Future Directions: Henri Lefebvre and Spatial Organization

Sytze F. Kingma, Karen Dale, Varda Wasserman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This final chapter does not attempt to draw conclusions from the previous chapters but rather seeks to transcend the volume by offering some reflections on the appropriation of Lefebvre’s work in organization studies and offering some suggestions for future research. Lefebvre writes “Man does not live by words alone; all ‘subjects’ are situated in a space in which they must either recognize themselves or lose themselves, a space which they may both enjoy and modify” (Lefebvre, 1991 [1974]: 35). In this sentence, Lefebvre makes poignantly clear both why it is important to study space and how he understands the ambiguous relationship humans, social actors and scholars alike have with space. This understanding is particularly relevant for the field of organization studies, where over the past decade spatial relations, and to some extent also the work of Lefebvre, assumed a new relevance. First, humans do indeed not ‘live by words alone’, but looking at the state of organization studies in the beginning of the 21st century it almost seemed as if words were all that mattered (Carlile et al., 2013). Partly related to the popularity of social constructivist approaches, organization studies were dominated by theories and methods which prioritized the role of language, cognitions, narratives, motives, discourses and legitimations. Maybe the neglect of space had to do with the false and exclusive association of space with positivist and deterministic approaches. However, space can very well be understood and studied in a constructivist way, as Lefebvre makes clear in the second part of the abovementioned quote. People cannot do without space-in Lefebvre’s view, ‘subjects’ are part and parcel of spatial relations-but they have the capacity to change space, which is at the same time constraining and enabling their behaviour. As this volume illustrates in many ways, Lefebvre’s work is concerned with how people produce a ‘social space’ in and through their actions, and how space can be both a product of social relations and effective in producing social relations, including organizations. As such, we believe that Lefebvre’s work on space connects very well with mainstream developments in organization studies.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOrganisational Space and Beyond
Subtitle of host publicationThe Significance of Henri Lefebvre for Organisation Studies
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781315302423
ISBN (Print)9781138236400
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Taylor and Francis.


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