A Genealogy and Critique of Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle.

My aim over the next two days is to finish polishing the remaining chapters from my thesis. Then I will turn the whole damn thing over to my supervisors who will ignore it, then read it with hurried indifference, and hopefully wave it through. The fact that I am so close to being done would not be possible without the help of my copy editor, drinking buddy and unofficial supervisor– Tom Bunyard, who has done the careful reading and commenting my supervisors have not.

Bunyard is also a fine scholar himself. At the moment he is turning his doctoral thesis on Guy Debord into a book for the HM book series. Luckily, you can still read his doctoral dissertation. In my view it is an even better philosophical assessment of Debord and his theory of the spectacle than Anselm Jappe’s. For whilst Jappe turns Debord to his own purposes by emphasizing the similarities between the spectacle and Jappe’s interpretation of value– which follows Postone in emphasizing the opposition between concrete and abstract labour–Bunyard spends his time: (a) investigating many of the other ideas put forward in Society of the Spectacle (b) tracing their philosophical roots  (c) criticizing the relative vacuity of the idea of the spectacle and (d) pointing towards some other relevant uses for Debord’s thought. But don’t take my word for it. Read it here.

About HR

Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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4 Responses to A Genealogy and Critique of Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle.

  1. Yunus says:

    “Jappe turns Debord to his own purposes by emphasizing the similarities between the spectacle and Jappe’s interpretation of value”

    It has since become the rallying cry of his spirital sons at PD: “In 1994 Moishe Postone published the book that Debord ought to have written”.

    • HR says:

      Funny you should mention that as I took a dig at PD out of the post. But as Bunyard points out one of the things that unify Debord and Postone is a nebulous and confused reading of class. I suppose another would be treating the spectacle and abstract labour as an all encompassing form of negativity without providing much of an account of these negative properties are socially instantiated.

  2. Yunus says:

    I agree. However, Jappe has the merit of popularizing the Wertkritik (although his book deals mainly with Krisis and Postone critique of abstract labour, and totally ignoring the rest — Jean-Marie Vincent, for example) AND introducing Sohn-Rethel (he co-edited a collection of his essays a couple of years ago) to french readership.

    • HR says:

      Yeah, Jappe is a better and worthy of more merit than PD. That’s one of the reasons I took the dig out of the original post. I didn’t realize Sohn-Rethel was not available in French until that recently.

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