Society of the Spectacle
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Society of the Spectacle

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  5,388 ratings  ·  195 reviews
The Das Kapital of the 20th century. An essential text, and the main theoretical work of the situationists. Few works of political and cultural theory have been as enduringly provocative. From its publication amid the social upheavals of the 1960's up to the present, the volatile theses of this book have decisively transformed debates on the shape of modernity, capitalism,...more
Paperback, 132 pages
Published January 1st 2002 by Black & Red (first published 1967)
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I never went to university—nor did the majority of my friends—and so never received any manner of guidance or instruction, or even bar table theoretical bullshitting, at the academic level to go along with my burgeoning interest in philosophy, politics, and culture. For better and for worse (and mostly the latter) I have carved my own path through the tangled thickets of critical genius and doctrinal snares, a haphazard sampling of great minds from across the ages, non-systematic and initially s...more
Short aphoristic tract about materialism, advertising, and how many aspects of public life are not reflections of real attitudes, but are instead artificial, and how consumerism sometimes embody aspects of a religious dogma.

Debord may even be more right than he knew. Even rebellion, not only that of the 1960s but also the present day, has been made into a commodity.

This book is very difficult to read for several reasons:

• It is a very direct translation from the original French text.
• The Situations had developed their own vocabulary to describe what were then new and unidentified sociological phenomena (we now have a different lexicon to describe this more widely acknowledged phenomena today.)
• Debord, in this book, practices what he preached with the Situationists in his use of detournment (the reuse of elements of well-known media to create a new work w...more
Ryn Shane-Armstrong
I read Society of the Spectacle way back in college -- when one is young and naive, and you're supposed to care about heady, outdated French philosophy that is utterly disconnected from the real. But now that I'm older and I have a world of experience to draw from, I'm fairly certain it wouldn't resonate as it once did. To wit, the so-called "radical" situationist ethic is now a totally mainstream, mass media commodity in and of itself. Beijing hosts pillow fight flash mobs in Tian'anmen square,...more
9. in a world that really has been turned on its head, truth is a moment of falsehood.

20. ...the absolute denial of life, in the shape of a fallacious paradise, is no longer projected onto the heavens, but finds its place instead within material life itself. the spectacle is hence a technological version of the exiling of human powers in a "world beyond" - and the perfection of separation within human beings.

67. ...a use of the commodity arises that is sufficient unto itself; what this means for...more
Jan 25, 2008 Tosh rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who think this election will make the big difference
It only took 154 pages to change our world. Guy Debord's manifesto/book length essay that is truly a masterpiece of political writing that borders on the poetic. It is also a crystal clear view how culture is formed in the 20th (and of course the 21st) century.

The theater is built in front us and we are lead to believe that we actually participate in its adventure. As Johnny Rotten said at the last Sex Pistols concert in the late 70's "Have you ever felt the feeling that you have been had?" Wel...more
Nov 09, 2007 Patrick rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Do not follow my example
We're all duped by the illusions produced by contemporary consumer society. But fear not: simply utilize your free time creatively and grant autonomous political and economic powers to self-governed workers' councils within every vestige of society and all will be well. Best quote: "Plagiarism is necessary. Progress demands it." (p. 145)
In theory I love this book, in it's actual form with words and a seeming intentional difficulty (ya know to avoid being co-opted by the spectacle of the totality of consumerist society) I'm only lukewarm about it. Give me Adorno any day over this.
ماهر الرحمن
كان هذا منذ وقت بعيد،لماذا أنا أفكر أو أكتب وفقا لما تنتظره أنت؟ ولماذا أتصرف مع صديقتى وفقا لما أظنه نموذجيا فى عقلها؟ولماذا أدخل فى مراتبيتكم الأخلاقية فأحترم الكبير بالضرورة؟ بالقطع إننى أقوم بتمثيل(لنستخدم منذ الآن كلمة:إستعراض)دور ما فى مجتمعكم،أتوق للنموذج المتفق عليه عندكم.. مع مرور الوقت قد أتلاشى تماما ولا يبقى منى سوى ما تريدون أنتم، بل وأكثر من هذا فسوف أنتظر منكم بدورى ماأتوقعه منكم.والمجتمع الرأسمالى الحديث نضج إلى الحد الذى أصبحت النماذج فيه مستقرة(نموذجية)الثورى/ الفاشل عاطفيا/الح...more
Bright sunny styles starting at $8 are spectacle. Tanning beds and stairmasters are spectacle. Sonny and Cher are spectacle. Sonny as mayor is spectacle. Any mayor “cleaning up” Times Square and polishing it with corporate spit is spectacle. Little New York in Las Vegas is spectacle. Little New York in Vegas in Dubai is spectacle. Little New York in Vegas in Dubai inside Tokyo Disney in a feature-film starring a topless Nicolas Cage saving the natives with guns in a Gatorade jihad is spectacle....more
Even for a theoretical text written by an extreme leftist, in the late sixties, in Paris, this is a convoluted read. The chapters seem to demarcate different aspects of the idea that is the spectacle. There is a lot of debate over whether or not this book had much political influence over the events of May 1968 in Paris. If nothing else those same student activists had to have had some faith in the ideas put forth here. The structure seems haphazard. There is a very aphoristic, almost Nietzschea...more
I gave this Guy a chance.

In any expository writing, particularly when persuasion is the goal, the writing should be as clear as possible to reach the widest audience.

This essay is laid out in numbered statements. Some are only a sentence long, others may run a page or two, but all are written in a style that tells me the author is more concerned with his style than the content. Perhaps this is the thing to do in intellectual circles, where stylish profundity that requires effort to decode is val...more
Amazing. Read this for research purposes while writing thesis "Perception and the spaces between art". I don't want to ruin this by reviewing it in a highly analytical manner, so I'll just say that it applies as much now as when it was written. A great text about the repackaging of culture and the coersion of visual freedom.
Emma Sea
Eerily prescient, and still a brilliant read about the alienation of labor, the advertisement of time, and the banalization of space.
THE book about how the technological spectacle consumes us and gives us A.D.D. Excellent to accompany Manufacturing Consent and its analysis of information control.

Most are well-aware of Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman and the Propaganda Model presented in Manufacturing Consent, of how the media is pure propaganda. But the idea of 'spectacle' being something part of our daily lives, not just in the media, of our consumer society as one of consuming spectacles virtually everywhere, is under-studie...more
Carey Lamprecht
Jul 26, 2008 Carey Lamprecht rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Critics of modern culture
Guy DeBord was a front-runner for the Situationalists in Paris. They lead/inspired the Paris Commune uprising of 1968. This book serves as Guy DeBord's manifesto. He nailed post-modern, technologically-valuing globalized capitalism years before it became the monster we see before us. And it is still painfully relevant today. The style he uses is very challenging, although abbreviated and clear. It can seem to go on and on, but each point he states has been carefully selected and weighed. It is d...more
Nate D
Feb 25, 2008 Nate D rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: situationists, subversives
Probably the definitive summation of Situationist theory. Debord can get kind of caught up in his own terminology systems (probably the translation doesn't help here) and I definitely don't know enough Marx/Hegel/Russian History to follow everything, but definitely a pretty worthwhile and interesting take on 20th century culture and politics, even so.
Este é um daqueles livros que todos deveriam ler, pois pode altera o modo como vemos o mundo que nos rodeia. Guy Debord escreveu um livro sem copyright e sem direitos reservados, no qual pôs uma mensagem forte. Ele defende que a sociedade em que vivemos é um espectáculo e todas as nossas interacções não são mais que teatro. Será realmente assim? É algo que cada um terá de decidir ao ler.

Escrito num tom erudito, com inúmeras referências a trabalhos conhecidos e exemplos, é uma tese sólida sobre a...more
Jul 27, 2013 Michael rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anarchists, radicals, punks
Recommended to Michael by: The Anarchist Switchboard
Shelves: anarchism, politics
It’s funny, because this book has been more-or-less “in my orbit” for the past 25 years or so, but I only got around to actually reading through it for the first time just now. That makes it a bit difficult to review, because in some ways I knew what I was getting in to when I first opened it, but in other ways it was a surprise. Maybe that helps explain the fact that it struck me as being at times very cutting-edge, and at others quite out-of-date.

This book was originally a manifesto of sorts,...more
Babak Fakhamzadeh
Debord was one of the main players behind the Situationist International and the very guy who coined the term psychogeography, referring to the experience of one's immediate environment as it is directly presented. A way, incidentally, to counter the society of the spectacle.

The society of the spectacle is a manifest, if nothing else, primarily an agitation against consumerist society. The central tenet being that modern production systems have allowed society to accept representations of socie...more
Justin Mitchell
I don't necessarily agree with or subscribe to Debord. He has this seriously irritating habit of saying really cheesy formulaic things like "this didn't lead to the misery of philosophy, but merely philosophized misery." Seriously annoying not to mention ultimately vacuous. It reminds me of Wes Studi's character in the movie Mystery Men, who said things like "In order to go right, you must go left." And he does this like ten times in this book. I think he had a little less to say than he wanted...more
While I wouldn’t exactly describe this book as having the force of a “Das Kapital of the 20th century” [like the cover notes indicate], Society of the Spectacle is surely an important work in the field of modern cultural critique. Originally written in France in 1967 by Guy Debord, an influential member of the Situationists movement, the book’s concepts are still as relevant as ever, as it is with many books that relate to topics of modern capitalism and consumerist “programming.” It starts with...more
Just as Fight Club can be described as Twilight for boys, Society of the Spectacle can be described as Fight Club for young adults who have renounced their membership of Anonymous in order to focus on their careers as Social Justice Warriors.

Interesting for the historical context, but nothing more really. A redundant midway point between Marx and Baudrillard, in which the former's ideas are obfuscated for the purposes of pretension. Though I imagine translation is partly to blame for that. Its...more
Nov 01, 2008 Nate rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Marxists who want to read something new and original
This book is one of the best depictions of capitalist alienation ever written. It is a very one-of-a-kind philosophical and thought-provoking read, written in such a way that each paragraph is a thesis. It is not copyrighted, and can be found for free online:

Debord also turned it into a film, which can be found here:

In spite of the merits of the rest of the book, Chapter 4 , The Proletariat as Subject and as Representat...more
Guy Dubord's critique of Western culture as spectacle seems more pointed today than when he wrote it in the 1960s. Dubord basically says that our so-called culture has come down to looking at things, and that the media (print, film, advertising, etc.) provide us with a constant wash of images that we mistake for culture, when in fact they are simply about making us feel helpless, passive, and chained to a need to consume products in order to have a sense of self worth. The fact that things like...more
Yaklaşık on sekiz yıl önce almıştım bu kitabı, tam olarak bitirmek bugüne düştü. Daha o zamanlar bölük pörçük okumuşluğumuzla bile tartışırdık bir, iki arkadaş Debord ve sitüasyonistleri, gençlik işte, bildiğiniz gibi...
Bu kadar önemli, kült mertebesinde bir kitaba review yazmak da neyin nesi, veyahut onu puanlamak, diyor olmama rağmen kendi kendime iki satır bir şey yazmak istedim yine de. ilk yetmiş, yüz sayfasını okumuş olmak bile o kadar çok açmıştı ki dimağımı, siyasi perspektifimi a'dan...more
Griseo Mitran
Me ha sido difícil de leer, hay una buena cantidad de párrafos que he tenido que releer varias veces. Todo esto va del tema de que en la sociedad de 1967 prima más lo superficial que lo real, un ejemplo que pone en los primeros capítulos es el cómo un objeto deseado gracias a la publicidad, tras ser comprado al poco tiempo pierde su atractivo. A partir de ahí crea una teoría aplicando esto a otras áreas como el trabajo, el tiempo, el nuevo territorio ciudad-campo, o la cultura, apoyando su teorí...more
Goodreads doesn't allow me to enter this book multiple times, despite the existence of three different translations. I like the Donald Nicholsan-Smith translation the best, followed by Ken Knabb's work and finally the first English translation by Fredy Perlman.

I first read this book around the time I left highschool, and it hit me like a brick. Rereading it a few years after that I got more from it, and I would like to read it again in a group at some point.

This book describes the problem : defined as The Spectacle. But how many of us dare to challenge the hegemony of the image obsessed society we have created? Debord wrote this tract in the sixties before the consumer society really took off. It was a prophetic warning.
Ask yourself this : aren't we all guilty of creating this monster? And how are we going to stop it?
The truth is in this book. Read it and weep.
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Guy Ernest Debord was a French Marxist theorist, writer, filmmaker, hypergraphist and founding member of the groups Lettrist International and Situationist International. In broad terms, Debord's theories attempted to account for the spiritually debilitating modernization of the private and public spheres of everyday life by economic forces during the post-WWII modernization of Europe. Alienation,...more
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Comments on the Society of the Spectacle Panegyric: Books 1 & 2 Complete Cinematic Works: Scripts, Stills, Documents Internationale Situationniste Sick Planet

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