on 9 November 2006
This book - in conjunction with some secondary literature and other NOT RANDOM situ texts - is one of the few which can come to revolutionise your perception ALL THE WAY DOWN. Of course : it is obscure and relies on a familiarity with alot of marxist terminology - but it bares, and demands, repeated readings which demonstrates how these concepts have alot of life in them! If I was to formulate its thesis then today it would be : you are always watching others do things instead of doing something which would exceed the gaze of another watching you. This is the road towards de-reification et al...
on 19 April 2012
This is an attractively presented edition of Debord's excellent neo-Marxian critique of capitalism, including an interesting new introduction. Two elements of Debord's brief masterpiece stood out, to me at least, as particularly relevant in the contemporary context:
(1) His warning (in 1968) that the rise of the service sector in the West and the shift of manufacturing to the East did not signal the emergence of a classless society, but rather the penetration of 'factory-like' working conditions into the new 'white collar' jobs being created and, ultimately, the intensification, rather than the resolution, of class antagonisms and exploitation. The global financial crisis (and specifically the implications of the various 'austerity measures' for 'ordinary' working people), along with the 'Occupy' protests ('the 99%' versus 'the 1%' etc) would seem to bear this argument out.
(2) The idea of the spectacle as 'a social relation between people that is mediated by images' has never been more relevant than in the age of Facebook, iPads and 24-hour rolling news - from 9/11 to the 'Arab Spring', the twenty-first century has proven that the society of the spectacle is still very much alive today.
A book well-worth reading.
De Bord is not an easy read. Locked into that European, let's make it as hard as possible to understand language of the left. Take a bow Deleuze, Guattari, Althusser, Marcuse, Habermas et al.
Unlike the above with the exception of Marcuse, who is a kindred spirit, the effort is worth it. More kernels of knowledge tumble out of De Bord than Nietzsche. The difference is, Nietzsche is a wade through a swamp of reaction to find the uncut diamonds. These need to be prised away from his misanthropy. De Bord is a streamlined philosopher in comparison.
He has more to say and conceptualises it succinctly when the language is decoded. Whilst Marx concentrated on economics, De bord analyses the banality of everyday life. He paints a vision of a poetic existence,a Dionysian fusion of art and living derived from the imaginative desires.
A huge impact on punk, live this day as though it is your last. Drawing on energy to invigorate rather than destroy. This little package sent shock-waves throughout the 80's.
Rebellion succumbs to mammon, the lure of cars, men/women/s available bodies, houses, the appollonian stability enticed many to lay down their cultural cudgels.
How they rue the days when Dionysius, the pipes of Pan and the intoxication of Bacchus were consigned to under the bed shoe boxed? Constant substance use fueled intoxication leads to eventual disaster but De bord was calling for a revolution of everyday life not for alcoholism.
Instead in the UK the grinding treadmill consumed young bodies and spat out dull grey lives. The lesson of tedium encased in this book, the Dionysian life, is not a template for a slow form of suicide. It is about undertaking a personal revolution in spirit, form, belief and understanding to create a society/soviet of young gods. It is the opposite of the open plan office, the chicken factory, the Vauxhall Vectra/Ford Mondeo, Neighbours, x factor, big brother, holby city, saatchi anointed piece of art nonsense, turner prize, grammy award, Oscar nominated, critic directed , designer label alienated piece of trash.
Take up a brush, spray can, guitar, computer and recreate the world in your image but also learn about yourself and others in the process. Never be consumed with hubris. This is the root of all descending lives based on an essential lack of self security.
The book is a guide to change, hidden amongst the many mediocre tomes clamoring to subsume the individual in a morass of mediocrity.
on 28 November 2010
there are much better translations, such as the one by Ken Knabb; that can easily be found online for free. this is not an easy or even accurate translation of a book who's key principals are on Wikipedia. Reading it will not enlighten you any more unless you are especially into Situ literature. I recommend reading or watching 'The Angry Brigade' (Carr) and then downloading Knabb's translation for a skip read.
on 26 March 2011
...bringing clarity to how we are manipulated by the whole of the mass media, describing in unique precision how the spectacle (pure capitalism within globalisation) is bulldozing it's way through our lives within the veil of false democracy and who has created the distorted illusion of the reality we live in today.
If you are unaware of the way the political powers in place have manipulated, with skillful psychological prowess, the human collective conscious mind before reading this book, and are receptive to truth and read with an unbiased view point, this book will shock and lift a veil from your eyes you never knew was there. You will never see the world as you did before again after immersing yourself in the fantastic world of Guy Debord.
This book should be raised high at every anti government rally until we are free from the spectacle that controls the collective conscious, but be cautious when you follow this white rabbit and be prepared for an epic journey, you will emerge from this book a different person with a clearer vision and hopefully a mind that has changed for the better.
Contrary to some views here I found it easy to read as it helped expand on thoughts I already had. Along with Freddy and Karl's Communist Manifesto it could be the most dangerous book to challenge popular culture ever put into print.
I absolutely recommend buying this book if its the last thing you do. Once you have read it pass it on or buy it again for your friends and close family.
I cant believe that this book has had a single positive review and am tempted to believe that there something of an "emperor's new clothes" dynamic going on, intellectuals tell you what's hot, you'd like to be an intellectual yourself, therefore you agree.
The writing style is horrendous and convoluted in the extreme, for entire chapters I thought that I must surely be missing the point or lacked the insight being an initiate of some strange mystery school would provide.
The entire idea, from what I can tell, is that consumer society and economy have all sorts of ways of stealing your time, identity etc. and selling it back to you. No matter how much you attempt to develop yourself independently you are, in reality, only working to buy a sembalance of yourself. Everyone's reduced to a spectator and bystander.
Now the problem is that this is easily said, in a single paragraph, and other authors have hit upon this alienating aspect of modern life before but it doesnt deserve an entire book, some of them summed it up in a paragraph.
In addition I would say that its a very weak criticism of consumer culture, society and economy, lots of people are more than content with being relegated to the position of spectator, or so it would seem. The popularity of socialism, for instance, in third world nations for instance has often been premised upon the idea of fast tracking the country to the point that Guy criticises.
The promises, hopes or vision of socialism elsewhere couldnt provide the same allure or attraction compared with the prospect of constructing an identity through consumer choices and accessorise, accessorise, accessorise ruled the day.
To acknowledge my bias I'm not a fan of continental philosophy, classical philosophy, anglo-american philosophers can appear pedantic, repetitive and conservative by contrast but they are not inaccessible or convoluted in their style. It depends what sort of read you want but I think this will prove a disatisfying read to anyone who thinks about it.
on 2 May 2009
I'm very glad I purchased this book; I bought it on recommendation of hearing a Will Self talk about psycho geography as well as having socialist leanings.
It was initially difficult for me to penetrate, but the more I progressed with the books the gladder I became that I did as it seemed to open itself up more.
It was also enjoyable to have a something that propelled me to challenge my own behaviour, especially towards my consumer habits.