Rhythmanalysis – Henri Lefebvre

On: November 2, 2012
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About Lydia van der Spek
I am currently doing a New Media and Digital Culture masters degree at the University of Amsterdam. My interest in new media has been present for a while, having completed a bachelors degree in Communication and Multimedia Design at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. During my bachelors degree I did an internship at a Dutch advertising/communications agency, working on a transmedia storytelling campaign for SOA/AIDS Nederland. Before obtaining my degree I wrote my thesis on power structures within the online network. I have spent a year in Florence, Italy studying art and have been working as a graphic designer since 2009, both freelance and for Dutch e-commerce business Greetz. After taking some time off from studying I have worked full time for a while and have then gone travelling for three months. I am now back at the University of Amsterdam to finish my masters degree, which is currently my main focus.


This post functions as an introduction to a project by Charlotte van Dalfsen, Egle Mykolaityte, Mihaela Naftanaila, Lydia van der Spek and Laura Zimmermann. Our project is an interpretation of Henri Lefebvre’s seminal book “Rhythmanalysis” (1992). In doing so, we created a blog that functions as a window to Lefebvre’s book and its ideas. The blog, Rhythm of Capitalism, includes several videos/short movies that we made inspired by Lefebvre’s writings on rhythmanalysis. The blog also contains quotes from Rhythmanalysis, which the videos refer to. Our videos employ main themes of Lefebvre’s book such as rhythm and capitalism, critique of everyday life, rhythm, sound and the city, flows of capital and flows of crowds. The videos are not meant to illustrate the book but rather to engage into the theory of Lefebvre in depth through practice, through observation and art. Moreover, the blog contains several additional readings to the topic and other activist/artist projects based on the same themes. The blog is an open-ended project. Therefore, we encourage the visitors of the blog to join us on the journey of an acute rhythmanalyst and to contribute your own observations, impressions and ideas.


Henri Lefebvre was one of the most prominent French Marxist intellectuals during the second quarter of the 20th century. He was one of the most respected professors of sociology at the University of Strasbourg and he wrote several influential works on cities, urbanism, and space. During his long career, his work has gone in and out of fashion several times, and has influenced the development not only of philosophy but also of sociology, geography, political science and literary criticism. The generalization of industry, and its relation to cities (which is treated in La Pensée marxiste et la ville), The Right to the City and The Urban Revolution were all themes of Lefebvre’s writings. Lefebvre argued that every society produces its own space. Therefore any ‘social existence’ aspiring to be or declaring itself to be real, but not producing its own space, would be a strange entity, an abstraction incapable of escaping the ideological or even cultural spheres.

Lefebvre emphasized the importance of rhythms, the repetitive, cycles and moments. He provided a detailed reading of how capitalism had increased its scope in the twentieth century to dominate the cultural and social world as well as the economic. The notion of everyday life is immanent to almost all of his work, specifically alienation under capitalism. The capitalist mode of production established itself in industry and integrated industry. Then, it integrated agriculture, it integrated the historical city, it integrated space, and it produced what is called la vie quotidienne. Alienation can be economic, social, political, ideological and philosophical. It invades everything – literature, art and objects.

Lefebvre talks of three kinds of time:

free time (leisure time)

required time (work time)

constrained time (traveling time, or time for bureaucratic formalities)

His analysis of everyday life is always a critique, as is underlined in the title of the series. It is designed to be a radical questioning of the everyday in contemporary society: industrial and technological society, and so-called ‘consumer society’. Lefebvre suggests that everyday life  has been colonized by new technology and consumer society. 
Just as everyday life has been colonized by capitalism so, too, has its location: social space. However, Lefebvre also wished to put forward a program for radical change, for a revolution of everyday life, so as to end alienation. To change the world, we must change life. The critique of everyday life that he undertakes has a contribution to make to the art of living, and he believes that the art of living implies the end of alienation.

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