[SYMPOSIUM] BOOK CLUB
#30 Debord: The Culmination of Separation
Friday, 12 October 2018, 18:30–21:00
LARC, 62 Fieldgate Street, London E1 1ES
Closest stations: Whitechapel / Aldgate East
Facilitated by Penelope Kupfer & Darshana Vora
Suggested donation £2, booking via Eventbrite
In October we’re joining Penelope Kupfer and Darshana Vora to discuss The Culmination of Separation (or Separation Perfected), the first chapter of Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle, first published in 1967.
ONLINE SOURCE Guy Debord (2002/1967). The Culmination of Separation. In Society of the Spectacle. Translated by Ken Knabb, Feb 2002.
Guy Debord was a French Marxist theorist, philosopher and film maker. His book, The Society of the Spectacle (1967), is a polemical call out trying to shed light on our image-saturated consumer culture through a Marxist theory lens. In this session of the book club we will be focusing on the first chapter, The Culmination of Separation, pp. 6-17. Debord claims that a mediatised spectacle objectifies society, reducing it to mere appearance which tends to alienate and divide society due to lack of identification with the “other”.
In his book, The Society of the Spectacle, Guy Debord voices the concerns of his contemporaries, re-affirming the nature of the various facets of late capitalist/Marxist ideologies and their effect on society. Debord’s style of writing closely resembles the hypnotic and tautological nature of ‘The Spectacle’ that he proceeds to expound. In chapter 1, The Culmination of Separation, Debord connects seemingly disparate outcomes of capitalism to highlight their psychological and secular impact on the proletariat.
Debord’s premise is that technology, with its superfluous array of media and marketing, has inundated all aspects of living. Whilst serving capitalist objectives, the predominantly ‘visual’ nature of these has resulted in a world in which all aspects of directly-lived experience have been replaced by a pseudo world of aspirational living in which fulfilment of ‘being’ is replaced by ‘having’ and further, ‘appearing’ and life is presented as an immense accumulation of spectacles.
1. What is “The Society of the Spectacle” and why does it seem so relevant today even though it has been written in 1967? How can it contribute to alienation and division in society and does it potentially nurture right wing ideas in recent politics?
2. Looking at “The Society of the Spectacle” under the light of social media, are we selling out our social life as a commodity? If so, could that potentially be interesting for recent painting, maybe thinking of the bohemian artist or the fetish painter?
3. To what extent have artists used ‘the spectacle’ and its methods of production as a model in itself, to critique it? With reference to works by Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer who have used the production methods and models of advertising to locate their critique and political views. Is a critique possible via a different, dialectical approach that falls outside the models used by media and what would that look like?
4. If social media networks mirror the spectacle’s alienation and lonely crowds in society, could that be connected to youth finding comfort in avatars and virtual reality, moving into zones of the simulacra of Baudrillard’s vision. What could be the antidote to this? If there is a real, is the real too unlike the projections to be able to deal with it?
Suggested further reading
- Marx, Karl (1976). The Fetishism of the Commodity and its Secret. In Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. 1. Trans. Ben Fowkes. Harmondsworth: Penguin & New Left Review, pp. 163-177.
- McLuhan, Marshall (2001/1964). Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. London: Routledge.
- Baudrillard, Jean (1983). Simulations. Trans. Paul Foss, Paul Patton and Philip Beitchman. New York: Semiotext(e).
- Adorno, Theodor and Max Horkheimer (2002/1947/1944). Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception. In Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments. Trans Edmund Jephcott, Gunzelin Schmid Noerr ed. Stanford: Stanford University Press, pp. 94-136.