Society of the Spectacle
Our greatest social responsibility is to be aware within a purposefully systematic society.
Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle.
Debord cannot be marginalized to fit the role of an artist. He was a man built on ideas. A philosopher, filmmaker and Situationist, it was his theories that crafted his practice.
Innovative. Insubordinate. Intuitive.
Keen to the rapid consumption of commodity in the postwar society of the 1940’s, Debord responded with prolific statements on technology, production and consumerism.
He categorized this system of operation as the “Spectacle”. The highly obsessive, uncontrollable nature of man’s operation, all composed into one word.
What exactly is the Spectacle?
The Spectacle itself cannot be easily defined or explained into one meaning. Invented by Debord as a philosophical response to society, the Spectacle characterizes the activities of 1960’s postwar society as one of oblivious compliance. From what I understand, the spectacle is the makings of our society itself. It is what consumes us, what shapes our thoughts and what forms our experiences. Although the wording of “spectacle” is positioned in various other contexts, Debord is the only one who began using the Spectacle as a concept to encapsulate society itself.
What is the relevance of the Spectacle?
The relevance of this book lies in each of Debord’s thoughts. What he was speaking of in 1967 was considered revolutionary and dangerous because he, like other Situationists, uncovered what the government wanted to keep ignorant. Although my intention in reassuming this book today is not to mobilize or ignite controversy, but to is awaken and mobilize minds into considering what we know and hold as true wasn’t always so.
Have you ever thought about why our society works the way it does, besides the general understanding of government and politics? But consider, really consider the overlooked aspects that are defined as our “culture”, our way of being in life.
As Guy Debord acclaimed, the words of The Society of the Spectacle are too real and accurate to society that it comes off as abstract. His concepts may read as harder to grasp, conceive. It’s not precisely what he is writing that is hard to grasp, but what he is responding to. If we are to embrace Debord’s words, where will that leave us? To believe the faults of our society are consuming us, we must ask who we were before it, or if we were anything at all. Was there or is there anything left to grasp? Is there anything left to claim as individual or separate from the spectacle?
Is there such thing as autonomy within a consumer driven lifestyle?
Debord states the best way to decipher his words is through application. Dare to apply relevance to his words in society today is to reconsider what we know, hear and say.
To read and understand The Society of the Spectacle, you must embrace ignorance and accept manipulation from society.
“The specialization of images of the world has culminated in a world of autonomized images where even the deceivers are deceived. The spectacle is a concrete inversion of life, an autonomous movement of the nonliving.” Debord, 2
We each write our own reality, and form our own mindful perceptions"
I aM: Individualistic Minds
Reading: Debord, Guy. Society of the Spectacle. translated by Donald Nicholson- Smith, 3rd ed., Buchet- Chastel/ Zone Books, 1994.