The Society of the Spectacle Background

The Society of the Spectacle Background

Guy Debord published Society of the Spectacle in the original French in 1967. Three years later he published the English version. The book is an essential foundation for understanding and taking part in the anarcho-anticonsumerist-Marxist movement known as Situationism.

The opening of the text sets the stage for the ideological construct that is to come. Any misunderstanding of this opening line is sure to lead to misapprehension of all that is to come.

In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation.”

The Society of the Spectacle may remind some readers of the texts of Friedrich Nietsche. The book is separated into 221 separate theses that each forward a specific concept which, when combined, tends to create a sort of philosophy. Most of these theses comprise fewer than 100 words and each is its own single and separate paragraph.

Without an understanding of the purpose of Situationism, the book may be entertaining, but essentially meaningless. One of the most penetrating examinations and analyses of Situationism, Debord, The Society of Spectacle and its constitutional elements like Detournement, Psychogeography and the Derive can be found Greil Marcus’s landmark text Lipstick Traces.

It is highly recommended that anyone interested in pursuing more information on Situationism after reading The Society of the Spectacle consult Lipstick Traces. The book by Marcus should not be confused with being a history of Situationism; its subtitle is, after all, "A Secret History of the Twentieth Century."

The Situationists were, to boil things down to the root form, a loose confederation of radical French social agitators. The Society of the Spectacle reveals how the movement started from a point radiating outward from Marxism. By the time the original agitators collapsed in upon themselves, Karl Marx was almost nowhere to be found.

What, essentially, were the Situationists after?

"Emancipation from the material bases of inverted truth…the self-emancipation of our epoch.”

Update this section!

You can help us out by revising, improving and updating this section.

Update this section

After you claim a section you’ll have 24 hours to send in a draft. An editor will review the submission and either publish your submission or provide feedback.