Keith Sanborn on 25 Feb 2001 21:50:02 -0000

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: <nettime> In Defence of Cultural Studies aka Debord and nostalgia

Well, I would say Seattle is also something beyond art and theory and were
some of the actions in DC on Dubya's inauguration day. If one doesn't
credit the situs for these they are at least in the same spirit of
refusing to accepted the social contract offered from the top down. "They
offer us crumbs, we want it all." A lot of Act Up's tactics, which were
profoundly original and admired by Debord, were also in some sense
inherited from the accomplishments of 68. I'd say that is a bit more to
write home about. The question for the situationists and Debord in
particular was the ultimate need for mass insurrection and the
recuperative losses of terrorism as failed mass insurrection.

>I may be almost as fond of Guy Debord as Keith Sanborn is, but
>let's face it, no matter how much he still impresses as a theorist
>and as an artist, the romantic promise of something 'beyond'
>art and theory doesn;t amount to much. Gee, messing up billboards.
>Not much to write home about.

Neither Debord, nor his theory were or are commodities. Debord(tm) as
consumed by the overeducated may well be. He was already aware of the
difference by the time he filmed "Refutation..." : "Those who claim that
they love this film have already loved too many things to be able to love
it; and those who say they do not, have already accepted too many things
for their judgement to carry the least weight.  Whoever examines the
poverty of their lives will understand the poverty of their discourse. It
suffices to look at their set decorations and their occupations, their
commodities and their ceremonies; and this is spread out everywhere. It
suffices to hear these imbecilic voices that tell you what you have become
in the state of alienation and inform you of it with contempt at every
second which adds to it." His reaction was not a wry smile, but an acidic
critique and it continues.

>Debord is not mainly a commodity. A very classy commodity, avidly
>consumed by the over-educated. I'm sure he would have appreciated
>the irony.

This is your choice; Debord was rather more particular about his comrades.

>"The incremental overcoming of human misery". As a card carrying
>social democrat, that seems to me to be all that politics is good for.
>And i am happy to spend my time among the grey and unfashionable
>types in the social democratic movement who try to do something
>to achieve it. They ten dnot to share my tastes in theory or art, but
>then i don't share theirs for horse racing tips.

Again, a coherent view of history is not the same as Stalinism:  Stalin
and Jameson are NOT the only alternatives. As for Debord's contentment
with his fate or relegation to the dustbin of literary history, you might
refer to the incredibly strident "Cette Mauvaise Réputation."

>As for 'coherent views of history' -- look where those have gotten us.
>They surely belong in the dustbin of history. Debord was a perceptive
>and vigilant ant-Stalinist, and that is worth remembering. Not to
>mention that he was a supurb literary stylist. Panygeric and  the script
>to In Girum are masterpieces. I suspect that late in life he was not
>unhappy with that fate.

The question of the Hegelian legacy is a good question indeed to pose,
though, as Debord would have said: It is important not only what one says
but the place from which one speaks. The meaning of those electoral
results are far from obvious. To simply assert that the election of the
Gaulists proves a conservative reaction in the masses against May 68, is
hardly to prove it.

>As Croce asked, 'what is living and what is dead' in the Hegelian legacy?
>Perhaps it is time for some accounting -- not least for past failures.
>Who won the elections in France after May 68? The Gaulists, by a landslide.

Keith Sanborn

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: