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Weak Messianism

Essays in Everyday Utopianism

Series:

Michael Gardiner

This volume explores the connection between two phenomena usually thought to be utterly incongruous, even antithetical: ‘utopia’ and ‘everyday life’. It presents a series of essays, written over the last twenty years, which rethink the nature and prospects of utopianism in a world that has grown increasingly sceptical as to the possibility of systemic socio-political transformation in a positive direction. Through critical interdisciplinary engagements with a wide variety of thinkers ranging from Mikhail Bakhtin to Henri Lefebvre and beyond, many of whom are often read as anti-utopian figures, the essays argue that it is possible to locate utopian promises buried deep within the embodied rituals, practices and symbolic forms associated with everyday existence, in a manner that reveals the essential openness of the present day to momentous future change.

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Chapter 6 The Grandchildren of Marx and Coca-Cola: Lefebvre, Utopia and the ‘Recuperation’ of Eve

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ryday Life Introduction In the wake of the failure of the 1968 May–June events to jump-start the widely expected revolutionary transformation of French society, Situationist Guy Debord unleashed a venomous assault on his former friend, mentor, and fellow imbiber Henri Lefebvre. Debord accused him of lifting the idea of the ‘festival’ from the Situationist International (S.I.) – somewhat ironically, in light of the fact that situationist détournements can be read as elaborate plagiarizations of a wide range of theoretical and pop culture texts. And not to mention that Lefebvre, in a 1983 interview, claimed that Debord and company had cribbed, without attribution, his own research into the festive qualities of the 1871 Paris Commune. But, more ominously, Debord argued that Lefebvre had rendered this concept ‘useful’ for aca- demic scholarship, thereby divesting it of any radical import vis-à-vis the immediate political situation. Lefebvre, in Debord’s eyes, was guilty of the primal sin of ultra-leftism: that of functioning ef fectively, if perhaps unwittingly, as an ‘agent of recuperation’. Lefebvre remained thereafter on the S.I.’s ‘blacklist’ until the organization’s of ficial demise in 1972. It is tempting to dismiss Debord’s rant as yet another symptom of his paranoid and schismatic nature, and his oft-repeated tendency to turn on erstwhile comrades if they did not cleave with suf ficient rigour to his world- view through all the arcane twists and turns of 1960s and early 1970s revo- lutionary agitation and struggle. However, he does voice an uncomfortable 228 Chapter 6 truth,...

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