Lefebvre, Henri


Lefebvre, Henri
(1901–1991)
   A noted French Marxist academic, who contributed to the schools of Hegelian and humanist Marxism, Henri Lefebvre was born in the Landes department of France and studied philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1928 he joined the French Communist Party (PCF) and was involved with the Marxist theoretical journal La Revue Marxiste. In the 1930s he helped to translate and publish the first selections in French of Karl Marx’s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (EPM) and Vladimir Ilich Lenin’s Philosophical Notebooks. The EPM was a particularly important source for interpretations of Marxism that focused on the theme of alienation. In 1939 Lefebvre’s Dialectical Materialism was published, and in its stress on the influence of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and the importance of Marx’s early works it conflicted with the Stalinist (and PCF) viewpoint. His growing anti-Stalinism eventually led to his expulsion from the party in 1956 (he re-joined a freer, less rigid PCF in 1978). During World War II Lefebvre fought in the French Resistance and afterwards took up a job in broadcasting whilst continuing his writing. In his academic career he held posts at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, the University of Strasbourg, the University of Paris at Nanterre and the École Practique des Hautes Études in Paris.
   Lefebvre’s political and philosophical views caused him to launch attacks on Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialism and Louis Althusser’s structuralist Marxism. He opposed dogmatism and attempts at systematization of Marxism claiming these led to the hypostatization of theory. A prolific writer, his key works include Dialectical Materialism (1939), Critique of Everyday Life (1947), Les Problèmes actuels du marxisme (1958), Métaphilosophie (1965), The Explosion: Marxism and the French Upheaval (1968), and The Production of Space (1974). Typically these explored themes of alienation, praxis, culture and everyday life, with emphasis on a humanist, dialectical materialist approach.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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