Co-founder of the Letterist International and later the Situationist International (SI), which played a considerable part in the Paris Uprising of 1968, Marxist philosopher and artist Debord articulates a bleak and totalizing view of modernity in 221 theses.
“In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles” (#1).
The spectacle for Debord is the overwhelming and distracting power not of images, “but a social relation among people, mediated by images” (#4). Whether it is concentrated, as in the totalitarian regime revolving around a sole figure/state, or is the diffuse antipode, as in the market economy-embedded society where acts of liberty are performed through purchase power, “the spectacle presents itself as something enormously positive, indisputable, inaccessible” (#12). Not only is the spectacle inaccessible, it is enduring. Since revolutionaries generally operate within the logics of the spectacle, efforts to overthrow it are doomed. Complicating matters further, Debord insists a successful revolution is “a unitary critique of society” (#121). This critique is manifest action, exemplified by the SI’s favored activities, the dérive (“drift”) and détournement.