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The Spectacle of Disintegration: Situationist Passages out of the Twentieth Century

Acclaimed author follows the work of the Situationist International after May 1968.
Following his acclaimed history of the Situationist International up until the late sixties, The Beach Beneath the Street, McKenzie Wark returns with a companion volume which puts the late work of the Situationists in a broader and deeper context, charting their contemporary relevance and their deep critique of modernity. Wark builds on their work to map the historical stages of the society of the spectacle, from the diffuse to the integrated to what he calls the disintegrating spectacle. The Spectacle of Disintegration takes the reader through the critique of political aesthetics of former Situationist T.J. Clark, the Fourierist utopia of Raoul Vaneigem, René Vienet’s earthy situationist cinema, Gianfranco Sangunetti’s pranking of the Italian ruling class, Alice-Becker Ho’s account of the anonymous language of the Romany, Guy Debord’s late films and his surprising work as a game designer.


At once an extraordinary counter history of radical praxis and a call to arms in the age of financial crisis and the resurgence of the streets, The Spectacle of Disintegration recalls the hidden journeys taken in the attempt to leave the twentieth century, and plots an exit from the twenty first.

The dustjacket unfolds to reveal a fold-out poster of the collaborative graphic essay combining text selected by McKenzie Wark with composition and drawings by Kevin C. Pyle.

Reviews

  • “Wark's readable explanation of the movement's ideas is the best I have read. ”
  • “A playful, smart and occasionally epigrammatic study of the Situationists ... this brilliant account is not only an essential work for our own times; it also comes with a cover that, with the minimum of manual dexterity, folds out intoa  collaborative graphic essay. ”
  • “Wark’s two books work sequentially, although they also loop around the same figures and concepts. They could be treated as histories of the Situationist milieu and its aftermaths, but to do so would miss entirely what makes them such compelling and, at times, hilarious reading. [...] What really drives The Beach Beneath the Street and The Spectacle of Disintegration is their impatience with contemporary cultural and intellectual institutions that, for all of their posturing, are largely complicit with the prevailing political order.”

Blog

  • Bogdanov for the win!



    This is a famous picture of Lenin playing chess with Alexander Bogdanov while Gorky looks on. Bogdanov won. According to Gorky, Lenin was a bit of a sore loser about it. But then Lenin did manage to checkmate Bogdanov's influence in the Bolshevik faction and have him thrown out, so in the long run Lenin won everthing.

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  • Charles Fourier's Queer Theory



    Constant's New Babylon is about the infrastructure of the future of our desires, but one has to look elsewhere for a vision of its everyday life. In this extract from The Spectacle of Disintegration, I take up Charles Fourier's New Amorous World, a book only known in France since 1967 and still scandalously untranslated. (Although Raoul Vanegeim edited and introduced a lovely little French edition). 

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  • Baroque with Expensive Taste



    To celebrate the launch of Franco (Bifo) Berardi's new book Heroes, here is an extract in which he writes about the baroque ethos of post-bourgeois semiocapitalism:

    Semiocapital and the Ethics of Baroque

    Franco Berardi

    Crime used to be a secret act. In the age of repression and industriousness, when the morality of the bourgeoisie was reigning, crime wanted to be secret. Law aimed at preventing crime, and it encouraged investigations of criminals in order to punish them.

    This order of things has irrevocably changed in the last turn of time, especially since the advent of the semiocapitalist regime.

    Semiocapitalim occupies the sphere of randomness of value, as well as the sphere of randomness of law and of moral judgement.

    “The entire strategy of the system lies in this hyper-reality of floating values. It is the same for money and theory as for the unconscious. Value rules according to an ungraspable order: the generation of models, the indefinite chaining of simulation. Cybernetic operationality, the genetic code, the random order of mutations, the principle of uncertainty, and so on: all of these replace a determinist and objectivist science, a dialectical vision of history and consciousness.” (Baudrillard)

    Baudrillard is talking of value in economic terms. In the post-Fordist transition, the relation between work-time and value is jeopardized, as immaterial production and cognitive work are difficult to properly gauge. But the random effect is not limited to the sphere of the economy, as it spreads both to the sphere of social relations and to that of ethics.

    The current, generalized perception of widespread corruption is neither a superficial impression, nor the effect of a deterioration of the moral character of people. It is a systemic effect of the randomization of value. When value can no longer be determined by the precise relation to work-time, its determinant factors become deception, swindle, violence. Mafia ceases to be a marginal phenomenon of lawlessness, instead becoming the prevailing force of emerging capitalist economies like Russia and Mexico. At the same time, fraud is legalized and organized in the global financial market as a systemic feature.

    As it becomes increasingly institutionalized, crime loses its secrecy and demands access to the spectacle. The visibility of crime becomes part of the effectiveness and persuasiveness of power. Competition is all about subduing, cheating, predating. Blaming the victims is part of the game: you are guilty of your inability to subdue, to cheat and to plunder, therefore you will be submitted to the blackmail of debt and to the tyranny of austerity.

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Other books by McKenzie Wark