Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Situationists and Debord's The Society of the Spectacle

The topic of the second time are Situationist International (SI) or International Situationnes (I.S), and especially Guy Debord's work "The Society of the Spectacle". Both carry on the basic themes of the first time: culture as something that is produced - and alienation and "isolation" of the live worker and producer from his work, and fellow-workers, from himself and his own life, as fundamentals of the capitalist mode of production.

Good introduction in Finnish is Marko Pyhtilä's Kansainväliset Situationistit. In English there's a website and archive Situationist International online

SI was a group established in 1957, as an artist avantgarde group; but from the beginning with a political intent, so much so that later the situationists rejected the artist definition and thought of themselves fundamentally as a political group. Situationists and their ideas were very prominent in the 1968 student and worker demonstrations - see the picture: Under the pavement, the beach. The ideas also echo in various movements and thinkers such as Deleuze and Guattari or Italian Operaismo.

Here is Marx's opening to the Capital:
"The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as “an immense accumulation of commodities,”[1] its unit being a single commodity. Our investigation must therefore begin with the analysis of a commodity."

And Debord's The Society of the Spectacle:
"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."

Visible the themes of capitalist mode of production and the alienation wrought by it; plus typical "detournement", re-cycling of existing texts, cultural tradition, without quotes: putting it to use. Other two basic concepts discussed were "dérive", wandering and moving without a goal, playful use of space (and time), creating situations, changing how we live; and "recuperation", the appropriation and re-appropriation of everything produced by people by the system, capitalist mode of production. Everything is turned into a spectacle, commodified, reified, alienated... 

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