THE SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLE PDF
There have been several previous English translations of The Society of the Spectacle. I have gone through them all and have retained whatever seemed. has nevertheless played an essential role in the spectacle's global development. This particular materialization of ideology did not. The Society of the. File:Debord Guy Society of the Spectacle pdf Debord_Guy_Society_of_the_Spectacle_pdf (file size: MB, MIME type.
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But the spectacle is not the necessary product of technical development seen as a natural development. The society of the spectacle is on the contrary the form. This public document was automatically mirrored from resourceone.infoal filename: Society of the Spectacle, The - Guy Debord (Zone Books. PDF | In this paper we set out to accomplish several goals. Primarily, we seek to re-interpret Guy Debord's () work The Society of the Spectacle in light of.
At once poetic, philosophical, social and political, the text is a splendid parole. The script itself and the images function as complementaries within the framework of an iconoclastic — in the strict sense of the word — use of classical cinema.
The words have an intrinsic value independent of the function of the image. He wrenches the passages he cites out of their context, integrates them into his own discourse and thus gives them a new meaning. Being a professional provocateur, Debord begins his screenplay with a direct attack on his audience.
That, however, is not his primary goal. He tells how the Paris of the s gave birth to a totally subversive project. It is also the passion and imagination of a mode of thought inspired by the subversive tradition of gothic romanticism. He is particularly savage about the neo-Haussmanesque and modernizing town planning of the Fifth Republic, which promoted the sinister adaptation of the city to the dictatorship of the car.
The “Society of the Spectacle” English digital Translation
Few twentieth-century authors have been as successful as Guy Debord in transforming nostalgia into an explosive force, into a poisoned weapon to be used against the existing order of things, into a revolutionary breakthrough into the future. Whilst the ethos of modern civilization is, as Max Weber saw so clearly, die entzauberung der Welt, romanticism is above all an attempt — and often a desperate attempt — to re-enchant the world.
This is probably the best book on Debord to date. James Brook, Verso Moreover, the production of commodities, less developed in bureaucratic capitalism, also takes on a concentrated form: The dictatorship of the bureaucratic economy cannot leave the exploited masses any significant margin of choice, since the bureaucracy itself has to choose everything and since any other external choice, whether it concern food or music, is already a choice to destroy the bureaucracy completely.
This dictatorship must be accompanied by permanent violence. The imposed image of the good envelops in its spectacle the totality of what officially exists, and is usually concentrated in one man, who is the guarantee of totalitarian cohesion.
Everyone must magically identify with this absolute celebrity or disappear. This celebrity is master of non-consumption, and the heroic image which gives an acceptable meaning to the absolute exploitation that primitive accumulation accelerated by terror really is. If every Chinese must learn Mao, and thus be Mao, it is because he can be nothing else.
Wherever the concentrated spectacle rules, so does the police. The diffuse spectacle accompanies the abundance of commodities, the undisturbed development of modern capitalism. Here every individual commodity is justified in the name of the grandeur of the production of the totality of objects of which the spectacle is an apologetic catalogue.
Therefore the already problematic satisfaction which is supposed to come from the consumption of the whole, is falsified immediately since the actual consumer can directly touch only a succession of fragments of this commodity happiness, fragments in which the quality attributed to the whole is obviously missing every time.
Every given commodity fights for itself, cannot acknowledge the others, and attempts to impose itself everywhere as if it were the only one. The spectacle, then, is the epic poem of this struggle, an epic which cannot be concluded by the fall of any Troy. The spectacle does not sing the praises of men and their weapons, but of commodities and their passions.
In this blind struggle every commodity, pursuing its passion, unconsciously realizes something higher: The satisfaction which no longer comes from the use of abundant commodities is now sought in the recognition of their value as commodities: Waves of enthusiasm for a given product, supported and spread by all the media of communication, are thus propagated with lightning speed.
A style of dress emerges from a film; a magazine promotes night spots which launch various clothing fads. Just when the mass of commodities slides toward puerility, the puerile itself becomes a special commodity; this is epitomized by the gadget. We can recognize a mystical abandon to the transcendence of the commodity in free gifts, such as key chains which are not bought but are included by advertisers with prestigious purchases, or which flow by exchange in their own sphere.
One who collects the key chains which have been manufactured for collection, accumulates the indulgences of the commodity, a glorious sign of his real presence among the faithful.
Reified man advertises the proof of his intimacy with the commodity. The fetishism of commodities reaches moments of fervent exaltation similar to the ecstasies of the convulsions and miracles of the old religious fetishism. The only use which remains here is the fundamental use of submission. The pseudo-need imposed by modern consumption clearly cannot be opposed by any genuine need or desire which is not itself shaped by society and its history.
The abundant commodity stands for the total breach in the organic development of social needs. Its mechanical accumulation liberates unlimited artificiality, in the face of which living desire is helpless. The cumulative power of independent artificiality sows everywhere the falsification of social life. In the image of the society happily unified by consumption, real division is only suspended until the next non-accomplishment in consumption.
Every single product represents the hope for a dazzling shortcut to the promised land of total consumption and is ceremoniously presented as the decisive entity. A product acquires prestige when it is placed at the center of social life as the revealed mystery of the ultimate goal of production.
But the object which was prestigious in the spectacle becomes vulgar as soon as it is taken home by its consumer—and by all its other consumers. It reveals its essential poverty which naturally comes to it from the misery of its production too late. But by then another object already carries the justification of the system and demands to be acknowledged.
The fraud of satisfaction exposes itself by being replaced, by following the change of products and of the general conditions of production. That which asserted its definitive excellence with perfect impudence nevertheless changes, both in the diffuse and the concentrated spectacle, and it is the system alone which must continue: Stalin as well as the outmoded commodity are denounced precisely by those who imposed them.
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Every new lie of advertising is also an avowal of the previous lie. The fall of every figure with totalitarian power reveals the illusory community which had approved him unanimously, and which had been nothing more than an agglomeration of solitudes without illusions.
What the spectacle offers as eternal is based on change and must change with its base. The spectacle is absolutely dogmatic and at the same time cannot really achieve any solid dogma. Nothing stops for the spectacle; this condition is natural to it, yet completely opposed to its inclination.
The unreal unity proclaimed by the spectacle masks the class division on which the real unity of the capitalist made of production rests. What obliges the producers to participate in the construction of the world is also what separates them from it. What brings together men liberated from their local and national boundaries is also what pulls them apart. What requires a mare profound rationality is also what nourishes the irrationality of hierarchic exploitation and repression.
What creates the abstract power of society creates its concrete unfreedom. The development of productive forces shatters the old relations of production and all static order turns to dust. Whatever was absolute becomes historical. By being thrown into history, by having to participate in the labor and struggles which make up history, men find themselves obliged to view their relations in a clear manner.
This history has no object distinct from what takes place within it, even though the last unconscious metaphysical vision of the historical epoch could look at the productive progression through which history has unfolded as the very object of history. The subject of history can be none other than the living producing himself, becoming master and possessor of his world which is history, and existing as consciousness of his game. The class struggles of the long revolutionary epoch inaugurated by the rise of the bourgeoisie, develop together with the thought of history, the dialectic, the thought which no longer stops to look for the meaning of what is, but rises to a knowledge of the dissolution of all that is, and in its movement dissolves all separation.
Hegel no longer had to interpret the world, but the transformation of the world. By only interpreting the transformation, Hegel is only the philosophical completion of philosophy.
He wants to understand a world which makes itself. This historical thought is as yet only the consciousness which always arrives too late, and which pronounces the justification after the fact. Thus it has gone beyond separation only in thought. The paradox which consists of making the meaning of all reality depend on its historical completion, and at the same time of revealing this meaning as it makes itself the completion of history, flows from the simple fact that the thinker of the bourgeois revolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries sought in his philosophy only a reconciliation with the results of these revolutions.
Even as a philosophy of the bourgeois revolution, it does not express the entire process of this revolution, but only its final conclusion.
The external position of thought having in fact been preserved, it could he masked only by the identification of thought with an earlier project of Spirit, absolute hero who did what he wanted and wanted what he did, and whose accomplishment coincides with the present.
Thus philosophy, which dies in the thought of history, can now glorify its world only by renouncing it, since in order to speak, it must presuppose that this total history to which it has reduced everything is already complete, and that the only tribunal where the judgment of truth could be given is closed.
When the proletariat demonstrates by its own existence, through acts, that this thought of history is not forgotten, the exposure of the conclusion is at the same time the confirmation of the method.
The thought of history can be saved only by becoming practical thought; and the practice of the proletariat as a revolutionary class cannot be less than historical consciousness operating on the totality of its world. This first relationship has been generally ignored, misunderstood, and even denounced as the weakness of what fallaciously became a marxist doctrine.
Bernstein, in his Evolutionary Socialism: A Criticism and Affirmation Die Voraussetzungen des Sozialismus und die Aufgaben der Sozialdemokratie , perfectly reveals the connection between the dialectical method and historical partisanship, by deploring the unscientific forecasts of the Manifesto on the imminence of proletarian revolution in Germany: In those times of general effervescence, this was all the more fatal to him. History become real no longer has an end.
From now on, theory has to know only what it does. The quantitative which arises in the blind development of merely economic productive forces must be transformed into a qualitative historical appropriation. The critique of political economy is the first act of this end of prehistory: The bourgeois epoch, which wants to give a scientific foundation to history, overlooks the fact that this available science needed a historical foundation along with the economy.
Inversely, history directly depends on economic knowledge only to the extent that it remains economic history. The extent to which the viewpoint of scientific observation could overlook the role of history in the economy the global process which modifies its own basic scientific premises is shown by the vanity of those socialist calculations which thought they had established the exact periodicity of crises.
The project of mastering the economy, the project of appropriating history, if it must know—and absorb—the science of society, cannot itself be scientific. The revolutionary viewpoint of a movement which thinks it can dominate current history by means of scientific knowledge remains bourgeois. The utopian currents of socialism, although themselves historically grounded in the critique of the existing social organization, can rightly be called utopian to the extent that they reject history—namely the real struggle taking place, as well as the passage of time beyond the immutable perfection of their picture of a happy society—but not because they reject science.
On the contrary. They sought the completion of this general rational system: The scientific conception of the utopians did not extend to the knowledge that some social groups have interests in the existing situation, forces to maintain it, and also forms of false consciousness corresponding to such positions.
This conception did not even reach the historical reality of the development of science itself, which was oriented largely by the social demand of agents who selected not only what could be admitted, but also what could be studied. The utopian socialists, remaining prisoners of the mode of exposition of scientific truth, conceived this truth in terms of its pure abstract image—an image which had been imposed at a much earlier stage of society.
As Sorel observed, it is on the model of astronomy that the utopians thought they would discover and demonstrate the laws of society. The harmony envisaged by them, hostile to history, grows out of the attempt to apply to society the science least dependent on history. The arrival of the historical subject continues to be postponed, and it is economics, the historical science par excellence, which tends increasingly to guarantee the necessity of its own future negation.
But what is pushed out of the field of theoretical vision in this manner is revolutionary practice, the only truth of this negation. Throughout his life, Marx had maintained a unitary point of view in his theory, but the exposition of the theory was carried out on the terrain of the dominant thought and became precise in the form of critiques of particular disciplines, principally the critique of the fundamental science of bourgeois society, political economy. The working class did not set off the permanent revolution in the Germany of ; the Commune was defeated in isolation.
Revolutionary theory thus could not yet achieve its own total existence. The fact that Marx was reduced to defending and clarifying it with cloistered, scholarly work, in the British Museum, caused a loss in the theory itself. The scientific justifications Marx elaborated about the future development of the working class and the organizational practice that went with them became obstacles to proletarian consciousness at a later stage.
All the theoretical insufficiencies of content as well as form of exposition of the scientific defense of proletarian revolution can be traced to the identification of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie from the standpoint of the revolutionary seizure of power. The linear schema loses sight of the fact that the bourgeoisie is the only revolutionary class that ever won; at the same time it is the only class for which the development of the economy was the cause and the consequence of its taking hold of society.
The same simplification led Marx to neglect the economic role of the State in the management of a class society. If the rising bourgeoisie seemed to liberate the economy from the State, this took place only to the extent that the former State was an instrument of class oppression in a static economy.
The bourgeoisie developed its autonomous economic power in the medieval period of the weakening of the State, at the moment of feudal fragmentation of balanced powers.
The proletariat cannot itself come to power except by becoming the class of consciousness. The growth of productive forces cannot guarantee such power, even by way of the increasing dispossession which it brings about.
A Jacobin seizure of power cannot be its instrument. No ideology can help the proletariat disguise its partial goals as general goals, because the proletariat cannot preserve any partial reality which is really its own. If Marx, in a given period of his participation in the struggle of the proletariat, expected too much from scientific forecasting, to the point of creating the intellectual foundation for the illusions of economism, it is known that he did not personally succumb to those illusions.
In a well-known letter of December 7, , accompanying an article where he himself criticized Capital, an article which Engels would later present to the press as the work of an adversary, Marx clearly disclosed the limits of his own science: The subjective tendency of the author which was perhaps imposed on him by his political position and his past , namely the manner in which he views and presents to others the ultimate results of the real movement, the real social process, has no relation to his own actual analysis.
The fusion of knowledge and action must be realized in the historical struggle itself, in such a way that each of these terms guarantees the truth of the other. The formation of the proletarian class into a subject means the organization of revolutionary struggles and the organization of society at the revolutionary moment: Theory had undertaken precisely this task in order to develop a unitary historical practice.
This question is in fact the locus of inconsistency of this theory, allowing the return of statist and hierarchic methods of application borrowed from the bourgeois revolution.
Due to the betrayal of unitary historical thought, this ideological estrangement from theory can no longer recognize the practical verification of this thought when such verification emerges in spontaneous struggles of workers; all it can do is repress every manifestation and memory of such verification.
Yet these historical forms which appeared in struggle are precisely the practical milieu which the theory needed in order to be true. They are requirements of the theory which have not been formulated theoretically. The first successes of the struggle of the International led it to free itself from the confused influences of the dominant ideology which survived in it.
But the defeat and repression which it soon encountered brought to the foreground a conflict between two conceptions of the proletarian revolution. Both of these conceptions contain an authoritarian dimension and thus abandon the conscious self-emancipation of the working class. In effect, the quarrel between Marxists and Bakuninists which became irreconcilable was two-edged, referring at once to power in the revolutionary society and to the organization of the present movement, and when the positions of the adversaries passed from one aspect to the other, they reversed themselves.
Bakunin fought the illusion of abolishing classes by the authoritarian use of state power, foreseeing the reconstitution of a dominant bureaucratic class and the dictatorship of the most knowledgeable, or those who would be reputed to be such.
Marx thought that the growth of economic contradictions inseparable from democratic education of the workers would reduce the role of the proletarian State to a simple phase of legalizing the new social relations imposing themselves objectively, and denounced Bakunin and his followers for the authoritarianism of a conspiratorial elite which deliberately placed itself above the International and formulated the extravagant design of imposing on society the irresponsible dictatorship of those who are most revolutionary, or those who would designate themselves to be such.
Bakunin, in fact, recruited followers on the basis of such a perspective: A dictatorship without badge, without title, without official right, yet all the more powerful because it will have none of the appearances of power. Powerful organizations, like German Social-Democracy and the Iberian Anarchist Federation faithfully served one or the other of these ideologies; and everywhere the result was very different from what had been desired.
The strength and the weakness of the real anarchist struggle resides in its viewing the goal of proletarian revolution as immediately present the pretensions of anarchism in its individualist variants have always been laughable. From the historical thought of modern class struggles collectivist anarchism retains only the conclusion, and its exclusive insistence on this conclusion is accompanied by deliberate contempt for method.
Thus its critique of the political struggle has remained abstract, while its choice of economic struggle is affirmed only as a function of the illusion of a definitive solution brought about by one single blow on this terrain—on the day of the general strike or the insurrection. The anarchists have an ideal to realize. Anarchism remains a merely ideological negation of the State and of classes, namely of the social conditions of separate ideology. It is the ideology of pure liberty which equalizes everything and dismisses the very idea of historical evil.
This viewpoint which fuses all partial desires has given anarchism the merit of representing the rejection of existing conditions in favor of the whole of life, and not of a privileged critical specialization; but this fusion is considered in the absolute, according to individual caprice, before its actual realization, thus condemning anarchism to an incoherence too easily seen through.
Society of the Spectacle, The - Guy Debord (Zone Books 1995).pdf (PDFy mirror)
Anarchism has merely to repeat and to replay the same simple, total conclusion in every single struggle, because this first conclusion was from the beginning identified with the entire outcome of the movement. Thus Bakunin could write in , when he left the Federation Jurassiene: It is no longer the time for ideas, but for facts and acts.
Ideological respect for unanimity of decision has on the whole been favorable to the uncontrolled authority, within the organization itself, of specialists in freedom; and revolutionary anarchism expects the same type of unanimity from the liberated population, obtained by the same means.
Furthermore, the refusal to take into account the opposition between the conditions of a minority grouped in the present struggle and of a society of free individuals, has nourished a permanent separation among anarchists at the moment of common decision, as is shown by an infinity of anarchist insurrections in Spain, confined and destroyed on a local level. The illusion entertained more or less explicitly by genuine anarchism is the permanent imminence of an instantaneously accomplished revolution which will prove the truth of the ideology and of the mode of practical organization derived from the ideology.
In , anarchism in fact led a social revolution, the most advanced model of proletarian power in all time. In this context it should be noted that the signal for a general insurrection had been imposed by a pronunciamiento of the army. Its known leaders became ministers and hostages of the bourgeois State which destroyed the revolution only to lose the civil war.
This ideology rediscovers the confidence in pedagogical demonstration which had characterized utopian socialism, but mixes it with a contemplative reference to the course of history: Those who failed to recognize that for Marx and for the revolutionary proletariat the unitary thought of history was in no way distinct from the practical attitude to be adopted, regularly became victims of the practice they adopted. The ideology of the social-democratic organization gave power to professors who educated the working class, and the form of organization which was adopted was the form most suitable for this passive apprenticeship.
The participation of socialists of the Second International in political and economic struggles was admittedly concrete but profoundly uncritical. It was conducted in the name of revolutionary illusion by means of an obviously reformist practice. The revolutionary ideology was to be shattered by the very success of those who held it.
Even those who had been recruited from the struggles of industrial workers and who were themselves workers, were transformed by the union bureaucracy into brokers of labor power who sold labor as a commodity, for a just price. If their activity was to retain some appearance of being revolutionary, capitalism would have had to be conveniently unable to support economically this reformism which it tolerated politically in the legalistic agitation of the social-democrats.
But such an antagonism, guaranteed by their science, was constantly belied by history. But the contradiction was definitively demonstrated only by historical development itself. Although full of illusions in other respects, Bernstein had denied that a crisis of capitalist production would miraculously force the hand of socialists who wanted to inherit the revolution only by this legitimate rite.
The profound social upheaval which arose with the first world war, though fertile with the awakening of consciousness, twice demonstrated that the social-democratic hierarchy had not educated revolutionarily; and had in no way transformed the German workers into theoreticians: It therefore became the profession of the absolute management of society.
With the war and the collapse of the social-democratic international in the face of the war, the authoritarian ideological radicalism of the Bolsheviks spread all over the world. Lenin did not reproach the Marxism of the Second International for being a revolutionary ideology, but for ceasing to be one. The historical moment when Bolshevism triumphed for itself in Russia and when social-democracy fought victoriously for the old world marks the inauguration of the state of affairs which is at the heart of the domination of the modern spectacle: During twenty years of unresolved theoretical debate, the varied tendencies of Russian social-democracy had examined all the conditions for the liquidation of Czarism: The debate was resolved in practice by means of a factor which had not been present in the hypotheses: The theory of permanent revolution of Trotsky and Parvus, which Lenin adopted in April , was the only theory which became true for countries where the social development of the bourgeoisie was retarded, but this theory became true only after the introduction of the unknown factor: In the numerous arguments among the Bolshevik directors, Lenin was the most consistent defender of the concentration of dictatorial power in the hands of the supreme representatives of ideology.
Lenin was right every time against his adversaries in that be supported the solution implied by earlier choices of absolute minority Power: The bureaucratic society continued the consolidation by terrorizing the peasantry in order to implement the mast brutal primitive capitalist accumulation in history.
The industrialization of the Stalin epoch revealed the reality behind the bureaucracy: The independent economy, which dominates society to the extent of reinstituting the class domination it needs for its own ends, is thus confirmed.
Which is to say that the bourgeoisie created an autonomous power which, so long as its autonomy lasts, can even do without a bourgeoisie. Capitalist private property in decline is replaced by a simplified, less diversified surrogate which is condensed as collective property of the bureaucratic class.
This underdeveloped ruling class is the expression of economic underdevelopment, and has no perspective other than to overcome the retardation of this development in certain regions of the world. Revolutionary ideology, the coherence of the separate, of which Leninism represents the greatest voluntaristic attempt, supervising a reality which rejects it, with Stalinism returns to its truth in incoherence. At that paint ideology is no longer a weapon, but a goal. The lie which is no longer challenged becomes lunacy.
Reality as well as the goal dissolve in the totalitarian ideological proclamation: This is a local primitivism of the spectacle, whose role is nevertheless essential in the development of the world spectacle. 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.
The totalitarian-ideological class in power is the power of a topsy-turvy world: It is modest only on this point, because its official nonexistence must also coincide with the nec plus ultra of historical development which must at the same time be attributed to its infallible command. Extended everywhere, the bureaucracy must be the class invisible to consciousness; as a result all social life becomes insane.
The social organization of the absolute lie flows from this fundamental contradiction. Stalinism was the reign of terror within the bureaucratic class itself. Its real property being hidden, the bureaucracy became proprietor by way of false consciousness.
False consciousness can maintain its absolute power only by means of absolute terror, where all real motives are ultimately lost. The members of the bureaucratic class in power have a right of ownership over society only collectively, as participants in a fundamental lie: But effective participation in this falsehood requires that it be recognized as actual participation.
If all the bureaucrats taken together decide everything, the cohesion of their own class can be assured only by the concentration of their terrorist power in a single person. In this person resides the only practical truth of falsehood in power: Stalin is the world sovereign who in this manner knows himself as the absolute person for whose consciousness there is no higher spirit.
When ideology, having become absolute through the possession of absolute power, changes from partial knowledge into totalitarian falsehood, the thought of history is so perfectly annihilated that history itself, even at the level of the most empirical knowledge, can no longer exist. The totalitarian bureaucratic society lives in a perpetual present where everything that happened exists for it only as a place accessible to its police.
But the price paid for this emancipation from all historical reality is the loss of the rational reference which is indispensable to the historical society, capitalism. It is known how much the scientific application of insane ideology has cost the Russian economy, if only through the imposture of Lysenko.
The contradiction of the totalitarian bureaucracy administering an industrialized society, caught between its need for rationality and its rejection of the rational, is one of its main deficiencies with regard to normal capitalist development. Just as the bureaucracy cannot resolve the question of agriculture the way capitalism had done, it is ultimately inferior to capitalism in industrial production, planned from the top and based on unreality and generalized falsehood.
Fascism was an extremist defense of the bourgeois economy threatened by crisis and by proletarian subversion. Fascism is a state of siege in capitalist society, by means of which this society saves itself and gives itself stop-gap rationalization by making the State intervene massively in its management.
But this rationalization is itself burdened by the immense irrationality of its means. Although fascism rallies to the defense of the main points of bourgeois ideology which has become conservative the family, property, the moral order, the nation , reuniting the petty-bourgeoisie and the unemployed routed by crisis or deceived by the impotence of socialist revolution, it is not itself fundamentally ideological.
It presents itself as it is: Fascism is technically-equipped archaism. Its decomposed ersatz of myth is revived in the spectacular context of the most modern means of conditioning and illusion. However, since fascism is also the most costly form of preserving the capitalist order, it usually had to leave the front of the stage to the great roles played by the capitalist States; it is eliminated by stronger and more rational forms of the same order.
Now that the Russian bureaucracy has finally succeeded in doing away with the remains of bourgeois property which hampered its rule over the economy, in developing this property for its own use, and in being recognized externally among the great powers, it wants to enjoy its world calmly and to suppress the arbitrary element which had been exerted over it: But the denunciation remains Stalinist, arbitrary, unexplained and continually corrected, because the ideological lie at its origin can never be revealed.
Thus the bureaucracy can liberalize neither culturally nor politically because its existence as a class depends on its ideological monopoly which, with all its weight, is its only title to property. 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. Thus precisely at the moment when the bureaucracy wants to demonstrate its superiority on the terrain of capitalism it reveals itself to be a poor relation of capitalism.
Just as its actual history contradicts its claims and its vulgarly entertained ignorance contradicts its scientific pretentions, so its project of becoming a rival to the bourgeoisie in the production of commodity abundance is blocked by the fact that this abundance carries its implicit ideology within itself, and is usually accompanied by an indefinitely extended freedom of spectacular false choices, a pseudo-freedom which remains irreconcilable with the bureaucratic ideology.
The power which established itself nationally as a fundamentally internationalist model must admit that it can no longer pretend to maintain its false cohesion over and above every national frontier.
From this point on, every bureaucracy in power, or every totalitarian party which is a candidate to the power left behind by the Stalinist period in some national working classes, must follow its own path.
However, the global decomposition of the bureaucratic alliance is in the last analysis the least favorable factor for the present development of capitalist society. The bourgeoisie is in the process of losing the adversary which objectively supported it by providing an illusory unification of all negation of the existing order. This division of labor within the spectacle comes to an end when the pseudo-revolutionary role in turn divides. The Leninist illusion has no contemporary base outside of the various Trotskyist tendencies.
Here the identification of the proletarian project with a hierarchic organization of ideology stubbornly survives the experience of all its results. The distance which separates Trotskyism from a revolutionary critique of the present society allows Trotskyism to maintain a deferential attitude toward positions which were already false when they were used in a real combat. Trotsky was condemned by his basic perspective, because as soon as the bureaucracy recognizes itself in its result as a counterrevolutionary class internally, it must also choose, in the name of revolution, to be effectively counter-revolutionary externally, just as it is at home.
All his life he refused to recognize the bureaucracy as the power of a separate class, because during the second Russian revolution he became an unconditional supporter of the Bolshevik form of organization. Except for his profound theoretical work, Lukacs was still an ideologue speaking in the name of the power most grossly external to the proletarian movement, believing and making believe that he, himself, with his entire personality, was within this power as if it were his own.
Lukacs is the best proof of the fundamental rule which judges all the intellectuals of this century: Here the illusion of some variant of state and bureaucratic socialism is consciously manipulated by local ruling classes as simply the ideology of economic development.
The hybrid composition of these classes is more or less clearly related to their standing along the bourgeois-bureaucratic spectrum. Their games on an international scale with the two poles of existing capitalist power, as well as their ideological compromises notably with Islam , express the hybrid reality of their social base and remove from this final byproduct of ideological socialism everything serious except the police.
A bureaucracy establishes itself by staffing a national struggle and an agrarian peasant revolt; from that point on, as in China, it tends to apply the Stalinist model of industrialization in societies less developed than Russia was in In thesis , Debord mentions some American sociologists who have described the general project of developed capitalism which "aims to recapture the fragmented worker as a personality well integrated in the group;" the examples mentioned by Debord are David Riesman , author of The Lonely Crowd , and William H.
Whyte , author of the bestseller The Organization Man. In Debord's treatment, modern society forces culture to constantly re-appropriate or re-invent itself, copying and re-packaging old ideas.
Thesis makes this point, rhetorically: "Ideas improve. The meaning of words participates in the improvement. Plagiarism is necessary.
Progress implies it.The development of productive forces has been the real unconscious history which built and modified the conditions of existence of human groups as conditions of survival, and extended those conditions: the economic basis of all their undertakings. The society of the spectacle is on the contrary the form which chooses its own technical content.
The working class did not set off the permanent revolution in the Germany of ; the Commune was defeated in isolation. Those who failed to recognize that for Marx and for the revolutionary proletariat the unitary thought of history was in no way distinct from the practical attitude to be adopted, regularly became victims of the practice they adopted. The images detached from every aspect of life merge into a common stream in which the unity of that life can no longer be recovered.
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