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Society of the Spectacle
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am 21. Juli 1999
...though perhaps not one for the faint-hearted (good lord, and to think someone translated this prose from French?!) Few other books have matched this one for me in their being able to grasp and articulate things that many of us have thought but we always thought were ineffable. Debord is proving to be even more prescient with the passage of time. To think that this book came out of the classic crass Leftist period of the late 1960's, when many college professors were making pro-Chairman Mao diatribes to their freshman sociology students, makes it even more amazing. Yes, the Marxist influence is not lost but this is _not_ some crass rehash of leftist student pamphlets of the 1960's. Some passages are so poignant in their effect that they take several readings to sink in. This is a book for thinkers: not a book for holier-than-thou Lefties or any number of our current slew of 'capitalism gurus' or 'market experts' which are still attempting the Sisyfus task that Marx failed at. Debord is the biggest true believer of the Unbelievers and he truly defies classification. If you wanted to get into Baudrillard but found him too droll, or are searching for an excellent introduction to the current psychology of the mass consumer market that avoids all of the hyperbole, this book is for you. If only Debord would have written as much as he drank - the number of books about him versus the number he actually wrote is a testament to the clarity of his thought.
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am 4. Dezember 1998
This version is the more accurate translation of the seminal text of the mid-century French radical movement known as the Situationist International. Remains an important document of modern political and philosophical thought. review by: Peter D. Kramer, author of Listening to Prozac and Should You Leave?
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am 9. September 1999
Society of Spectacle has sometimes been characterized as a kind of dated meditation on consumer society and media, a diatribe on popular culture and pop psychology. It in fact, a far more important book of political and philosophical thought. Debord eposes the fallacies and perceptions of society and its manipulation and subjegation. In part a revision of scientific Marxism, necessary to account for the divergence (or at least the anomalies) in the path of 20th Century capitalism from that predicted in Capital (as perhaps moderated by the socialist movement), and also a critical response to the utter failure of established communism to produce a free society. The brutal ideological bureaucracy and dictatorship in China and Russia had fully embraced capitalist methods of imposing the illusionary ideals of Debord's thesis on its people, but without capitalism's productive success. This was too much to ignore in the exhilarating, if naive, atmosphere at the barricades in the 60's, which accounts for this books appeal at that time.
Society of Spectacle is existentialist Marxism, buttressed by Freud and the behavioural sciences maybe, but still one which retains the fundamental qualitative legacy of Marx and the philosophical thread begun with Hegel. Its a fascinating and challenging book on political theory, one which is an authentic attempt modernize classic communist and anarchist dogma into a theory which fuses with and responds to history and society as a whole. Few people are going to be convinced by this now, but there is a strand of irrefutable truth in its analysis of the consumer society, and the predicament of the individual caught up in our commodity and market driven culture, which makes for a penetrating and worth while read.
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am 22. April 2000
The only new beauty is the beauty of situations.
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