The spectacle is the moment when the commodity has attained the total occupation of social life. Not only is the relation to the commodity visible but it is all one sees: the world one sees is its world. Modern economic production extends its dictatorship extensively and intensively. In the least industrialized places, its reign is already attested by a few star commodities and by the imperialist domination imposed by regions which are ahead in the development of productivity. In the advanced regions, social space is invaded by a continuous superimposition of geological layers of commodities. At this point in the "second industrial revolution," alienated consumption becomes for the masses a duty supplementary to alienated production. It is all the sold labor of a society which globally becomes the total commodity for which the cycle must be continued. For this to be done, the total commodity has to return as a fragment to the fragmented individual, absolutely separated from the productive forces operating as a whole. Thus it is here that the specialized science of domination must in turn specialize: it fragments itself into sociology, psychotechnics, cybernetics, semiology, etc., watching over the self-regulation of every level of the process.
Free play confined within the terrain of artistic dissolution is only the cooption of free play. In spring 1962 the press began reporting on the “happenings” produced by the some of the avant-garde artists of New York. The happening is a sort of spectacle pushed to the extreme state of dissolution, a vaguely dadaist-style improvisation of gestures performed by a gathering of people within a confined space. Drugs, alcohol and eroticism are often involved. The gestures of the “actors” strive toward a melange of poetry, painting, dance and jazz. This form of social encounter can be considered as an instance of the old artistic spectacle pushed to the extreme, a hash produced by throwing together all the old artistic leftovers; or as a too aesthetically encumbered attempt to renovate the ordinary surprise party or the classic orgy. In its naïve striving to “make something happen,” its absence of separate spectators and its desire to liven up (however feebly) the impoverished range of present human relations, the happening can even be considered as an attempt to construct a situation in isolation, on a foundation of poverty (material poverty, the poverty of encounters, the poverty inherited from the artistic spectacle, and the poverty of the “philosophy” that has to considerably “ideologize” the reality of these events). In contrast, the situations defined by the SI can be constructed only on a foundation of material and spiritual richness. This amounts to saying that the first ventures in constructing situations must be the work/play of the revolutionary avant-garde; people who are resigned in one way or another to political passivity, to metaphysical despair, or even to being subjected to an art of total noncreativity, are incapable of participating in them.
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