Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord


The Society of the Spectacle is one of the key theoretical works representing a body of work by a group of revolutionary artists called the Situationists.

The Situationists are most famous for their role in precipitating the nation-wide French strike (which may have ended in a bloodless revolution had it not been for police intervention).

Debord was one of the ideological leaders of the Situationists. In The Society of the Spectacle he addresses the capitalist fetish for quantification and commoditization, this fetish leads to the creation of a representative mockery of the world, which he calls “the spectacle”. As people are sold this parody in place of reality they are further estranged from the world.

As people accept what has been sold to them as their own, Debord goes on to say, they ostracize their own desires, and, through the capitalist economic ‘war of each against all’ they are further alienated from each other. And so they die, alone, with a huge pile of tackily packaged goods.

Many dismiss The Society of the Spectacle, describing it as either incoherent or just some other boldly obscure French philosophy. True, the Situationists tried a little too hard to be obscure. And parts of The Society of the Spectacle are, in fact, slightly incomprehensible. But I think it provides an update of Marx for the modern world of capitalist *consumerism*. Nobody predicted consumerist fetishism on this scale. Debord hits the nail on the head with his critique and with his use of the phrase “bureaucratic capitalism” which describes the republics of today.

In fact, I would go so far as to call it a genius work of literature, especially pertinent to the struggle of today, which is primarily a war of ideas, symbols, and alternative media within a society which tolerates dissent only within the symbolic realm.

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About the Author

Hi. My name is Jeremiah John. I'm a sf/f writer and activist.

I just completed a dystopian science fiction novel. I run a website which I created that connects farms with churches, mosques, and synagogues to buy fresh vegetables directly and distribute them on a sliding scale to those in need.

In 2003, I spent six months in prison for civil disobedience while working to close the School of the Americas, converting to Christianity, as one does, while I was in the clink.