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Thinking the Totality: Henri Lefebvre’s Critique

at Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

Course Details
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Online Classroom
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Class Level: All levels
Age Requirements: 21 and older
Average Class Size: 14
System Requirements:

You will need a reliable Internet connection as well as a computer or device with which you can access your virtual class. We recommend you arrive to class 5-10 minutes early to ensure you're able to set up your device and connection.

Class Delivery:

Classes will be held via Zoom.

Teacher: Andy Battle

Flexible Reschedule Policy: This provider has flexible, free rescheduling for any-in person workshop. Please see the cancellation policy for more details

What you'll learn in this philosophy class:

“People in general … do not know their own lives very well,” Henri Lefebvre insisted in the first volume of his Critique of Everyday Life. Lefebvre’s book, in which he maintained that “the simplest event—a woman buying a pound of sugar—must be analyzed,” was among the first major works to draw its ideas from Marx’s early writings, situating the concepts of alienation and mystification at the center of the Marxist critique, focusing not just on the ways that capitalism separates us from what we produce, but how it severs our relationships with one another and with ourselves. 

Lefebvre was well positioned to imagine such a critique—in addition to his career as a philosopher, he had fought in the Resistance and worked as a factory hand, radio broadcaster, and cab driver. Above all, the Critique of Everyday Life reflected Lefebvre’s lifelong effort to “think the totality,” to bridge the concrete and the abstract, the mundane and the grand, from our blithest gestures to the mighty structures that govern our lives. When is the trivial not so trivial?

In this class, we will read the first volume of the Critique of Everyday Life as well as selections from its key precursor, Marx’s 1844 writings on the concept of alienation, and some of the texts Lefebvre inspired, including On the Poverty of Student Life and The Revolution of Everyday Life, both produced by the Situationist International as they helped shape the revolutionary movement that culminated in May 1968. We will ask: In what ways do our smallest gestures—buying a pound of sugar—embody a dizzying chain of connections that will reveal to us “the sum total of capitalist society”? Is the common in fact “strange”? Can focusing on the mundane, the automatic—the everyday—transcend the grubby monotony of routine, illuminate our true relationships to ourselves and to the world, and perhaps even serve as a basis for the transformation of those relationships? In other words, does the everyday remain, as Lefebvre insisted, a place “defined by contradictions” but also teeming with hope—“an inevitable starting point for the realization of the possible”?

Remote Learning

This course is available for "remote" learning and will be available to anyone with access to an internet device with a microphone (this includes most models of computers, tablets). Classes will take place with a "Live" instructor at the date/times listed below.

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Refund Policy

Upon request, we will refund the entire cost of a class up until 1 week before its start date. Students who withdraw after that point but before the first class are entitled to a 75% refund. After the first class: 50%. After the second: 25%. No refunds will be given after the third class.

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Reviews of Classes at Brooklyn Institute for Social Research (27)

School: Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research was established in 2011 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Its mission is to extend liberal arts education and research far beyond the borders of the traditional university, supporting community education needs and opening up new possibilities for scholarship in the...

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