Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It's been decades since Molly first read Guy Debord's 'Society of the Spectacle'. The years have not been kind to the body of ideas, 'situationism' that spawned this book and many others. Not that the concepts haven't become popular nor that they have been proven wrong. If anything the ideas of situationism have become overly popular and have become corrupted by their success. The progeny of the "sits" in the USA, the "post-leftists", for instance have abandoned what was valuable in the insights and kept the worst, the turgid prose and the desire to take matters to an astronomical height of abstraction.
Yet, the basic ideas are just as valuable today as when they were first written over 40 years ago. If nothing else The Society of the Spectacle should be required reading for the diminishing band of anarchists who think that summit-hopping and ritualized combat with the police (always losing in such street fights, as Molly has pointed out many times before on this blog) is actually doing something. If anything deserves the term "spectacular opposition" it is this lemming like behavior, along with the subcultural trinkets of appearance that seem to adorn the participants.
What follows is a promo from the online anarchist library and publisher, 'The Bureau of Public Secrets'. The BOPS is devoted to all things situationist, and is an invaluable resource. check it out.

The Society of the Spectacle‏:
Bureau of Public Secrets (
Guy Debord's THE SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLE, originally published in 1967, is easily the most important radical book of the twentieth century.
Contrary to popular misconceptions, Debord's book is neither an ivory tower"philosophical discourse" nor an impulsive "rant" or "protest." It is an effort to clarify the nature of the situation in which we find ourselves and the advantages and drawbacks of various methods for changing it. It examines the most fundamental tendencies and contradictions of the present society --what is really going on behind the spectacular surface phenomena that we are conditioned to perceive as the only reality.
This means that it needs to be reread many times, but it also means that it remains as pertinent as ever while countless radical and intellectual fads have come and gone. As Debord noted in his later "Comments on the Society of the Spectacle" (1988), in the intervening decades the spectacle has become more pervasive than ever, to the point of repressing virtually any awareness of pre-spectacle history or anti-spectacle possibilities: "Spectacular domination has succeeded in raising an entire generation molded to its laws."
Debord's strategy is to cut through the mass of false solutions so as to open the way for real ones. His method may seem negative and abstract, but his aim is positive and concrete. No matter how many times you read his book, you will never really understand it until you use it. Which means using your imagination and experimenting for yourself. The purpose of the book is to help you do just that.
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Ken Knabb's translation of THE SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLE is online at
The translation is also available in book form
A new PDF version is online at
Debord also made a film of his book, which is available in various formats --
Related texts by Debord and other members of the Situationist International are online at
P.O. Box 1044, Berkeley CA 94701
"Making petrified conditions dance by singing them their own tune."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Youngsters might want to check out a slightly fresher site, something a little less dusty, ie, NOT BORED!