The Society of the Spectacle
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For the first time, Guy Debord's pivotal work Society of the Spectacle appears in a definitive and authoritative English translation. Originally published in France in 1967, Society of the Spectacle offered a set of radically new propositions about the nature of contemporary capitalism and modern culture. At the same time it was one of the most influential theoretical works for a wide range of political and revolutionary practice in the 1960s. Today, Debord's work continues to be in the forefront of debates about the fate of consumer society and the operation of modern social power. In a sweeping revision of Marxist categories, the notion of the spectacle takes the problem of the commodity from the sphere of economics to a point at which the commodity as an image dominates not only economic exchange but the primary communicative and symbolic activity of all modern societies.Guy Debord was one of the most important participants in the activities associated with the Situationist International in the 1960s. Also an artist and filmmaker, he is the author of Memoires and Commentaires sur la société du spectacle. A Swerve Edition, distributed for Zone Books.
bureaucrat is thus totally dependent on the central seal of legitimacy provided by the ruling ideology, which validates the collective participation in its “socialist regime” of all the bureaucrats it does not liquidate. Although the bureaucrats are collectively empowered to make all social decisions, the cohesion of their own class can be ensured only by the concentration of their terrorist power in a single person. In this person resides the only practical truth of the ruling lie: the power to
bureaucracies with competing interests that have succeeded in establishing their own “socialism” in more than one country has led to an all-out public confrontation between the Russian lie and the Chinese lie. From this point on, each bureaucracy in power will have to find its own way; and the same is true for each of the totalitarian parties aspiring to such power (notably those that still survive from the Stalinist period among certain national working classes). This international collapse has
of their social practices, with which all human possibilities are identified for all time, has no external limit but the fear of falling back into a formless animal condition. The members of these societies remain human at the price of always remaining the same. 131 With the emergence of political power — which seems to be associated with the last great technological revolutions (such as iron smelting) at the threshold of a period that would experience no further major upheavals until
control in today’s “planned environment” have created an artificial neopeasantry. The geographical dispersal and the narrow-mindedness that have always prevented the peasantry from undertaking independent action and becoming a creative historical force are equally characteristic of these modern producers, for whom a world of their own making is as inaccessible as were the natural rhythms of work in agrarian societies. The peasantry was the steadfast foundation of “Oriental despotism,” in that its
factitious god, it engenders itself and makes its own rules. It reveals itself for what it is: an autonomously developing separate power, based on the increasing productivity resulting from an increasingly refined division of labor into parcelized gestures dictated by the independent movement of machines, and working for an ever-expanding market. In the course of this development, all community and all critical awareness have disintegrated; and the forces that were able to grow by separating from