Active Measures against the Spectacle

Passivity is a key term in Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle:

12. The spectacle presents itself as something enormously positive, indisputable and inaccessible. It says nothing more than “that which appears is good, that which is good appears. The attitude which it demands in principle is passive acceptance which in fact it already obtained by its manner of appearing without reply, by its monopoly of appearance.

13. The basically tautological character of the spectacle flows from the simple fact that its means are simultaneously its ends. It is the sun which never sets over the empire of modern passivity. It covers the entire surface of the world and bathes endlessly in its own glory.

96. The ideology of the social-democratic organization gave power to professors who educated the working class, and the form of organization which was adopted was the form most suitable for this passive apprenticeship.

144. The commodity society, now discovering that it needed to reconstruct the passivity which it had profoundly shaken in order to set up its own pure reign, finds that “Christianity with its cultus of abstract man … is the most fitting form of religion” (Capital).

219. One who passively accepts his alien daily fate is thus pushed toward a madness that reacts in an illusory way to this fate by resorting to magical techniques. The acceptance and consumption of commodities are at the heart of this pseudo-response to a communication without response.

What, then, constitutes activity? Debord’s reply to this crucial question is inadequate — rhetorical slogans about an amorphous “revolution.” I would suggest instead two things, the autonomous disposal of disposable time and the labor strike (work stoppage or job action).As should be clear, capital seeks to colonize disposable time with commodity consumption and “The Spectacle.” How, then, does one distinguish between active use of disposable time and passive commodity consumption during one’s free time? The distinction can be based on the criterion of whether what one does in one’s free time will contribute to one’s ability to withstand an interruption of income.  Disposable time should be used to prepare for the struggle to obtain more disposable time!

Because, “there is, thank God! no means of adding to the wealth of a nation but by adding to the facilities of living: so that wealth is liberty– liberty to seek recreation–liberty to enjoy life–liberty to improve the mind: it is disposable time, and nothing more.”

Comments Off on Active Measures against the Spectacle | |