Henri Lefebvre started the tumultuous decade of the 1960s laughing as a new man, if not quite a total man. He celebrated his sixtieth birthday with a new job (chair of sociology at the University of Strasbourg), a couple of new books (Critique of Everyday Life-Volume 2 and Introduction to Modernity), and some new militant friends, younger friends-like Guy Debord and the Situationists-who’d ignite each other in the explosion of 1968. (By that point, Lefebvre was teaching at suburban ParisNanterre, where the initial spark of student discontent had been generated.) In 1961, he also inaugurated himself with a new status:

“turbo-Prof,” a species of French academic who teaches in the provinces, who catches the train à grande vitesse (TGV) every Monday morning and Thursday afternoon, yet keeps a primary residence in the nation’s capital. (Lefebvre lived at rue Rambuteau in the 3rd arrondissement, first in an apartment at number 24, and later at number 30. Both buildings were close to the old Les Halles market halls, architectural jewels destined to be demolished in 1969 to make way for the RER rapid computer train line-which would ironically speed to Nanterre. In 1977, the dreaded Pompidou Centre became Lefebvre’s unwelcome, upscale neighbor. He could almost spit at it from his front window.)1

“Around 1960,” Lefebvre reflects in Everyday Life in the Modern World (1968), “the situation became clearer.” Everyday life was “no longer the no-man’s land, the poor relation of specialized activities. In France and elsewhere, neo-capitalist leaders had become aware of the fact that colonies were more trouble than they were worth and there was a change of strategy; new vistas opened out such as investments in national territories and the organization of home trade.”2 The net result, Lefebvre thinks, was that “all areas outside the centers of political decision making and economic concentration of capital were considered as semi-colonies and exploited as such; these included the suburbs of cities, the countryside, zones of agricultural production and all outlying districts inhabited, needless to say, by employees, technicians and manual laborers; thus the state of the proletarian became generalized, leading to a blurring of class distinctions and ideological ‘values.’ ”3 Work life, private life, and leisure were “rationally” exploited, cut up, laid out, and put back together again, timetabled and monitored by the assorted bureaucracies, corporations, and technocracies.