Comments on the Society of the Spectacle

ISBN: 1859841694
ISBN 13: 9781859841693
By: Guy Debord Malcolm Imrie

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Critical Theory Currently Reading French Marxism Non Fiction Philosophy Politics Situationism Theory To Read

About this book

This is a seminal text in cultrual theory and an essential pocket handbook for situationists wherever they may be.

Reader's Thoughts


La "suite" de l'oeuvre phare des situationnistes. Guy Debord est assez captivant dans son analyse, même si celle-ci est dense.

Nicolas Baygert

Une suite désabusée sous forme de regard désenchanté à "La Société du Spectacle". Comme prévu, en vingt ans, la situation a empiré; faute d'alternative, la société du spectacle ne tente même plus à travestir ou sublimer ses dommages collatéraux…Mieux, "le spectacle organise avec maîtrise l’ignorance de ce qui advient et, tout de suite après, l’oubli de ce qui a pu quand même en être connu." p. 28,Mort de l'art, règne de la copie, secrets de pacotille ; "tout sera en somme plus beau qu’avant pour être photographié par des touristes." p. 73Vingt ans denouvau ont passé après ces amers constats, Debord n’est aujourd'hui plus là pour nous livrer une nouvelle salve de "Commentaires".


"La société moderne qui, jusqu’en 1968, allait de succès en succès, et s’était persuadée qu’elle était aimée, a dû renoncer depuis lors à ces rêves ; elle préfère être redoutée. Elle sait bien que « son air d’innocence ne reviendra plus »Twenty years later, a disenchanted look at the Society of the Spectacle and its rapid progress in our lives. Despite occasional conspirationist thinking, "Commentaries" is terribly prophetic.

Amai Freeman

Debord very arrogantly overstates a few simple yet insightful points in this extension of an overly ambitious theory. frustrating and annoying to read.

cras culture

i thoroughly 'enjoyed' this book so much as one can 'enjoy' such a probing analysis of the total daily misery we are subject to. debord famously called this misery 'the spectacle' in his 1967 work 'society of the spectacle', though it's been called society, capitalism, the totality, 'the media', 'the state' (according to anarchists), 'biopower' and even 'civilization/leviathan' (by freddy perlman and primitivists). so what's new with the spectacle in this book vs back in 1967? well here, debord makes a striking comparison between the spectacle and the mafia, shows how when some say 'the media' they mean the spectacle, various recupperation has been intensified (the most oblique of all arguments cus here debord deals with some of what would become his readership, so-called revolutionaries) and so forth. i'm personally surprised it took myself so long to stumble upon this book since i was so touched and enthralled with society of the spectacle and found it more nuanced and relevant for modern american capitalism/spectacular culture than a lot of so-called radical shit being written to this day. also i can't help but wonder what such a hard-edged analysis of the spectacle would look like in 2012. certainly tiqqun/invisible committee has tried hard, and while i really love some of that stuff and am it least entertained in a weird subcultural way by all of it, it just doesn't resonate with me quite as faboulously as debord's books do. ah well! so what would debord say about a review of his book 'comments on the society of the spectacle' by a boho-anarchist nobody on goodreads from a computer in a collective house in st. louis, america? who knows, tho probably, in his best vein nothing nice, but here is one of my little contributions to the spectacle nonetheless while at other times trying doggedly to break its spell.


i actually enjoy this work more than the original.


oh man, this is so much better than the Society of the Spectacle. In The Society of the Spectacle Debord had kind of a naive optimism going on. This, on the other hand, is a wonderfully pessimistic critique of capitalism. Essentially claims that capitalism has absorbed all of its alternatives. There are no other options. We are all fucked. But the best part? Well, that would be Debord hinting to us that we still need to make the fuckers pay. Even if winning is impossible it is still worth it to try and destroy it all. I'm not sure exactly what his reasoning is, but I suspect it has something to do with sweet revenge.It should also be noted that where the Society of the Spectacle was pretentious and somewhat unoriginal(what did Debord say that Marx had not already stated?), this book is very straight forward and free of confused hipster jargon. One gets the sense that Debord actually believes what he is saying this time and the conclusions he comes to are absolutely horrifying.


Somewhat a sad book, but nevertheless an important text on the world and the way we make of it via the media and the power structure that controls that world. Debord writes like a true visionary poet, that is easily to fall in love his language, but what he writes about his something that must be noted and examined. Essential book and in many waya maybe even better than 'Society of the Spectacle.'

Kelly Neal

I just re-read Society of the Spectacle for a book group I am in. I first read Spectacle 23 years ago; it still resonates with the world and opens alternate views of how society is structured. I read Comments on the Society as a companion book for my reading group's choice. In "comments" Debord wrote about the Spectacle as it was manifesting twenty years after his first description. The spectacle had sent further inroads into controlling and creating the "reality" we function in. Many of the passages were very ominous in light of the current revelations of NSA spying :" In all areas of social life the degree of intermingling in surveillance, disinformation and security activities gets greater and greater" . . . . "all these professional conspirators are spying on each other without really knowing why, are colliding by chance yet not identifying each other with any certainty." Both Society of the Spectacle and Comments on are worth reading for anyone interested in the creation and control of social reality. Debord does a nice job of description of society without sounding like a paranoid nut case, which could easily be done considering the scope of what he is describing. Fun challenging book.


One of the best books I've ever read


a été plus facile à lire que le premier du nom.




This is something of Debord's appendix to "The Society of the Spectacle", written nearly 20 years after the events of May '68. It's a decidedly pessimistic work compared to the original, which had a strain of optimism in its pages. Debord essentially states that the spectacle has become "integrated" and the separate spectacles he discussed in the original work have meshed together finely to create something from which it is almost impossible to escape.The only reason an exceedingly important work like this gets 4 stars instead of 5 is its brevity. To understand the modern world, one must understand Debord & the Situationists' writings.

David Katzman

A must read. Although it enhances your understanding to read Society of the Spectacle first, it's not absolutely necessary. SotS is one of the most politically astute grand visions of the social order ever written. Revolutionary. Profound. Enlightening. (And admittedly somewhat difficult in degree-of-esoteric-jargon. But if you can accept not understanding everything, it’s worth it.) Debord was of course French and the original work inspired the student/union workers revolt that occurred in France in 1968. Debord and his fellow movement leaders were called The Situationists or Situationist International. It's rather amazing to think, from the current perspective of a relatively inactive, uninspired and uneducated American society, that an esoteric book of political theory inspired student to lead a mass strike involving up to 11 million workers for two weeks. This was roughly 2/3 of the French workforce. The closest thing that has occurred today is the revolution in Egypt. The students and workers in ’68 were primarily revolting against modern consumerist and technologist society; the movement was anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist. Yes, it was grounded in Marxism, but it was quite opposed to both Communism and Capitalism. They were decidedly anti-Stalinist. Strangely enough, The Situationists married Marxist thinking with avant-garde art.Debord advocated for businesses and industry to be run by individual workers' councils--the employees run their own companies, not executives or managers. Not a centralized Communist government, but local, autonomous collectives. I think this would certainly be a big improvement over the way our current society is run, but my biggest objection to Marxism has been the presumption that industry should exist at all. I think the unstoppable juggernaut which is global warming demonstrates that processing natural materials on an industrial scale is a suicidal practice. But despite my opposition to industrial product, Debord critique of civilization is invaluable as it demonstrates exactly how our self-destructive behavior is obscured and transformed by “The Spectacle.” Interestingly, in this book, the Comments on his original, he does not mention the workers' councils at all.So, what is the Spectacle? It’s not just advertising, television and the media although those are significant tools and aspects of it. The Spectacle is the totality of methods, constructs and communications used in an advanced capitalist society to construct a false reality to mask the real one, the degraded reality created by Capitalism. Baudrillard is a good reference here, see Screened Out, who talks about how our experiences have been “virtualized.” All branding, for example, acts as a tool to distract consumers from reality and get them to focus on symbolism instead of concrete reality. Nike represents sports, endurance, overcoming challenges, grabbing what you want from life, athleticism and through celebrity endorsements, the peak that the body can achieve. The reality is that almost all Nike clothes and shoes are made by poor overworked children and adults in third-world countries who barely survive on poverty-maintaining wages. In another regard, why is one bag intended to carry supplies priced at $10 and the next one $500. Because it’s Lands End vs. Gucci. An illusion. It gets deeper and deeper the more you look at the illusions that motivate us. The fact that every time we drive our cars we’re spewing poison that contributes to global warming. These realities are constantly obscured and obfuscated along with many, many others. Our entire political system is based on falsification of the debate, side issues and distractions. We have dumb and dumber parties to choose from. For a reason…even when you support the lesser of two evils, you’re still supporting the system. Obama provides cover to continue the plunder. This particular book, Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, published 22 years after Society of the Spectacle , is a thoughtful gloss on the original, updating some thoughts on how the Spectacle has evolved over the years, strengthened its grip on us, and continued to weave a web of lies that is nearly inescapable—because it benefits those who currently control the wealth and power. A valuable book and highly recommended.

Ida Rand

this guy was awesome. the french really know how to put it all into perspective and bum you out.

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