nettime's_groupuscule on 26 Feb 2001 07:17:02 -0000

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<nettime> comment en l'ecrit l'histoire digeste [sanborn x3, hankwitz]

Keith Sanborn <>
     Re: <nettime> Don't forget Debord's ATTITUDE
Keith Sanborn <>
     Re: <nettime> In Defence of Cultural Studies aka Debord and nostalgia
Keith Sanborn <>
     Re: <nettime> In Defence of a Modest Proposal
molly hankwitz <>
     In Defense of Political Action - Little Tiny Histories

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Date: Sun, 25 Feb 2001 21:34:05 -0500
From: Keith Sanborn <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> Don't forget Debord's ATTITUDE


I think yours is an excellent summary of possible common ground, 
though I couldn't agree with qualifying Debord as being a "private 
and resigned" connoisseur of ideas. Also, the Matrix and Fight Club 
are open to subversive readings--indeed Salt Lake City saw the 
creation of a fight club patterned after the movie--though more 
recuperative entertainments in themselves.

My favorite statement of Debord's: "Among those who have written, I 
have perhaps not written a great deal, but among those who have 
drunk, I have drunk more than almost anyone."


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Date: Sun, 25 Feb 2001 21:44:59 -0500
From: Keith Sanborn <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> In Defence of Cultural Studies aka Debord and nostalgia

The accusation of Racism is a total red herring, I was thinking more 
of the kind of critique that Ousman Sembene has give us of his own 
Senegal. It is the bureaucratic power elite of the 3rd world which I 
mentioned and they are as corrupt as those of the first world and as 
uncaring. It's ironic you'd rise to their defense; I guess that's 
what social democracy has always meant: a sharing of power among the 

Keith Sanborn

>I'm sure Keith Sandborn is not intentionally asserting a racist
>view of the world, but what else are we to make of this:

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Date: Sun, 25 Feb 2001 22:28:03 -0500
From: Keith Sanborn <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> In Defence of a Modest Proposal

Debord's political thought is far from overrated. Evidently, it's 
largely unread. It simply vulgarized and added to academic 
bibliographies as Debord(tm). Debord's response to his work is not 
megalomania, but radical subjectivity. If Debord is an eccentric, it 
is because he refused to subscribe to the mediocrity you recommend.

>Dialectical thinking is clearly not as dead as one might wish. in
>arguing that the political significance of, say, Debord is
>over rated, i don't mean to imply that i have some great and
>grand alternative to put in its place. Rather, its a question of
>refusing the intellectual meglomania to which Debord is an
>eccentric subscriber. One's role is modest and tangential to
>politics. The world is not there to be remade in our image.

This is such a crude paraphrase of Debord's and the situationist 
political project and betrays such a vast igornance of it, it is 
hardly worth a response except to say that it sounds like angry words 
from the "Popular Front." The situationists were not Trotskyists 
recruiting groupies for a new bureaucracy, but a powerfully original 
group of individuals who discouraged those would place themselves in 
the kind of hierarchical relationship you suggest. Your appeal to 
anti-democractic sentiments sounds like Isou accusing Debord of being 
a fascist. There is a discernible difference between the repressive 
tolerance program of social democracy and the direct democracy 
practiced by and advocated by Debord and his friends and which we saw 
for a brilliant moment in May of 1968 and in the soviets 
(="councils") of the early years of the Russian Revolution. BTW: 
Napoleon, despite his later megalomania, during the Directory coined 
the word "ideologue" as a critique of the specialists of bureucractic 
power of his era, "the idéologistes."

>The Napoleonic grandeur of radical thought from Marx to
>Debord has an intrinsically anti-democratic cast. Its a question
>of making the masses into a tool for a mission not of their
>making. People's actual wants and desires are to be discounted
>in favour of what the intellectual desires that they desire.
>Of course there is always a 'theory' or a 'method' to legitimate
>this divergence on the part of the self-appointed vanguard
>from any notion of consensus in politics.

Possessing a sense of the history of the last century, I can tell the 
difference between the rigourously radical subjectivity of the 
situationists and the gulag of the Stalinists. I am sorry that you 
cannot. It's a matter of context. Speaking of France in 1968 as if it 
were 2001 in the United States or 1936 in the "Soviet" Union is one 
more ahistorical leap you have made. What exactly are you doing to 
bring about the worker's paradise you describe? It must certainly be 
a success since your compassionate candidate G. W. Bush is in the 
White House. What does the last election say about popular sentiments 
in the US? No more than the election of the Gaullists did after May 
68. Did our smiling Mr. Clinton, who felt our pain so deeply, give us 
universal health care, free public education and extended 
unemployment benefits? I'll admit he did sneak in some paternity 
leave though. My response is that of Debord: NEVER WORK!

State funding for the arts is another topic, but in my book--no I 
don't have another intellectual commodity to hawk, I mean that 
metaphorically--it falls under the heading of repressive tolerance. 
Rockefeller was explicit in focussing state funding for the arts as a 
means of turning towards more productive social ends those who might 
actually seek to change existing structures of society. It's funny, 
none of the rather expensive films of the situationists ever received 
a state subsidy. I guess it was impossible to make them, so they must 
not have been made. And certainly Stalinist bureaucracy gave us many 
notable works; they now decorate, in fragments, dustbins world wide. 
You might want to ask Komar and Melamid what it means to work within 
a system of state sponsorship for art.

>One would think after a century of folly and disaster flowing from
>one radical scheme after another one would not need to point this
>out. At best, detournment; at worst, the gulag. No, we really must
>concentrate all our critical intelligence and rhetorical derision in
>attacking social democracy. Universal health care -- what a bad
>idea! Free school education -- terrible! Unemployment
>benefits -- bah! Child care and maternity leave -- tosh! Consumer
>protection legistaltion -- who needs it! State funding for the arts
>-- never!

It is your ideology which is in chaos, McKenzie, not history. 
Ideology always falls to pieces on contact with radical subjectivity.

>It all counts for nothing without a philosophy of history more
>grand than taking your chances, and getting the best out of a
>conjuncture for as many of one's constituencies as one can.
>It is history itself which is incoherent, Ted, a situation theory
>cannot remedy.

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Date: Mon, 26 Feb 2001 13:12:19 +1100
From: molly hankwitz <>
Subject: In Defense of Political Action - Little Tiny Histories

Hi! I'm going to do a bit of blurring in this discussion
from the authoritative position of the one-woman curator of the 1998
exhibition: May '68 in '98 -
a revisiting and celebration of 1968's events - which took place in San
in 1998 at Artists Television Access.

It seems to me that what is important here is not what credits we
can attribute to Guy Debord - one of my heroes -  or even to the
Situationists...but  that we not, in our own debates,
de-politicize public action or throw babies out with bathwater -
>From Hanna Arendt, I think  of *revolution* as a culmination of  events
and practices -   Debord  promoted a 'beyond' - the possiblity of that - and
helped produce a mass did Rosa Parks'
refusal to take a back seat on a segregated bus...well before
1968...and Malcolm X's law suit against the city of
New York in defense of one of his Muslim brothers - and walk-outs
by black students and academics from San Francisco State and so did
anarchists and activists in
Australia when they broke permit laws under Joh Bjelke Peterson

There are different and similar desired outcomes in revolutionary action.
 Different contexts.
Whose revolution? For whom? How? Emanating from where?
Is sorrow being expressed at May '68's  failure?
And what if it had continued to
succeed, would the narrow focus of historic Marxism, for example,
towards the bodies of women be part of the new program? There is a reason-
situationist activity -  for political philosophies - not as catalysts for
perhaps, but for what is to follow when we have all revolted successfully.

 I have one other observation...Cultural Studies is parallel to
the history of, say, affirmative action in the US...orto  the notion that
the academy
as an idea needed to be less exclusive, a social program of equalization
in a white male-dominated world. The impact on culture by the social
program"affirmative action" (quotas of minorities and women in
institutional life) which has contributed *since the sixties* to programs
and  theory and new courses/grants/support for the idea of cultural studies
and  *political difference*...(perhaps rendering such culture also popular
in other countries) has radically altered our western cultural idea of
knowledge-production to the extreme betterment of us
all...forever...history no longer a monotlithic province of men and male
ideas and whites and white-biased ideas, or even heterosexual ideas but as
sets of diverse ideas, actions, events...leading us somewhere...

If folks want to co-opt Guy Debord they will. It's post-modern media cutlure.
People will do anything for a dollar. It doesn't really devalue Guy Debord.
Come on...?


ps. misspelling of the word 'monstrous'
as 'monsterous' - it's comical!

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