Friday, August 14, 2009

Society of the Spectacle

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.

* * *

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

1 comment:

feddabonn said...

good to see you back jim!

i've probably heard more *of debord than i have heard *him, if you know what i mean. i find it fantastically difficult to wade through 'deep' stuff, even when i like what they are saying. thanks for the links, will give this a good shot!