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.
total control over the state, the economy, the means of expression, and soon even over people’s thoughts. Trotsky’s and Parvus’s theory of permanent revolution, which Lenin adopted in April 1917, was the only theory that proved true for countries with underdeveloped bourgeoisies; but it became true only after the unknown factor of bureaucratic class power came into the picture. In the numerous arguments within the Bolshevik leadership, Lenin was the most consistent advocate of concentrating
interests that constitute it, and thus is merely one particular type of time. Chapter 6: Spectacular Time “We have nothing of our own except time, which even the homeless can experience.” —Baltasar Gracián, The Art of Worldly Wisdom 147 The time of production — commodified time — is an infinite accumulation of equivalent intervals. It is irreversible time made abstract, in which each segment need only demonstrate by the clock its purely quantitative equality with all the
supposed to look forward to. But all that is really happening is that the spectacle is displaying and reproducing itself at a higher level of intensity. What is presented as true life turns out to be merely a more truly spectacular life. 154 Although the present age presents itself as a series of frequently recurring festivities, it is an age that knows nothing of real festivals. The moments within cyclical time when members of a community joined together in a luxurious expenditure of
frenetic replacement at every pulsation of the spectacular machinery. Conversely, what is really lived has no relation to the society’s official version of irreversible time, and conflicts with the pseudocyclical rhythm of that time’s consumable by-products. This individual experience of a disconnected everyday life remains without language, without concepts, and without critical access to its own past, which has nowhere been recorded. Uncommunicated, misunderstood and forgotten, it is smothered
illusory escapes from a universal autism. 219 The spectacle obliterates the boundaries between self and world by crushing the self besieged by the presence-absence of the world. It also obliterates the boundaries between true and false by repressing all directly lived truth beneath the real presence of the falsehood maintained by the organization of appearances. Individuals who passively accept their subjection to an alien everyday reality are thus driven toward a madness that reacts to