The Society of the Spectacle – Guy Debord (1967)


The Society of the Spectacle (French: La société du spectacle) is a 1967 work of philosophy and Marxist critical theory by Guy Debord, in which the author develops and presents the concept of the Spectacle. The book is considered an important text for the Situationist movement. Debord published a follow-up book Comments on the Society of the Spectacle in 1988. The work is a series of 221 short theses. They contain approximately a paragraph each. Debord traces the development of a modern society in which authentic social life has been replaced with its representation: ‘All that once was directly lived has become mere representation.’ Debord argues that the history of social life can be understood as ‘the decline of being into having, and having into merely appearing.’ This condition, according to Debord, is the ‘historical moment at which the commodity completes its colonization of social life.’ … In his analysis of the spectacular society, Debord notes that quality of life is impoverished, with such lack of authenticity, human perceptions are affected, and there’s also a degradation of knowledge, with the hindering of critical thought. Debord analyzes the use of knowledge to assuage reality: the spectacle obfuscates the past, imploding it with the future into an undifferentiated mass, a type of never-ending present; in this way the spectacle prevents individuals from realizing that the society of spectacle is only a moment in history, one that can be overturned through revolution. Debord’s aim and proposal is ‘to wake up the spectator who has been drugged by spectacular images,’ ‘through radical action in the form of the construction of situations’ ‘situations that bring a revolutionary reordering of life, politics, and art’. In the situationist view, situations are actively created moments, characterized by ‘a sense of self-consciousness of existence within a particular environment or ambience’. Debord encouraged the use of détournement, ‘which involves using spectacular images and language to disrupt the flow of the spectacle.’ The Society of the Spectacle is a critique of contemporary consumer culture and commodity fetishism, dealing with issues such as class alienation, cultural homogenization, and mass media. …”
Wikipedia
An Illustrated Guide to Guy Debord’s ‘The Society of the Spectacle’
NY Times: Trump and the ‘Society of the Spectacle’
Guardian: Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle
amazon, [PDF] The Society of the Spectacle
YouTube: Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord 1:27:06

Guy Debord

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