Society of the spectacle - Guy Debord

French Situationist Guy Debord's seminal analysis of consumer capitalism in the late 20th century.

Submitted by libcom on July 28, 2005

La Société du Spectacle was first published in 1967 by Editions Buchet-Chastel (Paris); it was reprinted in 1971 by Champ Libre (Paris). The first English translation was published by Black & Red in 1970. It was revised in 1977, incorporating numerous improvements suggested by friends and critics of the first translation. This version was translated in 2002 by Ken Knabb, taken from the Bureau of Public Secrets.

Knabb has also produced helpful notes on this text, here, for reference.

Comments

Jacques Roux

9 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Jacques Roux on February 10, 2015

Discussion on the film Debord later made of the same name:

http://libcom.org/forums/thought/society-of-the-spectacle

adri

4 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by adri on October 18, 2019

Is it just me or is this sort of a challenging text? I've tried reading it on multiple occasions but nothing ever clicks...

jura

4 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on October 18, 2019

Some would venture as far as to say that it's 80% posturing, 20% content...

sabot

4 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by sabot on October 18, 2019

Yeah, I would never recommend this book to anyone tbh. I know on occasion it makes some interesting insights, but it's not worth the read in general.

darren p

4 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by darren p on October 18, 2019

I don't think it's really that difficult to read, and it's only really a long pamphlet. Start with "The proletariat as subject and representation". It's definitely interesting, but "the spectacle" wasn't such a groundbreaking, or all-explanatory concept as GD would have liked you to think...

Maybe "The Poverty of Student Life" is the best text to introduce the Situationists

Khawaga

4 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Khawaga on October 18, 2019

I agree with darren p. Chapter 4 is actually quite good in my opinion (and is often not read by lots of people who use this text). It's also a good example of deterounement, in this case of Capital. It is playful, but, yeah, there's not that much content overall.

R Totale

4 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by R Totale on October 20, 2019

The suggestion about starting off with Chapter 4 is a good one. I'd say it's a brilliant updating of revolutionary theory to the conditions of mid-20th capitalism, but of course not all of that is going to be relevant today.
Other suggestions for possibly easier starting points for getting to grips with the sits:
Spectacular Times would probably be my #1 recommendation for a nice, short, very readable introduction to situationist perspectives.
Revolution of Daily Life is a whole lot longer than SotS, much more of a proper book, but on the other hand I think Vaneigem's writing style is a whole lot easier and more fun than Debord's. With the caveat that everyone's tastes are different and one person's great writing is another person's flowery nonsense, but I'd recommend at least trying that one if you haven't already.
Contributions to The Revolutionary Struggle, Intended To Be Discussed, Corrected, And Principally, Put Into Practice Without Delay and Instructions for an Insurrection are two other short ones that stick in my head.

Spikymike

4 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Spikymike on October 27, 2019

I often recommend this short text that develops a useful theme on the back of a reflection on Debord's contribution to the development of Marx's analysis:
https://libcom.org/library/marxism-dead-long-live-marxism-mike-rooke