18
Feb
08

Revisiting Debord 1:2 on contemplation

Earlier, I wrestled with this hermeneutic question:

(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?

I think that with the new concepts and theory from Lukacs, we can make a first pass at a restating of this claim.

Recall that according to (CSTANCE-RAT-HET), one must take the contemplative stance towards a fully rational, heterological system. Assuming that Debord is drawing in part of Lukacs’ theory, it would be consistent with the text to infer that Debord is talking about bourgeois conditions of life here. With the rationality of systemic thought being a given under capitalism (according to the Marxist tradition), and the hetorological tendencies of bourgeois systematization, reality is both (a) “considered partially” (because it excludes the phenomena that relate to the subject’s powers of intervention on the contents of the system, and (b) “an object of mere contemplation.”

What about the bit about “in its own general unity”?

I want to refer back to the Lukacs passage quoted here. For Lukacs, “modern rationalism” is unique in that attempts to create a system that is both fully rational and total. In the case where this system is also heterological, this is a doomed mission. But doomed or not, there is a “general unity” to the rational system that is total with the possible exception of its own subject. It is this general unity that makes the contemplative stance so pervasive and pernicious.

With that, I think I’ll hold onto this elaborated version of the Debord passage:

(TSOTS-1:2-B-v1.0) [Under the rationalism that comes with capitalism,] reality considered [heterologically and hence] partially unfolds, in its own general unity [characterized by a system that is total except for its subject], as a pseudo-world apart, an object [towards which one must take the contemplative stance].
That makes for some pretty slow progress on Debord. But I think the concepts gleaned from Lukacs will come up again–I know Habermas uses them, for example. Hopefully tackling Debord will get easier as I read through TSOTS.

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