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.
In General Intellects there was only space to cover twenty-one influential theorists. I'm often asked why this or that figure is not in it.
My answer is usually that I think people could make their own lists and do their own attempts at compression to create brief, functional accounts of key concept-makers.
But somehow it seems I'm not done yet. Here's an attempt to compress the work of Nick Land — one I'm most often asked about. And certainly one of the most controversial.
In General Intellects, I offer condensed versions of twenty-one leading thinkers across a range of fields. but I did not include figures in anthropology, as I am still working my way through reading in what's going on there. I have been finding some exciting stuff. Elsewhere, I wrote about Anna Tsing and Achille Mbembe. Here's my report on the work of Brazilian anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, author of the brilliant Cannibal Metaphysics, including notes on a recent collaboration with the Brazilian philosopher Déborah Danowski, called The Ends of the World.
What happened to the public intellectuals that used to challenge and inform us? Who is the Sartre or De Beauvoir of the internet age? The decline of the public intellectual has to do with intellectual labor being absorbed into the production process. General Intellects argues we no longer have such singular figures, but there are, instead, general intellects whose writing could, if read collectively, explain our times. McKenzie Wark presented the idea behind General Intellects at a recent lecture at Virtual Futures in London. This is the first half of his talk.
General Intellects, along with McKenzie Wark's other books Molecular Red, The Beach Beneath the Street, and The Spectacle of Disintegration are all 40% off until Sunday, June 11 at midnight UTC. All discounts will be taken at check out.