills me with hope. A discourse I feel eager to commit myself to.

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 our behavior: liberty, freedom, democracy (the American holy trinity), and a big and interesting etc. Lefebvre’s suggestion is revolutionary for a marxist intellectual: ignore and avoid such concepts, as they only lead to alienation, unless we are able to find them ourselves in our every-day life. Start, that is, from the beginning, ‘you’ and ‘what you did today’. Take a step back from the empty intelectual world of grandiose words and observe how your daily actions are both cause and effect of the social. In sum: understand from your particular.

I believe that interpreting the everyday on an ideological level is a powerful start to, first, construct any new social structure, as anything that is not based and sustained on the daily material world is bound to collapse under the immense power of customs and routine: man is a creature of habit. And second, to improve our lives, by living in concordance with society and carefully aware of our own actions; to descend from the world of ideas into the cave, set the fire, sit down, relax, and think deeply about the things that matter, the daily.

An excellent read for the 30 year olds in crisis. It is unfortunately too marxist at some spots, mainly because of historical reasons, but the book is otherwise filled with incisive insights that suggest a new way of thinking of ‘the social’ that seems, surprisingly, to have a future.

(Comments on Critique of Everyday Life, Volume 1 (1947) by Henri Lefebvre)

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