Wark also, fwiw, wrote the Hacker Manifesto . Although, ironically, I can't imagine her views there would be that well received on HN.
It is fascinating that hacker and open source culture doesn't necessarily lead to materialist analyses of ownership and production. Makes me wonder, though, what other philosophies would such behavior prescribe?
Combine that with the simple (and I think understandable at the time) belief in a cyber-tinted technological determinism, along with billions of dollars worth of investors, and its easy to see what we have now: at best, full-tilt neoliberal rationalism, and at worst, libertarianism.
The Californian Ideology was written by Richard Barbrook, who subsequently wrote a book on Debords tabletop game _The Game of War_.
There are definitely other texts (such as the YouTube video linked in another thread) that are easier to understand as a casual observer.
However the other aspect is that as you alluded to, a strong poststructuralist belief is that common language, by nature of being made to describe the current world, always makes it easiest to express ideas that are already commonplace. Thus to create new ideas one must also create new language.
Most of the semiotics and sociological content of postmodernism (ie the majority of it) is really simple and intuitive - it's just wrapped in layers of reference to obscure philosophy, invented terms, and overly complicated language.
Social media, and TikTok in particular, push the limits of SotS which is mainly mass media focused.
Thousand Plateaus was extremely poetic but its contents can be converted into more straightforward ideas like deterritorialisation and schizoanalysis. Poetry is just the delivery mechanism.
Also Deleuze is an example of a philosopher who has both done poetic and analytic work (including metaphysics, which is a core analytic discipline) but is generally considered a continental philosopher. I don't think the distinction matters - both "sides" just explore different philosophical topics. I enjoy both of them and the divide seems petty.
If anything, the places where continental philosophy flourished have less of this "turning the western world upside down" than the excesses in US academia (when they don't criticize them) - and some excesses of it they do share, they import them (due to US pop/social/etc culture pressure), not export them.
Well, according to us continentals, who, if not invented, highly developed the thing for 2500+ years (both philosophy and analytic philosophy, it's west-adopted spinoff), analytic philosophy is not philosophy either.
It's more of a technical than a philosophical field, or, if you wish, it's a specific philosophical application of logic, math, and co. that mistook itself for the essense of philosophy.
>what poetry does is defamiliarize language. It's impact is emotional. It isn't philosophy
That's not some general truth - just an specific school/idea idea about poetry's function.
Aristotle, for example, considered poetry more philosophical than history - because it captures the essential and distills it rather than bundle a development with the non-essential, random, and contingent (as history does).
Why? As a scientist doing theoretical work, one of my main drives isn't always to discover new things, it's to explain known things "better", where better usually means in terms of simpler concepts or with more lightweight objects, with less accidental complexity. This goal of simplicity is very central in science, with concepts like occam's razor.
> There are very few people complaining about the unreadability of quantum equations in fundamental physics or the jargon of theoretical mathematics.
I can't speak for physics, but in mathematics a lot of people (mathematicians, logicians) criticize the mathematical jargon of category theory. And in fact there are lots of people in the programming language community (around type theory) that imho is trying to make category theory more accessible by using it parcimonously, rewording stuff and making it shine in simple ways (by giving some short hints for categorists but otherwise explaining classic lemma instead of referencing them).
> Yet for philosophy, especially that which criticises the current order, this is somehow seen as discrediting.
There's critic and critic. Having a text full of unnecessary jargon does imho greatly reduces any subversive pretensions. Things will always have some intrinsic complexity, but adding additional complexity in the form of tons of implicit references (when the relevant part could have been explained succintly) or poetic writing style is an obstruction to the sharing of knowledge (which is the actual benchmark for subversivity: how much can it lead to actual actions).
Given how many people get upset by even the term "postmodernism", I think it's a worthy exercise to make the concepts more accessible so that less people think it's an exercise in trying to destroy the philosophical foundations of the West, and more an exercise in trying to understand the reality we live in.
No such path of learning is ever presented for any of postmodernism. The twin obsessions of (a) treating only primary sources as authoritative , coupled with (b) the dense jargon of the primary sources that makes it unreadable to anyone but the experts is what makes postmodern philosophy unapproachable.
This forces people to discredit much if postmodernism. It seems to be a community that refuses to expand and make approachable their work, while claiming that their work has important ramifications. That reeks of snake oil salesmanship to me.
This is who they gave the nobel prize to last year. I don't know how anyone can take these people seriously when this is supposed to be the definitive text on the Kardar–Parisi–Zhang equation.
> In post-industrial societies where mass production and media predominate, life is presented as an immense accumulation of spectacles.
I don't know if the target of the text is only academics, but certainly it is at people who this opening sentence reminded them of another opening sentence -
> The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as “an immense accumulation of commodities,” its unit being a single commodity.
Which is the opening of Marx's Capital. Marx was talking about (in this and after) how there were not wealthy people who owned and had a relationship to an immense accumulation of things, nor working and poor people who owned and had a relationship to no or much less things, but workers and capitalists, who had a social relationship from one class to another as well as an internal class relationship. The ruling class expropriating surplus labor time from the working class, the fulcrum of the exploitative relationship, the resulting alienation of the worker etc.
If this is the base of social relations in society, Debord was discussing the hegemonic superstructure, which became a more important topic than it was from World War I on, from Antonio Gramsci to his successors. Everything else in society aside from production - media, church, school - but especially media.
Keep in mind that Debord was familiar with Lyotard, but postmodernism had only just recently started when this book was written. That said, Debord specifically refutes postmodernist tendencies in [thesis 179](https://unredacted-word.pub/spectacle/#section-179)
Note that Debords concept of Spectacle had *Three Degrees*
the concrete reality of the spectacle, as opposed to its relatively superficial existence as a set of mediatic and ideological practices, ‘can only be justified by reference to these ^^three degrees: simple technico-ideological appearances / the reality of the social organisation of appearances / historical reality^^’
On the first of these three ‘degrees’, or levels – that of ‘simple technico-ideological appearances’ – the spectacle is simply an ideological and media-driven ‘part of society’: something very much akin to Adorno and Horkheimer’s ‘culture industry’. Seen in these terms, the spectacle is the sector of society ‘where all attention, all consciousness, converges’. This is the level of Debord’s analysis upon which much of the academic work referred to earlier has tended to focus.
Social media, TikTok, Facebook and the issues you discuss concern this level.
On the *second level* of this schema, however, and thus ‘behind the phenomenal appearances of the spectacle’, such as ‘television, advertising, the discourse of the State, etc.,’ we find what Debord refers to as ‘the general __reality __of the
spectacle itself’, understood as ‘a moment in the mode of production.’ The concept of spectacle, addressed on this second, deeper level, pertains to the social operation of capitalist value, and to the manner in which society has been ordered to suit capital’s continued operation. On the first, more ‘superficial’ level of this schema, spectators contemplate the fads, fashions, adverts and trinkets that celebrate this social order; on this second, more profound level, they become contemplative observers of their own lives, because their social activity has become so thoroughly governed and shaped by that same order. This is the dimension of Debord’s theory that has been addressed by the best studies of his work. Anselm Jappe’s excellent __Guy Debord __(1993, in Italian; 1999 in English) is of particular significance here, as it deals with this theme in detail.
The second level entails that the concept of spectacle also operates on a *third level*: that of ‘historical reality’. In this regard, spectacle needs to be understood as __a relation to historical time__. For Debord, the articulation of all social existence via capitalist social relations involves the separation of human subjects from their own lived activity. The result is a historical moment characterized by a loss of historical agency; or, as Debord puts it in another letter: modern capitalism has produced the paradox of a ‘historical society that refuses history’. Thus, this third and deepest level of Debord’s tripartite schema concerns a state of separation from history itself. Although we will touch on the first level of Debord’s theory in later chapters, and although we will also discuss the technicalities of its second level at some length, this book
will focus primarily on its third, ‘historical’ level.
See _Lipstick Traces_ by Greil Marcus for an introduction to Debord and Situationism.
watching it in french(I'm fluent), while stoned I found it extremely funny
The author seems to be begging for a simpler world -- to go back to an ancient golden age, before things got so complex (before "The Spectacle"). Before science, before economics, before industrialization, before mass-education, before the human knowledge-pool got bigger, and even before people recorded years (the author makes a big point of how only seasons, and not years, should be observed).
> Its [fascisms] strength is how it presents itself truthfully as a violent resurrection of mythic origins—to claim the past as a “Golden Age” and a return to the successes of this golden past. It demands participation in a community held together by mythical archaic pseudo-values: race, blood, and the leader. Fascism is a cult of the archaic fitted out by modern technology
Debord wants to move beyond a period where time is made up of clock-segmented moments of equally valuable commodities to a time determined by the creation of events and situations of our own making, with our own values and meanings inscribed into those successive moments.
Overall, the author's basically describing how a memetic-monster, "The Spectacle", emerged and sustains itself as a parasite on humanity. The author wants to go back to how things were before the parasite started taking over.
The author really spreads things out, but for some quick quotes to highlight their position...
1. The author argues that "The Spectacle" had a beginning:
> [73:] The spectacle began when the bourgeoisie won the economy, and became visible when the bourgeois politicians put their interests into action within politics.
...which subsumed humanity's ability to live directly once it began:
> [73:] [...] Everything that had been directly lived has been relegated to history.
2. After it emerged, "The Spectacle" then went through a growing process:
> [39:] The contemporary inability of the language to adequately describe the spectacle is itself evidence of the enormous development of the spectacle. While this development may not yet be evenly distributed across all localities, this change has progressed to such an extent that it is verified by the existence of a globalized marketplace.
3. "The Spectacle"'s development gradually eroded humanity's connection to reality itself:
> [48:] Exchange value was previously understood as derived from use value. Now, however, within the inverted reality of the spectacle, [...] the actual use value of the commodity has been diminished as its connection to directly lived reality has been gradually eroded.
4. The author advocates a return to prior existence, before all of this stuff ("The Spectacle") started happening:
> [178:] A consciousness of history that threatens the spectacle is to discover the force potentially capable of reappropriating space for lived time.
5. In the final paragraph of the book (Paragraph 221), the author sums up their position on returning humanity to (the author's perception of) historical-existence:
> [221:] Self-emancipation in the contemporary period is emancipation from our material basis within falsified reality. This “historic mission of establishing truth in the world” [...] by returning power [...]. [...] This can only be made possible when individuals are “directly linked to world history”—where dialog within the council arms itself to defeat its own conditions.
To note it, the terminology of a mythical-"Golden Age" tends to be derisive; even those who believe in mythical-golden-ages wouldn't tend to use such terminology. So, I'm not claiming that the author uses those words or explicitly describes their position as such.
Rather, my point's that the author is using that basic pattern: stuff used to be better in the past (humans lived "directly experienced" life, things were more "authentic", etc.), then bad things emerged ("The Spectacle" emerged and started subsuming human-experience, made things inauthentic, etc.), and now people should try to get back to how things used to be ("emancipation from our material basis within falsified reality", "returning power", accomplish "“historic mission of establishing truth in the world”", "reappropriating space for lived time", etc.).
That said, the author does seem rather bleak about being able to return things to how they were before; it comes off as quite defeatist and morbid. Unfortunately, the author may not have been particularly mentally well.. their way of thinking appears to have been diseased.
He isn't advocating for a return to the past, or to the structures of the past. For Debord, Spectacle exists independently of humanity; history, however is specific to human beings, as it corresponds to humanity's existence in time, and to its awareness of that existence. He contends that human beings are capable of shaping and determining their own lives and circumstances. Consequently, history, in his view, is something that can be made: we can consciously shape our own existence in time. His critique of Spectacle is that Spectacle has dominated history for its own purposes, beyond the control of humanty.
History, therefore, is not just a retrospective catalog of events for Debord, and nor is it just the discipline of studying such events. Instead, it is a process through which human agents shape themselves and their world, and through which they come to know themselves through such activity. This isn't a return to a golden past, but an assertion of control and emancipation from the existing force of Spectacle that determines history outside our control.
> 5. In the final paragraph of the book (Paragraph 221), the author sums up their position on returning humanity to (the author's perception of) historical-existence:
>> [221:] Self-emancipation in the contemporary period is emancipation from our material basis within falsified reality. This “historic mission of establishing truth in the world” [...] by returning power [...]. [...] This can only be made possible when individuals are “directly linked to world history”—where dialog within the council arms itself to defeat its own conditions.
Here again, he is advocating not a return to some mythic past, but to take conscious control of history, to create meaning in our own lives. I fail to see where he is advocating for a return, nor "what" to return to.
Althusaar (I guess he technically murdered his wife), Deleuze (threw himself out of a window), Debord. Am I forgetting anyone?
Society of the Spectacle: WTF? Guy Debord, Situationism and the Spectacle Explained - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGJr08N-auM
Donald Trump and the Society of the Spectacle - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HAII7QWr_c
We are talking about a society where, still, you have to struggle constantly to secure the most basic of needs. In most countries, anyway. So, ignoring the issue of mass obesity, I disagree.
The Society of the Spectacle - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=30083411 - Jan 2022 (1 comment)
The Society of the Spectacle - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21800216 - Dec 2019 (69 comments)
An Illustrated Guide to Guy Debord’s ‘The Society of the Spectacle’ - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12311770 - Aug 2016 (20 comments)