Society of the Spectacle

ISBN: 0946061122
ISBN 13: 9780946061129
By: Guy Debord Ken Knabb

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ماهرعبد الرحمن

كان هذا منذ وقت بعيد،لماذا أنا أفكر أو أكتب وفقا لما تنتظره أنت؟ ولماذا أتصرف مع صديقتى وفقا لما أظنه نموذجيا فى عقلها؟ولماذا أدخل فى مراتبيتكم الأخلاقية فأحترم الكبير بالضرورة؟ بالقطع إننى أقوم بتمثيل(لنستخدم منذ الآن كلمة:إستعراض)دور ما فى مجتمعكم،أتوق للنموذج المتفق عليه عندكم.. مع مرور الوقت قد أتلاشى تماما ولا يبقى منى سوى ما تريدون أنتم، بل وأكثر من هذا فسوف أنتظر منكم بدورى ماأتوقعه منكم.والمجتمع الرأسمالى الحديث نضج إلى الحد الذى أصبحت النماذج فيه مستقرة(نموذجية)الثورى/ الفاشل عاطفيا/الحكيم/المفكر/حتى البت الصايعة اللى كانت فى التكعيبة من كام يوم. إننا نستعرض لأننا نعلم أن هناك متفرجين، حقا لا ننتظر تصفيقهم؛لكننا لا نتصرف خارج توقعهم، نخشى تعليقاتهم السلبية علينا، ونخشى غرابتنا إذا إنفلتت أمامهم.نصير مع الوقت مجرد تمثيل، لا حقيقة.هكذا نصعد مع الرأسمالية فى مرحلتها العليا لآخر شوطها-كما يبشر ديبور-.كتاب"مجتمع الإستعراض"أو" الفرجة"هو أحد النصوص المهمة والصعبة للأممية المواقفيةلقد صار كل شيئ إستعراضيا، حتى وإن بدا فى مظهره معارضا...الكتاب:http://www.marxists.org/reference/arc...وهذا نموذج من الكتاب(المكون من فقرات):توجد أقدم التخصصات الاجتماعية , تخصص السلطة , في أصل المشهد . لذلك فإن المشهد هو نشاط أو فعالية متخصصة تتحدث نيابة عن كل الآخرين . إنه التمثيل الدبلوماسي للمجتمع القائم على التراتبية الهرمية أمام نفسه , حيث تحظر كل الصياغات الأخرى . هنا الأكثر معاصرة هو في نفس الوقت الأكثر قدما .

Clif

I gave this Guy a chance.In any expository writing, particularly when persuasion is the goal, the writing should be as clear as possible to reach the widest audience.This essay is laid out in numbered statements. Some are only a sentence long, others may run a page or two, but all are written in a style that tells me the author is more concerned with his style than the content. Perhaps this is the thing to do in intellectual circles, where stylish profundity that requires effort to decode is valued.See if you can figure out what the following means. This is statement number 56:"The spectacle, like modern society itself, is at once united and divided. The unity of each is based on violent divisions. But when the contradiction emerges in the spectacle, it is itself contradicted by a reversal of its meaning: the division it presents is unitary, while the unity itself is divided."Say what? These are not the words of someone who is writing to the masses, the very masses that he is out support and enlighten! Debord is writing for the intellectual 1% of which he is a member.It's not that he has nothing meaningful to say. If I can get anything out of what I have read, he believes in much of the socialist/communist bedrock - that people are alienated from the work they do and that we live in a word of products paraded before our eyes which induce us to spend our labor maintaining the system that produces them. Therefor, humanity supports a system, we do not have a system that supports our humanity. The goal is to keep us wanting and buying, while not paying attention to the fact that we are deluded.I made it a third of the way through before looking on the shelf for another book to read. I enjoy intellectual challenge, but I appreciate clarity above all. There are many ideas that require mental effort to understand, that even the most lucid prose is hard-pressed to convey, but what Debord is taking on is not one of those ideas. To expect change, which I believe he does, is idle if you can't get people to understand the points you are trying to make to alert them to their plight. So this book is an unintentional tragedy having nothing to do with the subject.You will find that here and there one of Debord's numbered statements will ring perfectly true and make its point, but this is so rare that it isn't worth the effort to plow through all the rest.One star for a book that commits suicide.PS: there is a possibility that the translator mangled the translation from French to English, but that's a stretch.

Michael

It’s funny, because this book has been more-or-less “in my orbit” for the past 25 years or so, but I only got around to actually reading through it for the first time just now. That makes it a bit difficult to review, because in some ways I knew what I was getting in to when I first opened it, but in other ways it was a surprise. Maybe that helps explain the fact that it struck me as being at times very cutting-edge, and at others quite out-of-date.This book was originally a manifesto of sorts, along with Revolution of Everyday Life for the “Situationists” in France in the 1960s. Where Vaneigem was speaking more positively about what could be done, Debord is outlining the problem as the Situationists' critique understood it. The concept of the “Spectacle” is an attempt to move revolutionary theory into a post-industrial territory, by analyzing the shift from substance to image under late-twentieth-century conditions: “The present phase of total occupation of social life by the accumulated results of the economy leads to a generalized sliding of having into appearing, from which all actual ‘having’ must draw its immediate prestige and ultimate function.” This probably seems pretty obvious, today, but relatively few radical critiques have expressed it so clearly, even if angry people everywhere can feel it in their bones. Debord walks a kind of tightrope in this book between rejection of Marxism’s authoritarian tendencies and a nostalgic longing for working class revolution. His critique of the Soviet Union, of Lenin and Stalin, and of their many imitators and followers, is generally right on, and vindicated by events since the writing of the book. He also sees, though I would say with less definite clarity, the fallacy in Marx’s refusal to see the State (or rather the bureaucrats who comprise it) as a class in itself with its own class interests, which led to the rise of the apparatchik in Russia and elsewhere. Yet still he clings to the idea of “worker’s councils” as the only revolutionary path away from the spectacle, failing himself to recognize that identification as “workers” in itself disempowers individuals when they form collectivities (this is especially ironic, since so far as I know Debord never held a steady job himself). His brief analysis of fascism (in paragraph #109 of the text) is equally fascinating in its past-and-future-ness; on the one hand he anticipates later theorists in declaring it “technically-equipped archaism” whose “decomposed ersatz of myth is revived in the spectacular context of the most modern means of conditioning and illusion,” and yet he insists simultaneously that it is merely “an extremist defense of the bourgeois economy,” in line with the Stalinist analysis. It’s interesting that I find this text somewhat detached from time, both old and new at one time, because I think the most valuable chapter here is probably the one on “Time and History,” in which Debord attempts to explore the ways in which power affects our understanding of time itself. I say this is probably the most valuable chapter, because quite frankly I will need to live with it for a while, and go back and read it a few more times, before I’m sure that I have understood the argument. Coming from me, that’s pretty high praise, so long as I don’t find three months from now that I didn’t understand it because it make no sense at all.

Babak Fakhamzadeh

Debord was one of the main players behind the Situationist International and the very guy who coined the term psychogeography, referring to the experience of one's immediate environment as it is directly presented. A way, incidentally, to counter the society of the spectacle. The society of the spectacle is a manifest, if nothing else, primarily an agitation against consumerist society. The central tenet being that modern production systems have allowed society to accept representations of society as replacements for what is real. And it's these representations, these spectacles, to which society gives meaning and value, not the underlying reality. Debord puts forward a whole lot of interesting and still very relevant ideas, but also loses himself in unnecessary complexity, borrowing too much from, and building too much on, classic philosophers. Debord's staying power derives from his visionary description of consumerist society, extrapolating the world as he knew and saw it some fifty years ago. But his critique is steeped in a language that formally lost relevance 20 years ago and practically many years before that. That is not to say that class struggle is no longer relevant or possible, but it *is* very unlikely, possibly specifically because pseudo separation has made unification practically impossible. In today's world, we all believe we are right and first and foremost put ourselves before any shared good. My full, in depth, review

jeremy

9. in a world that really has been turned on its head, truth is a moment of falsehood.20. ...the absolute denial of life, in the shape of a fallacious paradise, is no longer projected onto the heavens, but finds its place instead within material life itself. the spectacle is hence a technological version of the exiling of human powers in a "world beyond" - and the perfection of separation within human beings.67. ...a use of the commodity arises that is sufficient unto itself; what this means for the consumer is an outpouring of religious zeal in honor of the commodity's sovereign freedom. waves of enthusiasm for particular products, fueled and boosted by the communications media, are propagated with lightning speed. a film sparks a fashion craze, or a magazine launches a chain of clubs that in turn spins off a line of products. the sheer fad item perfectly expresses the fact that, as the mass of commodities becomes more and more absurd, absurdity becomes a commodity in its own right...188. when a newly independent art paints its world in brilliant colors, then a moment of life has grown old. by art's brilliant colors it cannot be rejuvenated but only recalled to mind. the greatness of art makes its appearance only as dusk begins to fall over life.

Arjun Ravichandran

Brilliant book ; hard to read initially because of its "poetic" nature and the ambiguity that entails. But keep at it, and there plenty of insights to mull over. A classic. Read "The Revolution of Everyday Life" as well.

Elisabeth

Bright sunny styles starting at $8 are spectacle. Tanning beds and stairmasters are spectacle. Sonny and Cher are spectacle. Sonny as mayor is spectacle. Any mayor “cleaning up” Times Square and polishing it with corporate spit is spectacle. Little New York in Las Vegas is spectacle. Little New York in Vegas in Dubai is spectacle. Little New York in Vegas in Dubai inside Tokyo Disney in a feature-film starring a topless Nicolas Cage saving the natives with guns in a Gatorade jihad is spectacle. These are obvious examples of spectacle in a society where “all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacle. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation” (1). I have a zoo membership. It takes us into a tropical jungle full of strollers. Nice capris. Nice passive aggressive DNA exchange. Nice legacy of anxiety across the generations as captured in the phenomena of perpetual perceived election. What if I can’t let go of this plushee harp seal pup that says “mama” every time I squeeze its flipper? “What requires the deepening of rationality is also what nourishes the irrationality of hierarchical exploitation and repression.” Thank you for your campaign contribution. Vote China. Vote Coke. Vote CNN. Vote BPA-free, gluten-free, organic plastic baby CNN. “The spectacle is not a collection of images but a social relation among people, mediated by images” (4)--“the eonomy developing for itself” (16). I’m in the spectacle, and the spectacle’s in me. A prolonged meditation in which self-immolation is imminent, and also elusive. All of this abstract diagnosis is making me hungry. A vortex of plastic waste twice the size of the United States roaming the Pacific Ocean is a ghost mouth. It is an organ of yes. It is always hungry. It is a roiling maw post-time. “The spectacle … is the false consciousness of time” (158). I carry this book everywhere with me for months. I read and read (and, interestingly, it is Debord’s use of abstractions that make Society of the Spectacle a kind of timeless text, versus say Berger’s Ways of Seeing, which is so swept up in the technology of its own contemporaneity that it reads as an outdated text) and am actively aware of my own hunger for some kind of solution. Not solution but antidote. A manifesto against. For détournement. By 203, we get some instruction: To effectively destroy the society of the spectacle, what is needed is men [sic!] putting a practical force into action. The critical theory of the spectacle can be true only by uniting with the practical current of negation in society, and this negation, the resumption of revolutionary class struggle, will become conscious of itself by developing the critique of the spectacle which is the theory of its real conditions (the practical conditions of present oppression), and inversely by unveiling the secret of what this negation can be.Debord concedes that this is a “long-range task,” but his is a complicated directive merging theory with practical conditions: “the obscure and difficult path of critical theory must also be the lot of the practical movement acting on the scale of society” (203, again). Ostensibly, this is a loaded enterprise, but given the increasing marginalization of theorists in academia (as expressed in a recent round table on theory at the U) and their resistance to institutionalization (“the inevitable fall into falling asleep”) and their solidarity with movements that bring together individuals from within and without institutions, such as Occupy Wall Street, the Green Revolution in Iran, the Arab Spring, and Pussy Riots against the re-enstatement of Putin in Russia, it seems there is no better time than now to listen to Debord. In Poetryland, we have our own warriors such as Joshua Clover and the Davis Dozen, CA Conrad, Anne Boyer, Brandon Brown, Dana Ward, Steve Zultanski picking up political mantles with an urgency that exceeds the limits of aesthetic debate or taste oppression in Poetryland-proper. Maria Damon’s recent discussion of antonisms recalls Debord when he says: “Critical theory must be communicated in its own language. It is the language of contradiction, which must be dialectical in form as it is in content….It is not “the nadir of writing,” but its inversion. It is not a negation of style, but the style of negation.” One way in which this might be achieved, suggests Debord, is through theft: “Ideas improve. The meaning of words participates in the improvement. Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it.” I’ll take these as marching orders, and also mutate “the obvious degradation of being into having” (17) with a partial reversal through “the obvious liberation of being into having” via Cixous on writing:"Having? A having without limits, without restriction; but without any “deposit,” a having that doesn’t withhold or possess, a having-love that sustains itself with loving, in the blood-rapport. In this way, give yourself what you would want God-if-he-existed to give you."

Justin Mitchell

I don't necessarily agree with or subscribe to Debord. He has this seriously irritating habit of saying really cheesy formulaic things like "this didn't lead to the misery of philosophy, but merely philosophized misery." Seriously annoying not to mention ultimately vacuous. It reminds me of Wes Studi's character in the movie Mystery Men, who said things like "In order to go right, you must go left." And he does this like ten times in this book. I think he had a little less to say than he wanted you to believe, and also that his idea of a separated new consciousness is not really possible. I tried that for quite a while, and it just left me feeling detached and miserable. There can be no ultimate outside. It's more complex than that. But I think he does have his seriously right-on-money moments when it comes to critiquing the modern world as well as the failings of many other philosophical systems. This was my second reading, and I still find it inspiring and influential.

George-Icaros Babassakis

Ὅ,τι πιὸ ἔγκυρο ἔντονο εὐφυὲς γιὰ νὰ κατανοήσει κανεὶς σὲ τί κόσμο ζοῦμε τὰ τελευταῖα 50 χρόνια.

Jan

In my copy (find it here), there's notations in three different colours, representing renewed attempts at reading. 3 years of having this on my to-do list, grmbl! It's a challenging read and I learned not to combine it with a busy schedule or as a resting point between other density.This time around (though), it worked out. My reading has changed from the first time I picked up the book. No doubt with more of a kick to it in the 1960s, it still holds up pretty well. But over the (3) years I've encountered many similar arguments (probably inspired by Debord!), which made the third attempt easier while also pointing out problems.However, its form forces you to think while also engaging me in the 1968 French intellectualism I know from the movie The Dreamers. As my one-time teacher John Schwarzmantel suggested, there's a need for an emotive element (in an ideology to be succesful) and it seems Debord has no problem with this qualitatively different sort of Spectacle*.*the movie is shit though

Tosh

It only took 154 pages to change our world. Guy Debord's manifesto/book length essay that is truly a masterpiece of political writing that borders on the poetic. It is also a crystal clear view how culture is formed in the 20th (and of course the 21st) century. The theater is built in front us and we are lead to believe that we actually participate in its adventure. As Johnny Rotten said at the last Sex Pistols concert in the late 70's "Have you ever felt the feeling that you have been had?" Well, something of that effect. Nevertheless the show goes on and on. It's wise to realize that it's a show... and nothing else.

Ryn Shane-Armstrong

I read Society of the Spectacle way back in college -- when one is young and naive, and you're supposed to care about heady, outdated French philosophy that is utterly disconnected from the real. But now that I'm older and I have a world of experience to draw from, I'm fairly certain it wouldn't resonate as it once did. To wit, the so-called "radical" situationist ethic is now a totally mainstream, mass media commodity in and of itself. Beijing hosts pillow fight flash mobs in Tian'anmen square, orchestrated with consumer electronics on high-speed internet connections; the next day, everyone goes about their business as usual.My beef with Debord and his ilk (Hakim Bey, for instance) is twofold: their message is hyperbolic, poorly articulated, loaded with cyclical logic, and often imbued with the sexy but none the less empty rhetoric of retro-romaticism (notice, as Steev has, the "thin" nature of their masterpieces -- this is no accident or coincidence); and, of course, they espouse a remote worldview that is tremendously arrogant and at least as fantastic and absurd as that with which they claim to despise about the human condition.Case in point, Debord's regressive contention that:"The spectacle was born from the world's loss of the unity, and the immense expansion of the modern spectacle reveals the enormity of this loss. The abstractifying of all individual labor and the general abstractness of what is produced are perfectly reflected in the spectacle, whose manner of being concrete is precisely abstraction."Putting aside for a moment the meta mind-fuck jibber-jabber of the author's writing -- not to mention the rich irony of a book (itself a kind of spectacle that's only about 600 year old) littered with such sentences that so expertly illustrate how the spectacle's "...manner of being concrete is precisely abstraction" -- it's pretty clear that Debord laments the development of our species and longs for a return to some supposedly glorious golden era when everything and everybody was awash in "unity." Not sure how far back he wants to go, but given his frustrations with the spectacle's "representation" of the real, the charming paintings of the 18,000 year old Caves of Lascaux in the lands of his own native France clearly isn't far enough. Maybe the dawn of agriculture? The big bang? When, prey tell, were we whole, Mr. Debord?!I recommend this book to folks if only to become aware of this particular subset of intellectual sophistry. But please don't take it to heart. If you really want to revel in photos of your kid, by all means, enjoy your spectacular "abstractifying." I won't tell the smug intelligentsia if you won't

Bud Quinlan

This is one of the few things I've read that have changed my life. I've since learned that there is not a lot in the book that is original (and considering that one of the most famous Situationist slogans is "Plagiarism is necessary; progress demands it," I should not be surprised or let down for that) but it is a very potent expression of these ideas, perhaps the most potent I've encountered, and certainly original—and necessarily so, not for sheer novelty's sake—in its synthesis of them.The Spectacle is Debord and the Situationists' name for the current stage of capitalism, one which has permeated all spheres of life, down to the most personal. The mark of this stage of capitalism is the superiority of the image, constituted by consumables, to real experience and use values. This is not only possible but necessary, for once capitalism solves (in the advanced nations, to be sure) the problem of scarcity, the necessity of a system that sustains such inequity as capitalism has and does should come into question. Instead ...just as soon as so great an abundance of commodities begins to be produced that a surplus 'collaboration' is required of the workers. All of a sudden the workers in question discover that they are no longer invariably subject to the total contempt so clearly built into every aspect of the organization and management of production; instead they find that every day, once work is over, they are treated like grown-ups, with a great show of solicitude and politeness, in their new role as consumers. The humanitiy of the commodity find attends to the workers' 'leisure and humanity' for the simple reason that political economy as such now can —and must—bring these spheres under its sway. (Thesis 43)This means the spectacle is capitalism's solution to overaccumulation: create new markets by creating a perpetual state of desire, one fed by images of material satisfaction that continually recedes with each new purchase. Also, whence Debord's continual use of paradoxical formulations in his writing: it's the objective state of life under advanced capitalism, and I use the word "objective" here fully aware of the alarm bells it may set off in some people minds, but Debord was a modernist, not a postmodernist, as regards epistemology. Although he didn't write on that philosophical topic—he would have considered it an "alienated speciality"—his approach is modernist and Enlightenment in that he clearly believed there were Truths to be discovered, and he wanted no truck with radical skepticisms.I haven't communicated how this book changed my life, or done well to explain its main themes. On the first point, I'll say that I believe something like the Spectacle as Debord described it does obtain in our everyday lives, and it has altered my experience of everyday life accordingly. As for the second, I would simply urge people to read it. Some people may be rubbed the wrong way by aphorisms and / or dialectical philosophy. That's unfortunate, but for those looking to understand the world with an eye towards changing it will be rewarded for their efforts. I was still young when I first read this book; I haven't aged as well as it has. That is probably as good an indicator of greatness as any, but Debord himself would, if he were in an exceptionally charitable mood, say that was beside the point of his writing it. In the preface to the third French edition included in the Donald Nicholson-Smith translation he makes his intention plain: "This book should be read bearing in mind that it was written with the deliberate intention of doing harm to spectacular society." That sentence by itself should help the reader negotiate many of the book's thornier passages.

Nate

This book is one of the best depictions of capitalist alienation ever written. It is a very one-of-a-kind philosophical and thought-provoking read, written in such a way that each paragraph is a thesis. It is not copyrighted, and can be found for free online: http://www.marxists.org/reference/arc...Debord also turned it into a film, which can be found here: http://www.ubu.com/film/debord.htmlIn spite of the merits of the rest of the book, Chapter 4 , The Proletariat as Subject and as Representation, denounces way too much, seemingly rejecting everything but Situationism. Anarchism and the bureaucratism of degenerated workers' states were rightly condemned in this chapter, but incorrect slanders were levelled against Leninism and Trotskyism, which will mislead an uninformed reader.

Philip Cherny

I really enjoyed this book, though more for aesthetic than intellectual reasons. It's not a very informative read, and the insights Debord offers seem already pretty obvious by now. A lot of it is mere regurgitation of the Frankfurt school, but it's beautifully written rhetoric; it feels almost like a manifesto. Easy read, you can knock it out in a day or two. Parts of it I found inspiring, other parts dispiriting. I guess you could label this work "post-Marxist," since Debord remains sympathetic of Marxism while weary of its failures, but by the end of the text it becomes clear it's still a very modernist project. Debord offers hope where I still have my doubts. Personally I buy Marxist critique of capitalist society, but I don't share their messianic belief that replacing this system with another will fix the world's problems. Failure after failure of modernist enterprises have reinforced the disbelief in a panacea. And Debord would accuse those who argue that Marxism can only be achieved on a micro/local scale of accepting the alienating "atomization" of society, and yet his situationist movement was guilty of becoming insular and esoteric. In fact I believe he wrote this after realizing its failure. A great book for spurring discussion. I'd recommend it for any young idealist out there.

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