Fifty years since Guy Debord’s “La société du spectacle/The society of the spectacle”

by Ana Bazac

What can one say by remembering Guy Debord’s book? Certainly: reminding the general historical context as well as the political appurtenance of the writer. But also the representativeness of the book and the necessity to go forward from it: because, really, to remain only, implicitly or explicitly, in the nostalgia occasioned by book reviews is no longer enough. But to go forward means to go in the direction emphasised by Debord (1931-1994).




Therefore, the little book was published in 1967. In an era of aggressive singing of the virtues of the “social” capitalism or state (this one was called in French “l’État providence”, the providential state that – letting aside the origin of the expression – has offered to the working classes of the developed countries some or even substantial social benefits, related to both the need of the national monopolies to have internal outlets/buyers and the necessity to have an internal social peace diverting the radicalisation of masses during the WWII). The social state was of direct Keynesian origin (again letting aside the origins in the conservatism of Bismarck’s Germany aiming at developing in an accelerated manner after the unification of German states and aiming at lest at a neo-colonialist capitalist march in Europe, if not a colonialist space too, in Africa; and letting aside the origin in the catholic conservatism aiming at counteracting the rise of the Western working class conscience): a reformist solution (promoted also in the Northern states and related, there too, to the Great Depression (1929-1933)) that, irrespective of the specific forms where the social aspects were more or less accentuated in different countries, signified the contradiction and exhausting of the monopoly phase of capitalism and the transition to state monopoly phase that begun after 1931/1932; but it did not avoid the wars, as today the neo-liberal/transnational phase  did not avoid  the wars occurred, let say, only after 1990.

The Western social state coexisted with colonialism and later, neo-colonialism, – or rather, had a rich source of income from the countries subjected to the economic domination of the West. At the same time, the Western social state was also the result of the transfer of surplus American money, resulted from the huge economic gains of the USA from the war, to the devastated European countries and the severely wounded Japan. The reason and at the same time the consequence of this transfer was the American capitalism’s need to fructify its surplus money (so, to transform it into – profitable – capital) and the lack of money of the European and Japanese capitalism, highly indebted during the war, thus not having money for the internal investments for the recovery of the destroyed infrastructure and nor for the payment of debts.

Certainly, the transfer – donation, and also loans without interest and with a very low interest – had also a political reason. The European and Japanese destroyed economies meant a high unemployment and low salaries, so the class opposition could but rise. But, at the same time, the American capitalism – though interested to have in that moment almost full employment in its plants, and certainly profit, because Europe and Japan could but buy and were to buy the American goods – was absolutely conscious that at the end of the European and Japanese economic recovery, these countries will savagely competing the American economy. This is the reason why the Marshall Plan started only from April 1948, and not before (with all the American aid after 1945):  actually, since capitalism uses many ways to keep its subjects under its control (as, for example, merciless external wars and domination, internal repression and fear, economic constraint, various ideological manipulation), the American ruling class thought that it will succeed further in obtaining profit from Europe and Japan without the “gift” of donation and loans with no interest and low interest.  On the other hand, there certainly were “debates” in the ruling circle, and the political and military arguments proved to be preponderant towards the economic ones which deplored both the immediate loss generated by the policy of no interest and low interest, and the further loss determined by the future economic competition of Europe and Japan. But to rescue the world from “communism” and to have a wide market for its armament seemed to be more pressing.

Briefly, an alert economic recovery and development took place in Europe, the living standards rose and the flourishing “capitalist way of life” (whose promoter certainly was the “American way of life”), based on consume of material goods and smoothing of the social conscience to the level of petit-bourgeois thirst of the egotistic indifference and easy entertainment of the well-offs, seemed to leave back the harsh problems of legitimacy, beyond the aspect of liberal representative democracy.




There were – indeed, not significant, but anyway – economic crises in this period and, something graver, horrible wars outside the “oasis” of the Western civilization but waged by this civilization; the watchword inside it was to buy and to have fun, and that if the war happens on the other side of the border, we can ignore it: but this watchword was assumed not only by the explicit bourgeois parties and ideological singers, but also by the “respectable left”, the social-democratic type parties and voices. “Capitalism was to develop and assure prosperity for all, through science, technology and, on political level, through social reforms and the democracy of consensus: all of these will elide a bloody revolution that would impose totalitarianism”. As the right, the “left” also has excluded from the picture offered to masses the problems on international scale: they had in view exclusively their own countries, namely the “capitalism in a single country”, if I may borrow and paraphrase Trotsky’s formula for Stalin’s theory of “socialism in a single country”. As a result, as the right waged wars for the “vital space” of the Western countries, as the “left” either eventually formally condemned these wars or, rather, even supported them in the name of the same “national” egotism and “prestige”: anyhow, but explicitly refusing the original left-wing internationalism. Thus, the problem was not only that social-democracy did no longer differentiate itself from the explicit right and that it refused the class analysis and the paradigm of capital – becoming incapable, like the explicit right, to understand the social and economic processes –, but also that it narrowed in the same manner as this right did the problem of the meanings of the human life: the ancient precept to do the good for others (Aristotle) – developed in modernity as responsibility towards others on the basis that the moral good is only that which is universalisable (Kant), and as internationalism (Marx), i.e. 1) the others are not only the acquaintances, but also those far away from us, and  2) the universalisable moral good can be realised only by destroying the economic and relational logic of power relations/domination-submission.

Since the dominant “left” was social-democracy, it’s obvious that its ideology became dominant and that it not only did not leave room for the development of a different left-wing search for alternatives, but it has considered the different, non-social-democratic left-wing organisations as its main enemy. And these ones lost their time in many quarrels between themselves and with social-democracy.

Briefly, in those times the main message about the Western society was euphoric, and it was the frame of the social researches too.

There were exceptions: and Guy Debord’s Society of the spectacle was a brilliant such exception.



But let’s finish this general description of the social frame of Debord’s work. After 1967, in 1968 the youth revolt occurred, showing that both the real and imagined affluence were not enough: people needed social ideals and creative jobs, not only some money for a life of modern proles. The revolt – whose one tendency was to unite with the workers of Paris – was so frightening for the upper classes that, first, they diverted it from class views to deformed manifestations – as the banal non-conformism (from drugs and “sexual revolution” to escapism and nomadism) – and secondly, they accelerated the erection of a huge system of mass entertainment based on individualistic manners of having fun. The official prohibition of drugs – but not at all of the social causes of drug addiction – has given them perversely the meaning of anti-establishment protest. And it seemed that, besides the quest for daily fun, not too much would remain to people, since, on the one hand, all real political oppositions vanished and, on the other hand, that the march of capitalism was unstoppable.

Indeed, from the 70s on capitalism has passed from its post-war state monopoly phase – when the capital’s need to have no troubles in its productive process, in order to have merchandises to sell inside the country to the working masses and certainly outside, has determined it to accept the progressive tax system and the development of state ownership, so the compromise of social state – to the present trans-national phase: in order to compete the shrinking markets (since all the countries develop their supply), the big companies have moved their production abroad, in developing or low developed countries where the salaries paid to workers were very low, and anyway much lower than in the Western countries where the social state was to be dismantled only at the latest; since the technological level used by the big companies is similar, the only differentiating factors generating competing profits was and is the level of salaries, and the price of row materials. Therefore, a huge process of de-localisation and, at the same time, deregulation in the Western countries (dismantling of the former social state’s intervention in economy, i.e. of all the above-mentioned reforms) took place. The former social consensus was and is under attack, because capital no longer needs it: on economic level, if the labour-force growls, it is threatened with the loss of jobs; the rest of means of constraint is covered by an aggressive ideological bombardment and by a democracy that annuls mass political participation.




 As a result, the former social-democratic type parties – and the Western communist ones also have assumed the “yellow”[1] social-democratic stance, for example through the “euro-communist” tenet that considered, ignoring the economic macro-processes and rejecting internationalism in the name of regionalism, that the European social state, democracy and integration within the European Union, will lead this union to a peaceful transformation toward “communism” – entered a profound decay. Either they waved the flag of nostalgia for the former social state whose conquests were and are systematically destroyed (especially through privatisation of the former national companies and through deregulation), but they still propose an historically impossible return to it – because the phases of capitalism are determined by inevitable, objective economic processes –, or they had and have the same neo-liberal policies as the explicit right; they proposed and imposed neo-liberal “reforms”, calling the destruction of the former social state “reforms”, so with the name of the post-war social policies; they proposed and imposed the austerity that “would keep the employments, the coming of big trans-national companies to invest and the competitiveness/ profitable economy”. (Obviously, these policies do not keep the employments and the decent level of general living standards, but only the profit of capital).



Why so much economy when one announced a discussion about “superstructure”? For three reasons.

First, the problems of the ideas about society cannot be understood only seeing their antecedents in the history of ideas and, certainly, not only interpreting and commenting them. This level of analysis, obviously sine qua non, is rather descriptive and the meanings of ideas are related to a causality moving inside the realm of ideas. What is similarly necessary is to relate this realm with the more comprising one, the structures and mechanisms of society, which are more or less visible, and to exclude any legitimating function of ideas for these structures and mechanisms. On the contrary: and the capacity of ideas to describe them is the higher as they penetrate in more profound strata of social reality and link these strata  with the more visible ones. Actually, only this approach is able to grasp the contradictions of the social phenomena beyond the visibly describable ones. The understanding of macro-economics is thus necessary for the understanding of the determinism of political institutions, processes and ideas.

Secondly, because in the present ideological atmosphere impregnated by the capitalist ideology, the fashionable intellectuals pique themselves that they do understand nothing from economics, but at the same time they offer the opinion that the only good and reasonable economy is the capitalist one. In fact, and this is the third reason, the modern tradition of the intellectuals – and not only from humanities – is the neutralist and “apolitical” stance as proof of their respectable position, and the sure means for this is the ignorance in economics.



After the WWII, the “left”-wing, and not only the explicit right-wing parties, have advanced in their bureaucratisation,  process showed long ago by Ostrogorski[2] and Michels[3], i.e. with their leadership having as agenda the integration within the state, their re-election and their acceptance by the other “respectable” state and party bureaucracies: thus, with an increasing distance between this agenda and, on the other hand, the former ideals of the left, as well as on the third hand, the present real agenda of the majority of the population.

Perhaps the main idea thrown in the public space by the “left”-wing was, a the same time hypocritically praising the social state and proving with this social state that capitalism may be reformed (and thus, it is far better than the “barrack socialism”) is: it does not need revolution, so all the bearers of contesting messages must be silenced.



When we analyse the political frame of ideas about society we have to keep ourselves from making the mistake to reduce the whole picture to the above dominant “respectable” position. Yes, both the “most modern” explicit right and the social-democratic type parties and ideas were and are partisans of the “political correctness”: they were and are against dictatorship – and for the “only” democracy, the representative liberal one – against any political discrimination – but not against exploitation – and even against fascism, though the meanings of this last concept are equivocal for them. At any rate, they opposed fascism, but at the same time they did not protest – or their protest was and is formal, weak, inefficient – against the rehabilitation of the old fascists (see in Spain, Ukraine) and thus against the rewriting of history: no, since they equated and equate fascism and communism, and fascism fought communism, it would result that fascism is “not so guilty” or is “the lesser evil”, would it?

They opposed dictatorship but kept silence on/ignored that dictatorship is only a specific political form of the economic dictatorship of the capital, and that if democracy is transformed by this capital into a farce – and certainly this farce loses the force to legitimate the domination-submission relations – this capital as such substitutes it with a new type of political dictatorship: as in present.

Today, they oppose the discriminations considered as aberrations resulted from malign ideas: and thus they keep silence on the structural cause of discriminations; but they do this because they accept – as capitalism supports and is depending on – the social/class discriminations. Consequently, they oppose only the visible – certainly very important, but not structural – discriminations: they speak about equal opportunities for men and women in education, politics and culture, but not about the unequal salaries to equal work; they speak about the equal right to education, but not about unequal social conditions which transform that right into words; they oppose racism, but at the same time they want people be equal, but separate. The neo-liberal political correctness diverts attention from structural causes of discriminations, wars, exploitation and lack of hope, thus from class divisions, only to personal  rights[4] – those of the “atomised, abstract individuals” selected so as their example  avoid, in the conscience of recipients, the structures of class domination and so as the struggle against discriminations has an abstract universality[5]separated from the social rights, and artificial divisions concerning, for example, the marriage of LGBT or concerning even harmful problems: as  the “right” of LGBT couples to raise children. For: certainly, if the LGBT persons have the right to civil unions/partnerships, they have no the right to raise children, whether conceived by one partner or not, because the “right” of LGBT couples infringe the rights of children. Or, the neo-liberal political correctness, absolutely assumed by the present social-democratic “left”, is sensitive to the rights of “sexual workers”, but not to the structural causes of prostitution. In the dominant ideology, the more exotic is the minority that is really or in imagination discriminated, the more suspect seems to be the rights of the class oppressed majority.



But the political space was not, and is not, filled only with this type of voices. In those times, the researchers have showed that a majority of the youth, and even of the population, was sceptical towards slogans not only because these ones trumped them but also because their individual security and well-being seemed to be the only reasonable end[6], while the majority of intellectuals was confuse and opportunistic. Individually or politically committed, including as social-democrats, they have contributed to the dissolution of the traditional left culture, impregnated with the ideals of emancipation and revolution.

But there were also rebels. Guy Debord was an example of the challenging voices which were – as they are today – wrapped in the conspiracy of silence. He was not the only one, but the formidable pressure of the “democratic state” on the challenging messages and personalities was so efficient that rather discontinuity and fragmentation characterised their evolution. Anyway, a main goal of the “democratic state” was to stop the connections between the workers from factories and the non-conformist intellectuals.

Guy Debord was a representative of this type of intellectuals. He has continued Paul Lafargue’s Le Droit à la paresse (1880), the bohemian stance of the old François Villon, the impressionist literature of Baudelaire, and the later expressionism, aas well as Sartre’s existentialism and opposition. First, he became member of Letterism but soon he founded the Letterist international (1952), and more important, the Situationist International (1957). One can read on the net about all of these artistic movements. Here we must notice that, perhaps especially from 1957 on, Guy Debord has developed a system of an explicit social function of art and aesthetics, and critique of capitalism, with avant-garde concepts. This critique started both from the visible phenomena and focus on these visible phenomena (as art), and from a philosophical critique.

In Rapport sur la construction de situations et sur les conditions de l’organisation et d l’action de la tendance situationniste internationale (1957), Guy Debord wrote: “First, we think that the world must be changed. We want the most liberating transformation of the society and life where we are locked up. We know that this change is possible…To begin, a state of the modern culture from the standpoint of globality (globalité) must give off an aggregate claiming. Futurism, Dadaism, and surrealism were incorrect from this point of view.  We must go forward and better rationalise the world, first condition for passionise it”[7].

This intention to critique capitalism by critiquing art and culture – though Debord’s and other members’ of the Situationist International propensity were art and, generally, culture – was radicalised (i.e. pointing capitalism directly, not indirectly) through the connections of Debord with Marxist thinkers (as Henri Lefebvre (1901-1991), see his Critique de la vie quotidienne, 1947, and Critique de la vie quotidienne II, Fondements d’une sociologie de la quotidienneté, 1961): the critique of capitalist consumerism (so, not of modernity as such, but of capitalism) was made from the standpoint of and in order to disclose the intermediary stratum of objects between humans and the structural relations  framing them.

Guy Debord was convinced that without a revolutionary theory there is no revolutionary practice. Does his sound known, does it? In order to make theory, Debord has profoundly studied the modern thinkers, then Hegel, Marx, Lenin and the Russian revolution, anarchists, Bernstein and social-democrat writers, different Marxist writers (as Lukács), Stalin, Trotsky, and the history of the modern era “of revolutions”[8]. The result was The society of the spectacle that is the most profound, original and critical development of the proletarian theory, after Marx, Lenin and the later representatives of different types of radical thinking. His critique of the Stalinist bureaucracy is far more profound than that of the “dissidents” and in fact it is a critique of these ones too.

This entire critique is made from the standpoint of the concept of spectacle, borrowed from Marx and Sartre. This concept describes – it is a main form of – the intermediary-ness the capitalist relations of private ownership wear, as if this intermediary-ness would be guilty for the capitalist phenomena, and promote. The spectacle is “the extreme form of the appropriation of the commune[9], i.e. the politics where we live in”[10].

The result of the drowning of the human persons in the intermediary world of objects and spectacle/spectacle of the world is the sentiment of separation: this sentiment is the consequence of economic estrangement, of course, but its presence is the sign of the (situation of) annihilation of the autonomous will of persons aiming at deciding on their own life. The humans are interrelated in such a way that they cannot decide over the deep causes of their situations but together. Just this acting community is capitalism’s enemy which it wants to destroy.

All the humans, certainly the proletarians first, are made spectators/reduced to be spectators. Because: “The general separation of worker and product tends to eliminate any consistent sense of accomplished activity and any direct personal communication between producers. With the increasing accumulation of separate products and the increasing concentration of the productive process, accomplishment and communication are monopolized by the managers of the system. The triumph of this separation-based economic system proletarianizes the whole world”[11].

In order to disclose and counter the sentiment of separation, Debord (and the Situationist International) shows concretely – something very new in the social sciences, only Marx and Engels having done this job; therefore, Debord and his friends were the ground of the development in France of the critical sociology (Bourdieu) and philosophy (especially Deleuze and Guattari) – how the society of spectacle influences, is powerful and then loses its power.

The directions considered to countering the theoretical weakness surrounding the proletariat, weakness that generates also its practical, revolutionary weakness, are marked by the sign of the time; thus the suppression of the work in order to suppress the commodity market, which is, in fact, not a new idea, and it is related to the already cited Lafargue’s praise of laziness[12]. But the self-management and the bottom up political organisation (not from top to bottom) are valuable and irrefutable ideas: as the core idea that the image form of the capital is the “last metamorphosis of the commodity, where the exchange value has definitely annulled the use value”/ “The fetishism of the commodity — the domination of society by “intangible as well as tangible things” — attains its ultimate fulfillment in the spectacle, where the real world is replaced by a selection of images which are projected above it, yet which at the same time succeed in making themselves regarded as the epitome of reality”[13].

But “the abundance of commodities — that is, the abundance of commodity relations — amounts to nothing more than an augmented survival”[14].

“The spectacle is the stage at which the commodity has succeeded in totally colonizing social life. Commodification is not only visible, we no longer see anything else; the world we see is the world of the commodity. Modern economic production extends its dictatorship both extensively and intensively”[15]

It would be better to stop: because this inherently superficial pointing of main ideas omits the complex and multifaceted analysis Debord made. Indeed, “the most alarming aspect of Debord’s books is the relentlessness with which history seems to have applied itself to confirming his analyses”[16].

Let’s give a last example. By speaking about the integrated spectacular – in Commentaires sur la société du spectacle, 1988 – that was the result of unification of the concentrated spectacular (on the figures of dictators in the explicit dictatorships) with the diffuse form of the spectacular in rather pre-war democracies, and that “has since tended to impose itself globally”[17], Debord has showed the “Americanisation” of the global society (we remember, Gramsci too has observed this aspect), namely the generalisation of the domination through the form of the society of spectacle, inducing – as we see nowadays – a general anomy, an extreme sentiment of vulnerability leading to the fascination for violence, and a general disenchantment marked by saddened obscurantist orientation. The integrated spectacular impose the pattern of absolute non-truth, of a simulated reality where “the spectacle has drawn from the outlawing of history, from having condemned the recent past to clandestinity, and from having made everyone forget the spirit of history within society, is above all the ability to cover its own history of the movement of its recent world conquest. Its power already seems familiar, as if it had always been there. All usurpers have wanted to make us forget that they have only just arrived[18].

Do we not see this almost 30 years ago observation as a present chronicle of our era of “post-truth”? Do we/at least some of us not consider, as Debord, that “a State, in which one has durably installed a great deficit of historical knowledge so as to manage it, can no longer be governed strategically”[19]?


Once again, Debord was not alone. But fellows as Raoul Veneigem, the already quoted Henri Lefebvre, Marcuse, From, Ivan Illich, André Gorz, the already cited Deleuze and Guattari, Arne Naess, Badiou, Agamben, Negri, Virilio were and are few and, what is more important – and not only 50 years ago but even today, in the era of Internet – their voice was and is overwhelmed by the mainstream, including the false left, ideology[20].

And though one may observe a positive – though rather indirect, not (quite) assumed – influence of the radical social critique on the later analysis of the consume society and on media ecology (Postman, but not at all Marshall McLuhan), in fact, there was and is an ignorance of the Debordian continuity of Marxism by the post Debord thinkers. And see, for example, how “not in fashion” are Bernard Stiegler, decomposing the symbolic misery and its causes[21] and showing new manners to proletarianise people[22], or Gianni Vatimo’s The Transparent Society[23] where the is no transparent communication, or Crary’s Ends of Sleep[24], towards the permanent repetition for 30 years of gender studies and studies of discriminations, and political sciences absolutely broken from economics and structural causes, and having as axioms the undisputable model of Western liberal democracy.


Not stopping me to mention that the fragmentary and isolated approach of the “respectable” topics reminded above reflects the externalisation, by the capital, of the upstream (resources, energy, environment, folks) and downstream (resources, energy, environment, folks) of its concrete businesses which bring profit, I insist that if the scientific research in humanities would have advanced in the trail of Debord, things would appear different. Actually, and mostly in the present post-2008 world crisis, it seems that many researchers began to re-discover – starting from a neutralist standpoint – the contradictions of the capitalist society.

The guilt of most of the scientific research in humanities  was – and is – that they did not study things by relating economics, politics, culture, ideas, and that they did not analysed their topics from the perspective of totality.

They, and thus the general public too, would have gain time and perhaps, as a result of their practical indignation, would have avoided at least some historical tragedies reverberating on millions of individual lives.

But, as Engels noted, people see and understand the course of things only after their development.

Today it seems to many researchers that elegant is to critique. Bu they do not arrive to the discussion of the means of transformation. And from this viewpoint, they are backward towards Debord who not only criticised, but pointed the solutions too.

Today, to go forward of Debord is to discuss the urgency of practical indignation.


Therefore, what is the clue of this reminding of Guy Debord? It is that the post-war history was covered, during the trentes glorieuses[25], by a dominant ideology whose paradigm was that of the illusion. On the one hand, the entire glorification of the social state which, together with the spring of science and technology, “will bring a universal well-being” seems somehow inherent. On the other hand, the illusion paradigm was really the result of the covering of the world problems by the social state that seemed to be the most prominent, and promising, tendency. Certainly, the concept of social state was instrumentalised by the explicit right-wing and social-democratic “left” type theories as the main argument of the possibility to reform, to transform capitalism into a “system with human face”. And both the explicit right-wing and social-democratic “left” type theories were blind towards the colonialist and neo-colonialist practices of the enlightened Western civilisation, insisting – as till nowadays[26] – that the well-intentioned aid to the backward countries/countries left behind in terms of development will help them to surpass this state. No one from the dominant ideology has discussed that the structural mechanism of capitalism/the capitalist competition of private companies need their “comparative advantages” realised through the unlimited extraction of cheap resources, through the dumping of goods sold by the Western companies, and the use of more than cheap labour force from the entire world exterior[27] to the Western home of the big private companies.

But the illusion paradigm consisted not only in the avoiding of a global view on capitalism, but also in eschewing the methodological problem of the narrowness resulted from the reduction of “progress” and well-being only to a buying/material accumulation fever.

The illusion paradigm was avoided only by non-conformist intellectuals who, because this situation was (and is, is it?) not at all comfortable, were few. This was the reason, together with the power of the illusion paradigm, of the avatars and weak efficiency of the general critique made outside and against the current.

  But today, as a result of the perilous agglomeration of the consequences of capitalism, neither this illusion paradigm nor its support by the intellectuals is understandable. Actually, the power of domination and the inertia of intellectual conformism – if not aggressively, at least being mum – are still dominant, but the contradiction between the dominant tenet and the real facts is not only dangerously huge but more and more not believed and not assumed by the recipients it is destined to. They are away from this tenet, are silent because of their estrangement, but also wait, begin to think, oppose, are again reduced to silence by the treacherous unions and parties, become disappointed but, when all is said and done, no more believe the Sirens.

The clue of the present pages is to warn about the present reason to be of the social theory.



[1] Already in the first years of the 1900, this reformist social-democracy was called yellow, or traitor of the working masses.

[2] Moisei Ostrogorski, Democracy and the Organisations of Political Parties, Translated by F. Clarke, London, 1902.

[3] Roberto Michels, Zur Soziologie des Parteiwessens in der modernen Demokratie: Untersuchungen über die oligarchischen Tendenzen des Gruppenlebens (1910), Leipzig, 1925.

[4] Those of the right ”to control one’s own body” and ”freely express one’s own bodily feelings”.

[5] Bruno Guigue, La supercherie du droit-de-l’hommisme,  24 août 2017,

[6] Helmut Schelsky’s 1957 book Die skeptische Generation. An interesting remark tied to the problem emphasised in the book is Hans Bertram’s From the Skeptical to the Overburdened Generation, 2012,

[7] Translation of the Rapport inserted in Ghislain Vergnes, Guy Debord et la philosophie subversive réalisée, Toulouse, 2007, p. 6.

[8] Debord has borrowed from Lautréamont the technique of anonym and misappropriated citations, but he warned both the editors and readers. See Guy-Ernest Debord & Gil J. Wolman, ”Mode d’emploi du détournement”, Les lèvres nues, n° 8, mai 1956, pp. 2-9, and Guy Debord, Relevé des citations et des détournements de “La Société du spectacle”, 1973,

[9] The commune/community privately appropriated generates a false transparency  – see the present social media where a lot of noise and garbage, i. e. irrelevant, superfluous information, that adds nothing to the understanding of the human beings, seems to be the supreme form of transparency – and, anyway, a loss of time (see Chapter 6 in The society of the spectacle, Translated by Ken Knabb, Canberra, Hobgoblin Press, 2002) and lack of culture: “As culture becomes completely commodified it tends to become the star commodity of spectacular society”, Chapter 8, Negation and Consumption Within Culture, thesis 193).

[10] Giorgio Agamben, Gloses marginales aux “Commentaires sur la société du spectacle”, 1990,

[11] The society of the spectacle, Chapter 1, The culmination of separation, thesis 26.

[12]  This idea did not disappear today. See Tom Hodgkinson and Matthew De Abaitua (eds.), The Idler’s Companion: An Anthology of Lazy Literature, London, 4th Estate, 1996; Tom Hodgkinson, How to be idle (2004), New York, HarperCollins Publishers, 2005; The Idler, For the entire problem of work, see Ana Bazac, “Work is Not Freedom; or is it?”, Studia Universitatis „Babes-Bolyai”, Philosophia, Volume 57 (LVII), 2/2012, pp. 65-80.

   But we must mention that to this idea of laziness “from the left” a laziness from the right is added. On the one hand, capitalism intensifies exploitation, in the economic sense of the verb, and letting aside the multiplication of holidays.  On the other hand, it develops the ideal of dolce far niente (as if life would be a permanent tourism and/or as if work would not need real qualification end effort – to research and create, not the effort of the classical physical work because of automation – but only superficial cognisance of “business administration” that makes everybody a CEO).

[13] The society of the spectacle, Chapter II, The commodity as spectacle, thesis 36.

[14] The society of the spectacle, Chapter II, The commodity as spectacle, thesis 40.

[15] Idem, thesis 42.

[16] Giorgio Agamben, op. cit. (V).

[17] Guy Debord, Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, 1988,, IV.

[18] Guy Debord, Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, 1988,, VI.

[19] Idem, VII.

[20] See Ana Bazac, ”What Kind of Criticism should the Intellectuals Endeavour? The Political Mainstream’s Celebration of Octavio Paz’s Rupture with the Left”, Analele Universităţii din Craiova, Seria Filosofie, 39 (1), 2017, pp. 117-139.

[21] Bernard Stiegler, De la misère symbolique 1. L’époque hyperindustrielle , Paris, Galilée, 2004, followed by The Decadence of Industrial Democracies: Disbelief and Discredit, 1, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2011.

[22] Bernard Stiegler, La Société automatique 1. L’avenir du travail, Paris, Fayard, 2015: “the proletarianization of minds and, more precisely, the proletarianization of the noetic faculties of theorization and in this sense of scientific, moral, aesthetic and political deliberation ― (is) combined with the proletarianization of sensibility and affect in the twentieth century, and with the proletarianization of the gestures of the worker in the nineteenth century”…” proletarianization of theoretical knowledge, which is critical knowledge”….” The proletarianization of the gestures of work amounts to the proletarianization of the conditions of the worker’s sub-sistence.

  The proletarianization of sensibility, of sensory life, and the proletarianization of social relations, all of which are replaced by conditioning, amounts to the proletarianization of the conditions of the citizen’s ex-sistence.

  The proletarianization of minds or spirits, that is, of the noetic faculties enabling theorization and deliberation, is the proletarianization of the conditions of scientific con-sistence (including the human and social sciences)”.

[23] Gianni Vattimo, The Transparent Society, London, Polity, 1992.

[24] Jonathan Crary, 24/7: Terminal Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep, London and New York, Verso Books, 2013: the analysis of the devouring of time by capital, for which the sleep is a loss for business and manipulation, is a good continuation of Debord.

[25] Les trentes glorieuses, the French name of the glorious 30 years of the post-war social state.

[26] See Ana Bazac, ”Global injustice: what is known, what is assumed and what is promised?”, Studia UBB, Philosophia, 58 (2013), No.2, pp. 145-157 (referring to Thomas Pogge etc.).

[27] And not even only exterior. See only the natural and social ravages produced in the USA by the shale gas exploitation.

Fifty years since Guy Debord’s “La société du spectacle/The society of the spectacle”

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