Over fifty years after the Situationist International appeared, its legacy continues to inspire activists, artists and theorists around the world. Such a legend has accrued to this movement that the story of the SI now demands to be told in a contemporary voice capable of putting it into the context of twenty-first-century struggles.
McKenzie Wark delves into the Situationists’ unacknowledged diversity, revealing a world as rich in practice as it is in theory. Tracing the group’s development from the bohemian Paris of the ’50s to the explosive days of May ’68, Wark’s take on the Situationists is biographically and historically rich, presenting the group as an ensemble creation, rather than the brainchild and dominion of its most famous member, Guy Debord. Roaming through Europe and the lives of those who made up the movement—including Constant, Asger Jorn, Michèle Bernstein, Alex Trocchi and Jacqueline De Jong—Wark uncovers an international movement riven with conflicting passions.
Accessible to those who have only just discovered the Situationists and filled with new insights, The Beach Beneath the Street rereads the group’s history in the light of our contemporary experience of communications, architecture, and everyday life. The Situationists tried to escape the world of twentieth-century spectacle and failed in the attempt. Wark argues that they may still help us to escape the twenty-first century, while we still can ...
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).
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
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.