26
Jan
08

The Society of the Spectacle, 1:2

The images detached from every aspect of life fuse in a common stream in which the unity of this life can no longer be reestablished. Reality considered partially unfolds, in its own general unity, as a pseudo-world apart, an object of mere contemplation. The specialization of images of the world is completed in the world of the autonomous image, where the liar has lied to himself. The spectacle in general, as the concrete inversion of life, is the autonomous movement of the non-living. (TSOTS, 1:2)

WTF?

I have no idea what Debord is talking about. What should one do in this situation?

But since we are experimenting with methodology here, let’s try this: just as before we have kept a record of the propositions we have gleaned from our sources, let’s keep track of the questions our sources raise in a similar way. Here is my list for this section:

(TSOTS-1:2-A-?) “The images detached from every aspect of life fuse in a common stream in which the unity of this life can no longer be reestablished.” What does this mean?

(TSOTS-1:2-B-?) “Reality considered partially unfolds, in its own general unity, as a pseudo-world apart, an object of mere contemplation.” What does this mean?

(TSOTS-1:2-C-?) “The specialization of images of the world is completed in the world of the autonomous image, where the liar has lied to himself.” What does this mean?

(TSOTS-1:2-D-?) “The spectacle in general, as the concrete inversion of life, is the autonomous movement of the non-living.” What does this mean?

This may not look like progress, but I am guessing this sort of record keeping may aid us in the future.

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2 Responses to “The Society of the Spectacle, 1:2”


  1. April 21, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    I’ve only just discovered your blog, so forgive me for troubling a post long put to rest.

    First, I think you’re making a mistake by partitioning Debord’s theses into several different propositions. Debord is reprising his earlier work (e.g. the “Situationist Theses on Traffic”), which is essentially closer to Marx’s theses on Feuerbach than it is to the Nietzschean aphorism. That is, it is designed to function within an overall theoretical machine rather than yield productive interpretation on its own.

    Second, I would warn you to be careful about overloading Debord’s language with theoretical implication. Much–though not all, and less than some claim–of this work is an attempt to supply an “academic-style” elaboration of a critique the Situationists had already adopted as praxis. In other words the verbiage is often just an extraneous accretion on top of a fairly definite, and not particularly complicated, underlying idea.

    In this case I don’t think Debord is doing much besides prefiguring Baudrillard. The common stream of images is the content of the spectacle, which is a) separated from concrete existence and b) ideological and fundamentally a lie.

    According to thesis 4, the spectacle is not a collection of images but a relationship between people that is mediated by them. I think this means that the relationship between people is the ideologized form of the spectacle, and the images are the content of the form. Although that thesis has always given me a lot of trouble.

    At any rate, the really interesting stuff comes in when he starts talking about “The Proletariat as Subject and Representation.” Truly brilliant analysis of ideology.


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