Theory, Culture and Society 29 (2):37-62 (2012)

The French sociologist and philosopher Henri Lefebvre developed an account of modernity that combined rigorous critique, a rejection of nostalgia, left pessimism or transcendental appeals, and the search for utopian potentialities in the hidden recesses of the everyday. This article will focus on a topic that is arguably central to his ‘critique of everyday life’ but has been entirely overlooked in the literature thus far: that of boredom. Although often dismissed as trivial, boredom can be understood as a touchstone through which we can grasp much wider anxieties, socio-cultural changes and subjective crises that are intrinsic to our experience of modernity. Curiously, although Lefebvre was very interested in boredom, he did not analyse it systematically, and he used terms like ‘boring’ or ‘boredom’ in loose, elliptical and seemingly contradictory ways. Such a lack of clarity reveals his ambivalence about this phenomenon, but also highlights a subtle pattern of differentiation he makes between particular modalities of boredom that can be highly illuminating. Through a careful reading of the full range of Lefebvre’s writings, we can begin to understand how he discriminates between different experiences and expressions of boredom, some of which are unambiguously negative, whereas others are judged more positively. With respect to the latter, as he says in Introduction to Modernity, under certain conditions boredom can be full of desires, frustrations and possibilities. Through such an investigation, we start to glimpse latent connections between boredom and utopian propensities that caught the attention not only of Lefebvre but also such thinkers as Ernst Bloch, Siegfried Kracauer and Walter Benjamin.
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DOI 10.1177/0263276411417460
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References found in this work BETA

The Arcades Project.Walter Benjamin, Howard Eiland & Kevin Mclaughlin - 1999 - Science and Society 65 (2):243-246.
Experience Without Qualities: Boredom and Modernity.Elizabeth Goodstein - 2007 - Philosophy and Rhetoric 40 (2):257-260.

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The Rhythm of Echoes and Echoes of Violence.Mickey Vallee - 2017 - Theory, Culture and Society 34 (1):97-114.

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The Production of Space.Henri Lefebvre - 1991 - Wiley-Blackwell.
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