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Comments on the Society of the Spectacle

“Guy Debord is a time bomb, and a difficult one todefuse.”—Michael Löwy.
First published in 1967, Guy Debord's stinging revolutionary critique ofcontemporary society, The Society of the Spectacle has since acquired acult status. Credited by many as being the inspiration for the ideasgenerated by the events of May 1968 in France, Debord's pitiless attackon commodity fetishism and its incrustation in the practices of everydaylife continues to burn brightly in today's age of satellite televisionand the soundbite. In Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, publishedtwenty years later, Debord returned to the themes of his previousanalysis and demonstrated how they were all the more relevant in aperiod when the "integrated spectacle" was dominant. Resolutely refusingto be reconciled to the system, Debord trenchantly slices through thedoxa and mystification offered tip by journalists and pundits to showhow aspects of reality as diverse as terrorism and the environment, theMafia and the media, were caught up in the logic of the spectacularsociety. Pointing the finger clearly at those who benefit from the logicof domination, Debord's Comments convey the revolutionary impulse atthe heart of situationism.


  • The Entertainer: Trump l’oeil

    This post first appeared at j-hoberman.com.

    Donald J. Trump is not the first professional entertainer or pitchman to be elected president of the United States but, however he may refuse to break character or take an adjustment, he is not Ronald Reagan.

    Reagan was 1940s Hollywood incarnate. He was the embodiment of happy endings and uncomplicated emotions, amusing anecdotes and conspicuous consumption, cornball patriotism and paranoid anti-Communism, cheerful bromides and a built-in production code designed to suppress any uncomfortable truth. He was a true believer in the magic of the movies.

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  • The legitimate condemnation of a bankrupt government

    First published in Mediapart. Translated by David Broder. 

    Democracy does not belong to either Left or Right. When it is besmirched by governments identifying with either of these political families, any republican worthy of the name must simply say "No." The government has put this attitude of principle on alert as it has imposed a socially regressive law on all workers in France without debate, despite having no majority in Parliament and being in the minority in the country.

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  • Taking over the asylum: Critical psychiatry, Franco Basaglia and social struggle—By John Foot

    In the lead-up to World Mental Health Day on October 10th, 2015, we look back at how the "anti-" or "radical psychiatry" of the 1960s and 1970s struggled to revolutionise the field through a critique of capitalist society in its totality. Mental illness, it was argued, was the product of a more generalised system of social and institutional oppression. This argument, as well as the centrality of the emancipation of the individual, naturally aligned the radical psychiatrists with other movements that coalesced in 1968. 

    We present an edited extract from The Man Who Closed the Asylums: Franco Basaglia and the Revolution in Mental Health CareJohn Foot's portrait of Franco Basaglia and the critical psychiatry movement that explores how curing the 'mad' demanded a critique of the 'sane', and how revolt against the institution of the asylum pre-figured and intertwined with a rebellion against society itself. 

    General meeting, Gorizia Psychiatric Hospital, 1960s.
    - General meeting, Gorizia Psychiatric Hospital, 1960s.    

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Other books by Guy Debord