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The Society of the Spectacle Paperback – Sep 23 1995

4.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 154 pages
  • Publisher: Zone Books; 1995 edition (Sept. 23 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0942299795
  • ISBN-13: 978-0942299793
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #239,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

"In all that has happened in the last twenty years, the most important change lies in the very continuity of the spectacle. Quite simply, the spectacle"s domination has succeeded in raising a whole generation moulded to its laws. The extraordinary new conditions in which this entire generation has lived constitute a comprehensive summary of all that, henceforth, the spectacle will forbid; and also all that it will permit." Guy Debord (1988)

From the Back Cover

Few works of political and cultural theory have been as enduringly provocative as Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle. From its publication amid the social upheavals of the 1960s up to the present, the volatile theses of this book have decisively transformed debates on the shape of modernity, capitalism and everyday life in the late twentieth century. Now finally available in a superb English translation approved by the author, Debord's text remains as crucial as ever for understanding the contemporary effects of power, which are increasingly inseparable from the new virtual worlds of our rapidly changing image/information culture.

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By A Customer on May 31 2003
Format: Paperback
Marx remains the ne plus ultra of anti-capitalist thought. He criticized capitalism so strongly that to this day every time he is mentioned in the capitalist press, he is immediately denounced as a villain. Debord thought this is because he was mostly right. After all, if you are a ruler, you don't want people telling the people ruled that they should lop off your head because you're really a thug. (In both senses.)
The leading Situationist was not out to win friends and influence people. He was the Andre Breton of the Situationists and excommunicated people from the group because he didn't like their looks. He was also an alcoholic who committed suicide when the booze started to sap his health.
Regardless, his theory of the spectacle remains the only political idea in post-modernism that actually has some practical political uses. (Giorgio Agamben makes quite effective use of it in his Homo Sacer, even if he only mentions it twice.)
What is the spectacle? Debord writes that it is a social relation mediated by images. What the heck does that mean? If you look at modern consumer societies, immense efforts are undertaken by the people in them to keep up appearances, to look healthy and upright. (There are best sellers with titles like How to Win Friends and Influence People.) Debord, like WS Burroughs, says it's all hogwash. It's sort of like in JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, where the protagonist's main complaint about everybody is that they're phony. This remains a vital insight and will last. If you listen to the gangsta rappers right, they're making the same point. (They're just murdering the wrong people. (Just joking, we should ALL get along.))
As for Nicholson-Smith's translation, I can't say I actually like it.
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Format: Paperback
"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 values for goods in abundance (many of them psuedo 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 psuedo needs that must feed upon the boundless desires of persons in an unending pursuit of gratification through purchasing new products and services.
The problem appears when the next disillusionment, Debord tells us, occurs not with religion or politics but within the commodity itself.
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Format: Paperback
"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.
Read more ›
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