on June 3, 2016
Guy Debord was the most important thinker in the Situationist movement in France. Often cited as a radical critique of the post capitalist milieu, as history documents what can occur with some French intellectuals, he left us far too soon.
Debord's ‘Society of the Spectacle’ is a rare work of pure social theory with only occasional references to the tangible. As a highly advanced and sophisticated post-Marxist work, Debord issues a stunning critique mainly of the demand side of capitalism and its culture industry. In my mind, it is almost incorrect to see much Marxian theory in this work as Debord was really playing in the sand pit of Thorstein Veblen and to some extent Charles Horton Cooley. It is doubtful that Debord even read those two geniuses but maybe he did.
It would be unfair to see The Society Of The Spectacle as a work which predicts modern phenomenons such as Facebook, now the fourth largest company in the world. For those who must find practical pegs to hang such theory on, it is impossible to ignore such things.
Debord however had bigger fish to fry, far bigger fish because he is referring, well, basically to the entire mode of modern Western civilisation. Yes, indeed, this is a post-Marxist work after all.
It is a masterful execution of abstract critique, only really recommended for those familiar with advanced social theory. Many who read this might wonder what it is about.
If I can summarise it in a soundbite, Debord answers the question, “If you have a society so advanced that all material needs are taken care of, what then is society about?” In short, it is about ‘The Spectacle’.
on January 25, 2013
DeBord is, as Foucault once described Derrida (mistakenly, I believe), a "militant obscurantist". My review of the book will take into account DeBord's writing style, which is the real hurdle here. Whereas Derrida can seem paradoxical or to follow the paths of very questionable logics, who are not always self-evident, one can generally find their way back and come to an understanding. The content begins with cursory definitions which are easy to overlook. He does not dwell on explaining or rendering explicit many of his assertions. The language employed tends to follow a pattern, which through of the course of one's readership, is not any more revelatory than it was at the beginning. It requires a very circuitous investment of energy to keep one's eye on the target of the book, so to speak. Do not take these criticisms to undermine the value of the work or the importance of the message - I'm just describing the difficulty with which the general reader will have in approaching this book and pinning down the exact meaning of what he's trying to communicate.
It's for that reason I'm giving the book 3 stars, instead of 4 or 5. A writer concerned with the approachability of his work would employ a more standard writing style and not contribute to the reputation of "high-falutin nonsense" where one knows only the word, and not the idea, to which their argument continually refers.