Notes on Paper to Leeds Psychogeography Group, February 2011

I gave a paper based on my researches from the 1980s. Among those who attended were people from the Chapeltown Union of Psychogeographers, who, with incredible diligence, provided these notes:

We, C.U.P (Chapeltown Union of Psychogeographers), really enjoyed our last visit to L.P.G (Leeds Psychogeography Group) at the University of Leeds, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds. LS2 9JT on Tuesday, 22 February, 2011.

The main event of the meeting was a presentation by Joseph Boughey on ‘Situationism, Human Needs and Urban Environments’.

Here are some notes from his talk, I will revisit the these whenever I get a chance to highlight links to other sources, etc:

Joseph Boughey

Institute of Railway Studies and Transport History: NRM and UoY

Situationism, human needs and urban environments

‘ … it seems to me that turning to the workers movement is the most scandalous thing in the decomposed modern art world, which has become generally apolitical and fascistic. It’s the best defence against the “pictorial” tendency.’

Debord (1959) letter to Constant

the impact of mobility on society / british canals / BBC4 programme: golden age of canals / built and natural environment / MPhil thesis: urban space and human needs / human needs as criterion for developing spatial planning / space of consumption: space designed by people who did not live there / New Brighton: unloved seaside resort / ‘dark tourism’ / Torremolinos of its day / land usage: leisure, etc / ‘on human needs’ kate sober / ‘stirring up ideas’ – isn’t that what art should be about? / Lefebvre introduced by Marxist geographer David Harvey / Lefebvre meeting Guy Debord / expulsion, denunciation / cross disciplinarity of pedagogy: nature conservation, science, sewage / postmodernism: ‘heart sinks’ / marxism and Mao and north korea ‘workers paradise’ / marxism does provide credible means of analysis and working on the world or as Marx says ‘to change it’.

SI as ‘artistic revolutionaries’, Debord wishing to take another tack: ‘turning to the workers movement’ (french communist party – ‘who opposed 68?’)

What are the relations between human needs and the urban?

what insights do/did the work of Situationists provide?

What should be the relations between human needs and urban environments?: new mode of production to orient around that than other needs.

SI addressed these issues in rhetoric.

HN are subjective. needs that are rooted in survival, pre-capitalistic simplicity of needs to ensure survival. Some societies

questions in Human Needs:
• survival
• flourishing (‘sustaining the richly developed individual’ – Marx) agreement with neoliberals in a sense but different approach. Issues of whether it is a founding principle

“natural” needs

“historically developed” needs – capitalism: constructed needs – the needs of capitalism to survive than the survival of the individual, develop through consumerism, the creation of needs

• needs as evaluation

can we use needs and evidence of their satisfaction in urban planning: demands, why do people not holiday in New Brighton
•needs as explanation.

characterise an area by the type of people who consume it.

economics: needs not an issue, just the ability to purchase at a particular price. the laws of value in capitalism. this explains why urban development is what it is.

Lefebvre (1959):

political revolution, in the cases where it has taken place, would not resolve all the problems of individual life, of love, of happiness

moreover, would it realise the practice (social) conditions in which the individual might more liberally pose these problems and resolve them>?

what is the immediate and necessary link between the collective ownership of the means of production and the blossoming of the individual

Constant (1960)

I would prefer to define unitary urbanism as a very complex, very changeable constant activity, a deliberate intervention and in the daily environment

•an intervention aimed at brining our lives into lasting harmony with our real needs …

Boughey: sustainability of new babylon? energy use? work? construction?

Debord Lefebvre loved Paris it was the banlieu they challenged.

Debord (1986)

the method of experimental utopia, to truly correspond to its project, should lead to a new usage of life, to a new revolutionary praxis.

naked city: separation of functions and people: spatial planners

Society of the spectacle

Marx would say a classic statement of alienation.

All inauthentic, not that anyone would choose

“the spectacle obliterates … presence-absence of the world’

“it also obliterates the boundaries .. organisation of appearances”

“individuals who passively accept their subjection … illusory magical techniques”

How did the SI manage to avoid mesemerisation by the spectacle.

post-modernism: inability to ‘escape’ society?

Sarcelles: working class suburb of Paris. In Debord’s time, Paris is emptying out. Debord criticise even though it was designed by public sector planners?

compare with:

Lefebvre: Navarrenx, medieval town

sea as a ‘spectacle’, coastal management

grand arcade, Leeds Les Halles: places to see and be seen (note: staging of self)

Debord – society of the spectacle

“the economy’s triumph … unchanging basis of earlier societies.”

“replacing that necessity

‘needs’ ‘pseudo-needs’ ‘requirements (in terms of capitalism’)

notion of authentic needs

Kate Soper (1981)

… even our so-called basic biological needs for shelter, food and the like, must be seen as specific, socially mediated contents, the principle of whose explanation is not our common physiological nature but the social relations of production, distribution and exchange’

: cognitive and normative discourses on needs

cognitive: human needs are historically developed and discoverable in or identifiable with existing historical patterns of consumption. They are the effect of production and their explanation refers us primarily to the relations of production.

normative: history hitherto has failed to satisfy the authentic needs of individuals. capitalism as the historic condition for the full satisfaction of needs is yet a barrier to that satisfaction. the aim of social production is the richly developed individual

Soper does not refer to urban environments – instead to production of goods and services, does address problems of sustainability effected by capitalism and urbanized planet. We need to consuming too much.

‘the politics and pleasure of consuming differently’: soper book

but what of ‘authentic needs’ – postmodern questioning of that.

future of urban environments is a threat.

Lefebvre – the production of space (1974)

“particular places serve to define the coming together of a given need and a given object, and they in turn defined by that meeting”

“space is thus populated by visible crowds of objects and invisible crowds of needs”

“this perspective … is more clearly defined poetically, and hence qualitatively, then conceptually … ‘

no empiricism , no questionnaires

‘Turning the place over’: Richard Wilson: what is the role of art in terms of human needs … can that be discussed

Q&A: building of cathedrals, spiritual needs, not geared around ‘survival’ – ‘cultural and spiritual impoverishment’

most spiritual buildings built by moslem and sikh ‘responding to cultural needs’ in response to fluid demographic changes

urban spaces defined by industrialisation .. .enlightenment driven by planning policy, ‘parks gardens culture’

distribution of food different in paris than london what where how and when is food consumed’

reply: notion of ‘public interest’ from ‘public sector’ normative values

capitalism quite capable of dealing with different cultures and values.

Debord: planning future of paris must abolish all religious buildings (‘Potlach’ , 1950s)

individual needs – cultural needs

not certain this society is so different than others before ‘post modern’, accelerated consumption

have we given up on scale in architecture – pyramids, etc?

what about landscape of city of london or invention of dubai?


mosque in Bradford wins prize for stonework … and they still take decades to build.

unpacking ‘concept of need’

needs, desires, wants

Lacan opposite Lefebvre on relation of desire to need?

commercialisation of need or socialisation of need (fighting for libraries, forests, etc … )