Activism Discussion: The Society Of The Spectacle (Review)

The Society Of The Spectacle (Review)
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Dan Clore
2008-03-25 01:01:31 EST
News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

[Readers should consult Ken Knabb's Bureau of Public Secrets
(http://www.bopsecrets.org/ ) for texts and translations of the
Situationists -- and for Ken's own work. Both are essential reading.--DC]

http://tinyurl.com/2xf7h6
Books Features
Featured Book Review: Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle
By Judith Fitzgerald Mar 24, 2008, 12:52 GMT

The society whose modernisation has reached the stage of integrated
spectacle is characterised by the combined effect of five principal
factors: incessant technological renewal, integration of state and
economy, generalised secrecy, unanswerable lies, and eternal present . . .
-- Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle (1967)

In December 1994, French essayist, filmmaker, and counter-celebrity
nonpareil Guy Debord helped himself out of this world with a bullet. It
was a direct hit proving, if nothing else, that death's one hell of a
great career move.

Instantly transformed into the sacrificial punk saint of all things
useless, beautiful, and free, the co-founder of the Situationist
International's "anti-movement" during the riotous sixties had done the
undoable: He'd wantonly traded the mystery of invisibility for the shock
of notoriety by making a magnificent spectacle of himself and, in the
process, he'd guaranteed his greatest contribution to civilisation,
culture, and creativity, The Society of the Spectacle, did not vanish
with him. That seminal volume, initially something of a sacred scripture
for activists, anarchists, and maverick academics, shot to the top of
the charts when publications as diverse as Le monde libertaire and The
Utne Reader raced to eulogise the prophetic guy to the skies.

Here on terra firma, on the brink of our brave new nirvana six years
later, Debord's integrated spectacle -- the techno-media juggernaut --
looms larger than life. Just prior to his death, the 62-year-old who
drank too much and wrote too little had wryly observed, in the "Preface
to the Third French Edition" of his uncannily prescient text, that the
"same formidable question that has been haunting the world for two
centuries is about to be posed again, everywhere: How can the poor be
made to work once their illusions have been shattered and once force has
been defeated?"

Positing his belief that the integrated spectacle -- his IS writ large
-- comprises the material reconstruction of "the religious illusion,"
Debord condemned its dictatorial freedom to proclaim "the predominance
of appearances" while concealing its essential character "as a visible
negation of life -- and as a negation of life that has invented a visual
form of itself . . . For what the spectacle expresses is the total
practice of one particular economic and social formation; it is, so to
speak, the formation's agenda. It is also the historical moment by which
we happen to be governed . . . The spectacle is self-generated, and it
makes up its own rules: It is a specious form of the sacred. . . . The
spectator feels at home nowhere, for the spectacle is everywhere . . .
The spectacle's function in society is the concrete manufacture of
alienation . . . The spectacle is capital accumulated to the point where
it becomes image."

Look no further than the ostentatious whoopla surrounding the
AOL-Time-Warner megadeal last week, a nice bit of bizthness pundits
predict will engender copy-cat conglomerates greedy for the greatest
gains at the expense of the greatest good. Merger-mania is afoot; God is
dead; no doubt, with the Western world's accelerated state of disgrace,
what can only be described as cultureless utilitarianism (CU) will -- IS
willing -- outlast us all.

Everybody knows we've been universally flattened by the commodification
of absolutely everything; nobody quite recalls when the remote took
control of our lives. But, like it or not, we've all become the
contemporary anybody, the chronically frustrated voyeur of the
ubiquitously visible, the itsy-bitsy teenie-weenie chip off the ol'
integrated block.

Where cultureless utilitarianism rules, everything equals everything
else. Its proudest contribution to our accelerated razing of
civilisation lurks in its insidious derogation of the producer (either
maker or creator) in favour of the shameless elevation of the product,
the package, the goods. Insofar as aesthetic values, spiritual
mainstays, and guiding principles provide sanctuary for the benumbed and
beleaguered contemporary anybody, CU affirms that when anything goes,
everything most assuredly does.

Each civilisation assesses themes, issues, images, and mythologies
central to its unity and self-respect, predominantly through art and the
sacral. CU's plundering of the gratuitous (or use-less) stands as the
major obstacle to the emotional, psychological, and spiritual growth of
individuals within the global community. Self-definition depends more
upon external factors and relies less upon internal landscapes of the
heart, soul, and spirit, the very things which guarantee civilisation's
preservation and ability to keep barbarity at arm's length.

In this, the epoch of the triumph of CU, we are only as healthy as our
bottom lines (or so the juggernautical core would have us think).
Voiding our contemporary crises of faith, belief, and individual value
resulting from the systematic slaughter of all things useless,
beautiful, and free, the integrated spectacle's perpetual-motion machine
gently soothes, lulls, and consoles us with the rather cold comfort that
we -- the billions of contemporary anybodies -- are anything but alone.

Canadian poet and literary critic Judith Fitzgerald's critically
acclaimed Adagios Quartet's BOOK III: Electra's Benison has just been
named one of The Globe and Mail's TOP 100 BOOKS (2007).

--
Dan Clore

My collected fiction: _The Unspeakable and Others_
http://tinyurl.com/2gcoqt
Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
http://tinyurl.com/292yz9
News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

Skipper: Professor, will you tell these people who is
in charge on this island?
Professor: Why, no one.
Skipper: No one?
Thurston Howell III: No one? Good heavens, this is anarchy!
-- _Gilligan's Island_, episode #6, "President Gilligan"


























P*@gmail.com
2008-03-25 21:22:41 EST
The Society Of The Spectacle changed my life. It is very short but
quite difficult to read. One friend said, "It made me feel as though
I were illiterate."
>

Dan Clore
2008-03-26 19:41:14 EST
p*s@gmail.com wrote:

> The Society Of The Spectacle changed my life. It is very short but
> quite difficult to read. One friend said, "It made me feel as though
> I were illiterate."

"Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It embraces
an author's phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a
false idea, and replaces it with the right idea."
-- Isidore Ducasse (Comte de Lautréamont), _Poésies_

"Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It embraces
an author's phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a
false idea, and replaces it with the right idea."
-- Guy Debord, _The Society of the Spectacle_

--
Dan Clore

My collected fiction, _The Unspeakable and Others_:
http://tinyurl.com/2gcoqt
Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
http://tinyurl.com/292yz9
News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

Strange pleasures are known to him who flaunts the
immarcescible purple of poetry before the color-blind.
-- Clark Ashton Smith, "Epigrams and Apothegms"

P*@gmail.com
2008-03-31 02:42:43 EST
On Mar 27, 7:41 am, Dan Clore <cl...@columbia-center.org> wrote:
> patmpow...@gmail.com wrote:
> > The Society Of The Spectacle changed my life. It is very short but
> > quite difficult to read. One friend said, "It made me feel as though
> > I were illiterate."
>
> "Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It embraces
> an author's phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a
> false idea, and replaces it with the right idea."
> -- Isidore Ducasse (Comte de Lautréamont), _Poésies_
>
> "Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It embraces
> an author's phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a
> false idea, and replaces it with the right idea."
> -- Guy Debord, _The Society of the Spectacle_
>

Yes, that is what makes it a difficult read. He redefines common
words like "spectacle" and "commodity". So if you miss a definition
then the remainder of the book makes no sense.

Big_one
2008-03-31 07:14:02 EST
On Sun, 30 Mar 2008 23:42:43 -0700 (PDT), patpowersspam@gmail.com
wrote:

> He redefines common
>words like "spectacle" and "commodity". So if you miss a definition
>then the remainder of the book makes no sense.

That may be true, but it is a conversation & like a chat over a pint
if you miss a reference you're lost for a while until you get back on
track. However, to the uninitiated it is perhaps an easier read than
wading through the texts it references may be - I'd point a naive
reader curious about (for example) commodity towards Debord rather
than Marx, Lukacs, Nietzsche, etc. & Debourd is clear common sense
compared to his successors like Baudrillard who seem to actively
refuse to clarify or even define terms.

Dan Clore
2008-04-01 00:19:32 EST
p*m@gmail.com wrote:
> On Mar 27, 7:41 am, Dan Clore <cl...@columbia-center.org> wrote:
>> patmpow...@gmail.com wrote:

>>> The Society Of The Spectacle changed my life. It is very short
>>> but quite difficult to read. One friend said, "It made me feel
>>> as though I were illiterate."

>> "Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It embraces an
>> author's phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a false idea,
>> and replaces it with the right idea." -- Isidore Ducasse (Comte de
>> Lautréamont), _Poésies_
>>
>> "Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It embraces an
>> author's phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a false idea,
>> and replaces it with the right idea." -- Guy Debord, _The Society
>> of the Spectacle_
>>
> Yes, that is what makes it a difficult read. He redefines common
> words like "spectacle" and "commodity". So if you miss a definition
> then the remainder of the book makes no sense.

It might help to start with Ken Knabb's _Situationist International
Anthology_, before proceeding to _The Society of the Spectacle_.

--
Dan Clore

My collected fiction, _The Unspeakable and Others_:
http://tinyurl.com/2gcoqt
Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
http://tinyurl.com/292yz9
News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

Strange pleasures are known to him who flaunts the
immarcescible purple of poetry before the color-blind.
-- Clark Ashton Smith, "Epigrams and Apothegms"

P*@gmail.com
2008-04-01 04:26:35 EST
On Apr 1, 11:19 am, Dan Clore <cl...@columbia-center.org> wrote:
> patpowerss...@gmail.com wrote:
> > On Mar 27, 7:41 am, Dan Clore <cl...@columbia-center.org> wrote:
> >> patmpow...@gmail.com wrote:
> >>> The Society Of The Spectacle changed my life. It is very short
> >>> but quite difficult to read. One friend said, "It made me feel
> >>> as though I were illiterate."
> >> "Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It embraces an
> >> author's phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a false idea,
> >> and replaces it with the right idea." -- Isidore Ducasse (Comte de
> >> Lautréamont), _Poésies_
>
> >> "Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It embraces an
> >> author's phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a false idea,
> >> and replaces it with the right idea." -- Guy Debord, _The Society
> >> of the Spectacle_
>
> > Yes, that is what makes it a difficult read. He redefines common
> > words like "spectacle" and "commodity". So if you miss a definition
> > then the remainder of the book makes no sense.
>
> It might help to start with Ken Knabb's _Situationist International
> Anthology_, before proceeding to _The Society of the Spectacle_.
>
> --
> Dan Clore
>
> My collected fiction, _The Unspeakable and Others_:http://tinyurl.com/2gcoqt
> Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:http://tinyurl.com/292yz9
> News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo
>
> Strange pleasures are known to him who flaunts the
> immarcescible purple of poetry before the color-blind.
> -- Clark Ashton Smith, "Epigrams and Apothegms"

What I'm trying to say is to read the Society Of The Spectacle it is
necessary to understand each sentence before proceeding to the next.
Take your time. So if I were to lend that book to anyone else I'd
give them this advice.

Dan Clore
2008-04-01 04:50:01 EST
p*s@gmail.com wrote:
> On Apr 1, 11:19 am, Dan Clore <cl...@columbia-center.org> wrote:
>> patpowerss...@gmail.com wrote:
>>> On Mar 27, 7:41 am, Dan Clore <cl...@columbia-center.org> wrote:
>>>> patmpow...@gmail.com wrote:
>>>>> The Society Of The Spectacle changed my life. It is very
>>>>> short but quite difficult to read. One friend said, "It made
>>>>> me feel as though I were illiterate."
>>>> "Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It embraces an
>>>> author's phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a false
>>>> idea, and replaces it with the right idea." -- Isidore Ducasse
>>>> (Comte de Lautréamont), _Poésies_ "Plagiarism is necessary.
>>>> Progress implies it. It embraces an author's phrase, makes use
>>>> of his expressions, erases a false idea, and replaces it with
>>>> the right idea." -- Guy Debord, _The Society of the Spectacle_
>>> Yes, that is what makes it a difficult read. He redefines common
>>> words like "spectacle" and "commodity". So if you miss a
>>> definition then the remainder of the book makes no sense.

>> It might help to start with Ken Knabb's _Situationist International
>> Anthology_, before proceeding to _The Society of the Spectacle_.

> What I'm trying to say is to read the Society Of The Spectacle it is
> necessary to understand each sentence before proceeding to the next.
> Take your time. So if I were to lend that book to anyone else I'd
> give them this advice.

Yes. It's the sort of thing that you set aside a little time to read,
concentrate on it, and come out changed.

--
Dan Clore

My collected fiction, _The Unspeakable and Others_:
http://tinyurl.com/2gcoqt
Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
http://tinyurl.com/292yz9
News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

Strange pleasures are known to him who flaunts the
immarcescible purple of poetry before the color-blind.
-- Clark Ashton Smith, "Epigrams and Apothegms"
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