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Henri Lefebvre on education: Critique and pedagogy

The ‘spatial turn’ in education policy studies fuelled interest in Lefebvre’s work: initially, in his work Production of Space and, more recently, Rhythmanalysis and Right to the City. Yet, although in these texts Lefebvre critiques universities and schools and introduces original pedagogical concepts, their educational strands have attracted little attention. Lefebvre’s other works available in English have been largely overlooked in education literature. As France’s first Professor of Sociology, Lefebvre was passionately engaged with education: in particular, teaching, competing for government grants and leading student activism. Critiques of education are threaded through Lefebvre’s three-volume Critique of Everyday Life, his writings on architecture and anthologies. Lefebvre’s work, The Explosion, is surprisingly neglected. A critique of French universities, it analyses student protests across Paris in 1968 – events in which Lefebvre was a leading activist. In geography and philosophy there are burgeoning secondary literatures on Lefebvre. Laying groundwork for such a literature in education, I survey Lefebvre’s references to education in all the works available in English. Arguing that Lefebvre was an educational thinker in his own right, this paper sketches a ‘roadmap’ for educational readings of Lefebvre’s prolific and largely sociological writing. This paper falls into three parts. The first uncovers core Marxist and phenomenological foundations of Lefebvre’s critiques of universities and schools. Building on these, it introduces Lefebvre’s pedagogical concepts. The second part contextualises these in relation to ‘New’ (or ‘Progressive’) education movements at ‘critical moments’ of 20th-century history. It includes a case study of one such moment – the 1968 Parisian student uprising – then outlines Lefebvre’s summation of education in the late 20th century. The third part draws together four ‘Lefebvrian’ pedagogical principles and considers their relevance today. Educational readings of Lefebvre, I suggest, can help educationists identify ‘cracks or interstices’ in ‘technocratic rationality’, suggesting strategies for resisting contemporary neo-liberal regimes.
Journal Article
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Middleton, S. (2016). Henri Lefebvre on education: Critique and pedagogy. Policy Futures in Education, 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1177/1478210316676001
© Author(s) 2016.