Surrealpolitik: Society of the Spectacle

Author: Guy Debord

Oakland, CA: AK Press (2006, first published in 1967)

Quick Summary

Ruminations on the rise of represented "spectacle" over actual lived experience. The disconnect between sales pitch and reality in both capitalism and communism.


There are 16 quotes currently associated with this book.

The spectacle, grasped in its the heart of the unrealism of the real society. In all its specific forms, as information or propaganda, as advertisement or direct entertainment consumption, the spectacle is the present model of socially dominant life. (page 6)
Tags: [Truth & Real, Simulacra/Illusion]
In a world which really is topsy-turvy, the true is a moment of the false. (page 9)
Tags: [Truth & Real]
The first phase of the domination of the economy over social life brought into the definition of all human realization the obvious degradation of being into having. The present phase of total occupation of social life by the accumulated results of the economy leads to a generalized sliding of having into appearing, from which all actual "having" must draw its immediate prestige and its ultimate function. (page 17)
Tags: [Capitalism]
The spectacle...naturally finds vision to be the privileged human sense which the sense of touch was for other epochs; the most abstract, the most mystifiable sense corresponds to the generalized abstraction of present-day society. (page 18)
Tags: [Truth & Real]
The spectacle is the nightmare of imprisoned modern society which ultimately expresses nothing more than its desire to sleep. The spectacle is the guardian of sleep. (page 21)
Tags: [Truth & Real]
The economic system founded on isolation is a circular production of isolation. The technology is based on isolation, and the technical process isolates in turn. From the automobile to television, all the goods selected by the spectacular system are also its weapons for a constant reinforcement of the conditions of isolation of "lonely crowds." (page 28)
Tags: [Capitalism]
The spectacle is nothing more than the common language of this separation...The spectacle reunites the separate, but reunites it as separate. (page 29)
Tags: [Truth & Real]
When economic necessity is replaced by the necessity for boundless economic development, the satisfaction of primary human needs is replaced by an uninterrupted fabrication of pseudo-needs which are reduced to the single pseudo-need of maintaining the reign of the autonomous economy. (page 51)
Tags: [Capitalism]
[T]he society of the spectacle...offers false models of revolution to local revolutionaries. (page 57)
Tags: [Truth & Real, Capitalism]
False choice in spectacular abundance...develops into a struggle of vaporous qualities meant to stimulate loyalty to quantitative triviality. (page 62)
Tags: [Capitalism]
[T]he spectacle is nothing more than an image of happy unification surrounded by desolation and fear at the tranquil center of misery. (page 63)
Tags: [Truth & Real, Simulacra/Illusion]
The lie which is no longer challenged becomes lunacy...The ideology which is materialized in this context has not economically transformed the world, as has capitalism which reached the stage of abundance; it has merely transformed perception by means of the police. (page 105)
Tags: [Truth & Real, Fascism, Simulacra/Illusion]
Now that the Russian bureaucracy has finally succeeded in doing away with the remains of bourgeois property which hampered its rule over the wants to enjoy its world calmly and to suppress the arbitrary element which had been exerted over it: it denounces the Stalinism of its origin. But the denunciation remains Stalinist, arbitrary, unexplained and continually corrected, because the ideological lie at its origin can never be revealed...The ideology has no doubt lost the passion of its positive affirmation, but the indifferent triviality which survives still has the repressive function of prohibiting the slightest competition of holding captive the totality of thought. Thus the bureaucracy is bound to an ideology which is no longer believed by anyone. What used to be terrorist has become a laughing matter, but this laughing matter can maintain itself only by preserving, as a last resort, the terrorism it would like to be rid of. (page 110)
Tags: [Truth & Real, Terror, Myth]
When the lost children of this still immobile army reappear on this battleground which was altered and yet remains the same, they follow a new "General Ludd" who, this time, urges them to destroy the machines of permitted consumption. (page 115)
Tags: [Activism, Capitalism]
Dada and surrealism are the two currents which mark the end of modern art. They are contemporaries, though only in a relatively conscious manner, of the last great assault of the revolutionary proletarian movement; and the defeat of this movement, which left them imprisoned in the same artistic field whose decrepitude they had announced, is the basic reason for their immobilization. Dadaism and surrealism are at once historically related and opposed to each other. This opposition, which each of them considered to be its most important and radical contribution, reveals the internal inadequacy of their critique, which each developed one-sidedly. Dadaism wanted to suppress art without realizing it; surrealism wanted to realize art without suppressing it. The critical position later elaborated by the Situationists has shown that the suppression and the realization of art are inseparable aspects of a single supersession of art. (page 191)
Tags: [Surrealism, Surrealism & Dada, Situationism, Dada]
[For Boorstin] the spectacle would be caused by the fact that modern man is too much of a spectator. Boorstin fails to understand that the proliferation of the prefabricated "pseudo-events" which he denounces flows from the simple fact that, in the massive reality of present social life, men do not themselves live events. Because history itself haunts modern society like a specter, pseudo-histories are constructed at every level of consumption of life in order to preserve the threatened equilibrium of present frozen time. (page 200)
Tags: [Everyday Life, Simulacra/Illusion]