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GUY DEBORD,Translated and annotated by Ken Knabb,Bureau of Public Secrets. Guy Debord s La Societe du Spectadl was originally published in Paris. by Editions Buchet Chastel 1967 and was reissued by Editions. Champ Libre 1971 and Editions Gallimard 1992, This annotated translation by Ken Knabb published in 2014 by. the Bureau of Public Secrets is not copyrighted Anyone may freely. reproduce or adapt any or all of it,ISBN 978 0 939682 06 5. Library of Congress Control Number 2013951566,Book and cover design Jeanne Smith. Printed in Canada,BUREAU OF PUBLIC SECRETS,P O Box 1044 Berkeley CA 94701.
www bopsecrets org,1 Separation Perfected 1,2 The Commodity as Spectacle 1 3. 3 Unity and Division Within Appearances 21, 4 The Proletariat as Subject and Representation 3 1. 5 Time and History 67,6 Spectacular Time 81,7 Territorial Management 89. 8 Negation and Consumption Within Culture 9 7,9 Ideology Materialized 1 13. The first version of this translation of The Society of the Spectacle was. completed and posted online at my Bureau of Public Secrets website. in 2002 The first print version was published by Rebel Press London. in 2004 and several other editions were subsequently published in. various print and digital formats Meanwhile I continued to fine tune. the version on my website Although I will continue to tweak the online. version as further improvements occur to me this new printed edition. is probably pretty close to final, There have been several previous English translations of Debord s.
book I have gone through them all and have retained whatever seemed. already to be adequate In particular I have adopted quite a few of. Donald Nicholson Smith s renderings though I have diverged from. him in many other cases His translation Zone Books 1994 and the. earlier one by Fredy Perlman and friends Black and Red 1 970 revised. 1977 reprinted by AK Press 2005 are both still in print and both can. also be found at various online sites Although I obviously would not. have taken the trouble to do this new translation ifl had not felt there. was room for improvements in those earlier translations I encourage. readers to compare all three versions in order to get a fuller sense of. the original text In many cases the differences are matters of stylistic. nuances and it may be debatable which rendering conveys Debord s. meaning most clearly and accurately, Regardless of such differences I am pleased to note that my. friends Lorraine Perlman Fredy s widow and Donald Nicholson. Smith have graciously expressed enthusiastic support for the idea of. adding annotations, Many people have told me that they became discouraged by the. opening pages of the book and gave up If this is the case with you. I suggest that you try starting with one of the later chapters If you. have some familiarity with radical politics try chapter 4 As you see. how Debord deals with particular movements and events of modern. history you may get a better idea of the practical implications of ideas. that are presented more abstractly in the first three chapters If you are. more familiar with earlier history or with urban social issues or with. art and culture you might instead try starting with chapter 5 or 7 or 8. The book is not however as difficult or abstract as it is reputed to. be It is not an ivory tower philosophical dissertation Nor as others. have sometimes imagined is it a mere expression of protest It is a. carefully considered effort to clarify the most fundamental tendencies. and contradictions of the society in which we find ourselves and the. advantages and drawbacks of various methods for changing it Every. single thesis has a direct or indirect bearing on issues that are matters. of life and death Chapter 4 which with remarkable conciseness sums. up the key lessons of two centuries of revolutionary experience is sim. ply the most obvious example,As I noted in The joy ofRevolution. Much o f the situationists impact stemmed from the fact that they. articulated things that most people had already experienced but. were unable or afraid to express until someone else broke the ice. Our ideas are in everybody s mind If some situationist texts. nevertheless seem difficult at first this is because their dialectical. structure goes against the grain of our conditioning When this. conditioning is broken they don t seem so obscure they were the. source of some of the most popular May 1968 graffiti Many aca. demic spectarors have floundered around trying unsuccessfully to. resolve the various contradictory descriptions of the spectacle in. The Society ofthe Spectacle into some single scientifically consistent. definition but anyone engaged in contesting this society will find. Debord s examination of it from different angles eminently clear and. useful and come to appreciate the fact that he never wastes a word in. academic inanities or pointless expressions of outrage. In short you can really understand this book only by using it This. makes it more of a challenge but it is also why it remains so pertinent. nearly half a century after its original publication while countless other. social theories and intellectual fads have come and gone. It has in fact become even more pertinent than ever because the. spectacle has become more all pervading than ever to the point tha it. is almost universally taken for granted Most people today have scarcely. any awareness of pre spectacle history let alone of anti spectacle possi. bilities As Debord noted in his follow up work Comments on the Society. ofthe Spectacle 1988 spectacular domination has succeeded in raising. an entire generation molded to its laws, I hope this new edition helps you break out of that mold. Separation Perfected,But for the present age which prefers the sign.
to the thing signified the copy to the original,representation to reality appearance to essence. truth is considered profane and only illusion is, sacred Sacredness is in fact held to be enhanced in. proportion as truth decreases and illusion increases. so that the highest degree of illusion comes to be seen. as the highest degree of sacredness,Feuerbach Preface to the Second Edition of. The Essence ofChristianity, In societies where modern conditions of production. prevail life is presented as an immense accumulation of. spectacles Everything that was directly lived has receded into. a representation, The images detached from every aspect of life merge into.
a common stream in which the unity of that life can no. longer be recovered Fragmented views of reality regroup. themselves into a new unity as a separate pseudo world that. can only be looked at The specialization of images of the. world has culminated in a world of autonomized images. where even the deceivers are deceived The spectacle is a. concrete inversion oflife an autonomous movement of the. The spectacle presents itself simultaneously as society itself. as a part of society and as a means of unification As a part. of society it is ostensibly the focal point of all vision and. all consciousness But due to the very fact that this sector. is separate it is in reality the domain of delusion and false. consciousness the unification it achieves is nothing but an. official language of universal separation, The spectacle is not a collection of images it is a social. relation between people that is mediated by images. The spectacle cannot be understood as a mere visual excess. produced by mass media technologies It is a worldview. that has actually been materialized that has become an. objective reality, Understood in its totality the spectacle is both the result. and the project of the present mode of production It is not. a mere supplement or decoration added to the real world. it is the heart of this real society s unreality In all of its. particular manifestations news propaganda advertising. entertainment the spectacle is the model of the prevailing. way of life It is the omnipresent affirmation of the choices. that have already been made in the sphere of production and. in the consumption implied by that production In both. form and content the spectacle serves as a total justification. of the conditions and goals of the existing system The. spectacle is also the constant presence of this justification. since it monopolizes the majority of the time spent outside. the modern production process, Separation is itself an integral part of the unity of this world. of a global social praxis split into reality and image The. social practice confronted by an autonomous spectacle is. at the same time the real totality which contains that spec. tacle But the split within this totality mutilates it to the. point that the spectacle seems to be its goal The language. of the spectacle consists of signs of the dominant system of. production signs which are at the same time the ultimate. end products of that system, The spectacle cannot be abstractly contrasted to concrete. social activity Each side of such a duality is itself divided. The spectacle that falsifies reality is nevertheless a real prod. uct of that reality while lived reality is materially invaded by. the contemplation of the spectacle and ends up absorbing. it and aligning itself with it Objective reality is present on. both sides Each of these seemingly fixed concepts has no. other basis than its transformation into its opposite reality. emerges within the spectacle and the spectacle is real This. reciprocal alienation 1s the essence and support of the. existing society, In a world that has really been turned upside down the true is.
a moment of the false, The concept of the spectacle interrelates and explains. a wide range of seemingly unconnected phenomena The. apparent diversities and contrasts of these phenomena. stem from the social organization of appearances whose. essential nature must itself be recognized Considered in its. own terms the spectacle is an affirmation of appearances and. an identification of all human social life with appearances. But a critique that grasps the spectacle s essential character. reveals it to be a visible negation of life a negation that has. taken on a visible form, In order to describe the spectacle its formation its functions. and the forces that work against it it is necessary to make. some artificial distinctions In analyzing the spectacle we. are obliged to a certain extent to use the spectacle s own. language in the sense that we have to operate on the. methodological terrain of the society that expresses itself in. the spectacle For the spectacle is both the meaning and the. agenda of our particular socio economic formation It is the. historical moment in which we are caught, The spectacle presents itself as a vast inaccessible reality that. can never be questioned Its sole message is What appears. is good what is good appears The passive acceptance it. demands is already effectively imposed by its monopoly of. appearances its manner of appearing without allowing any. The tautological character of the spectacle stems from the. fact that its means and ends are identical It is the sun that. never sets over the empire of modern passivity It covers. the entire surface of the globe endlessly basking in its own. The society based on modern industry is not accidentally. or superficially spectacular it is fundamentally spectaclist In. the spectacle the visual reflection of the ruling economic. order goals are nothing development is everything The. spectacle aims at nothing other than itself, As indispensable embellishment of currently produced ob. jects as general articulation of the system s rationales and. as advanced economic sector that directly creates an ever. increasing multitude of image objects the spectacle is the. leading production of present day society, The spectacle is able to subject human beings to itself.
because the economy has already totally subjugated them. It is nothing other than the economy developing for itself. It is at once a faithful reflection of the production of things. and a distorting objectification of the producers, The first stage o f the economy s domination o f social life. brought about an evident degradation of being into having. human fulfillment was no longer equated with what one. was but with what one possessed The present stage in. which social life has become completely occupied by the. accumulated productions of the economy is bringing. about a general shift from having to appearing all having. must now derive its immediate prestige and its ultimate. purpose from appearances At the same time all individual. reality has become social in the sense that it is shaped by. social forces and is directly dependent on them Individual. reality is allowed to appear only insofar as it is not actually. When the real world is transformed into mere images mere. images become real beings figments that provide the direct. motivations for a hypnotic behavior Since the spectacle s. job is to use various specialized mediations in order to show. us a world that can no longer be directly grasped it naturally. elevates the sense of sight to the special preeminence once. occupied by touch the most abstract and easily deceived. sense is the most readily adaptable to the generalized ab. straction of present day society But the spectacle is not. merely a matter of images nor even of images plus sounds. It is whatever escapes people s activity whatever eludes their. practical reconsideration and correction It is the opposite. of dialogue Wherever representation becomes independent. the spectacle regenerates itself, The spectacle inherits the weakness o f the Western philo. sophical project which attempted to understand activity. by means of the categories of vision and it is based on the. relentless development of the particular technical rationality. that grew out of that form of thought The spectacle does. not realize philosophy it philosophizes reality reducing. everyone s concrete life to a universe of speculation. Philosophy the power of separate thought and the thought. of separate power was never by itself able to supersede. theology The spectacle is the material reconstruction. of the religious illusion Spectacular technology has not. dispersed the religious mists into which human beings had. projected their own alienated powers it has merely brought. those mists down to earth to the point that even the most.

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