Society of the spectacle - Guy Debord

Society of the spectacle - Guy Debord

French Situationist Guy Debord's seminal analysis of consumer capitalism in the late 20th century.

La Société du Spectacle was first published in 1967 by Editions Buchet-Chastel (Paris); it was reprinted in 1971 by Champ Libre (Paris). The first English translation was published by Black & Red in 1970. It was revised in 1977, incorporating numerous improvements suggested by friends and critics of the first translation. This version was translated in 2002 by Ken Knabb, taken from the Bureau of Public Secrets.

Knabb has also produced helpful notes on this text, here, for reference.

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Comments

Jacques Roux
Feb 10 2015 11:08

Discussion on the film Debord later made of the same name:

http://libcom.org/forums/thought/society-of-the-spectacle

zugzwang
Oct 18 2019 02:22

Is it just me or is this sort of a challenging text? I've tried reading it on multiple occasions but nothing ever clicks...

jura
Oct 18 2019 10:34

Some would venture as far as to say that it's 80% posturing, 20% content...

sabot
Oct 18 2019 18:21

Yeah, I would never recommend this book to anyone tbh. I know on occasion it makes some interesting insights, but it's not worth the read in general.

darren p
Oct 18 2019 18:43

I don't think it's really that difficult to read, and it's only really a long pamphlet. Start with "The proletariat as subject and representation". It's definitely interesting, but "the spectacle" wasn't such a groundbreaking, or all-explanatory concept as GD would have liked you to think...

Maybe "The Poverty of Student Life" is the best text to introduce the Situationists

Khawaga
Oct 18 2019 19:13

I agree with darren p. Chapter 4 is actually quite good in my opinion (and is often not read by lots of people who use this text). It's also a good example of deterounement, in this case of Capital. It is playful, but, yeah, there's not that much content overall.

R Totale
Oct 20 2019 09:45

The suggestion about starting off with Chapter 4 is a good one. I'd say it's a brilliant updating of revolutionary theory to the conditions of mid-20th capitalism, but of course not all of that is going to be relevant today.
Other suggestions for possibly easier starting points for getting to grips with the sits:
Spectacular Times would probably be my #1 recommendation for a nice, short, very readable introduction to situationist perspectives.
Revolution of Daily Life is a whole lot longer than SotS, much more of a proper book, but on the other hand I think Vaneigem's writing style is a whole lot easier and more fun than Debord's. With the caveat that everyone's tastes are different and one person's great writing is another person's flowery nonsense, but I'd recommend at least trying that one if you haven't already.
Contributions to The Revolutionary Struggle, Intended To Be Discussed, Corrected, And Principally, Put Into Practice Without Delay and Instructions for an Insurrection are two other short ones that stick in my head.

Spikymike
Oct 27 2019 16:13

I often recommend this short text that develops a useful theme on the back of a reflection on Debord's contribution to the development of Marx's analysis:
https://libcom.org/library/marxism-dead-long-live-marxism-mike-rooke