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 Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord

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PostSubject: Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord   Sun 14 Mar 2010, 11:29 pm



http://www.amazon.com/Society-Spectacle-Guy-Debord/dp/0934868077/


  • Paperback: 124 pages
  • Publisher: Rebel Press,London; New edition edition (Jan 1992)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 0946061122
  • ISBN-13: 978-0946061129


http://www.martijnhouben.com/book-society-of-the-spectacle

The Society of the spectacle is written by Guy Debord in 1967 and revised in 1977. In a book where he states that Life isn’t the goal of life any more. Life is becoming his own product strongly influenced by the spectacle.

The definition “spectacle’ refers to a stream of images that is a simulation of the world, influenced by those who are influenced by the spectacle. (ref. block 2)

This book is build in blocks, with every page containing 2 or more blocks of text, where every block contains it’s own subject

Block 2. “The images detached from every aspect of life fuse in a common stream in which the unity of this life can no longer be re-established. Reality considered partially unfolds, in its own general unity, as a pseudo-world apart, an object of mere contemplation.

The specialization of images of the world is contemplated in the world of the autonomous image, where the liar has lied to himself. The spectacle in general, as the concrete inversion of life, is the autonomous movement of the non living”

Block 33. “Separated from his product, man himself produces all the details of the world with ever increasing power, and thus finds himself ever more separated from his world. the more his life is now his product, the more he is separated from his life.”

Here he states that life is not the goal of life any more. Life is now his product, a copy of images of the world (spectacle). And the more his life is now his product, the more he is separated from his life.

This book is more or less the introduction to “Simulacra and Simulation” where the philosophy of Guy Debord crosses Jean Baudrillard's philosophy.


From a couple Amazon reviewers...

Great Modern Critique of our Consumer Society


"Religion served the interests of the masters, expounding and embellishing what society could not deliver. Power as a separate realm has always been spectacular, but mass allegiance to frozen religious imagery was originally acknowledgment of loss, an imaginary compensation for a poverty of real social activity...the modern spectacle, by contrast, depicts what society can deliver..."

And The Promised Land, as Debord sees it, is TOTAL CONSUMPTION. This is the edict and goal of contemporary consumer society. The fact that it has grown out of and usurped religious feeling makes the SPECTACLE a competitive product to formal religion. Certainly, Islam feels its power and threat. Certainly, the Middle East is reacting to it, through individual and state sponsored terrorism against the West.

Debord is a difficult read, but ultimately worth it. His insights are penetrating, remarkable, and have proven to be more acute with the passing of time. Private and public over consumption has become a disease and the hallmark of an age that has debt financed prosperity for too long.

For me, Debord's has number of chief insights that signify trouble ahead for our current economic system. One of them is the apparent and obvious falling use value for goods in abundance (many of them pseudo goods - things we don't really need). Having long fulfilled our need for food, clothing, and shelter, our current economic growth is contingent upon consistently manufacturing pseudo needs that must feed upon the boundless desires of persons in an unending pursuit of gratification through purchasing new products and services.

The problem occurs when the next disillusionment, Debord tells us, takes place not with religion or politics but within the commodity itself. Product prestige evaporates into vulgarity soon after its purchase...at this point; the actual poverty of production stands revealed - but too late. By this time another product will demand attention...the continuous process of replacement means that fake gratification cannot help but be exposed as new models are released every year but yet remain all to similar. Why upgrade, we ask?

For the sake of Dell, GM, Microsoft, Target, Home Depot and so on, we had certainly better. Herein lies the rub picked off by Debord: "By the time that the society has become contingent upon the economy, the economy has in point of fact become contingent on society...the economy begins to lose its power."

A society/economy built upon an illusion of needs will certainly be a fragile on at best. Such a society/economy, whose growth rests upon expanding the market of pseudo commodities, has apparently developed a penchant for reporting pseudo revenue earnings (eg. Enron, World Comm, etc). This is all very predictable and very much Debordian.

Debord is reminiscent of McLuhan, full of arcane wisdom and prolix, and a prophet of the current society nonetheless. He predicted our growing devotion to quantitative trivia that arise from a juxtaposition of roles and competing spectacles, and a never-ending succession of, what he calls, "paltry contests - from competitive sports to elections." All this, he says, fuels an abnormal need for representation, to compensate for the feeling of being at the margins of existence. This seems to be modern man, slavishly devoted to commodities, celebrities, politicians, sports teams and sports heroes, compensating for the loss felt by the dividing line being the self and the world that Debord calls THE SPECTACLE.

Although it is not for lightweights or the nonchalant, I do highly recommend this book as a guide to understanding some of the psychological complexes at work in the new society/economy.


Hegelian/Marxist dialectic is hard to follow, but great

If you're not very familiar with the dialectic of hegel and marx, a lot of this book will be lost on you, but the effort is worth it when you realize the enormity of what debord is saying about our society. it becomes even more relevant when, surveying your own environment, you recognize that he is for the most part right.

the personalities of the people who surround us, debord believes, are not their own, but are acquired through images made by pop culture, which replace whatever the person might have become free from these mediated images. they identify (and this usually happens unconsciously, so maybe this isn't as 'radical' a thought as it might at first seem)with characters on television, in movies, and believe that the cultural lie of this or that period is the absolute and metaphysical truth of existence, ie, everyone goes to school, tries to fit in, is happy, gets a family, tries to have a lot of friends, etc. the reason people reject debord's ideas is because they think of them as too radical and abstract, like marx. and yet all this is chillingly consistent with the concrete, everyday reality of our lives.think about most of the people you know and see if you find any of these herdlike qualities in them, and if you're looking at things truthfully, a bell rings.

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PostSubject: Re: Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord   Mon 15 Mar 2010, 9:13 am

Very exciting material, C1. The links are well worth following too, and all in all this looks like a wealth of thoughtful ideas. Thanks for posting this (and be back later, in an as yet undetermined interval, with more comments/questions/thoughts.)

For me, it means I will have to--finally--engage with Beaudrillard's central idea.
A large undertaking...but INTERESTING. Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord   Tue 13 Sep 2011, 3:39 am

It took me a long time to get here, but did you read it? Maybe it is time for me to pick it from the shelve again and discuss some parts here.
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PostSubject: Re: Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord   Tue 13 Sep 2011, 8:17 pm

Martijn wrote:
It took me a long time to get here, but did you read it? Maybe it is time for me to pick it from the shelve again and discuss some parts here.

Hi Martijn!

Well actually- I still have not read Debord's book. but I do have strong opinions re his subject matter, as this is very much related to the field of psychology, in which I am very interested. Certainly, these "symptoms" Debord identifies have not gone unnoticed by professionals, and those interested in the field, and actually comprise a major portion of mental health issues, I believe. It seems to be a major flaw in human nature -- those who do not think for themselves. (Unfortunately).

But, this flaw has been consistently *encouraged* by those who prey (live) on human weakness....thus it is _disproportionately_ present as a flaw in human nature, in my opinion. Another whole topic in itself, of course.

Yes, I'd be interested --please do discuss this further, if you're so inclined.

Furthermore, welcome to the forum. Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord   Wed 14 Sep 2011, 8:36 am

The main message of the book is not about wether people think for them selves or not.

It is about what is real in this world and what is not. “Simulacra and Simulation”, or the movie that is based on the book "The matrix"

Only in the spectacle the focus is more on the product of your life, influenced by media.

For example: Is the product of your life real or is it just a copy of what you experencied via all kinds of influences.

The definition “spectacle’ refers to a stream of images that is a simulation of the world, influenced by those who are influenced by the spectacle.

We copy what we see in the spectacle, wich becomes the product of our life and we place a copy of this in the spectacle. The real world, or the thruth, is no more.
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PostSubject: Re: Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord   Wed 14 Sep 2011, 8:40 am

Tonight I will post block 1 of the book.
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PostSubject: Re: Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord   Thu 15 Sep 2011, 1:59 am

Martijn wrote:
The main message of the book is not about wether people think for them selves or not.

It is about what is real in this world and what is not. “Simulacra and Simulation”, or the movie that is based on the book "The matrix"

Perhaps, this question would not arise- if one was committed to thinking for themselves?
Just food for thought....and look forward to your further posting, for elaboration.

Incidentally, Jacques Ellul discusses this subject, in what I think was a much more accessible way -- at least that is true from the perspective of my *own* psychology; wonder if you've read any of his work?

Later..
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PostSubject: Re: Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord   Thu 15 Sep 2011, 4:35 am

No, I'm more interested in the latest works in the field of Philosophy of Technology. Like Ray Kurtzweil, Or the subject "The internet of things". Since it's more the area of expertise I want to learn/ think about.

But what I am reading about him now is quite interesting. As far as he states that technology (as he defines it) declines the freedom for man to shape his or her life. Is actually the same as Debord's statement.

Got a specific book of him that you think I should read? And is there any response on this related to the development of the Internet? (Mass media shift to Niche media)

To much on my want to read list ^^

Ok here we go next message, Block 1
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PostSubject: Re: Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord   Thu 15 Sep 2011, 4:59 am

1.

Quote :
In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into representation.

The experiences that we learn from and shape our life are less and less from real life.

and block 2 as it explains where he is heading.

Quote :
The images detached from every aspect of life fuse in a common stream in wich the unity of this life can no longer be reestablished. Reality considered partially unfolds, in its own general unity, as a pseudo-world apart, an object of mere contemplation. The specialization of images of the world is completed in the world of the autonomous image, where liar has lied to himself. the spectacle in general, as the concrete inversion of life, is the autonomous movement of the non living.

As we shape our life through the spectacle and then place a copy of this back in the spectacle it becomes even less real.

It took me some time to really understand the meaning of "The spectacle" (May be because the English used in the book was quite difficult for me to understand).
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PostSubject: Re: Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord   Thu 15 Sep 2011, 1:09 pm

Martijn wrote:
The main message of the book is not about wether people think for them selves or not.

It is about what is real in this world and what is not. “Simulacra and Simulation”, or the movie that is based on the book "The matrix"

Only in the spectacle the focus is more on the product of your life, influenced by media.

For example: Is the product of your life real or is it just a copy of what you experencied via all kinds of influences.

The definition “spectacle’ refers to a stream of images that is a simulation of the world, influenced by those who are influenced by the spectacle.

We copy what we see in the spectacle, wich becomes the product of our life and we place a copy of this in the spectacle. The real world, or the thruth, is no more.

Sorry but I just can't relate to this experience - or am I lucky? (smile)
It sounds like mental fragmentation and confusion - so, a mental health issue, IMO. It's hard to tell exactly what is being described though, and I wish Debord had been a lot clearer in his use of language! (Ellul does a far better job of communicating, but even then this is a *difficult*, even elusive, subject requiring, for sure, very precise language.)

On a related note, the book I would recommend to start with is Ellul's The Technological Revolution.
All of his books are well worth reading, though--

With regard to Kurzweil, I am *not* a fan. I am very much against transhumanism and everything that pertains to it. I think it is the product of very diseased minds - and hope the 'singularity' manages to exterminate Mr. Kurzweil while it is 'changing everything for the better.' Cool Evil or Very Mad

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PostSubject: Re: Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord   Mon 19 Sep 2011, 1:06 pm

Martijn wrote:
But what I am reading about him now is quite interesting. As far as he states that technology (as he defines it) declines the freedom for man to shape his or her life. Is actually the same as Debord's statement.
Technology is merely a technique (per Jacques Ellul) to transfer power to those who control the technique. Technology moves everything it touches into Simulacra. Specifically, in Norbert Weiner's designed computer connected system, the Simulacra follows the laws ot Set Theory, and thereby is ordered, pedictable, and thereby controllabe.

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