Society of the Spectacle Paperback – May 1 2009
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About the Author
Writer, filmmaker, and cultural revolutionary, Guy Debord (1931--1994) was a founding member of the Lettrist International and Situationist International groups. His films and books, including "Society of the Spectacle" (1967), were major catalysts for philosophical and political changes in the twentieth century, and helped trigger the May 1968 rebellion in France. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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’.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
There are free PDFs of a better translation of this book ALL OVER the internet. It's a tremendously wonderful book, but this translation just doesn't do it justice. Don't waste your money on this.
But did I say "the individual"? Even a cursory glance at contemporary society reveals few genuine individuals. The image of individuality is marketed & sold, of course, so that everyone feels special & singular; but the end result always seems to be people who are "individuals" just like millions of others, all believing themselves to be unique. Yet they all buy the same lifestyle, the same ideas, the same Pavlovian responses to their environment, just as they've been perfectly programmed to do. Oh, there's a gloss of superficial variation, to enhance the notion of individuality! But as for the real thing? The few who don't buy into the image are those derided as freaks, outsiders, uncool, etc.
Let's face it -- even the ideas expressed in this review can & have been commodified, marketed & sold to plenty of people. That's how insidious & pervasive the society of the spectacle really is. We are everywhere faced with a shiny, trendy, relentlessly cheerful image designed to flatter & ensnare us in its meshes. None of us escapes it entirely ... but the first steps are recognizing the lie of the image & reclaiming as much of our own reality as we can. That's what this book will help you do -- highly recommended!
I ordered this version because it was the least expensive. The publisher is Black & Red, and the translator is not named.
Use Amazon's "Look Inside" feature to compare this edition to the Donald Nicholson-Smith translation (which is available free online as a 64 page .pdf Adobe Acrobat file), and you'll see what I mean.
I called Amazon's customer service because I didn't know what reason to give for the return ("Lousy Translation"?). As usual, they were very helpful, e-mailed me a return label, and gave me an instant refund, so I'm sending this edition back to them.