Sunday, June 15, 2014

Space-time-action orientations of leaders who have a hubris-nemesis complex


Something in the news reminded me of the ancient dynamics of hubris and Nemesis. Which reminded me that I used to write about those dynamics and their fusion in a rare pathology called the hubris-nemesis complex. Which reminded me that I wrote a few pages once about the space-time-action orientations of leaders who have hubris-nemesis mentalities. Which meant I should go find those pages and add them to the accumulation here, for the sake of advancing STA analysis.

The pages are from a think-piece I wrote a couple decades ago — Beware the Hubris-Nemesis Complex: A Concept for Leadership Analysis (RAND, 1994). Though I sometimes muse that it may be one of my better ideas, I've raised it only once before at this blog, in a 2010 post about millenarian mindsets (here).

So a little background about Greek mythology and modern resonances may be in order first, before getting to the pages about STA.

Dynamics of hubris and Nemesis — their fusion in a hubris-nemesis complex


Hubris is the pretension to be godlike — the capital sin of pride. It is most evident in a vain self-exalting leader who arrogates all power and glory to himself, believing he has the ability and the right to get away with whatever he wants, even if it means violating accepted norms of conduct. While self-adoring Narcissus was not such a leader, his story provides the classic mythical example — and the basis for the modern psychoanalytic concept of narcissism as a kind of hubris.

Nemesis was the Greek goddess of divine vengeance and retribution. If the gods became angry that some mortal was exceeding his fate, she could intervene in human affairs to restore equilibrium. She could be devastating against hubris — including that of Narcissus, whom you may recall she turned into a flower.

These ancient terms seldom surface these days, but the classic dynamic — hubris attracting Nemesis, in a kind of cosmic tit-for-tat — remains contemporary. Thus the parallel proverb, “Pride comes before the fall,” has been applied to leaders like Richard Nixon, the Shah of Iran, Ferdinand Marcos, and Saddam Hussein — to name a few historical examples. As examples of nemesis, I’d mention Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Malcolm X, and Osama bin Laden.

That’s the classic dynamic. But what I noticed while learning about this is that some leaders embody and enact both parts. These leaders not only have hubris, but also want to play the role of Nemesis against some other actor that they accuse of being the one guilty of hubris. In other words, they have a hubris-nemesis complex.

In this pathology, the two forces, which normally contradict one another, become unified in a rare, invigorating, all-consuming, charismatic fusion that generates enormous energy and ambition. To be as powerful as such a leader’s hubris requires, he must act like a god among his people; he must possess total power at home and project himself around the globe. To play Nemesis, he must defy and assail an outside power, typically the United States. Thus, the two forces justify and feed on each other.

The list of leaders that, I’d say, exemplify this rare complex includes Adolph Hitler and Fidel Castro. A broader discussion might include a few Western government or corporate leaders who, besides having arrogant vainglorious appetites for power, have shown themselves to be set on relentless vengeance against some great force that they think is too powerful. Here at home, hubris and nemesis behaviors show up constantly on partisan radio and TV talk-shows, particularly those with hard-right conservative hosts, some of whom seem to have low-grade hubris-nemesis complexes of their own. The marvelous literary archetypes for the complex are Captain Ahab in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, and Satan in John Milton’s Paradise Lost.

STA orientations of hubris-nemesis leaders


As for the space-time-action orientations of hubris-nemesis leaders, here is the excerpt from Beware the Hubris-Nemesis Complex: A Concept for Leadership Analysis (1994, pp. 33-36):

Mindfield Analysis and the Hubris-Nemesis Complex

In a leader with a hubris-nemesis complex, the space-time-action layer is bound to assume an unusual configuration, regardless of the ideological or other value orientations that he may hold. The following description is adapted from a study on Castro (Gonzalez and Ronfeldt, 1986), and will not apply to all hubris-nemesis leaders. But it helps illustrate the many patterns of thought and action that fit under mindframe analysis.

Space Orientation. Leaders with a hubris-nemesis complex see themselves as larger than life, as embodying the revolution, the state, the nation, or other force they represent, as being awesome enough to act on a world stage, as able to extend and imprint their identity far beyond their physical presence, and as deserving to treat other people and objects as extensions of themselves. Having a strong ego, a hubris-nemesis leader sees himself (narcissistically?) as the most important object in his political horizons — and his horizons are global.

Believing he deserves recognition as a world-class actor, he uses events to project himself onto the world stage, seeking the limelight and commanding attention. He may even wonder whether his country is a good enough stage to deserve his leadership. At the same time, he may lead a visibly unpretentious, nonindulgent personal lifestyle, perhaps avoiding the materialism he may associate with the hubristic decadence of the chosen enemy.

He craves independence, and an independent identity, for himself and his nation. He may try to be everywhere at once, getting into every domain, including indulging in the personal micromanagement of minor issues. He seeks to cross boundaries and break barriers and is intolerant of any built around him.

The objects that matter most are those that affect his power and his struggle against the chosen enemy. He is constantly attentive to external centers, hierarchies, and balances of power. He interprets successes and failures, opportunities and constraints, in terms of large spatial reference factors (e.g., the “system”). He wants to move large pieces (e.g., “the people”) on a large stage.

Time Orientation. Many hubris-nemesis leaders have long historical time horizons and a strong sense of the past and the future. But they may also long to create brief, explosive, epitomizing moments (as in crises) when they can try to transform the meaning of past, present, and future and break through to a new kind of time. Indeed, they may believe that the flow of history will create opportunities for them to do this. For them, time is a weapon — to be used patiently, as well as explosively.

In having a cosmic sense of destiny, a sense of being born for some divine mission, a hubris-nemesis leader may believe he is in tune with invincible forces of history, and that he receives his inspiration and knowledge from a special, high plane of philosophy and understanding. In wanting to create a break with his nation’s past, he propounds an alluring, heroic vision of future salvation. In so doing, he glorifies his past exploits in mythic terms of struggle, sacrifice, and suffering, linking himself to past generations and heroes who shared his dreams.

He believes he has a personal, fated mission to accomplish earthshaking, revolutionary, even apocalyptic changes that assure his place in history. He gets people to believe he is destined for greatness. The long-term vision of the future may seem constructive and benevolent, but it depends on wreaking a great deal of vengeance and destruction in order to create a dramatic breakthrough to a new kind of time. This time sense may be expressed (especially in his youth) in terms of making an abrupt leap to create a new kind of future time. Or (especially later in his life) it may make him concede a need for long-term struggle in which the new future emerges incrementally from the present. Meanwhile, on a daily basis, a hubris-nemesis leader may regularly keep people waiting around the office or at gatherings until long after the scheduled time for his appearance.

Action Orientation. The hubris-nemesis complex is action-oriented; it engages a powerful need to take measures to dominate and change things, and not just talk about them. Many hubris-nemesis leaders have an extreme confidence in their ability to shape events and change the world through their personal actions. They have an inflated will to power, a sense of omnipotence and invulnerability, that encourages risk-taking. They see themselves as embodying the standards of archetypal, action-oriented heroes who can change destiny.

This is reflected in an enormous, relentless appetite for personal power, and in an exalted sense of man’s (especially his own) ability to master fate. A hubris- nemesis leader would rather rewrite the rules of the game than follow existing rules that are not to his advantage. He must lead in order to prevail; he cannot follow or take other people’s decisions for granted. He thrives on the politics of personal deeds that, in his view, set examples for others. He may want to strengthen the institutions around him, but at the same time he may act as though institutions per se are unsuited to leading the way he wants to go. He may regard institutions as being more constraint- than opportunity-oriented, and therefore as inherently lacking the energy and vision he embodies and can impart.

In actions toward the chosen enemy, he thrives on defiance and confrontation — but he is strategic and not suicidal about this. And he regards compromise and accommodation as signs of weakness — though he is not above tactical retreats and concessions. He may exaggerate any sign of threat from the chosen enemy, and prefers military and paramilitary instruments to political and diplomatic ones. The use of force and violence, when he deems it necessary, will be seen as clean and pure.

Various Combinations Possible. It may be possible to distinguish different types of hubris-nemesis leaders according to whether they are primarily space-, time-, or action-oriented. For example, a leader with a millenialist time orientation and a “megalomacho” desire to project himself into global spaces may be more likely to pose an inhumane nuclear threat than, say, a leader whose action-orientation is framed by a belief that he can achieve his goals by means of a long strategic struggle that includes confrontation but ends in negotiations.

Hubris-nemesis leaders with a strongly millenialist frame of mind may be particularly dangerous. The possession and potential use of weapons of “holy terror” may be attractive to a millenialist, since having and considering using such weapons may enable him to believe he can magnify his power and presence on the world stage and break through to a new time (cf. Rapoport, 1988). Millenarian myths may give him and his followers a sense of invulnerability, which may encourage dangerous, risky behavior (Edelman, 1971: 125).

I’d write that a bit differently today. But that’s not an important point. The key point is that this kind of analytical layout helps verify that STA — or mindframe analysis, as I was also calling it then — has something to offer. An integrative approach to analyzing space-time-action orientations as a bundle or module can tell us much more, and be more accurate, than just following an approach that emphasizes only one or two of the three orientations.

Coda: an antithesis that also helps verify STA


While hubris-nemesis leaders embody extremely expansive space-time-action dispositions, war prisoners kept in severe isolation suffer the worst compressions and deprivations across all three dimensions. At present, former Taliban captive Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl looks like a significant case of this. Decompression and recovery is bound to entail his entire space-time-action module.

As another example, consider the case of genteel British Ambassador Geoffrey Jackson. He was held in a small cell underground, with no sense of night or day, by Uruguay’s Tupamaros for eight months in 1971. He remarked afterwards that he was fortunate his guards let him have a deck of cards to play solitaire. The main function of the game, he wrote later (as I recall), was not diversion, but to confirm that the laws of probability really did still exist — an STA action orientation.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Final gleanings from browsing around with Lefebvre in mind: Levin, Khatib & Lust, Weizman, Fields, Berger, Cameron, Turchin, Goffman, Collins, Fortune Society


This is the fourth and final batch of gleanings I collected by happenstance while reading and writing for the three posts about Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space.

Again, the purpose of presenting these snippets is to show that spatial orientations — some Lefebvrian, some not — crop up constantly in myriad areas, maybe just as a metaphor, but often as an analytical concept. From an STA perspective, we should become more sensitive to noticing them, plus their relations to time and action orientations. That’s the idea I’m trying to advance, for the sake of STA.

The snippets in this batch, in order of presentation, are from Yuval Levin, Lina Khatib & Ellen Lust, Eyal Weizman, Jack Fields, J.M. Berger, Charles Cameron, Peter Turchin, Erving Goffman, Randall Collins, and the Fortune Society. Some are from blogs or other sites I often browse; others I’ve never heard of before — I just got routed to them serendipitously, the case with all four batches.

This fourth batch consists mainly of snippets leftover after doing the first three posts in this series, each of which were pulled together around just one or two themes. As a result, this post is thematically jumpier than the prior three, and revolves around multiple themes: e.g., that politics (and military tactics) can create new spaces; that issues can end up in “boxes” that eventually don’t work well; that some spaces become religious or sacred; and that people try to manage impressions through front stage and backstage performances — rampage killers being an example.

* * * * *

Levin on conservatives trying to “create the space in which society can flourish”: Most of the gleanings in these posts are from people who appear to be leftists and centrists. Conservatives do express many major concerns in spatial terms, especially about government being “too big” and “exceeding its boundaries” (conservatives often seem concerned about “boundaries” in many areas of life). But it’s rare to find a conservative referring to “space” per se.

However, it happened several times during a panel where young conservatives discussed the “Future of Conservatism” at the Manhattan Institute, New York City, on March 11 (aired April 19 on C-SPAN). Particularly pertinent for this post is a long statement by conservative writer Yuval Levin, speaking about differences between the Right and the Left in American politics.

According to Levin, the Left prefers centralized, tightly managed orderliness, while the Right prefers decentralization. Thus, says Levin, “The Right’s view tends to be that the role of government is not to manage society but to create the space in which society can flourish.” Here’s the full statement:
“There is a real logic to the Left’s and the Right’s ways of thinking about the role of government in our kind of economy. And there's a real difference between them. Where the Left does tend to think in terms of managing large institutions, of seeing society as a set of systems that are disordered and that require better organization. ... The Right’s view tends to be that the role of government is not to manage society but to create the space in which society can flourish. And what that means — for society to flourish — is actually very chaotic. It looks like chaos. ... That's how innovation happens, but it's also how problem-solving happens, how people confront specific material problems in a local way, one on one, through markets, through local governments, through institutions that bubble up solutions in trial and error ways and pilot programs, not a centralized here's-the-technical answer. I think we're getting back to a place where the difference between those two things is becoming very apparent. ...
“That's why I think conservatives could be better positioned than they now seem to be to address the public’s worries in ways that make sense to voters, because people have a sense that we are living in a society that is decentralized, that offers them a huge number of options, a huge range of options. And younger people in particular like that, and expect that, and want that. You see it in the healthcare debate. The sheer consolidation of large systems that's involved in the Left’s way of thinking is not appealing to a lot of people.
“Now the Right, I think, has not offered a coherent alternative. Conservatives don't really go around saying, well, we have a view of what government does that involves creating a space and allowing people to function in that space, subsidizing their entry if they don't have market power, allowing competition to happen. That's what conservatism is in practice. But rhetorically what conservatism is just isn't that.” (source; my transcription)
That’s not very Lefebvrian — but it’s enough so to warrant including here. Besides, it helps show that, in my view of STA, being Lefebvrian means being attentive to spatial orientations in a grand sense, whether one identifies with Center, Right, or Left — being Lefebvrian doesn’t have to mean just being Leftist.

Khatib & Lust on “help preserve spaces for activism”: In another usage, a new CEIP Policy Brief by Lina Khatib & Ellen Lust, The Transformation of Arab Activism: New Contexts, Domestic Institutions, and Regional Rivalries (May 2014) argues for “preserving space for activists wherever they exist” in Arab societies (p. 1). Their understanding of past episodes of pro-democracy activism against authoritarian regimes shows the importance of social media for creating such space:
“[E]ven in the harshest authoritarian periods, activists carve out, sometimes unexpectedly, socio-political space to make demands. The nature of such public space is largely defined by pre-revolutionary structure. Certainly, social media was a public space that was largely left untouched by the authoritarian regimes. As a result, it emerged as a focal point for mobilization, aimed at garnering support from abroad (particularly in Egypt and Syria), communication within (Yemen), or both.” (pp. 2-3)
Thus they arrive at their primary recommendation for U.S. policy:
“1. Despite greater polarization and hostility towards reform among the region’s most influential actors, the U.S. must help preserve spaces for activism wherever they exist.” (p. 5)
There’s nothing particularly new here, but it helps further illustrate the extent to which spatial thinking has become an accepted part of skillful analytical discourse in policy circles. It, along with the preceding snippet from Levin, and the following one from Weizman, all speak to the significance of efforts to create space (or, in Lefebvrian words, produce space).

Weizman on the IDF’s “walking through walls”: As an old post by Charles Cameron reminded his readers at the Zenpundit blog, “our normal understanding of space” gets turned inside-out when considering Eyal Weizman’s write-up about an IDF operation in a Palestinian city, where the Israeli soldiers steadily blasted their way through walls, floors, and ceilings, not abiding by conventional notions of inside and outside, boundaries and thruways. Says Weizman, “Rather than submit to the authority of conventional spatial boundaries and logic, movement became constitutive of space” — a rather Lefebvrian notion — in a strategy (or is it a tactic?) of “walking through walls”:
“The maneuver conducted by units of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in Nablus in April 2002 was described by its commander, Brigadier General Aviv Kokhavi, as inverse geometry, the reorganization of the urban syntax by means of a series of microtactical actions. During the battle, soldiers moved within the city across hundred-meter-long “overground-tunnels” carved through a dense and contiguous urban fabric. Although several thousand soldiers and several hundred Palestinian guerrilla fighters were maneuvering simultaneously in the city, they were so “saturated” within its fabric that very few would have been visible from an aerial perspective at any given moment. Furthermore, soldiers used none of the streets, roads, alleys, or courtyards that constitute the syntax of the city, and none of the external doors, internal stairwells, and windows that constitute the order of buildings, but rather moved horizontally through party walls, and vertically through holes blasted in ceilings and floors. This form of movement, described by the military as “infestation”, sought to redefine inside as outside, and domestic interiors as thoroughfares. Rather than submit to the authority of conventional spatial boundaries and logic, movement became constitutive of space. The three-dimensional progression through walls, ceilings, and floors across the urban balk reinterpreted, short-circuited, and recomposed both architectural and urban syntax. The IDF’s strategy of “walking through walls” involved a conception of the city as not just the site, but the very medium of warfare — a flexible, almost liquid medium that is forever contingent and in flux.” (source)
This approach to battle, where “movement becomes constitutive off space”, has a postmodern feel to it, as Weizman’s full paper shows (here). It means that the “spatial turn” has extended far beyond philosophy and sociology into military operations. (However, I gather that doubts can be raised about aspects of what the paper relates.)

* * * * *

Fields on “you basically had boxes” for telecomm businesses: Many policy issues get categorized in “boxes” — a spatial orientation — that work well for some time. Then matters evolve and become so complex that a new “out of the box” approach may be required. Here’s an illustration from a discussion about the 1996 telecommunications act, as aired on a C-SPAN2 program: Jack Fields — back then he was a Representative (R-Tex) and Chair of the House Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and Finance — observed that,
“Telecommunications policy had not been reformed since 1934. So there was really a compelling need in 1995 to begin a process of massive telecommunications reform. And at that time you basically had boxes. You had a box for broadcasters, a box for telephone companies, a box for long distance, you know, cable, satellite. And our view was we had to come in and try to eliminate the lines of demarcation and promote competition, believing that with competition there would be innovation, there would be more investment, more consumer choice, more innovation. And, you know, fortunately, I think the result has proven us correct. That that's exactly what's happened.” (source)
How issues are put in boxes does have lots of effects. And as Fields notes, these effects are not only jurisdictional, but may also affect the incentives for competition and innovation.

Berger on the “terrorism box”: Can a “box” become too big to fail — or succeed? A blog post by terrorism expert J.M. Berger recounts a discussion with other experts where a spatial question was posed:
“Do we need a box called terrorism?” (source)
The former FBI agent who raises it argues “against having a special category of government response for terrorism” and prefers “treating terrorism as a violent crime problem”. Berger’s write-up summarizes some basic pros and cons. In favor, for example, is that an emphasis on law enforcement may help limit terrorism’s mystique and rank “small-scale terrorism more appropriately”. But on the negative side, such an approach may underplay how dangerous terrorism can be when it seeks to “upend” a system.

Thus, Berger concludes, “we need a category for terrorism”:
“That doesn't mean we should prioritize terrorism over all other crimes and social issues, far from it. But as we have different categories for assault versus attempted murder, and insubordination versus treason, we need a category for terrorism.”
This argument has been around, in one form or another, for decades. What caught my eye here was its association with “boxes” as used by government policymakers, administrators, bureaucrats, and analysts. Indeed, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created in order to organize all sorts of boxes comprehensively, perhaps more in quantity and rapidity than any other department has had to face. Shades of Pundita’s “law” as noted in the first batch of gleanings? Whether the answer is yes or no, the question that Berger and his colleauges raised still illuminates yet another way in which spatial orientations figure in our thought processes.

* * * * *

Cameron on war, peace, and religion: Some matters are too big to keep in bureaucratic boxes — they spread across all sorts of boundaries, threading through all sorts of issues areas. Religion is generally such a matter, and it arouses its own spatial meanings. Lefebvre thought so; and so did Mircea Eliade in his classic The Sacred and the Profane (1961). Apropos this, Charles Cameron, an expert on millenarian and apocalyptic trends who blogs at Zenpundit, recently fielded some expansive illuminating points about what lies ahead:
“War and peace are getting more, not less, religious as we move from the second into the third millennium.” (source)
“If religion continues to be a major element in terrorism and perhaps other forms of conflict in what remains of this century, we would do well to learn the importance of listening to and addressing the worldview of our interlocutors.” (source; ital. in orig.)
Cameron’s presentation of these propositions is not explicitly spatial, but its implications are, for it means that boxes are being burst and boundaries crossed. He is correct in calling for better attention to understanding other people’s “worldview” — that’s partly what STA can be for.

Turchin on the “sacred value” of core territories: Distinguishing between sacred and secular spaces has become a tradition. And sometimes it’s not about religion, as shown here where social-evolution theorist Peter Turchin, drawing on work by Scott Atran, links “sacred value” to geopolitical behavior in a commentary at his blog Social Evolution Forum:
“States that treat their core territories as sacred and are willing to escalate conflict to defend them, persist in the international arena, while states that treat their core territory in a rational manner are gradually eliminated. As a result, we have what might be called a coevolution of geopolitics and sacred value. Geopolitical assets become sacred values.” (source)
Territoriality is a natural motivation behind human and geopolitical behavior. Turchin fields his (and Atran’s) elaboration mainly to help with understanding the “sacred” importance of Crimea to Russians. But as he notes, it has broad application across many nations. Why some spaces /places are treated as sacred is a good question, and it’s led to a series of follow-up posts at his blog. (What I might add, with TIMN in mind, is that what is deemed sacred may well vary depending on whether people in a society are operating mainly around the tribal, institutional, market, or network form. My preliminary guesstimate is that the more tribal matters get, the more prone people are to be motivated by what’s deemed sacred. Market- and network-oriented people may be less prone to such a tendency.)

* * * * *

Goffman on front stage and backstage performances: A while ago, sociologist Brayden King, blogging at orgtheory.net, posted a reminder about the work of Erving Goffman, the social psychologist famed for The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959). Goffman’s theory of impression management — he called it dramaturgy — included a distinction between front stage and backstage that is essentially spatial:
“He laid the foundation for a theory of impression management in that book, claiming that every individual is an actor on a stage performing for an audience. The front stage is where the performance takes place, using various impression management tools to articulate particular images to the audience, and the backstage, he argues, is where the protected self resides. Goffman believed that individuals build a strong barrier between the front and backstage, partly because the individual is vulnerable in the backstage but also in order to preserve the authenticity of the front stage performance.” (source)
While Goffman’s theory is not explicitly Lefebvrian, his frontstage-backstage distinction is significant for understanding people’s spatial orientations. It sure bears on the next two gleanings below.

Collins on “secret life” backstage behind rampage killings: Lefebvre occasionally refers to hidden, concealed, and secret spaces — enough to lead me to perk up at an idea raised by sociologist Randall Collins: beware the ”secret life” inside rampage killers. According to one of his blog posts on this,
“[T]the most distinctive clue that someone is planning a rampage killing is that they lead a secret life of amassing weapons and scripting the massacre.” (source)
A fuller quote from a follow-up post adds the following elaboration, based on an earlier post about rampage killers hiding their “secret life” plans and fantasies “backstage”:
“In a previous post [Clues to Mass Rampage Killers: Deep Backstage, Hidden Arsenal, Clandestine Excitement; posted Sept. 1, 2012], I argued that the most distinctive clue that someone is planning a rampage killing is that they lead a secret life of amassing weapons and scripting the massacre. The point is not that they acquire a lot of guns; many people do that. But mass killers keep them secret; their life becomes obsessed with plans and fantasies of the attack, and energized with the excitement of being able to dupe other people about their secret life. Foremost among those who are duped is their family.” (source)
Collins focuses on the massacre at Sandy Hook. Today, he can add the massacre at Isla Vista.

Fortune Society on how guns feel: STA’s spatial dimension is partly about how people see themselves, as subjects and/or objects, in relation to other subjects/objects in the space that concerns them. This means taking into account their sense of identity, including how big or small, connected or disconnected, etc., they feel. Thus STA’s spatial dimension is partly about how powerful and/or powerless people feel, though that starts to verge into STA’s action element.

As I dug around in a very old draft for an imagined chapter about spatial orientations, I came across a set of snippets that not only speak to that point, but also to Collin’s point above. The snippets are from a survey and report by New York’s Fortune Society, as written up by Jimmy McGinley, in “Made in the U.S.A.; Works Every Time,” New York Times, January 15, 1976, p. 33. The article is about the views of former convicts who used guns in their street crimes, and I’ve extracted remarks that best reflect STA’s spatial dimension:
“There’s a lot to it, when you carry a gun. It made me feel as if I were in command of any situation. It gave me a sense of power, not power but a sense of power. It made me feel that I was larger than I was. I felt like God and that I could determine life and death.”
“There’s a lot of power in a gun. If you feel like you’re nothing, a gun can make you feel like a king.”
“With a gun, I felt like a big shot. I felt superior.”
I’d saved them to go in a draft section about macho-megalomanic terrorists as consummate spatialists who want to project their egos/identities explosively into surrounding spaces, even onto a world stage. I’ve posted about this before (here), but without including these snippets. Now I think they are appropriate to include in this post, especially in light of Collin’s points and confirmatory events in Isla Vista.


* * * * *

That concludes this series. A look at Google stats for this blog indicates little interest in these posts about Lefebvre and social space. But I’m glad I’ve added them to the accumulation here about STA. And I expect to become gladder as I add prospective posts about time and action orientations. So I shall persist. Up next will be a series organized around a book about time orientations.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Further gleanings from browsing around with Lefebvre in mind: Gottesdiener, Bollier, Chapin, Scharmer, Rey, Wanenchak, New Left Project, Pink Noise Rev, Friedman, Sterling, Schneier


Here’s a third batch of gleanings that I collected by happenstance while doing the three posts about Lefebvre’s book The Production of Space.

Again, the purpose is to show that spatial orientations — some Lefebvrian, some not — crop up constantly in myriad areas, usually just as a metaphor but often as an analytical concept. In my STA-biased view, we’d all be well-advised to become more sensitive to noticing them, along with their relations to time and action orientations. I’m not trying to make a complex point — just trying to raise awareness of a fundament, for the sake of advancing with STA.

The materials in this batch, in order of appearance, are from Laura Gottesdiener, David Bollier, Ross Chapin, Otto Scharmer, PJ Rey, Sarah Wanenchak, New Left Project, Pink Noise Rev, Thomas Friedman, Bruce Sterling, and Bruce Schneier. A few of them I regularly follow at their blogs; others I’ve never heard of before — I just got routed to them by links at blogs I do follow, the case for all four batches. I batched these gleanings together for this post, because they raise themes about the rise of the commons and/or the impact of cyberspace.

* * * * *

Gottesdiener on community mattering as much as individualism: As further evidence of the importance of “the American story” that Zalman highlighted (in the first batch), notice a fine remark made by author activist Laura Gottesdiener during a talk about her book A Dream Foreclosed (2013):
“I'll never forget something that my Mom told me … “People who feel powerless gravitate to powerful stories because their own stories are so disempowering.” … So our challenge is to make a story that is more powerful than the current narrative. And just to remember what the current narrative is, it's a belief in competition between individuals as the driving force in history. And I'm certainly not saying that individualism is a bad thing. What I am saying is that if there is no shared community tying these individuals together, we could become no more than distrustful walking manikins who are still wearing our price tags to intimidate the others.” (source)
Her remark is not explicitly Lefebvrian, and it’s mainly about STA’s action element: “people who feel powerless” and need “a story that is more powerful than the current narrative.” Yet, there is a strong spatial content in the contrast she posits between competitive “individualism” as “the current narrative” and “shared community” as the desired narrative. Individualism and community pose different ways of organizing and valuing social space. For that reason, this quote is good as any I’ve seen lately for illustrating that ideological narratives reflect (and depend on) the spatial orientations that are embedded in them — a point Lefebvre made long ago, as noted in Part 1.

Bollier on the commons as not fitting standard “dualities”: Commons-advocate David Bollier also makes a somewhat Lefebvrian point, when he observes that the concept of the commons “scrambles” and “blends” many of the ingrained “dualities” that have come to rule public policy discourse:
“[T]he commons scrambles many of the familiar categories of modern political thought and worldviews. The dualities of public/private, collective/individual and objective/subjective simply do not apply in the commons because the commons blends these concepts into a different kind of social organism. For example, by requiring commoners to interact directly with the more-than-human world, commoning helps us see that we are intimately connected with “nature”; it is not an inert resource and “other.” The point of moving beyond homo economicus is to get beyond its empirically inaccurate, reductionist and politically regressive categories.” (source)
He does not refer explicitly to space here, but I know from other readings that he and his fellow visionaries do indeed regard the commons (and peer-to-peer relations) as an emerging social space of its own, one that will increasingly reshape other social spaces. And the points he makes about “dualities” are thoroughly reminiscent of Lefebvre (as laid out in Part 2 of this series). Bollier criticizes the “collective/individual” duality that bothers Gottesdiener as well.

Chapin on the importance of “pocket neighborhoods”: Answering interview questions, architect activist Ross Chapin advocates that people form into “pocket neighborhoods” and “claim the space around us” as a commons in order to feel at home without fear:
“Can you explain how the commons influences your design for pocket neighborhoods?
“In pocket neighborhoods, a small cluster of households is situated around a shared commons. This small-scale setting is what makes them work. The commons is a “pocket” set apart from cars and traffic, and because of this, it is safe and sociable. …
What do you see as the biggest obstacle to creating a commons-based society right now?
“Simply stated, it’s fear. Until we truly have a sense of “being home” and of “belonging” to a place and a community, there will be an underlying sense of fear. In response, we strike out to claim the space around us, including all the useful resources within reach. This of course, is the existential quandary of our time.” (source)
That’s a thoroughly spatial view. Architects normally think and talk in spatial terms anyway. But tying “pocket neighborhoods” to “the commons” is an apropos touch for this post. His points about easing fear and enhancing belonging also relate to other gleanings in this series, notably Brin’s (in the second batch).

Scharmer on “Capitalism 4.0” and the commons: Speculation abounds these days about prospective new kinds of capitalism — whether called 3.0, 4.0, or something else. Here, MIT-based innovator Otto Scharmer outlines an evolutionary progression from capitalism 1.0 to capitalism 4.0. Apropos this post, he not only brings in “cultivating our commons” but also touches on Lefebvrian notions about overcoming “false dichotomies of the past”, creating new spaces (“sectors”), and expanding actors’ spatial horizons from narrow “ego-system (2.0)” to expansive “eco-system awareness (4.0)”:
“So my first takeaway is this: Traditional right-left polarization keeps the political discourse locked into false dichotomies of the past. …
“So here is another view that frames our current situation in the context of four logics and paradigms of economic thought. They all respond to the basic coordination problem of our modern economies, but in a different way.
1.0: Organizing around centralized power: state and central planning → giving rise to socialist and mercantilist economies (single sector)
2.0: Organizing around decentralized power: markets and competition → giving rise to entrepreneurs and the private sector (two sectors: public, private)
3.0: Organizing around special interest groups: negotiation and dialogue → giving rise to the NGO sector (three sectors, conflicting: public, private, civic)
4.0: Organizing around shared awareness and cultivating our commons → giving rise to co-creative relationships among the three sectors (government, business, civil society) in order to innovate at the scale of the whole system.
“These four logics mirror four different stages of economic development. Each earlier stage is included in the later ones. As economies move from 1.0 to 2.0, 3.0, and now possibly to 4.0, the consciousness of the human economic actors also evolves from traditional (1.0), to ego-system awareness (2.0), to stakeholder awareness (3.0), and to an eco-system awareness (4.0) that we see beginning today.
“The problem of our current economic debate is that we are trying to solve 21st -century problems with 19th- and 20th- century economic thought. That is: our discourse is stuck between "more markets and free enterprise" (2.0) and "more regulation and government" (3.0). In reality, neither of these approaches will suffice.” (source)
Besides being apropos STA, that also sounds a lot like TIMN (as well as P2P theory) — from his initial evolutionary lay-out, to his final advice that problem-solving move beyond old government–vs.–market discourse.

* * * * *

Rey on “information as occupying space”: The growth of cyberspace keeps raising issues about relations between the virtual and the physical. Here, Cyborgology blogger PJ Rey observes that cyberspace is something of a myth, a fantasy — yet the ways that we “imagine information as occupying space” are proving “cognitively necessary.”
“We begin to imagine information as occupying space and then imagine this space as something that can be traversed and experienced, an alternate geography that provides a new path to reach the other person on the line. And though we know we are indulging in a fantasy, we can’t help but take it seriously. Sterling captures this when he writes: “Although it is not exactly ‘real,’ ‘cyberspace’ is a genuine place … This ‘place’ is not ‘real,’ but it is serious, it is earnest.”
The fantasy of cyberspace is “serious” because it is cognitively necessary. It relieves us of the burden of having to parse the seemingly infinite complexity of the systems that make such communication possible.” (source)
Wanenchak on “our space”: Another Cyborgology blogger Sarah Wanenchak writes about “the complex interplay between physical and digital” regarding an on-line harassment incident during a real-world conference. The incident was treated as “an action with symbolic power that had feet solidly in both “spaces” — which were really a single space — from which this person was both physically and symbolically removed.” The incident affected how participants “perceive the spaces they were in.” It prompts her to insist that “This is our space – our space” — in terms of responsibility, obligation, and community.
“It’s also worth noting that, adding to the complex interplay between physical and digital that was a fundamental part of the incident in question, the removal (“blocking”, even) of the person from the physical space was recorded and shared and discussed via social media. People saw it, and they talked about what they saw and how it made them feel and how it made them perceive the spaces they were in. The significance of that can be interpreted as an action with symbolic power that had feet solidly in both “spaces” – which were really a single space – from which this person was both physically and symbolically removed. The sheer complexity of all of this makes it even more important – and potentially more challenging – to consider our actions and their meanings carefully, on all levels. …
“This is our space – our space. Not in the sense of ownership but in the sense of responsibility and obligation. And it’s also our space in the sense of community, something that extends beyond any core group and into the hands of everyone who participates. Something that we all help to create. I think we’re still in the process of figuring out exactly what all of that entails.” (source)
New Left Project on “the territorialised place and the deterritorialised network”: A feed from the P2P Foundation blog led me to this and the next gleaning at sites that are not on my normal browsing list but prove relevant for this post. This article about the Occupy movement points out “its spatialities” — its reliance on occupying real places, e.g., city parks and squares, plus its networked structure, so “horizontal” that it “lacks a centre”, and so skilled at modern communications that is has been able “to globalise and overcome spatial barriers”. The key point is that “These two spatialities, of the territorialised place and the deterritorialised network, can support each other” and thereby enable “multiple simultaneous occupations”.
“For many activists and academics interested in the autonomous movements of recent years, their proliferation has largely been down to their operations within a networked structure. The network is horizontal, embodying the key anti-hierarchical tendency of autonomy. Moreover, it lacks a centre and is thus resistant to external agents who seek to co-opt and dismantle it. Finally, its use of modern communication technologies has allowed it to globalise and overcome spatial barriers.
“However an occupation cannot exist solely on the basis of this deterritorialised network, as some prominent voices have suggested (Hardt and Negri, 2004). Many of the activists are mobilised on the back of place-based struggles, e.g. at the work place, in which they develop strong-tie relations and build the confidence and skills necessary to participate. Moreover, the act of occupying relies on a strong embeddedness in a particular territory, in which activists are forced to put down some roots, if only temporarily. Indeed many occupations can soon become a struggle over the territorial politics of place.
“These two spatialities, of the territorialised place and the deterritorialised network, can support each other. Most occupations tend to rely on online networking to gain broad support and publicise their message. Moreover the space of the occupation can act as a useful meeting point for diverse networks to encounter each other and discuss strategy. The call to “occupy everything”, is rather a strategy of multiple simultaneous occupations, embedded in particular territories, but brought together through a wider network.” (source)
That call for “multiple simultaneous occupations” verges on a call for a swarming strategy.

Pink Noise Rev on “opening new spaces for confrontation”: This collective statement from Pink Noise Rev, which is associated with the “15-M” movement in Spain, reads on the cutting-edge of pro-democracy protest strategizing attuned to the network age. The main (but not only) reference to space is the phrase about “opening new spaces for confrontation”:
“The fact is that since the birth of 15M, we’ve spent more than two years experimenting with radically new modes of mass organization. Crowds capable of synchronizing en masse, to attack or to defend themselves at specific moments and with blinding speed; initiatives that detach from the movement at strategic junctures to then develop on their own, opening new spaces for confrontation; mechanisms capable of mobilising huge sectors of the population when they’re most needed … new forms of mobilisation that have come to stay. We’re rehearsing the mass social self-organisation methods of the future, and we’ve managed to create a scenario for hegemony and social conflict the likes of which we’d never have imagined. An understanding of the organisational models that have led us here is paramount for forging ahead.” (source)
Like the prior gleaning, this too verges on being a statement in favor of swarming, but without using that term.

Friedman on networked “Square People”: In a pair of op-eds, Thomas Friedman fielded a term — “Square People” — to name the new generation of information-age pro-democracy activists who keep mobilizing in city squares and parks around the world. His term harks back to terms that activists have used before, e.g. “Global Square” and “Global Street”, to name the virtual and physical terrain they’re fighting on, and for. What’s pertinent here is that it’s such a spatial term, in tune with the “spatial turn” in postmodern philosophy, sociology, and networked social activism.
“[A] new global political force is aborning, bigger and more important than Davos Men. I call them The Square People.
“They are mostly young, aspiring to a higher standard of living and more liberty, seeking either reform or revolution (depending on their existing government), connected to one another either by massing in squares or through virtual squares or both, and united less by a common program and more by a shared direction they want their societies to go. We’ve seen them now in the squares of Tunis, Cairo, Istanbul, New Delhi, Damascus, Tripoli, Beirut, Sana, Tehran, Moscow, Rio, Tel Aviv and Kiev, as well as in the virtual squares of Saudi Arabia, China and Vietnam.” (source)
“Indeed, “The Square” — as the place for these newly networked political forces to gather, collaborate and pressure for change — is truly disrupting both traditional politics and geopolitics. But the big thing to watch going forward is which Square People can go from disruption to construction — can take the energy and inchoate aspirations of their Square followers and turn them into parties, elections and better governance. …
“This failure to translate their aspirations into parties that could contest elections and then govern is the Achilles’ heel of The Square People — from Tahrir Square to Occupy Wall Street. …
“Without Square People, no change is possible in these countries, but without civil society institutions and inclusive politics, no change is sustainable.” (source)
From a TIMN standpoint, Friedman’s Square People are tantamount to +N People. It’s not at all clear that they are bound to fail if their efforts don’t convert into “parties that could contest elections and then govern”. But that’s a topic for TIMN; I better stick to STA here.

* * * * *

Sterling on “the Stacks”: Silos and stove-pipes are common metaphors for characterizing self-contained vertical hierarchies that have difficulty networking — as Pundita indicated in the first set of gleanings. Here, futurist Bruce Sterling adds the “Stack” as a metaphor to depict corporate social media based on the Internet:
"[There's] a new phenomena that I like to call the Stacks [vertically integrated social media]. And we've got five of them -- Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. The future of the stacks is basically to take over the internet and render it irrelevant. They're not hostile to the internet -- they're just [looking after] their own situation. And they all think they'll be the one Stack... and render the others irrelevant. And they'll all be rendered irrelevant. That's the future of the Stacks.” (source)
That metaphor may not catch on for long, but it provides further evidence of the significance of spatial thinking — with Friedman’s “Square People” and Sterling’s “Stacks” as a contrast.

Schneier on “feudalism” in cyberspace: Computer security technologist Bruce Schneier has warned for years that government and corporate actors are behaving in cyberspace in ways that add up to a new kind of feudalism. In this instance, he does so by depicting an “epic battle for power in cyberspace.” On one side are government and corporate powers; and “On the other are the distributed and nimble: grassroots movements, dissident groups, hackers, and criminals.” He doesn’t use explicitly spatial terminology, but his key point — “I have previously characterized this model of computing as "feudal"” — is spatially evocative, both as “metaphor” and “model”, and seems potentially inherently Lefebvrian.
“We're in the middle of an epic battle for power in cyberspace. On one side are the traditional, organized, institutional powers such as governments and large multinational corporations. On the other are the distributed and nimble: grassroots movements, dissident groups, hackers, and criminals. Initially, the Internet empowered the second side. It gave them a place to coordinate and communicate efficiently, and made them seem unbeatable. But now, the more traditional institutional powers are winning, and winning big. How these two sides fare in the long term, and the fate of the rest of us who don't fall into either group, is an open question -- and one vitally important to the future of the Internet. …
“I have previously characterized this model of computing as "feudal." Users pledge their allegiance to more powerful companies who, in turn, promise to protect them from both sysadmin duties and security threats. It's a metaphor that's rich in history and in fiction, and a model that's increasingly permeating computing today.
“Medieval feudalism was a hierarchical political system, with obligations in both directions. Lords offered protection, and vassals offered service. The lord-peasant relationship was similar, with a much greater power differential. It was a response to a dangerous world.” (source)
Schneier’s warnings about the advent of postmodern feudalism fit with gleanings in the first batch about the “deep state” and just above about “Stacks” as information-age fiefdoms. His warnings also raise the prospect of conflicts between the Stacks and Square People — or, to put it in TIMN terms, between +I and +N forces. It’s becoming the spatial drama of our time.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

More gleanings from browsing around with Lefebvre in mind: Ricks, Porter, Orwell, McCluhan, Graham, Brin


[UPDATE — May 22, 2014: Edited to make the title more specific and soften some text.]

Here’s a second batch of gleanings garnered by happenstance while doing the three prior posts on Lefebvre’s book The Production of Space.

Again, my purpose is to show that spatial orientations — some Lefebvrian, some less so — crop up all the time, in myriad areas. In my STA-biased view, we’d be well-advised to become more sensitive to noticing them and their relations to/with time and action orientations. I’m not trying to make a complex point here; I’m just trying to raise awareness of a fundament.

The materials I highlight in this batch, in order of appearance, are from Thomas Ricks, Patrick Porter, George Orwell, Marshall McCluhan, Stephen Graham, and David Brin. I’ve clustered them together mainly because they happen to raise related themes about national security strategy.

* * * * *

Ricks on strategy and the blurring of boundaries: Spatial matters always crop up in discussions about strategy — e.g., who’s big/small, who’s near/far, who is/isn’t connected. Strategy is viewed traditionally as the art of relating ends, ways, and means. I’d add that strategy may also be viewed in STA terms: as the art of relating space, time, and action factors — thus analysts and strategists should keep an eye out for how space, time, and action factors figure together in strategic formulations.

While drafting my series about Lefebvre post, I came across an announcement of a new project on The Future of War. It appeared at a blog I admire, observing at unusual length that:
“Taken together, recent changes both in the technological drivers of warfare and the enemies we face have erased the boundaries between what we have traditionally regarded as "war" and "peace," military and civilian, foreign and domestic, and national and international.” (source)
That trends have blurred all sorts of boundaries (a somewhat-Lefebvrian point) is important to include in such a study. But why make this such an emphatic opening point about the entire future of war? It's a mostly mundane point by now. And not so much because Lefebvre raised it forty years ago, but more because Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye did so as well back then.

Their seminal writings — notably Transnational Relations and World Politics (1972), and Power and Interdependence: World Politics in Transition (1977) — illuminated many spatial (and temporal) reconfigurations that were starting to take hold in the 1970s. Accordingly, the old state-centric balance-of-power paradigm was giving way to the rise of “complex global interdependence”: i.e., the global diffusion of power, the erosion of both national sovereignty and international hierarchy, the growth of transnational economics and communications, the internationalization of domestic policy, the blurring and the fusion of domestic and foreign policy, the rise of multilateral diplomacy, and the need to broaden security concepts beyond their military dimensions. All points still worth making today, to a degree.

It is striking that the early 1970s produced such seminal writings about the changing nature of social space (and time) by such far-apart theorists — Lefebvre on the one hand, Keohane and Nye on the other. But it is also dulling that the same observations are constantly repeated and reiterated today. Sure, such ideas and observations, keenly sensed early on, do take decades to unfold, and need to be taken into account. But I fret at seeing them made into a litany; for it may be another sign that American capacity for strategic thinking is getting a little too patterned, even stuck.

Porter on “strategic space” and “the global village myth”: The importance of spatial perceptions for strategy shines more brightly in a blog post by Patrick Porter, advocating that “It’s Time to Abandon the Global Village Myth”:
“The world is increasingly dangerous, we are told, because technology has made it smaller. In this “global village,” the costs of transport and communications have fallen to the point where predators have easy access to our vulnerable points. …
“But the world is not small. Technology may accelerate movement and compress physical space. But it does not necessarily shrink strategic space, the ability to project power affordably across the earth.”
He thus raises concerns that the global-village optic and attendant fears are having adverse, misleading effects on our sense and practice of strategy:
“In the name of taming the dangerous “Global Village,” governments resort to anticipatory war, extraordinary rendition, torture, continual drone strikes and mass surveillance. Instead of containing threats in pursuit of affordable security, the US-led coalition sought to eradicate them in pursuit of absolute security. It set out to destroy rogue regimes, fix broken states, to wipe out terrorism itself. …
“… Fear of the “small world” has driven the United States and other countries to the dangerous attempt not to contain threats, but rather to eradicate them.
“At home, the same fear has thrown off the delicate balance between the principles of security and liberty, damaging habeas corpus and spawning state surveillance that our forbears would find absurd. Crusading for democracy abroad has endangered it at home.”
Indeed, using terrorism as an example, Porter argues that “A closer look shows that the belief in a small world misconceives the security environment.” And his concerns are broader than terrorism, as in a point about “strategic space” that he deems particularly applicable “along Asia’s maritime peripheries”:
“Strategic space is not a politically uncontested thoroughfare of climate and terrain simply to be moved through. (That is not even true of tourism!) Space is a medium into which other humans intrude, through which (and for which) violent political struggle takes place. Amidst the white noise of globalisation rhetoric, this distinction has been lost.”
Thus he concludes with advice to abandon the myth of the global village:
“At the core of the “small world” argument is this myth, that technology mechanically transforms the world independent of human politics and the struggle for power.
“Projecting power affordably over space is now more difficult, not less. This constrains the superpower and its adversaries. It makes us all less powerful, but more secure, than we think. It’s time to abandon the Global Village Myth.”
Porter’s idea of “strategic space” is quite different from Lefebvre’s. Yet they both observe that the world is becoming both larger and smaller, at the same time and in different ways. Porter, somewhat à la Lefebvre, also notices the returning importance of “the wall” in physical as well as digital domains.

Orwell on distance and nationalism: Porter noted that the “global village” concept has a deep history. (A quick Google search reveals statements back into the 1850s about how the world is becoming smaller as a result of one technology advance or another in transportation and/or communications.)

In particular, Porter cites dramatic remarks by George Orwell that were new to me. So I dug up the full quote from Orwell’s Tribune column, “As I please”, May 12 1944:
“Reading recently a batch of rather shallowly optimistic ‘progressive’ books, I was struck by the automatic way in which people go on repeating certain phrases which were fashionable before 1914. Two great favourites are ‘the abolition of distance’ and ‘the disappearance of frontiers’. I do not know how often I have met with the statements that ‘the aeroplane and the radio have abolished distance’ and ‘all parts of the world are now interdependent’.
“Actually, the effect of modern inventions has been to increase nationalism, to make travel enormously more difficult, to cut down the means of communication between one country and another, and to make the various parts of the world less, not more dependent on one another for food and manufactured goods. This is not the result of the war. The same tendencies had been at work ever since 1918, though they were intensified after the World Depression.” (source)
Orwell does not explicitly refer to the “the global village” here, and some points are debatable. Yet he does indeed raise STAish questions about shifts in spatial and temporal orientations — ones that are still being raised by commentators today. Besides, I like his TIMNish reference to increased nationalism, for it’s a variant of tribalism.

McCluhan on allatonceness, the global village, and tribalism: More to the point, for me, Porter’s reference to the “global village” immediately recalls famous remarks by Marshall McCluhan (1967):
“Electric circuitry has overthrown the regime of ‘time’ and ‘space’ and pours upon us instantly and continuously concerns of all other men. It has reconstituted dialogue on a global scale. Its message is Total Change, ending psychic, social, economic, and political parochialism. …
“Ours is a brand-new world of allatonceness. ‘Time’ has ceased, ‘space’ has vanished. We now live in a global village … a simultaneous happening. We are back in acoustic space. We have begun again to structure the primordial feeling, the tribal emotions from which a few centuries of literacy divorce us.” (pp. 16 and 63)
McLuhan popularized the concept global village more than anyone else. And from an STA standpoint, it’s interesting how loaded that quote is with space and time orientations — some of them debatable, but still offering parallels to Lefebvre’s thinking. Notice that McLuhan too expects a revival of tribalism — a further overlap with TIMN.

Graham on space, time, globalization, and tribalization: Browsing around, I also came across a keen paper by Stephen Graham on ”The end of geography or the explosion of place? Conceptualizing space, place and information technology” (1998). Graham writes, citing Gregory Staple’s TeleGeography (1993), that:
“The complex articulations between the local and global dynamics of both material places and electronic spaces have recently been explored by Staple (1993). He believes that the Internet and other communications technologies, far from simply collapsing spatial barriers, actually have a dialectic effect, helping to compress time and space barriers while, concurrently, supporting a localizing, fragmenting logic of `tribalization'. Far from unifying all within a single cyberspace, the Internet, he argues, may actually enhance the commitment of different social and cultural interest groups to particular material places and electronic spaces, thus constituting a `geographical explosion of place' (Staple, 1993: 52). This `new tribalism', exemplified by the use of the Internet to support complex diasporas across the globe, and to draw together multiple, fragmentary special interest groups on a planetary basis, `folds' localities, cities and regions into `the new electronic terrain' (Staple, 1993: 52).” (pp. 174-175)
There it is again, in Graham, as in Orwell and Mcluhan, not to mention in Porter as well: that keen point that the compression of time and space orientations may have contradictory effects. In particular, it may foster tribalism as well as globalism. I’m not sure how Lefebvrian a point that is, but The Production of Space is keen on how global and local forces are interlaced in dialectical ways.

* * * * *

Brin on spatial (and temporal) horizons affecting fear levels: According to Porter, our sense of a smaller world — a global village — makes us more fearful about terrorism and other threats that once seemed far away. Futurist David Brin offered parallel observations at his engaging blog a while back. His emphasis was on the spatial and temporal “horizons” we have and how that affects our level of fear:
“When the ambient fear level is high, as in civil war-riven Lebanon, loyalties are kept close to home. Me against my brother. My brother and me against our cousins. We and our cousins against the world. Alliances merge and are broken quickly, along a sliding scale that appears to be remarkably consistent. The general trend seems to be this: the lower the ambient fear level declines, the more broadly a human being appears willing to define those tribal boundaries, and the more generous he or she is willing to be toward the stranger. …
“My contention is simple, that there exists an inverse correlation between ambient fear levels and the distance -- in terms of space, time and kinship -- of the "horizons” maintained by average members of a given culture.” (source)
Whether or not his points are particularly Lefebvrian, they, like others here, help show that spatial horizons make a difference and crop up in myriad subtle ways. Besides, from a TIMN perspective, I appreciate that Brin too relates his spatial points to feelings about tribal kinship.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Some gleanings from browsing around with Lefebvre in mind: Harvey, Foucault, Castells, Acemoglu & Robinson, Lofgren, Thrift, Pundita, Zalman


[UPDATE — May 22, 2014: Edited to make the title more specific and add more gleanings.]

While doing the preceding three posts on Lefebvre’s The Production of Space, I happened across apropos observations while browsing elsewhere. This and ensuing posts — maybe three or four — provide a selection of what I gleaned, in batches. They’re here because of serendipitous happenstance; I just happened to come across these observations — I didn’t try to go through my holdings on Lefebvre or space.

The purpose of my posting about these gleanings is to show that spatial orientations — some Lefebvrian, some less so — crop up all the time, in myriad areas. And in my STA-oriented view, we’d be well-advised to become more sensitive at noticing them and their relations to/with time and action orientations.

The materials I highlight in this first batch, in order of appearance, are from David Harvey, Michel Foucault, Manuel Castells, Daren Acemoglu & James Robinson, Mike Lofgren, Nigel Thrift, Pundita, and Amy Zalman. I’ve grouped them together mostly because the first few are directly linked to Lefebvre, and the latter speak to Lefebvrian points about the organizational nature of the modern state.

* * * * *

Harvey’s observation suggesting a connection between STA and TIMN: Lefebvre’s personal history included being tossed out of the French Communist Party in 1958. According to David Harvey’s “Afterword” in The Production of Space,
“It is hard for most of us to understand what it might mean to be excluded from an organization to which one has belonged for some thirty years. The French Communist Party was not only a political party but the hub of its members' social and daily life (it has sometimes been likened to an extended and very close-knit family structure).” (p. 428)
This resonates not only with STA’s insistence on the significance of spatial/S connections in people’s lives — in this instance Lefebvre’s — but also with TIMN’s insistence on the enduring importance of the tribal/T form. Moreover, Harvey’s observation fits with a point I’ve made elsewhere (e.g., here) that particular experiences — first a disconcerting loss of connections, say through emigration, followed by an attraction to a new set of family-like connections, say in a religious setting — helps explain why some individuals get recruited into extremist groups, and then have difficulty leaving. This is one of the regards in which STA and TIMN fit together.

Lefebvrian resonances in Foucault and Castells: My Part-1 post on Lefebvre’s book noted that his influence extends into the later writings of Michel Foucault and Manuel Castells (not to mention other theorists). A couple of famous quotes I’ve used elsewhere show this:

Foucault builds on the Lefebvrian point that seeing matters in spatial terms is becoming more important than seeing them in temporal terms. Accordingly, Foucault famously (infamously) stated in an article (“Of Other Space,” Diacritics, No. 16, Spring 1986) that:
“The present epoch will perhaps be above all the epoch of space. We are in the epoch of simultaneity; we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed. We are at a moment, I believe, when our experience of the world is less that of a long life developing through time than that of a network that connects points and intersections with its own skein.” (p. 24)
And whereas past theorists saw space primarily in terms of the actors, objects, and structures comprising it, and secondarily in terms of the links and flows among them, Castells argues in The Rise of the Network Society (1996) that this ordering should now be reversed. As a result of the information revolution, globalization, dense financial flows, and the rise of internetted global cities, he says that we should view the world in terms of “a space of flows” rather than a “space of places”:
“… a new spatial logic that I label space of flows. I shall oppose to such logic the historically rooted spatial organization of our common experience: the space of places. … [T]he space of flows … is becoming the dominant spatial manifestation of power and function in our societies.” (p. 378)
Both quotes are quite Lefebvrian. Moreover, to repeat what I said at the end of Part 1 on his book, much of what Lefebvre theorized about spatiology appears to prefigure much that I read today in complexity theory, social network analysis, actor-network theory, and systems theory, not to mention global interdependence and world systems theories — all quite remarkable since he wrote the book in 1974.

* * * * *

Acemoglu & Robinson on Turkey’s “deep state”: I happened across two posts about the so-called “deep state”— a term coined years ago, originally for Turkey, to identify a hidden preservationist power structure, consisting mainly of security and intelligence personnel. The concept seems quite Lefebvrian, though he never used the term.

In the first quote, Daren Acemoglu and James Robinson, co-authors of Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty (2012), observe at their blog that
“Though the Ergenekon trial is a clear miscarriage of justice, there should be little doubt that there is a very powerful Turkish deep state that has a history going back more than 100 years, that has been involved in crimes against minorities in the past, that has killed journalists and politicians, that has been at the forefront of murders, repression and countless crimes against humanity in the Kurdish areas of Turkey, and that may have even been involved in military coups.
“So what is the deep state and where do its origins lie?
“By its nature, the deep state is shrouded in secrecy, so we know relatively little about it. …
“In the narrowest sense, the deep state is a decentralized network setup by NATO in the 1950s as a “stay behind” force, similar to Gladio in Italy. This secretive network was often recruited from members of the security forces, particularly those sympathetic to a nationalist, or in fact ultranationalist, agenda.
“The deep state is not unique to Turkey, but it appears to have become during the politically turbulent years of the Cold War in Turkey uniquely powerful and well positioned to play a defining role in the political trajectory of the country.” (source)
In other words, it could be said that the “deep state” is a hidden space, produced by powerful secretive forces, that is both abstract and concrete by design. That seems in tune with Lefebvre’s spatial thinking about the state.

Lofgren on America’s “Deep State”: Elsewhere, Mike Lofgren, author of The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted (2013), applies the concept to America in a long article titled “Anatomy of the Deep State” for BillMoyers.com:
“Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose. My analysis of this phenomenon is not an exposé of a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day. Nor can this other government be accurately termed an “establishment.” All complex societies have an establishment, a social network committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation. In terms of its scope, financial resources and sheer global reach, the American hybrid state, the Deep State, is in a class by itself. That said, it is neither omniscient nor invincible. The institution is not so much sinister (although it has highly sinister aspects) as it is relentlessly well entrenched. Far from being invincible, its failures, such as those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, are routine enough that it is only the Deep State’s protectiveness towards its higher-ranking personnel that allows them to escape the consequences of their frequent ineptitude. …
“The Deep State is the big story of our time. It is the red thread that runs through the war on terrorism, the financialization and deindustrialization of the American economy, the rise of a plutocratic social structure and political dysfunction.” (source)
Again, all quite Lefebvrian, presumably without meaning to be so. However, whereas the original concept as applied to Turkey was mainly about public-sector elites and their cronies, Lofgren’s application appears to be about a hybrid of public and private-sector elites, plus their cronies.

Thrift on the “phantom state”: I also came across the concept of a “phantom state”. It’s not particularly Lefebvrian. But it seems apropos, for it was coined by a leading academic behind the “spatial turn” — Nigel Thrift — and reiterated in his book Spatial Formations (1996), as follows:
“It consists of actor-networks which increasingly rely on money power and communicated power without having to call on the degree of bureaucratic administrative power usually associated with the state form. …
“More and more, it might be argued that, in the modern world, money power and communicative power have been able to replace state authority based on administrative power with a discursive authority which is based in electronic networks in particular 'world cities'. This discursive authority is the stuff of a phantom state whose resonances are increasingly felt by all.” (1996, pp. 252-253)
That’s awkward for me to read. But his phantom-state concept seems worth mentioning, even though it has never caught on as a term. It expresses Castell’s “space of flows” quite well. It is more about private- than public-sector power. And more about transnational networks than state-centric institutions. All of which makes for a contrast to the deep-state concept. It also suggests that there may be some situations in which the two conceivably operate in tandem, others in competition if not conflict.

* * * * *

Pundita’s “iron law of departmentalization” as a creator of “chaos”: Blogger Pundita — no Lefebvrian to my knowledge — did a stimulating Lefebvrianesque post about Robert Michel’s Iron Law of Oligarchy and its applicability to the U.S, government, concluding that the real effect is not so much a strictly organized hierarchy as a muddled “chaos” brought on by the endless proliferation of departments and agencies:
“From all this I'd say there's an Iron Law of Departmentalization, which simply stated is that chaos cancels out oligarchy when departments proliferate like rabbits.” (source, bold in orig.)
Her point resonates marvelously with Lefebvre’s “spatial chaos”, and also sounds like a set-up for a kind of “trial by space” (as discussed in Part 1).

In a second post she sounds even more Lefebvrian when she observes that “no more ‘inside’ and ‘outside’” exists within the U.S. government, because it has become so crisscrossed by one or another “superhighway” of subcontractors, lobbyists, and revolving-door employees:
“There is no more "inside" and "outside" of U.S. government; there's a kind of superhighway running through it, a highway made up of millions of subcontractors -- non-employees, non-civil servants. Yet unlike a highway, which is designed by engineers and consciously built, this highway wasn't engineered; it just happened, as departments proliferated like rabbits and hordes of contractors made up the perennial shortfalls occasioned by the fact that there weren't enough people in the civil service to handle all the designated tasks in government. …
“… So while lobbyists aren't part of government they form a second superhighway, also not planned, not engineered, running through U.S. government. …
“The revolving door. Many people working in government, even in high positions, go back and forth between jobs in the private and public sectors.”
That seems Castellian as well as Lefebvrian, for it views government rather like a “space of flows” (see above).

Then, a few lines later, after criticizing bureaucratic “stove piping” and “silo-ing”, she returns to the “chaos” theme anew:
“All this is in addition to a situation famously associated with bureaucracy known as stovepiping or silo-ing, and which can become very problematical when departments in effect weaponize information they control. …
“… But when the daily grind in a federal bureaucracy amounts to navigating chaos, it's time for an overhaul of the system of government before the chaos knocks us all over the cliff.” (source)
Of all the gleanings I’m going to note, hers seems one of the most Lefebvrian (though not on purpose, I’d suppose).

(Her third post about “The Devil and Departmentalization” examines “how various approaches at improving government stack up against the Iron Law of Departmentalization.” The one she favors — a kind of community-level civil-society mutualism — verges on being a +N solution à la TIMN. That’s interesting to me, but it’s not so apropos of STA, so I’ll leave off.)

Zalman on information strategy: Much as I appreciate Pundita’s points, Amy Zalman makes solid organizational points in a new article about the field of information strategy. She decries the elimination of the old USIA, and argues cogently that, to better cope with information-age trends and the challenges they pose, “Every agency should house an office of informational power”:
“During the Cold War/Industrial Age, it served the United States to have a government agency (the United States Information Agency) dedicated to projecting the American story into isolated areas. Today, we need a new model that reflects the fact that all government actions and activities are potentially communicative, and that this situation poses both risks and opportunities. Every agency should house an office of informational power to develop proactive communications risk strategies, to exploit opportunities for mutual engagement — whether military exercises or agricultural exchanges — and to coordinate with other USG agencies.”
Along the way she makes five bulleted points, one of which is beckoningly spatial in that it refers to “symbolic territory”:
“To be powerful in the Information Age takes different skills than in the Cold War. Using information powerfully today requires the ability to: …
• “Navigate the symbolic territory of adversaries, friends, and key stakeholders. By ‘symbolic territory,’ I mean that landscape of historical memory, stories, images, figures of speech, and metaphors through which people understand and relate their experiences.
That “symbolic territory” corresponds quite well to Lefebvre’s “abstract space”. (Zalman’s article also resonates well with Arquilla’s and my past work on noöpolitik (or noöspolitik; 1999, 2007)).



Lefebvre’s attention to time and action orientations in The Production of Space (3rd of 3)


[UPDATE — May 12, 2014: Here’s the full post I said I’d put here when I first created this slot a couple weeks ago. I’ve deleted the place-holder text that was previously here.]

Part 1 rendered my sense of Lefebvre’s main argument in The Production of Space. Part 2 focused on how he sees the history and science of space, and the categories and distinctions he uses for analyzing social space.

This Part 3 documents what I most want to see: how much his analysis includes time and action orientations, along with space. The more he does so, the better for the verification of STA — both its theoretical potential and its possible practical potential for designing a new approach to cognitive mapping and forensics.

I find that Lefebvre devotes a lot of attention to time, some to action, in interesting ways. This validates my inquiry, though I’m still up-in-the-air what to do about it for STA’s sake.

At the end are some wrap-up comments about Lefebvre’s book — mostly a reminder about the ideas I liked best: spatial codes, spatial chaos, and trial by space; abstract space and counter-space; and his strategic hypothesis based on space; plus, of course, his inclusion of time and action-like orientations in his theorizing about space.

This is another of my unexpectedly long posts — good for storage, but not easy to read. Most readers may be well-advised to skip the long quotes. I’ve tried to put the main points in my text heading the quotes; just peruse that text if you want to hurry.

Explicit inclusion of time orientations


Lefebvre’s emphatic focus is space, but he focuses a lot on time as well. Indeed, he regards time as a co-equal concept in terms of nature, physics, and philosophy. But as for the social world, much as he would like time to be co-equal to space there as well, he argues that time has been “confined”, crushed, and even “murdered” by the modern state and capitalism — hence the ever-growing significance of space, especially abstract space.

Lefebvre observes right up front that time matters — and so does action, though he mostly refers to cognates, such as “energy”, “force”, and “strategy”. This starts with his recognizing the cardinal importance of space, time, and energy in physics and philosophy:
“The 'substance' (to use the old vocabulary of philosophy) of this cosmos or 'world', to which humanity with its consciousness belongs, has properties that can be adequately summed up by means of the three terms mentioned above [energy, space, time]. When we evoke 'energy', we must immediately note that energy has to be deployed within a space. When we evoke 'space', we must immediately indicate what occupies that space and how it does so: the deployment of energy in relation to 'points' and within a time frame. When we evoke 'time', we must immediately say what it is that moves or changes therein. Space considered in isolation is an empty abstraction; likewise energy and time. Although in one sense this 'substance' is hard to conceive of, most of all at the cosmic level, it is also true to say that evidence of its existence stares us in the face: our senses and our thoughts apprehend nothing else.” (p. 12)
Then, while observing that knowledge of social practice cannot be built on a model borrowed from physics (p. 13), he proceeds to analyze the philosophical import of space, time, and action-like concepts in the writings of Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche. According to Lefebvre’s critique, thinking about space and time has been “split” and “broken up” — so he concludes aggressively that his aim is to “detonate” old thinking about the separation of space and time:
“Confrontation of the theses and hypotheses of Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche is just beginning - and only with great difficulty at that. As for philosophical thought and thought about space and time, it is split. On the one hand we have the philosophy of time, of duration, itself broken up into partial considerations and emphases: historical time, social time, mental time, and so on. On the other hand we have epistemo-logical thought, which constructs an abstract space and cogitates about abstract (logico-mathematical) spaces. Most if not all authors ensconce themselves comfortably enough within the terms of mental (and therefore neo-Kantian or neo-Cartesian) space, …
“The aim of this [Lefebvre’s] book is to detonate this state of affairs.” (p. 24)
If I understand Lefebvre correctly, he insists on the “unity” of time and space, but shows that one or the other has tended to prevail in different historical periods. In general (as noted in Part 2), the history of space is always interlaced with the history of time — “the history of space should not be distanced in any way from the history of time” (p. 117). Yet, the two have tended to be kept separate and to alternate in importance. Long ago, there was a period in metaphysics as well as real life when time concepts held priority over space. But in the modern era, the state and capitalism have imposed the dominance of space over time. What Lefebvre seeks is a resurgence of time, plus a new unity, as part of a revolutionary process.

That, in brief, is how I would summarize his take on time and space. Now for some details and long documentary quotes — several of which, an expert on the book would notice, I have split in two, so that I can group the top parts together, and then the bottom parts, the better to highlight Lefebvre’s various somewhat-repetitive paragraphs about past/present versus possible future trends. I like these long quotes; but for the sake of other readers, I’ll try to cover their main points in the head text, enough so that a reader may skip the long quotes.

Lefebvre maintains in various passages that social space and social time should — and long ago did — co-exist in a kind of unity. Accordingly, people cannot live in one without the other — time is “inscribed in space” and “space implies time”. The two are “distinguishable” but “not separable” — “different yet unseverable”. Their “dissociation” is a “late development” that goes against the reality that they can only be “known” and realized through each other — hence, “Unity in difference, the same in the other (and vice versa), are thus made concrete.” In other words, while space may form “the envelope of time”, this does not mean that time can be reduced into space, for “real social time is forever re-emerging complete with its own characteristics and determinants”. Here are the full quotes from which these points are drawn:
“Let everyone look at the space around them. What do they see? Do they see time? They live time, after all; they are in time. Yet all anyone sees is movements. In nature, time is apprehended within space — in the very heart of space: the hour of the day, the season, the elevation of the sun above the horizon, the position of the moon and stars in the heavens, the cold and the heat, the age of each natural being, and so on. … Time was thus inscribed in space, and natural space was merely the lyrical and tragic script of natural time.” (p. 95)
“Time and space are not separable within a texture so conceived: space implies time, and vice versa. These networks are not closed, but open on all sides to the strange and the foreign, to the threatening and the propitious, to friend and foe. As a matter of fact, the abstract distinction between open and closed does not really apply here.” (p. 118)
“Time is distinguishable but not separable from space. … Phenomena which an analytical intelligence associates solely with 'temporality', such as growth, maturation and aging, cannot in fact be dissociated from 'spatiality' (itself an abstraction). Space and time thus appear and manifest themselves as different yet unseverable. Temporal cycles correspond to circular spatial forms of a symmetrical kind. It may even be that linear temporal processes of a repetitive and mechanical character are associated with the constitution of spatial axes (along which a repeated operation may be performed). At all events, the dissociation of spatial and temporal and the social actualization of that dissociation can only be a late development, a corollary of which has been the split between representations of space and representational spaces. It is by taking representational spaces as its starting-point that art seeks to preserve or restore this lost unity.” (p. 175)
“The fact is that space 'in itself is ungraspable, unthinkable, unknowable. Time 'in itself, absolute time, is no less unknowable. But that is the whole point: time is known and actualized in space, becoming a social reality by virtue of a spatial practice. Similarly, space is known only in and through time. Unity in difference, the same in the other (and vice versa), are thus made concrete.” (p. 218)
“Space is the envelope of time. When space is split, time is distanced - but it resists reduction. Within and through space, a certain social time is produced and reproduced; but real social time is forever re-emerging complete with its own characteristics and determinants: repetitions, rhythms, cycles, activities. The attempt to conceive of a space isolated from time entails a further contradiction, as embodied in efforts to introduce time into space by force, to rule time from space — time in the process being confined to prescribed uses and subjected to a variety of prohibitions.” (pp. 339-340)
Lefebvre associates the rise of “the temporal” — the priority of time over space — with Hegel above all. But in Lefebvre’s view, “[t]his theoretical posture cried out to be overturned” in metaphysics and other sciences. As a result, “these sciences are already the battleground of an immense confrontation between the temporal and the spatial.” But he frets about those critics who would then turn to elevate space over time.
“Knowledge has been built up on the basis of (global) schemata. Once such schemata were atemporal, as in the case of classical metaphysics. After Hegel, however, they became temporal in character, which is to say that they proclaimed the priority of historical becoming, of mental duration, or of socio-economic time, over space. This theoretical posture cried out to be overturned — something that has indeed been attempted, though on indefensible grounds, by those eager to assert a priority of geographical, or demographic, or ecological space over historical time. In point of fact all these sciences are already the battleground of an immense confrontation between the temporal and the spatial.” (p. 415)
In Lefebvre’s view, what mostly explains the dominance of space over time is the development of capitalism. Capitalism has operated, mainly through its treatment of labor, to separate space and time — time has been “vanished”, expelled, and “murdered” — in order to enable capitalism to “master space by producing it”, thereby “reducing time in order to prevent the production of new social relations.” The “spatial practice” of capitalism thus “tends to confine time to productive labour time” — that’s the kind of time that matters most for this system. Here are the corresponding quotes with page references:
“With the advent of modernity time has vanished from social space. It is recorded solely on measuring-instruments, on clocks, that are as isolated and functionally specialized as this time itself. … Economic space subordinates time to itself; political space expels it as threatening and dangerous (to power). The primacy of the economic and above all of the political implies the supremacy of space over time. …
“This manifest expulsion of time is arguably one of the hallmarks of modernity. … Time may have been promoted to the level of ontology by the philosophers, but it has been murdered by society.” (pp. 95–96)
“But with the development of capitalism and its praxis a difficulty arises in the relations between space and time. The capitalist mode of production begins by producing things, and by 'investing' in places. Then the reproduction of social relations becomes problematic, as it plays a part in practice, modifying it in the process. And eventually it becomes necessary to reproduce nature also, and to master space by producing it — that is, the political space of capitalism — while at the same time reducing time in order to prevent the production of new social relations.” (p. 219)
“The standing of time as it relates to this space is problematic, and has yet to be clearly defined. When religion and philosophy took duration under their aegis, time was in effect proclaimed a mental reality. But spatial practice — the practice of a repressive and oppressive space - tends to confine time to productive labour time, and simultaneously to diminish living rhythms by defining them in terms of the rationalized and localized gestures of divided labour.
Clearly time cannot achieve emancipation at one stroke, or en bloc.” (p. 408)
And it’s not just capitalism but also the modern state that is having such effects. According to Lefebvre, “The state is consolidating on a world scale” to a degree that “weighs down on society” and “crushes time”. Thus the state “flattens” society and culture, as it “enforces a logic that puts an end to conflicts and contradictions” and “neutralizes whatever resists it” in harsh ways:
“This is perhaps a convenient moment to consider what has been happening in the second half of the twentieth century, the period to which 'we' are witnesses.
“1 The state is consolidating on a world scale. It weighs down on society (on all societies) in full force; it plans and organizes society 'rationally', with the help of knowledge and technology, imposing analogous, if not homologous, measures irrespective of political ideology, historical background, or the class origins of those in power. The state crushes time by reducing differences to repetitions or circularities) dubbed 'equilibrium', 'feedback', 'self-regulation', and so on). Space in its Hegelian form comes back into its own. This modern state promotes and imposes itself as the stable centre - definitively - of (national) societies and spaces. As both the end and the meaning of history - just as Hegel had forecast — it flattens the social and 'cultural' spheres. It enforces a logic that puts an end to conflicts and contradictions. It neutralizes whatever resists it by castration or crushing. Is this social entropy? Or is it a monstrous excrescence transformed into normality? Whatever the answer, the results lie before us.” (p. 23)
Abstract space plays a key role in all this. According to Lefebvre, “oppressive and repressive powers” use their ideological domination of abstract space in ways that “relegates time to an abstraction of its own — except for labour time” — to assure it serves capitalist production:
“As a space that is fetishized, that reduces possibilities, and cloaks conflicts and differences in illusory coherence and transparency, it clearly operates ideologically. Yet abstract space is the outcome not of an ideology or of false consciousness, but of a practice. Its falsification is self-generated. Conflicts nevertheless manifest themselves on the level, precisely, of knowledge, especially that between space and time. The oppressive and repressive powers of abstract space are clearly revealed in connection with time: this space relegates time to an abstraction of its own — except for labour time, which produces things and surplus value.” (p. 393)
But this domination of time in favor of space should not go on forever, or even much longer. According to Lefebvre’s dialectical analysis, “other forces [are] on the boil, because the rationality of the state … provokes opposition.” He expects “incessant violence” by “seething forces” to rattle “the state and its space,” so much so that the importance of time re-emerges “explosively”* and a “threshold” will be crossed that produces “new social relations” and a re-unification of time and space.
“2 In this same space there are, however, other forces on the boil, because the rationality of the state, of its techniques, plans and programmes, provokes opposition. The violence of power is answered by the violence of subversion. With its wars and revolutions, defeats and victories, confrontation and turbulence, the modern world corresponds precisely to Nietzsche's tragic vision. State-imposed normality makes permanent transgression inevitable. As for time and negativity, whenever they re- emerge, as they must, they do so explosively. This is a new negativity, a tragic negativity which manifests itself as incessant violence. These seething forces are still capable of rattling the lid of the cauldron of the state and its space, for differences can never be totally quieted. Though defeated, they live on, and from time to time they begin fighting ferociously to reassert themselves and transform themselves through struggle.” (p. 23)
“But capitalism is surely approaching a threshold beyond which reproduction will no longer be able to prevent the production, not of things, but of new social relations. What would those relations consist in? Perhaps in the unity, at once familiar and new, of space and time, a unity long misapprehended, split up and superseded by the rash attribution of priority to space over time.” (pp. 218-219)
Abstract space will prove to be a key battleground. Capitalist and statist forces will try to keep time “reduced to constraints placed on the employment of space”. But they will fail in the end, for it is bound to be the case that “time resists any such reduction, re-emerging instead as the supreme form of wealth, as locus and medium of use, and hence of enjoyment.” People will harbor the importance of time in their inner and private lives.
“Time might thus be expected to be quickly reduced to constraints placed on the employment of space: to distances, pathways, itineraries, or modes of transportation. In fact, however, time resists any such reduction, re-emerging instead as the supreme form of wealth, as locus and medium of use, and hence of enjoyment. Abstract space fails in the end to lure time into the realm of externality, of signs and images, of dispersion. Time comes back into its own as privacy, inner life, subjectivity. Also as cycles closely bound up with nature and with use (sleep, hunger, etc.). Within time, the investment of affect, of energy, of 'creativity' opposes a mere passive apprehension of signs and signifiers. Such an investment, the desire to 'do' something, and hence to 'create', can only occur in a space — and through the production of a space. The 'real' appropriation of space, which is incompatible with abstract signs of appropriation serving merely to mask domination, does have certain requirements.” (p. 393)
If I understand Lefebvre correctly, when he elaborates on what he means by the production of space, he means a set of operations that gear actions to an orderly way of using space and time — not just space (pp. 71-73). Thus he wants his analysis — his “science of space” — to lead to a new synthesis of space and time in the future for the sake of “another (possible or impossible) society.”
“What is urgently required here is a clear distinction between an imagined or sought-after 'science of space' on the one hand and real knowledge of the production of space on the other. Such a knowledge, in contrast to the dissection, interpretations and representation of a would-be science of space, may be expected to rediscover time (and in the first place the time of production) in and through space.
“… The real knowledge that we hope to attain would have a retrospective as well as a prospective import. Its implications for history, for example, and for our understanding of time, will become apparent if our hypothesis turns out to be correct. It will help us to grasp how societies generate their (social) space and time - their representational spaces and their representations of space. It should also allow us, not to foresee the future, but to bring relevant factors to bear on the future in prospect — on the project, in other words, of another space and another time in another (possible or impossible) society.” (pp. 91–92)

Implicit inclusion of action orientations


From an STA standpoint, Lefebvre does not give STA’s action component the status that he gives to space and time. In his discussion of physics he recognizes “energy” or “force” (cognates of STA’s action element) as an essential part in a triad along with space and time (e.g., p. 22). But when discussing social space, he refers only to time as a co-equal, as discussed above.

Lefebvre comes closest to STA’s action element when he refers to forces, instruments, and strategies. Indeed, all sorts of “forces” figure in his theorizing: above all, the iconic “forces of production”; but also, various social, political, and economic forces; “forces of good and evil”; creative forces; forces that contend and compete; revolutionary forces; and so forth. He also refers occasionally to instruments and “instrumental space” — e.g., he says that social space, especially abstract space, often “shows itself to be politically instrumental in that it facilitates the control of society” (p. 349). And he is constantly concerned with strategy — with “strategic space” and “spatial strategy”— as it is used by ideological hegemons, but also as it may yet be used by revolutionary forces.

Such forces, instruments, and strategies don’t correspond exactly to my sense of STA’s action element. But they’re related to it, for they imply agency and efficacy, a deliberate effort to conquer nature, a will to power, a quest for control, a volitional view of cause and effect, an unwillingness to bow to fate and accept things as they are. Thus, in Lefebvre’s approach, STA’s action element is more implicit than explicit; it isn’t laid out in ways that make it co-equal to space and time and operate independently of them. But it’s not neglected; it’s there to a degree, embedded.

STA’s action element is evident particularly in Lefebvre’s discussions about strategy, especially future revolutionary strategy. Part 1 laid out some of his views about strategy. But there’s more to say (even as I re-use some quotes from Part 1).

Where space, time, and action coalesce: Lefebvre’s sense of revolutionary strategy


Strategy is where he joins together his analyses of space, time, and action elements, for the sake of pointing the way to revolutionary change. Strategy is where his views of history and science meet, with an eye on the future.

Here are several quotes that caught my eye regarding his disposition toward strategy (though I’m not sure I really understand them). These quotes speak to his concerns about how the state and capitalism tend to use strategy. Note the association of abstract space with ideology, and both of them with strategic space and spatial strategy. Note also his claim that strategic space is used to “force”, “sort”, “classify”, and “separate” people in ways that suit the spatial strategy of the state and capitalism:
“And in point of fact such ideologies relate to space in a most significant way, because they intervene in space in the form of strategias. Their effectiveness in this role - and especially a new development, the fact that worldwide strategies are now seeking to generate a global space, their own space, and to set it up as an absolute - is another reason, and by no means an insignificant one, for developing a new concept of space.” (p. 10)
“We also forget that there is a total object, namely absolute political space - that strategic space which seeks to impose itself as reality despite the fact that it is an abstraction, albeit one endowed with enormous powers because it is the locus and medium of Power.” (p. 94)
“Each spatial strategy has several aims: as many aims as abstract space — manipulated and manipulative — has 'properties'. Strategic space makes it possible simultaneously to force worrisome groups, the workers among others, out towards the periphery; to make available spaces near the centres scarcer, so increasing their value; to organize the centre as locus of decision, wealth, power and information; to find allies for the hegemonic class within the middle strata and within the 'elite'; to plan production and flows from the spatial point of view; and so on.
“The space of this social practice becomes a space that sorts — a space that classifies in the service of a class. The strategy of classification distributes the various social strata and classes (other than the one that exercises hegemony) across the available territory, keeping them separate and prohibiting all contacts - these being replaced by the signs (or images) of contact.” (p. 385)
To oppose this system — to benefit from the coming “spatial chaos” and “trial by space” (see Part 1) — Lefebvre recommends his “strategic hypothesis based on space” (p. 63). It would bring “disassociated aspects” back together, in both theory and practice, in order to achieve “the mobilization of differences in a single movement” around the world:
“[I]ts basic principle and objective is the bringing-together of dissociated aspects, the unification of disparate tendencies and factors. Inasmuch as it tries to take the planetary experiment in which humanity is engaged for what it is - that is to say, a series of separate and distinct assays of the world's space - this hypothesis sets itself up in clear opposition to the homogenizing efforts of the state, of political power, of the world market, and of the commodity world — tendencies which find their practical expression through and in abstract space. It implies the mobilization of differences in a single movement (including differences of natural origin, each of which ecology tends to emphasize in isolation): differences of regime, country, location, ethnic group, natural resources, and so on.” (pp. 63-64)
To this end, he makes what I gather is his single most famous, most quoted statement:
“'Change life! 'Change society!' These precepts mean nothing without the production of an appropriate space.” (p. 58)
Placing it in context with other quotes about changing life helps illuminate its importance — and shows that what matters to Lefebvre is not only changing political, economic, and cultural life in general, but also “everyday life” down to its most mundane and intimate details. This can only be accomplished through radical spatial changes, for “A revolution that does not produce a new space has not realized its full potential.” Just altering a society’s “ideological superstructures, institutions or political apparatuses” will not suffice, because “new social relationships call for a new space” to be created. What Lefebvre seeks is “total revolution”:
“A revolution that does not produce a new space has not realized its full potential; indeed it has failed in that it has not changed life itself, but has merely changed ideological superstructures, institutions or political apparatuses. A social transformation, to be truly revolutionary in character, must manifest a creative capacity in its effects on daily life, on language and on space — though its impact need not occur at the same rate, or with equal force, in each of these areas.” (p. 54)
“'Change life! 'Change society!' These precepts mean nothing without the production of an appropriate space. ... [N]ew social relationships call for a new space, and vice versa. … So long as everyday life remains in thrall to abstract space, with it's very concrete constraints; … the project of ‘changing life’ remains no more than a political rallying cry to be taken up or abandoned according to the mood off the moment.” (pp. 58–59)
“A total revolution — material, economic, social, political, psychic, cultural, erotic, etc. — seems to be in the offing, as though already immanent to the present. To change life, however, we must first change space. Absolute revolution is our self-image and our mirage — as seen through the mirror of absolute (political) space.” (p. 190)
Those are evocative exhortations. All in keeping with his fundamental view that “each mode of production has its own particular space,” and thus “the shift from one mode to another must entail the production of a new space.” (p. 46) Fully in keeping as well with his view that “Space is becoming the principal stake of goal-directed actions and struggles.” (p. 410) As he says in the quote immediately above, “To change life … we must first change space.” (p, 190)

Accordingly, if I read correctly, what he expects is “a transitional period between the mode of production of things in space and the mode of production of space.” The result would be a Marxist kind of revolution that spells a “withering-away” of the state and capitalism:
“We may therefore justifiably speak of a transitional period between the mode of production of things in space and the mode of production of space. The production of things was fostered by capitalism and controlled by the bourgeoisie and its political creation, the state. The production of space brings other things in its train, among them the withering-away of the private ownership of space, and, simultaneously, of the political state that dominates spaces. This implies a shift from domination to appropriation, and the primacy of use over exchange (the withering-away of exchange value). If these events do not occur, the worst surely will — as suggested by a number of 'scenarios of the unacceptable' scripted by the futurologists.” (p. 410)
What Lefebvre wants, then, is the creation of a radical new “mode of production” that realizes “the collective management of space” (p. 103, 422; as noted in Part 1). He does not describe it in detail, but it is clearly Marxist (if not communist, even anarchist, not to mention socialist) in origin and intent. Today, it seems reflected in how Occupy!, commonism, and other P2P-oriented undertakings would like to see society reorganized.

In light of what all I’ve learned here, however, I’d suggest that Lefebvre’s proposal implies the collective management not only of space but also of time and action. This would mean that STA implies an ideological as well as analytical framework. That’s not what I have in mind, but it’s interesting to see it implied.

Wrap-up comments


I’ve gained in appreciation for this book. It was a good choice to read and review. My three-part write-up feels jumbled and repetitive, but hopefully it conveys Lefebvre’s key points, at least the ones that interest me from an STA standpoint. He goes farther, I now realize, at recognizing time and action-like orientations than most space-oriented theorists.

Nonetheless, whether and how his distinctions and categories can be useful for my STA efforts, I’m far from sure. At some point, I’d like to be able to draw up a really good typology for helping to assess the spatial (as well as temporal and actional) orientations that define people’s mindsets. I don’t come away from reading Lefebvre with a sense I’ve gained much in that regard. Sure, he points out the importance of global/local, center/periphery, and connected/disconnected distinctions, for example. But so do most writers about spatial orientations.

While finishing this final Part 3, I looked around a bit to see whether Lefebvre persisted in later writings with the ideas I liked most: e.g., spatial codes, spatial chaos, trial by space, abstract space, counter-space, and his strategic hypothesis based on space. Where my search led was mainly to the volume edited by Neil Brenner and Stuart Elden, State, Space, World: Selected Essays by Henri Lefebvre (2009), particularly Ch. 11 titled "Space and the State (1978). That and other chapters provide additional material about spatial chaos (pp. 205, 240, 250), trial by space (pp.198, 206), and collective management of space (pp. 122, 174, 193, 195, 288). Thus it appears that he persisted with some ideas (e.g., those just listed), but not so much with others (e.g., his strategic hypothesis about space).

I also browsed a bit to see what academic experts have said about the presence of time and action concepts in Lefebvre’s The Production of Space. I've yet to find as comprehensive a lay-out as I provide here. But I learned that one scholar in particular, Stuart Elden, notably in his book Understanding Henri Lefebvre: Theory and the Possible (2004), highlights that:
“Lefebvre therefore wished to make two main moves in his work. First to put space up with and alongside time in considerations of social theory, and in doing so correct the vacuity of the Kantian experiential containers. Spatiality is as important as, but must not obscure considerations of, temporality and history: 'space and time appear and manifest themselves as different yet inseparable'. Secondly he wished to use this new critical understanding to examine the (modern) world in which he was writing. This is accomplished through an analysis of how space is produced, and how it is experienced. Space is produced in two ways, as a social formation (mode of production), and as a mental construction (conception).” (2004, p. 185)
Or to put i more succinctly,
“Lefebvre makes two main moves in his work: an assertion of the importance of space in tandem with that of time; and an analysis of the spaces of the modern age” (Elden, 2007; also, 2004, p. 193).
This reassures me about my take. Otherwise, such experts have mostly focused on Lefebvre’s later temporal concept rhythmanalysis, which so far I find less pertinent to STA.

While this series of posts is about space-time action orientations (STA), Parts 1 and 2 noted that Lefebvre was an early proponent of thinking about networks, which interests me for TIMN purposes. This showed up in his book in two ways that still represent rival ways of thinking about networks: one way emphasizes that nothing can be understood fully without taking into account the social and other networks in which an object is embedded; the other emphasizes that network forms of organization are now coming into their own as a form of organization, distinct from say tribes, hierarchical institutions and markets. Lefebvre writes mostly in terms of the former, but mixes in the latter at times too. His analysis of space-time-action dynamics focuses primarily on institutions and markets, but at least he leans toward analyzing networks as well.

By now, I’ve scouted a bit to see whether other analysts have picked up on his network theme. My finding so far is that some have, some haven’t — none of them to the extent I’d like to see. Passing references appear in Elden (2004, esp. p. 236), Brenner and Elden (2009, esp. pp.151, 187-190). Also in the volume edited by Kanishka Goonewardena et al., Space, Difference, Everyday Life: Reading Henri Lefebvre (2008), notably the chapters by Lukasz Stanek (esp. p. 64) and by Sara Nadal-Melsió (esp. p. 170). Doreen Massey’s article “Politics and Space/Time” in New Left Review (1992, esp. pp. 80-81) also has interesting comments about networks and spatial order/chaos, but she keys off other theorists more than Lefebvre. Beyond that, it’s my impression, as written up in a prior blog post (go here, see especially the addendum), that Occupy! activists have had much more to say about space, time, and network matters in often Lefebvrian ways.

That’s all for this series. While reading the book and preparing this post, I happened across various writings on the Web and elsewhere that resonated with my reading of Lefebvre. I’ve compiled too many gleanings to paste here as an addendum, so I’m putting them in a series of follow-up posts next.

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FOOTNOTE

* I put an asterisk above where Lefebvre says that time may re-emerge “explosively” as an aspect of radical change, because I’ve wondered whether this might be an oblique nod to French sociologist Georges Gurvitch’s concept of “explosive time”, which he describes as follows in a typology of social time orientations:
“8. Finally, as the eighth and last kind I shall point out explosive time, which dissolves the present as well as the past in the creation of the future immediately transcended. … Such a time is that of collective acts of creation which always play some role in social life but which arise from beneath the surface and become open and dominant during revolutions. … When it is real, explosive time places the global and partial social structures before complicated dilemmas, for it carries the maximum risk and demands the maximum effort to overcome it.” (Gurvitch, 1963, p. 178)
I continue to suppose, but cannot yet verify, that it may well be such a nod, for I’ve learned that Gurvitch and Lefebvre were close intellectual and ideological colleagues. Gurvitch wrote about both social space and time orientations years before Lefebvre did. I’ve long regarded Gurvitch’s analyses as interesting for STA, and I’ve used his explosive-time concept — indeed, that very quote — several times, including at this blog, usually in regard to analyzing time orientations found among terrorists. I’ll probably bring it up again when I review the next book on my list for this STA-oriented series: Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd’s The Time Paradox (2008).