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The Society of the Spectacle Paperback – September 23, 1995

ISBN-13: 978-0942299793 ISBN-10: 0942299795 Edition: New edition

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 154 pages
  • Publisher: Zone Books; New edition edition (September 23, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0942299795
  • ISBN-13: 978-0942299793
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,032 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"In all that has happened in the last twenty years, the most important change lies in the very continuity of the spectacle. Quite simply, the spectacle"s domination has succeeded in raising a whole generation moulded to its laws. The extraordinary new conditions in which this entire generation has lived constitute a comprehensive summary of all that, henceforth, the spectacle will forbid; and also all that it will permit." Guy Debord (1988)

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Debord's theories are very profound.
Robert A. Costanza
It is eminently readable and the format with large marginalia and inset aphorisms makes it a joy to study and take copious notes in.
Brady Fullerton
COMMENTS ON THE SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLE is, compared to the earlier work, very easy to read and understand.
Robert Moore

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

209 of 223 people found the following review helpful By James Pruett on June 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
"Religion served the interests of the masters, expounding and embellishing what society could not deliver. Power as a separate realm has always been spectacular, but mass allegiance to frozen religious imagery was originally acknowledgment of loss, an imaginary compensation for a poverty of real social activity...the modern spectacle, by contrast, depicts what society can deliver..."
And The Promised Land, as Debord sees it, is TOTAL CONSUMPTION. This is the edict and goal of contemporary consumer society. The fact that it has grown out of and usurped religious feeling makes the SPECTACLE a competitive product to formal religion. Certainly, Islam feels its power and threat. Certainly, the Middle East is reacting to it, through individual and state sponsored terrorism against the West.
Debord is a difficult read, but ultimately worth it. His insights are penetrating, remarkable, and have proven to be more acute with the passing of time. Private and public over consumption has become a disease and the hallmark of an age that has debt financed prosperity for too long.
For me, Debord's has number of chief insights that signify trouble ahead for our current economic system. One of them is the apparent and obvious falling use value for goods in abundance (many of them pseudo goods - things we don't really need). Having long fulfilled our need for food, clothing, and shelter, our current economic growth is contingent upon consistently manufacturing pseudo needs that must feed upon the boundless desires of persons in an unending pursuit of gratification through purchasing new products and services.
The problem occurs when the next disillusionment, Debord tells us, takes place not with religion or politics but within the commodity itself.
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73 of 82 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
Society of Spectacle has sometimes been characterized as a kind of dated meditation on consumer society and media, a diatribe on popular culture and pop psychology. It in fact, a far more important book of political and philosophical thought. Debord eposes the fallacies and perceptions of society and its manipulation and subjegation. In part a revision of scientific Marxism, necessary to account for the divergence (or at least the anomalies) in the path of 20th Century capitalism from that predicted in Capital (as perhaps moderated by the socialist movement), and also a critical response to the utter failure of established communism to produce a free society. The brutal ideological bureaucracy and dictatorship in China and Russia had fully embraced capitalist methods of imposing the illusionary ideals of Debord's thesis on its people, but without capitalism's productive success. This was too much to ignore in the exhilarating, if naive, atmosphere at the barricades in the 60's, which accounts for this books appeal at that time.
Society of Spectacle is existentialist Marxism, buttressed by Freud and the behavioural sciences maybe, but still one which retains the fundamental qualitative legacy of Marx and the philosophical thread begun with Hegel. Its a fascinating and challenging book on political theory, one which is an authentic attempt modernize classic communist and anarchist dogma into a theory which fuses with and responds to history and society as a whole. Few people are going to be convinced by this now, but there is a strand of irrefutable truth in its analysis of the consumer society, and the predicament of the individual caught up in our commodity and market driven culture, which makes for a penetrating and worth while read.
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73 of 82 people found the following review helpful By J from NY VINE VOICE on March 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
if you're not very familiar with the dialectic of hegel and marx, a lot of this book will be lost on you, but the effort is worth it when you realize the enormity of what debord is saying about our society. it becomes even more relevant when, surveying your own environment, you recognize that he is for the most part right.
the personalities of the people who surround us, debord believes, are not their own, but are acquired through images made by pop culture, which replace whatever the person might have become free from these mediated images. they identify (and this usually happens unconsciously, so maybe this isn't as 'radical' a thought as it might at first seem)with characters on television, in movies, and believe that the cultural lie of this or that period is the absolute and metaphysical truth of existence, ie, everyone goes to school, tries to fit in, is happy, gets a family, tries to have a lot of friends, etc. the reason people reject debord's ideas is because they think of them as too radical and abstract, like marx. and yet all this is chillingly consistent with the concrete, everyday reality of our lives.think about most of the people you know and see if you find any of these herdlike qualities in them, and if you're looking at things truthfully, a bell rings.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
...though perhaps not one for the faint-hearted (good lord, and to think someone translated this prose from French?!) Few other books have matched this one for me in their being able to grasp and articulate things that many of us have thought but we always thought were ineffable. Debord is proving to be even more prescient with the passage of time. To think that this book came out of the classic crass Leftist period of the late 1960's, when many college professors were making pro-Chairman Mao diatribes to their freshman sociology students, makes it even more amazing. Yes, the Marxist influence is not lost but this is _not_ some crass rehash of leftist student pamphlets of the 1960's. Some passages are so poignant in their effect that they take several readings to sink in. This is a book for thinkers: not a book for holier-than-thou Lefties or any number of our current slew of 'capitalism gurus' or 'market experts' which are still attempting the Sisyfus task that Marx failed at. Debord is the biggest true believer of the Unbelievers and he truly defies classification. If you wanted to get into Baudrillard but found him too droll, or are searching for an excellent introduction to the current psychology of the mass consumer market that avoids all of the hyperbole, this book is for you. If only Debord would have written as much as he drank - the number of books about him versus the number he actually wrote is a testament to the clarity of his thought.
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