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Works, Products, and the Division of Labour: Notes for a Cultural and Political Economic Critique

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Matt DaviesORCiD


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Henri Lefebvre argues that products can be distinguished from works: products are the outcomes of repetitive acts, while works have a “unique” and irreplaceable character. Products and production thus become routinized, banal parts of everyday life, while works are understood as works of art, a specialized “higher” activity separated from everyday life. This distinction is reflected in Raymond Williams’ etymological elaboration of three distinct meanings of “culture” in Keywords. What are the material foundations for these distinctions, and what are the implications these have for a “cultural turn” in International Political Economy? This paper will examine these related distinctions as the historical outcomes of the development of the mental/manual division of labour. In so doing, it will argue that a “cultural turn” for International Political Economy must situate its critique in materialist terms, not hypostatising “culture” as codes, values, or discourse but as embodied and historically determined practice.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Davies M

Editor(s): Best, J; Paterson, M

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Cultural Political Economy

Year: 2010

Pages: 48-63

Edition: 1st

Series Title: RIPE Series in Global Political Economy

Publisher: Routledge

Place Published: London

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9780415489324