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Commentaires sur La société du spectacle…
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Commentaires sur La société du spectacle (edition 1996)

by Guy Debord

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279374,947 (3.85)3
This is a seminal text in cultrual theory and an essential pocket handbook for situationists wherever they may be.
Member:adulau
Title:Commentaires sur La société du spectacle
Authors:Guy Debord
Info:Gallimard (1996), Broché, 147 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:debord society media

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Comments on the Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord

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A must read. Although it enhances your understanding to read [b:Society of the Spectacle|381440|The Society of the Spectacle|Guy Debord|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1370746722s/381440.jpg|371226] first, it's not absolutely necessary. SotS is one of the most politically astute grand visions of the social order ever written. Revolutionary. Profound. Enlightening. (And admittedly somewhat difficult in degree-of-esoteric-jargon. But if you can accept not understanding everything, it’s worth it.)

Debord was of course French and the original work inspired the student/union workers revolt that occurred in France in 1968. Debord and his fellow movement leaders were called The Situationists or Situationist International. It's rather amazing to think, from the current perspective of a relatively inactive, uninspired and uneducated American society, that an esoteric book of political theory inspired student to lead a mass strike involving up to 11 million workers for two weeks. This was roughly 2/3 of the French workforce. The closest thing that has occurred today is the revolution in Egypt.

The students and workers in ’68 were primarily revolting against modern consumerist and technologist society; the movement was anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist. Yes, it was grounded in Marxism, but it was quite opposed to both Communism and Capitalism. They were decidedly anti-Stalinist. Strangely enough, The Situationists married Marxist thinking with avant-garde art.

Debord advocated for businesses and industry to be run by individual workers' councils--the employees run their own companies, not executives or managers. Not a centralized Communist government, but local, autonomous collectives. I think this would certainly be a big improvement over the way our current society is run, but my biggest objection to Marxism has been the presumption that industry should exist at all. I think the unstoppable juggernaut which is global warming demonstrates that processing natural materials on an industrial scale is a suicidal practice. But despite my opposition to industrial product, Debord critique of civilization is invaluable as it demonstrates exactly how our self-destructive behavior is obscured and transformed by “The Spectacle.” Interestingly, in this book, the Comments on his original, he does not mention the workers' councils at all.

So, what is the Spectacle? It’s not just advertising, television and the media although those are significant tools and aspects of it. The Spectacle is the totality of methods, constructs and communications used in an advanced capitalist society to construct a false reality to mask the real one, the degraded reality created by Capitalism. Baudrillard is a good reference here, see Screened Out, who talks about how our experiences have been “virtualized.” All branding, for example, acts as a tool to distract consumers from reality and get them to focus on symbolism instead of concrete reality. Nike represents sports, endurance, overcoming challenges, grabbing what you want from life, athleticism and through celebrity endorsements, the peak that the body can achieve. The reality is that almost all Nike clothes and shoes are made by poor overworked children and adults in third-world countries who barely survive on poverty-maintaining wages. In another regard, why is one bag intended to carry supplies priced at $10 and the next one $500. Because it’s Lands End vs. Gucci. An illusion. It gets deeper and deeper the more you look at the illusions that motivate us. The fact that every time we drive our cars we’re spewing poison that contributes to global warming. These realities are constantly obscured and obfuscated along with many, many others. Our entire political system is based on falsification of the debate, side issues and distractions. We have dumb and dumber parties to choose from. For a reason…even when you support the lesser of two evils, you’re still supporting the system. Obama provides cover to continue the plunder.

This particular book, Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, published 22 years after [b:Society of the Spectacle|381440|The Society of the Spectacle|Guy Debord|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1370746722s/381440.jpg|371226], is a thoughtful gloss on the original, updating some thoughts on how the Spectacle has evolved over the years, strengthened its grip on us, and continued to weave a web of lies that is nearly inescapable—because it benefits those who currently control the wealth and power. A valuable book and highly recommended. ( )
1 vote David_David_Katzman | Nov 26, 2013 |
All I really have to say about it myself is that the parts about terrorism and the insistence of power on being used are both disturbingly prescient to read these days. ( )
  jhudsui | Sep 1, 2012 |
Guy Debord's follow up to Society of the Spectacle. While just as insightful, it's clear that at this point Debord has grown increasingly cynical about the prospects of destroying capitalism, and his emphasis on secret intelligence agencies and their level of power is enough to make anyone depressed. Ultimately, Debord sounds more defeated than defiant. ( )
1 vote emptyw | Oct 6, 2011 |
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