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The society of the spectacle: a reflection on postmodernity

The society of the spectacle: a reflection on postmodernity

November 27, 2021

Nowadays we live convulsive moments at the level of society, politics and economy . It is assumed that part of the global financial crisis that besieged us for exactly ten years, but also points to another reason, one more psychological or, rather, psychosocial. A lack of understanding about the society we are and what we want to be. "A crisis of values," say philosophers and sociologists from around the world. The economic activity in good times would have been a mirage of what we thought it had to be, and now only its facet remains. kitsch.

The concept of the society of the show is now more than twenty years since it was conceived by the hand of the French author, thinker and philosopher Guy Ernest Debord (1931-1994). This author wrote a book of less than 200 pages to describe what he saw as the new deception of the twentieth century. Compared the model of society, the emerging capitalist, with what became religion in past times: a mere control of people creating a fictitious reality and that has never existed, such as consumption.


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What is the society of the show?

The idea of ​​the society of the spectacle arises from the situationist thought of the fifties of the last century. Guy Debord received influences from modern cinema, from European lyricists and from the most radical Marxist and anarchist thoughts. Thus founded the International Lettrist in 1952 , critical magazine with the urban model that was being forged after the period of World War.

Just five years later, in 1957, the Situationist International (IS) was founded, an organization of revolutionary intellectuals and artists who they went against capitalism that was being implemented in European society. In addition, it was a fierce vindication against class society and against the culture of Western civilization of capitalist domination. This movement was nourished by the extreme left ideologies of authors such as Georg Lukács or Rosa Luxemburg.


A decade later, the founder of the Situationist group, having compiled enough information and observations of daily life, wrote his most famous work: The Society of the Spectacle (1967). This book was a masterly thesis of critical debate against the society of modern capitalism, as well as its impact on the identity of people. "Everything that was directly lived, moves away today in a representation", assured the writer of the work.

The values ​​of postmodern society

The situationists of the time had great contributions to cultural and intellectual revolts around the world, from the western world to the eastern, paying special attention to the Spring of 1968 (Prague Spring), opposing great resistance against the values ​​that were inculcated in modern societies. Capitalism, consumption, image, status, materialism. It was intended to break with those predetermined and artificial values to create a purer, sentimental and humanistic model.


For Guy Debord the model of advanced capitalist production marked our lifestyle, our way of relating to others and the values ​​acquired based on the show . As a spectacle, we understand the representation of these values ​​by the media, the cinema, advertisements and advertising banners that magnify false ideas and feelings, according to critics.

The values ​​of the society of the spectacle that are still present today, suggest the belief of an artificial reality as its being our natural environment. The normalization of these precepts as a method of coexistence. The vehicle, the devices, the types of trips we make, all of them mercantile concepts that respond to an erroneous idealization of what should be life based on the image that is given to others .

Psychogeography as a breakthrough method

One of the keys to overcome some of the stereotypes marked by Western capitalism, was what Guy called the "detour" method, a way to draw a different direction to what society has accustomed us. Thus, psychogeography was a very effective experimental method that aimed to mark an indefinite route wandering through urban environments and not predetermined by the pace of society.

It was about walking, generating natural situations and experiences of chance (that's why it was called Situationism). According to another expert in the field, the Spaniard Luis Navarro, a situation can be a spontaneous or constructed moment, according to how each person wants or needs to create their own reality . From this point of view, this is one of the master lines of the society of the spectacle, to put in doubt the scheme created for a society to be "functional and civilized".

Situationism today

Many social movements today are direct heirs of the Situationism of the twentieth century. The global crisis of the financial system that erupted more than a decade ago is directly a crisis of the current capitalist system (heir also of the last century). For this reason, platforms such as "Occupy Wall Street", the page of global recognition as "Wikileaks" or the activist hackers of "Anonymous", are presented as tools to fight against the established culture .

At the national level, in Spain, the so-called "15M Movement" has been translated into peaceful protests that began in the large cities of the country in demand for wage cuts, the retreat of civil rights such as housing or a stable job or the political disaffection felt by citizens against their representative leaders. Corruption has been the last pillar of this phenomenon that continues to be strengthened at present.


The Society of the Spectacle: A Postmodern Condition (November 2021).


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