Skip

An Illustrated Society of the Spectacle
April 28, 2014 1:20 PM   Subscribe

Fifty years on, we're still coming to terms with Guy Debord's 1967 situationist text, The Society of the Spectacle. Debord presented an eerily-accurate portrait of our image-saturated, mediated times. You can find all kinds of insights into the spectacle of 2014, from Instagram and viral marketing to hipster culture and personal brands. Fittingly, he also did it with a series of short, aphoristic sections that could almost be described as proto-tweets. Leveraging the Tumblr aesthetic, Ryan Oakley has created an Illustrated Society of the Spectacle (start there, then click "Newer Post" to progress.) The images aim to resonate with Debord's text, rather than provide on-the-nose illustrations. NSFW. posted by naju (15 comments total) 66 users marked this as a favorite

 
Spectacles. On the nose.

I see what you did there, with my four eyes.
posted by Foosnark at 1:31 PM on April 28 [6 favorites]


I was tempted to add a Google Glass dig in there too.
posted by naju at 1:32 PM on April 28


start there, then click "Newer Post" to progress.

or view as archive, and start where you like
posted by thelonius at 1:35 PM on April 28


(That archive is not all Spectacle-related. There's this if you want to quickly scroll through, though.)
posted by naju at 1:38 PM on April 28


The tautological character of the spectacle stems from the fact that its means and ends are identical. It is the sun that never sets over the empire of modern passivity. It covers the entire surface of the globe, endlessly basking in its own glory.

Ouch.
posted by jquinby at 1:41 PM on April 28 [2 favorites]


Debord translation at the Bureau Public Secrets website is done by Ken Knabb metafilter user # 26104. Check out: this essay on his website comparing Situationism in Paris 1968 and Occupy Oakland.
posted by bukvich at 2:46 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


From the op-ed writer giving the reach-around to Debord:

I always picture the archetypal modern crowd: squeezed up against each other, but all looking intently at the blinking screens they hold in their hands, while their thumbs punch out an imitation of life that surely proves Debord's point ten thousand times over.

I'm sorry, but this sort of stuff -- which gets served up in the Guardian, the NYT, the WaPo about once a week these days -- is just rolled-gold bullshit. The whole notion of a stark dichotomy between the authentic real world and the realm of phoney, virtual, digital spectacle is unsustainable, as sociologist Nathan Jurgenson has shown in his work on digital dualism and the IRL fetish. Digital technologies such as smartphones are in many cases is ushering in new, highly meaningful, authentic forms of sociality and community that are not at all an imitation of life. They *are* real life; real life that's mediated by technology.
posted by dontjumplarry at 2:46 PM on April 28 [13 favorites]


Meant to add: and there's a growing body of sociological research on uses of technology that shows exactly that.

But why bother engaging with careful, empirical 2014 sociological research when you can learn everything you need to know about digital culture from a 1960s Marxist theorist?
posted by dontjumplarry at 2:48 PM on April 28 [3 favorites]


Fifty years on, we're still coming to terms with Guy Debord's 1967 situationist text..

When I hear the word "text" I reach for my paracetamol.
posted by Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez at 3:20 PM on April 28 [2 favorites]


They *are* real life; real life that's mediated by technology.

tell that to a crow
posted by pyramid termite at 4:12 PM on April 28 [2 favorites]


I've never liked this line of thought. One, it doesn't really have a good solution. It's defeatist at its core. For example:

How we confront the spectacle is a subject for another piece: in essence, the Situationists' contention was that its colonisation of life was not quite complete, and resistance has to begin with finding islands of the authentic, and building on them (though as what some people call late capitalism has developed, such opportunities have inevitably shrunk, a fact captured in the bleak tone of Debord's 1989 text Comments on the Society of Spectacle, published five years before he killed himself).

It also breeds contempt for people, that they are too caught up in the spectacle for real revolutionary change to ever happen. From these theories a thousand shouts of "Sheeple!" are born.

I mean:

But when I read it now, I always picture the archetypal modern crowd: squeezed up against each other, but all looking intently at the blinking screens they hold in their hands, while their thumbs punch out an imitation of life that surely proves Debord's point ten thousand times over.

Those are people. They are congratulating, consoling, flirting, and basically living their lives. Even if you get on board that they are all enthralled to the spectacle, the author seems to hold prisoners in contempt because of their jailer's chains.
posted by zabuni at 4:32 PM on April 28 [4 favorites]


It's defeatist at its core.

I can see why. Society loves The Spectacle.
posted by ovvl at 5:12 PM on April 28


But why bother engaging with careful, empirical 2014 sociological research when you can learn everything you need to know about digital culture from a 1960s Marxist theorist?

🆗🆒❗️🍔
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:07 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


It's a shame that all the quotes from SotS are always from the beginning of the book; hardly anyone notices chapter 4, which is IMHO the most brilliant chapter. Here's the full text of SotS from marxists.org. SotS is much more than a contemplation of the aesthetics of "spectacle" (although it is that, too).

The new signs of negation multiplying in the economically developed countries, signs which are misunderstood and falsified by spectacular arrangement, already enable us to draw the conclusion that a new epoch has begun: now, after the workers’ first attempt at subversion, it is capitalist abundance which has failed. When anti-union struggles of Western workers are repressed first of all by unions, and when the first amorphous protests launched by rebellious currents of youth directly imply the rejection of the old specialized politics, of art and of daily life, we see two sides of a new spontaneous struggle which begins under a criminal guise. These are the portents of a second proletarian assault against class society. When the last children of this still immobile army reappear on this battleground which was altered and yet remains the same, they follow a new “General Ludd” who, this time, urges them to destroy the machines of permitted consumption.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 9:14 PM on April 28 [2 favorites]


The Society of the Spectacle offered in 1967 an eerily accurate portrait of our image-saturated, mediated times

Wait, I thought it offered portrait of life in 60s?
Are you saying that nothing changed since 60s? Are you saying that he was originally wrong, but now it is acidentally right? What are you saying, Mr John Harris, journalist and author?


(While I know next to nothing about Debord, that Guardian piece is prime example of lazy rehashing and logical fallacies used to make everything fit into narration of constant acceleration and over-saturation of current digital-mediated life by means of some very vague fake juxtapositions with implied distractionless age of mindfulness that actually never existed.)
posted by desultory_banyan at 11:25 AM on May 1


« Older Everyone tries to do a pull up, everyone.   |   Polar bears, poop, and dogs! Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post