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Guy-Ernest Debord (December 28, 1931 – November 30, 1994) was a French strategist and founding member of the groups Letterist International and Situationist International (SI). He was also briefly a member of Socialisme ou Barbarie.
- Art need no longer be an account of past sensations. It can become the direct organization of more highly evolved sensations. It is a question of producing ourselves, not things that enslave us.
- Internationale Situationist (no. 1, Paris, June 1958).
Report on the Construction of Situations (1957)
- We are going through a crucial historical crisis in which each year poses more acutely the global problem of rationally mastering the new productive forces and creating a new civilization. Yet the international working-class movement, on which depends the prerequisite overthrow of the economic infrastructure of exploitation, has registered only a few partial local successes. Capitalism has invented new forms of struggle (state intervention in the economy, expansion of the consumer sector, fascist governments) while camouflaging class oppositions through various reformist tactics and exploiting the degenerations of working-class leaderships. In this way it has succeeded in maintaining the old social relations in the great majority of the highly industrialized countries, thereby depriving a socialist society of its indispensable material base. In contrast, the underdeveloped or colonized countries, which over the last decade have engaged in the most direct and massive battles against imperialism, have begun to win some very significant victories. These victories are aggravating the contradictions of the capitalist economy and (particularly in the case of the Chinese revolution) could be a contributing factor toward a renewal of the whole revolutionary movement. Such a renewal cannot limit itself to reforms within the capitalist or anticapitalist countries, but must develop conflicts posing the question of power everywhere.
- About the Situationist International movement
- The shattering of modern culture is the result, on the plane of ideological struggle, of the chaotic crisis of these antagonisms. The new desires that are taking shape are presented in distorted form: present-day resources could enable them to be fulfilled, but the anachronistic economic structure is incapable of developing these resources to such ends. Ruling-class ideology has meanwhile lost all coherence because of the depreciation of its successive conceptions of the world (a depreciation which leads the ruling class to historical indecision and uncertainty); because of the coexistence of a range of mutually contradictory reactionary ideologies (such as Christianity and social-democracy); and because of the mixing into contemporary Western culture of a number of only recently appreciated features of several foreign civilizations. The main goal of ruling-class ideology is therefore to maintain this confusion.
- We must call attention, among the workers parties or the extremist tendencies within those parties, to the need to undertake an effective ideological action in order to combat the emotional influence of advanced capitalist methods of propaganda. On every occasion, by every hyper-political means, we must publicize desirable alternatives to the spectacle of the capitalist way of life, so as to destroy the bourgeois idea of happiness. At the same time, taking into account the existence, within the various ruling classes, of elements that have always tended (out of boredom and thirst for novelty) toward things that lead to the disappearance of their societies, we should incite the persons who control some of the vast resources that we lack to provide us with the means to carry out our experiments, out of the same motives of potential profit as they do with scientific research.
- Our Immediate Tasks
Society of the Spectacle (1967)
- In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation.
- Ch. 1, sct. 1.
- The spectacle appears at once as society itself, as a part of society and as a means of unification. As part of society, it is that sector where all attention, all consciousness, converges. Being isolated - and precisely for that reason - this sector is the locus of illusion and false consciousness; the unity is imposes is merely the official language of generalized separation.
- Ch. 1, sct. 3.
- The spectacle is not a collection of images; rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images.
- Ch. 1, sct. 4.
- The spectacle manifests itself as an enormous positivity, our of reach and beyond dispute. All it says is: "Everything that appears is good; whatever is good will appear." The attitude that is demands in principle is the same passive acceptance that it has already secured by means of its seeming incontrovertibly, and indeed by its monopolization of the realm of appearances.
- Ch. 1, sct. 12
- Philosophy is at once the power of alienated thought and the thought of alienated power, and as such it has never been able to emancipate itself from theology.
- Ch. 1, sct. 20
- Tourism, human circulation considered as consumption ... is fundamentally nothing more than the leisure of going to see what has become banal.
- Ch. 7, sct. 168.
- Ideas improve. The meaning of words participates in the improvement. Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It embraces an author’s phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a false idea, and replaces it with the right idea.
- Ch. 8, sct. 207 (confer Comte de Lautréamont, Poésies II, 1870).
The Incomplete Works of the Situationist International (Nov. 1963)
- Boredom is always counter-revolutionary. Always.
- The Bad Old Days Will End
Comments on the Society of the Spectacle (1988)
- No longer is science asked to understand the world, or to improve any part of it. It is asked instead to immediately justify everything that happens....spectacular domination has cut down the vast tree of scientific knowledge in order to make itself a truncheon.
- With the destruction of history, contemporary events themselves retreat into a remote and fabulous realm of unverifiable stories, uncheckable statistics, unlikely explanations and untenable reasoning.
- Everyone accepts that there are inevitably little areas of secrecy reserved for specialists; as regards things in general, many believe they are in on the secret.
- What is false creates taste, and reinforces itself by knowingly eliminating any possible reference to the authentic. And what is genuine is reconstructed as quickly as possible, to resemble the false.
- The Mafia is not an outsider in this world; it is perfectly at home. Indeed, in the integrated spectacle it stands as the model of all advanced commercial enterprises.
- It is hardly surprising that children should enthusiastically start their education at an early age with the Absolute Knowledge of computer science; while they are unable to read, for reading demands making judgments at every line.... Conversation is almost dead, and soon so too will be those who knew how to speak.
- Ch. 10.
- The Sage of Toronto ... spent several decades marveling at the numerous freedoms created by a “global village” instantly and effortlessly accessible to all. Villages, unlike towns, have always been ruled by conformism, isolation, petty surveillance, boredom and repetitive malicious gossip about the same families. Which is a precise enough description of the global spectacle’s present vulgarity.
- Of Marshall McLuhan’s notion of the “global village.”
- Ch. 12.
- There is nothing more natural than to consider everything as starting from oneself, chosen as the center of the world; one finds oneself thus capable of condemning the world without even wanting to hear its deceitful chatter.
- Vol. 1, pt. 1.
- Quotations are useful in periods of ignorance or obscurantist beliefs.
- Vol. 1, pt. 1.
- In the zone of perdition where my youth went as if to complete its education, one would have said that the portents of an imminent collapse of the whole edifice of civilization had made an appointment.
- Vol. 1, Pt. 2.
Quotes about Guy Debord
- Jorn’s role in the Situationist movement (as in COBRA) was that of a catalyst and team leader. Guy Debord on his own lacked the personal warmth and persuasiveness to draw people of different nationalities and talents into an active working partnership. As a prototype Marxist intellectual Debord needed an ally who could patch up the petty egoisms and squabbles of the members. Their quarrels came into the open the moment Jorn’s leadership was withdrawn in 1961. . . . Finally, 1966-8 saw the vindication of Debord’s policy, sustained against every kind of opposition, of adhering rigidly to the uncompromising pursuit of a singleminded plan. When the time came — in Strasbourg in November 1966 and in Paris in May 1968 — Debord was ready, with his two or three remaining supporters, to take over the revolutionary role for which he had been preparing during the last ten years. Incredible as it may seem, the active ideologists (“enragés” and Situationists) behind the revolutionary events in Strasbourg, Nanterre and Paris, numbered only about ten persons.
- Guy Atkins, Troels Andersen (1977) Asger Jorn, the crucial years 1954-1964. p. 63