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Situationism, the Occupy Movement and the London Riots— The Beach Beneath the Street review and article

Kishani Widyaratna24 October 2011

Andrew Blake of the Independent has reviewed The Beach Beneath the Street, a fresh history of the Situationist International, commending its account of situationism as "a far more comprehensive overview than the usual defence of its best-known publication, Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle". Praising Wark's clarity in showing that "there was far more to Situationism than one clever book", Blake argues that Situationist ideas are still as relevant today as at its founding:

Neither the Tottenham looter or the "kid with the BitTorrent account" identified by Wark may be consciously opposed to the Society of the Spectacle, but their challenges indicate that we should continue to take Situationism seriously in thought, word, and deed.

In a piece on Occupy Wall Street for Asia Times Online, Pepe Escobar also recommends Situationism and The Beach Beneath the Street for their relevance to contemporary political movements.

At Zuccotti Park - Occupy Wall Street's headquarters in lower Manhattan - there's a free public library, with books donated by everyone who feels like it. A good first step would be for people to supply a good many copies of The Beach Beneath the Street, by McKenzie Wark, a gripping history of the Situationists - the key conceptual group led by Guy Debord at the heart of May 1968.

Moving on to discuss the new political language created by the Occupy movement, he turns to Wark's original blogpost 'How to Occupy an Abstraction':

Wark has also written a clinical essay detailing how instead of occupying an abstraction - Wall Street - the movement occupied another abstraction, "A more or less public park nestled in the downtown landscape of tower blocks, not too far from the old World Trade Center site," and from there proceeded to occupy "the virtual space of social media".

Wark concludes, "The abstraction that is the occupation is then a double one, an occupation of a place, somewhere near the actual Wall Street; and the occupation of the social media vector, with slogans, images, videos, stories. 'Keep on forwarding!' might not be a bad slogan for it. Not to mention keep on creating the actual language for a politics in the space of social media."

No wonder the 1% are puzzled. Occupy Wall Street is already creating a new political language, smashing old categories of cause and effect, using for instance what Guy Debord described as derive - a technique of moving like lightning through different settings (from physical to virtual, or from lower Manhattan to Washington Square and Times Square).

Visit the Independent to read the review in full, and Asia Times Online to read Pepe Escobar's article in full.

Filed under: articles, occupy, reviews