Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Society of the Spectacle, Chapter 9


Chapter 9: Ideology Materialized


Debord ends the book with this somewhat perfunctory chapter on how the ideology is “materialized” in the form of, and by means of, the spectacle. His first point is that ideology has never been a mere “simple chimaera,” but is instead “deformed consciousness” (212). This must of course be because to have grip, to serve some purpose in people’s life as a belief system, it must have some relevance and appeal, and it has this because it is an outgrowth of the real, albeit transformed or “deformed.” Much of the earlier text was about this relation between “real” or actual conditions of production and existence, and the spectacle which takes their place. This is presumably also part of why d├ętournement should work, because it reverses the deformation, or at least reveals the artificial process of materialization/reification, as discussed at the end of the previous chapter. Debord reiterates that aspect of the Spectacle which could be called the post-political or the “end of history” argument, to wit, that history has ended and liberal capitalism will be the only option henceforth. He talks again about an earlier theme, which is the spectacle’s connection to money or the “philosophy of money” as Simmel put it. He returns to his emphasis on praxis as the needed alternative to the spectacle. He spends a few paragraphs drawing out connections between the spectacle and forms of madness such as schizophrenia and autism. Returning to praxis in #220, he talks about the madness of wanting instant results—this in itself is a form of the insane consumerist mentality of the spectacle. “Conversely, the critique which goes beyond the spectacle must know how to wait” (220). “It must struggle in practice among the irreconcilable enemies of the spectacle and admit that it is absent where they are absent” (presumably a reference to a true revolutionary class, which is not that of the Situationist intellectuals themselves; thus, they cannot make the revolution, and must wait to align themselves with those who can). In his final paragraph he notes that neither the “isolated individual” nor the “atomized crowd subjected to manipulation” (a fitting term for the audience of social media) can make revolution; instead this will be “the class which is able to effect the dissolution of all classes” [i.e., the “dictatorship of the proletariat”], by bringing about “realized democracy” in the form of “the Council” (i.e., a system of federated, local worker’s councils).

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