Guy Debord

Guy Louis Debord (/dəˈbɔːr/; French: [gi dəbɔʁ]; 28 December 1931 – 30 November 1994) was a French Marxist theorist, philosopher, filmmaker, member of the Letterist International, founder of a Letterist faction, and founding member of the Situationist International (SI).[1] He was also briefly a member of Socialisme ou Barbarie.

Guy Debord
Guy Debord
Guy Louis Debord

28 December 1931
Died30 November 1994 (aged 62)
Alma materUniversity of Paris
Era20th-century philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolContinental philosophy
Western Marxism/Libertarian Marxism
Letterist International
Main interests
Social theory
Commodity fetishism
Class struggle
Social alienation
Notable ideas
Debord's Will

Early life

Guy Debord (also known as "Debord Guy") was born in Paris in 1931. Debord's father, Martial, was a pharmacist who died due to illness when Debord was young. Debord's mother, Paulette Rossi, sent Guy to live with his grandmother in her family villa in Italy. During World War II, the Rossis left the villa and began to travel from town to town. As a result, Debord attended high school in Cannes, where he began his interest in film and vandalism.[2] As a young man, Debord actively opposed the French war in Algeria and joined in demonstrations in Paris against it.[3] Debord studied Law at the University of Paris, but left early and did not complete his university education. After ending his stint at the University of Paris, he began his career as a writer.[4]

Involvement with the Letterists

Debord joined the Letterist International when he was 19. The Letterists were led dictatorially by Isidore Isou until a widely agreed upon schism ended Isou's authority. This schism gave rise to several factions of Letterists, one of which was decidedly led by Debord upon Gil Wolman's unequivocal recommendation.[5] In the 1960s, Debord led the Situationist International group, which influenced the Paris Uprising of 1968, during which he took part in the occupation of the Sorbonne. Some consider his book The Society of the Spectacle (1967) to be a catalyst for the uprising,[6] although perhaps a more immediately significant text was Mustapha Khayati's "On the Poverty of Student Life", published in November 1966.

Founding of the Situationist International

In 1957, the Letterist International, the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus, and the London Psychogeographical Association gathered in Cosio d'Arroscia (Cuneo), Italy, to found the Situationist International, with Debord having been the leading representative of the Letterist delegation. Initially made up of a number of well-known artists such as Asger Jorn and Pinot Gallizio, the early days of the SI were heavily focused on the formulation of a critique of art, which would serve as a foundation for the group's future entrance into further political critiques. The SI was known for a number of its interventions in the art world, which included one raid against an international art conference in Belgium during 1958[7] that included a large pamphlet drop and significant media coverage, all of which culminated in the arrest of various situationists and sympathizers associated with the scandal. In addition to this action, the SI endeavored to formulate industrial painting, or, painting prepared en masse with the intent of defaming the original value largely associated with the art of the period. In the course of these actions, Debord was heavily involved in the planning and logistical work associated with preparing these interventions, as well as the work for Internationale Situationniste associated with theoretical defense of the Situationist International's actions.[8]

Political phase of the Situationist International

In the early 1960s Debord began to direct the SI toward an end of its artistic phase, eventually expelling members such as Jorn, Gallizio, Troche, and Constant—the bulk of the "artistic" wing of the SI—by 1965. Having established the situationist critique of art as a social and political critique, one not to be carried out in traditional artistic activities, the SI began, due in part to Debord's contributions, to pursue a more concise theoretical critique of capitalist society along Marxist lines.

With Debord's 1967 work, The Society of the Spectacle, and excerpts from the group's journal, Internationale Situationniste, the Situationists began to formulate their theory of the spectacle, which explained the nature of late capitalism's historical decay. In Debord's terms, situationists defined the spectacle as an assemblage of social relations transmitted via the imagery of class power, and as a period of capitalist development wherein "all that was once lived has moved into representation". With this theory, Debord and the SI would go on to play an influential role in the revolts of May 1968 in France, with many of the protesters drawing their slogans from Situationist tracts penned or influenced by Debord.[9][10]

After the Situationist International

In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni
Published by Éditions Gérard Lebovici (1990)

In 1972, Debord disbanded the Situationist International after its original members, including Asger Jorn and Raoul Vaneigem, quit or were expelled. (Vaneigem wrote a biting criticism of Debord and the International.[11]) Debord then focused on filmmaking with financial backing from the movie mogul and publisher, Gérard Lebovici (éditions Champ Libre), until Lebovici's mysterious death. Debord was suspected of Lebovici's murder. Distraught by the accusations and his friend's death, Debord took his films and writings out of production until after his death. He had agreed to have his films released posthumously at the request of the American researcher, Thomas Y. Levin.[12] Debord's two most recognized films are Society of the Spectacle (1973) and "In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni" (1978).

After dissolving the Situationist International, Debord spent his time reading, and occasionally writing, in relative isolation in a cottage at Champot with Alice Becker-Ho, his second wife. He continued to correspond on political and other issues, notably with Lebovici and the Italian situationist Gianfranco Sanguinetti.[13] He focused on reading material relating to war strategies, e.g. Clausewitz and Sun Tzu, and he designed a war game with Alice Becker-Ho.[14]

Debord married twice, first to Michèle Bernstein and then Alice Becker-Ho. Debord had affairs with other women, including Michèle Mochot-Bréhat. Bernstein wrote a vaguely fictional but detailed account of the open relationships Mochot and she had with Debord in her novel All The King's Horses.


Just before Debord's death, he filmed (although did not publish) a documentary, Son art et son temps (His Art and His Times), an autobiography of sorts that focused primarily on social issues in Paris in the 1990s. It has been suggested that his dark depiction of this period was a suicide note of sorts. Both Debord's depression and alcohol consumption had become problematic, resulting in a form of polyneuritis. Perhaps in order to end the suffering caused by these conditions, Debord committed suicide by shooting himself in the head (or possibly heart) on 30 November 1994. This was not the first time he attempted to end his life.[15]

Debord's suicide is as controversial as it is unclear.[16] Some assert it was a revolutionary act related to his career. Due to his involvement with the radical Situationist International (SI), as well as his sadness at 'the society as a spectacle' being considered a cliché in later life, many think that Debord felt hopeless about the very society he was trying to shed light on. Debord was said to be "victim of the Spectacle he fought".[17] Among the many commentaries on Debord's demise, one scholar noted: "Guy Debord did not kill himself. He was murdered by the thoughtlessness and selfishness of so-called scholars (primarily trendy lit-criters) who colonized his brilliant ideas and transformed his radical politics into an academic status symbol not worth the pulp it's printed on…"[18]


On 29 January 2009, fifteen years after his death, Christine Albanel, Minister of Culture, classified the archive of his works as a "national treasure" in response to a sale request by Yale University.[19][20] The Ministry declared that "he has been one of the most important contemporary thinkers, with a capital place in history of ideas from the second half of the twentieth century."[21] Similarly, Debord once called his book, The Society of the Spectacle, "the most important book of the twentieth century". He continues to be a canonical and controversial figure particularly among European scholars of radical politics and modern art.

Written works

Guy Debord's best known works are his theoretical books, The Society of the Spectacle[10] and Comments on the Society of the Spectacle. In addition to these he wrote a number of autobiographical books including Mémoires, Panégyrique, Cette Mauvaise Réputation..., and Considérations sur l'assassinat de Gérard Lebovici. He was also the author of numerous short pieces, sometimes anonymous, for the journals Potlatch, Les Lèvres Nues, Les Chats Sont Verts, and Internationale Situationniste. The Society of the spectacle was written in an "interesting prose", unlike most writings in that time or of that nature. For Debord, the Spectacle is viewed as false representations in our real lives. The Spectacle is a materialized worldview. The spectacle 'subjects human beings to itself'.[22]

Debord was deeply distressed by the hegemony of governments and media over everyday life through mass production and consumption. He criticized both the capitalism of the West and the dictatorial communism of the Eastern bloc for the lack of autonomy allowed to individuals by both types of governmental structure. Debord postulated that Alienation had gained a new relevance through the invasive forces of the 'spectacle' - "a social relation between people that is mediated by images" consisting of mass media, advertisement, and popular culture.[4] The spectacle is a self-fulfilling control mechanism for society. Debord's analysis developed the notions of "reification" and "fetishism of the commodity" pioneered by Karl Marx and Georg Lukács. Semiotics was also a major influence, particularly the work of his contemporary, Roland Barthes, who was the first to envisage bourgeois society as a spectacle, and to study in detail the political function of fashion within that spectacle.[23] Debord's analysis of "the spectaclist society" probed the historical, economic, and psychological roots of the media and popular culture.[10] Central to this school of thought was the claim that alienation is more than an emotive description or an aspect of individual psychology: rather, it is a consequence of the mercantile form of social organization that has reached its climax in capitalism, as theorized by Herbert Marcuse of the Frankfurt School.

The Situationist International (SI), a political/artistic movement organized by Debord and his colleagues and represented by a journal of the same name, attempted to create a series of strategies for engaging in class struggle by reclaiming individual autonomy from the spectacle. These strategies, including "dérive" and "détournement," drew on the traditions of Lettrism. As founder of the SI, it has been suggested that Debord felt driven to generalize and define the values, ideas, and characteristics of the entire group, which may have contributed to his hand-picking and expulsion of members. The hierarchical and dictatorial nature of the SI existed, however, in the groups that birthed it, including the Letterists and the Surrealists.

Debord's first book, Mémoires, was bound with a sandpaper cover so that it would damage other books placed next to it.[24]

Debord has been the subject of numerous biographies, works of fiction, artworks, and songs, many of which are catalogued in the bibliography by Shigenobu Gonzalves, "Guy Debord ou la Beauté du Negatif."

Often, it is suggested that Debord was opposed to the creation of art, however, Debord writes in the Situationist International magazine ("Contre le Cinema") that he believes that "ordinary" (quotidian) people should make "everyday" (quotidian) art; art and creation should liberate from the spectacle, from capitalism, and from the banality of everyday life in contemporary society. In "The Society of the Spectacle," Debord argues that it is the price put on art that destroys the integrity of the art object, not the material or the creation itself. It is important to note that Debord does not equate art to "the spectacle."


Debord began an interest in film early in his life when he lived in Cannes in the late 1940s. Debord recounted that, during his youth, he was allowed to do very little other than attend films. He said that he frequently would leave in the middle of a film screening to go home because films often bored him. Debord joined the Lettrists just as Isidore Isou was producing films and the Lettrists attempted to sabotage Charlie Chaplin's trip to Paris through negative criticism.

Overall, Debord challenged the conventions of filmmaking; prompting his audience to interact with the medium instead of being passive receivers of information. As a matter of fact, his film Hurlements exclusively consists of a series of black and white screens and silence with a bit of commentary dispersed throughout.[25] Debord directed his first film, Hurlements en faveur de Sade in 1952 with the voices of Michèle Bernstein and Gil Wolman. The film has no images represented; instead, it shows bright white when there is speaking and black when there is not. Long silences separate speaking parts. The film ends with 24 minutes of black silence. People were reported to have become angry and left screenings of this film. The script is composed of quotes appropriated from various sources and made into a montage with a sort of non-linear narrative.

Later, through the financial support of Michèle Bernstein and Asger Jorn, Debord produced a second film, Sur le passage de quelques personnes à travers une assez courte unité de temps, which combined scenes with his friends and scenes from mass media culture. This integration of Debord's world with mass media culture became a running motif climaxing with "The Society of the Spectacle". Debord wrote the book The Society of the Spectacle before writing the movie. When asked why he made the book into a movie, Debord said, "I don't understand why this surprised people. The book was already written like a script". Debord's last film, "Son Art et Son Temps", was not produced during his lifetime. It worked as a final statement where Debord recounted his works and a cultural documentary of "his time".

  • Hurlements en faveur de Sade (Howls for Sade) 1952
  • Sur le passage de quelques personnes à travers une assez courte unité de temps (On the Passage of a Few Persons Through a Rather Brief Unity of Time) 1959 (short film, Dansk-Fransk Experimentalfilmskompagni)
  • Critique de la séparation (Critique of Separation) 1961 (short film, Dansk-Fransk Experimentalfilmskompagni)
  • La Société du spectacle (Society of the Spectacle) 1973 (Simar Films)
  • Réfutation de tous les judgements, tant élogieux qu'hostiles, qui ont été jusqu'ici portés sur le film " La Société du spectacle " (Refutation of All the Judgements, Pro or Con, Thus Far Rendered on the Film "The Society of the Spectacle") 1975 (short film, Simar Films)
  • In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni (a Latin palindrome meaning "We Go Round and Round in the Night, Consumed by Fire") (Simar Films) 1978 - This film was meant to be Debord's last and is largely autobiographical. The script was reprinted in 2007 in No: A Journal of the Arts.
  • Guy Debord, son art, son temps (Guy Debord - His Art and His Time) 1994 (a "sabotage television film" by Guy Debord and Brigitte Cornand, Canal Plus)

Complete Cinematic Works (AK Press, 2003, translated and edited by Ken Knabb) includes the scripts for all six of Debord's films, along with related documents and extensive annotations.


  • Debord, Guy (1957). Report on the Construction of Situations.
  • Mémoires, 1959 (co-authored by Asger Jorn), reprinted by Allia (2004), ISBN 2-84485-143-6.
  • La société du spectacle, 1967, numerous editions; in English: The Society of the Spectacle, Zone Books 1995, ISBN 0-942299-79-5. Society of the Spectacle, Rebel Press 2004, ISBN 0-946061-12-2. The Society of the Spectacle: Annotated Edition, Bureau of Public Secrets, 2014, ISBN 978-0-939682-06-5.
  • La Véritable Scission dans L'Internationale, Champ Libre, 1972 (co-authored by Gianfranco Sanguinetti); in English: The Real Split in the International, Pluto Press 2003, ISBN 0-7453-2128-3.
  • Œuvres cinématographiques complètes, Champ Libre, 1978, new edition in 1994; in English: Complete Cinematic Works: Scripts, Stills, and Documents, AK Press 2003, ISBN 1-902593-73-1.
  • Considérations sur l'assassinat de Gérard Lebovici, éditions Gérard Lebovici, 1985; in English: Considerations on the Assassination of Gérard Lebovici, TamTam 2001, ISBN 2-85184-156-4.
  • Le Jeu de la Guerre, 1987; in English A Game of War, Atlas Press 2008, ISBN 978-1-900565-38-7
  • Commentaires sur la société du spectacle, éditions Gérard Lebovici, 1988; in English: Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, Verso 1990, ISBN 0-86091-302-3.
  • Panégyrique volume 1, 1989; in English: Panegyric, Verso 2004, reprinted 2009, ISBN 1-85984-665-3; in Portuguese: "Panegírico" [2002], ISBN 85-87193-77-5.
  • All the Guy Debord's books and films as well as unpublished texts were gathered in a volume of Œuvres, éditions Gallimard, collection Quarto, Paris, 2006.
  • "The Proletariat as Subject and as Representation"[26]


  1. ^ "Dead Bored: Debord's Dead! Andrew Hussey on the death of a turbulent thinker". Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  2. ^ Bourseiller, Christophe. "Vie et Mort de Guy Debord". Agora.
  3. ^ "Pierre Guillaume Remembers Guy Debord". Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  4. ^ a b Jappe, A (1999). Guy Debord, Concept of the Spectacle. Berkely, CA: University of California Press.
  5. ^ Bourseiller, ibid
  6. ^ Andreotti, L. "Review: Leaving the twentieth century: The Situationist International." Journal of Architectural Education, 49(3), p. 197.
  7. ^ Internationale Situationniste No. 1, June 1958, pages 29-30,
  8. ^ Debord, Guy. Correspondence: The Founding of the Situationist International. Semiotext(e). 2008.
  9. ^ Knabb, Ken. Situationist International Anthology. Bureau of Public Secrets, 2007.
  10. ^ a b c Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. Zone Books, 1995.
  11. ^ "The Veritable Split in the SI", 1972
  12. ^ Guy Debord, "Reflections of the Death of Gérard Lebovici"
  13. ^ "Guy Debord". Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  14. ^ "Le Jeu de la Guerre: Relevé des positions successives de toutes les forces au cours d'une partie - Guy Debord, Alice Becker-Ho - Livres". Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  15. ^ McDonough (2002). Guy Debord and the Situationist International.
  16. ^ Andrew Hussey. "The suicide of Guy Debord | Books". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  17. ^ Baker (August 2001). "The Game of War: The Life and Death of Guy Debord". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  18. ^ "Transgressions: A Journal of Urban Exploration [1995-2001]". Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 October 2009. Retrieved 19 May 2009.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ Gallix, Andrew (18 March 2009). "The resurrection of Guy Debord". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  21. ^ Journal Officiel de la Republique Francaise du 12 fevrier 2009 (texte 120)
  22. ^ Debord, Guy (2002). The Society of the Spectacle. Canberra : Hobgoblin Press.
  23. ^ Philippe Sollers "L'antifascisme de Barthes", Le Monde // Hors-Série Roland Barthes, Juillet-Août, 2015
  24. ^ "the new shelton wet/dry". 10 January 2013. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  25. ^ "Howls for Guy Debord". Film Quarterly. 62 (4): 14–15.
  26. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 September 2007. Retrieved 24 May 2007.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)

Further reading

  • Mario Perniola, An Aesthetic of the Grand Style: Guy Debord, in "Substance", 1999, n.90.
  • Internationale situationniste, Paris, 1958-1969. Réédition intégrale chez Van Gennep, Amsterdam 1972, chez Champ Libre 1975, et chez Fayard 1997, ISBN 2-213-59912-2; complete translations are available in German: Situationistische Internationale, Gesammelte Ausgabe des Organs der Situationistischen Internationale, Hamburg: MaD Verlag 1976-1977, ISBN 3-921523-10-9; and in Spanish: Internacional situacionista: textos completos en castellano de la revista Internationale situationniste (1958-1969), Madrid: Literatura Gris [1999-2001], ISBN 84-605-9961-2.
  • The Situationist International by Simon Ford, Black Dog Publishing, 2004, illustrated.
  • Debord: Le naufrageur, Jean-Marie Apostolidès, Flammarion, 2016.
  • Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, Greil Marcus, Harvard University Press, 1990, ISBN 0-674-53581-2.
  • Situationist International Anthology, translated and edited by Ken Knabb, Bureau of Public Secrets 1981; Revised and Expanded Edition 2006, ISBN 978-0-939682-04-1.
  • Guy Debord, Anselm Jappe, University of California Press 1999, ISBN 0-520-21204-5.
  • Guy Debord - Revolutionary, Len Bracken, Feral House 1997, ISBN 0-922915-44-X.
  • I situazionisti, Mario Perniola, Roma, Castelvecchi 2005, ISBN 88-7615-068-4.
  • Della critica radicale - bibliografia ragionata sull' Internazionale situazionista - con documenti inediti in italiano, Gianluigi Balsebre, Bologna, Grafton 9, 1995.
  • The Game of War: The Life and Death of Guy Debord., Andrew Hussey, Cape 2001, ISBN 0-224-04348-X.
  • Guy Debord and the Situationist International, edited by Tom McDonough, MIT Press 2002, ISBN 0-262-13404-7.
  • "The Beautiful Language of my Century": Reinventing the Language of Contestation in Postwar France, 1945-1968, Tom McDonough, MIT Press 2007, ISBN 0-262-13477-2.
  • Guy Debord, Andy Merrifield, Reaktion 2005, ISBN 1-86189-261-6.
  • 50 Years of Recuperation of the Situationist International, McKenzie Wark, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2008 ISBN 1-56898-789-7.
  • Los Situacionistas y la Anarquía, Miguel Amorós, Bilbao, Muturreko burutazioak, 2008, ISBN 978-84-88455-98-7.
  • Debord ou la Diffraction du temps, Stéphane Zagdanski, Gallimard, 2008.
  • Fabien Danesi, Le Cinéma de Guy Debord ou la Négativité à l'œuvre : 1952-1994, Paris, Paris expérimental, 2011 ISBN 978-2-912-53942-7.
  • Fabien Danesi, Fabrice Flahutez et Emmanuel Guy, La Fabrique du cinéma de Guy Debord, Arles (Bouches-du-Rhône), Actes sud, 2013 ISBN 978-2-330-01756-9.
  • Fabien Danesi, Fabrice Flahutez, Emmanuel Guy, Undercover Guy Debord, (English-French),Paris, Artvenir, 2012 ISBN 978-2953940619.

External links

Donald Nicholson-Smith

Donald Nicholson-Smith is a translator and freelance editor, interested in literature, art, psychoanalysis, social criticism, theory, history, crime fiction, and cinema. Born in Manchester, England, he was an early translator of Situationist material into English. He joined the English section of the Situationist International in 1965 and was expelled in December 1967. He lives in New York City.


The dérive (French: [de.ʁiv], "drift") is a revolutionary strategy originally put forward in the "Theory of the Dérive" (1956) by Guy Debord, a member at the time of the Letterist International. Debord defines the dérive as "a mode of experimental behavior linked to the conditions of urban society: a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances." It is an unplanned journey through a landscape, usually urban, in which participants drop their everyday relations and "let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there". Though solo dérives are possible, Debord indicates that the most fruitful numerical arrangement consists of several small groups of two or three people who have reached the same level of awareness, since cross-checking these different groups' impressions makes it possible to arrive at more objective conclusions.The dérive's goals include studying the terrain of the city (psychogeography) and emotional disorientation, both of which lead to the potential creation of Situations.

Golden Fleet

The Golden Fleet (Swedish: Gyllene Flottan) was a minor left-wing group in Sweden, existing during the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s. It was ideologically aligned with the Situationist International, an avant-garde revolutionary movement. The Situationists, whose intellectual foundations were derived primarily from libertarian Marxism and the avant-garde art movements of the early 20th century (particularly Dada and Surrealism), initially put its emphasis on concepts like unitary urbanism and psychogeography. Gradually the focus moved more towards revolutionary and political theory. Much like the main organ of that particular ideological current, the Situationist International, the Golden Fleet had its heyday around the protests of 1968, gradually disappearing by the first years of the 1970s.

Extremely little is known about the Golden Fleet, yet still it became notorious, this to such an extent that it has been labelled "legendary". Nothing is known about its establishment, composition, and disestablishment. The name was most likely taken from an art exhibit in Denmark by the Situationist Jeppesen Victor Martin, which consisted of geopolitical paintings featuring coastlines, strategic arrows and toy battleships sprayed over with metallic paint. The group was centered in the capital Stockholm, although some members appear to have been from Gothenburg. It is primarily notable through the fact that its members were those that introduced situationist writings to Sweden by its brief but hectic work with publishing political texts. Among them were Instruktion i vapendragning in 1970 (a translation of "Instructions for an Insurrection", originally published 1961), as well as longer translations of texts by Guy Debord and Raoul Vaneigem among others.The group also produced a number of works on its own, prominent among them the poster "Hang the Stalinists High" (Swedish: Häng stalinisterna högt, on the subject of the contemporary left-wing) and the brochure "King Gustaf's Sardines" (Swedish: Kung Gustafs sardiner) which discussed the "meaningful meaninglessness of the Swedish students". Another Situationist group existed in Sweden, the Second Situationist International of Jørgen Nash, but there appears to have been no connection between the Golden Fleet and the Nashists.

Hurlements en faveur de Sade

Hurlements en faveur de Sade (English: Howlings for Sade) is a 1952 French avant-garde film directed by Guy Debord. Devoid of any images, the film was an early work of Lettrist cinema.

Letterist International

The Letterist International (LI) was a Paris-based collective of radical artists and theorists between 1952 and 1957. It was created by Guy Debord as a schism from Isidore Isou's Letterist group. The group went on to join others in forming the Situationist International, taking some key techniques and ideas with it.The spelling 'Lettrist' is also common in English, but 'Letterist' was the form the French group (Internationale Lettriste) themselves preferred, and used in their 1955 sticker: 'If you believe you have genius, or if you think you have only a brilliant intelligence, write the letterist internationale.' With regard to that second word, however, most scholars prefer 'International' to 'Internationale'. Such authors and translators as Donald Nicholson-Smith, Simon Ford, Sadie Plant and Andrew Hussey all agree on the 'Letterist International' spelling.

The group was a motley assortment of novelists, sound poets, painters, film-makers, revolutionaries, bohemians, alcoholics, petty criminals, lunatics, under-age girls and self-proclaimed failures. In the Summer of 1953, their average age was a mere twenty years old, rising to twenty nine and a half in 1957. In their blend of intellectualism, protest and hedonism—though differing in other ways, for instance in their total rejection of spirituality—they might be viewed as French counterparts of the American Beat Generation, particularly in the form it took during exactly the same period, i.e. before anyone from either group achieved any real fame, and were still having the adventures that would inform their later works and ideas.

Memoir (disambiguation)

Memoir is a literary genre or a reminiscence, a subclass of autobiography.

Memoir may also refer to:

Mémoire, in French culture, a (usually short and incisive) piece of writing allowing the author to show his or her opinion on a given subject

Mémoires, a 1959 artist's book made by the French artist & theorist Guy Debord in collaboration with the Danish artist Asger Jorn

Memoir '44, a light war-themed strategy board game

Michèle Bernstein

Michèle Bernstein (born 28 April 1932) is a French novelist and critic, most often remembered as a member of the Situationist International from its foundation in 1957 until 1967, and as the first wife of its most prominent member, Guy Debord.


Mémoires (Memories) is an artist's book made by the Danish artist Asger Jorn in collaboration with the French artist and theorist Guy Debord. Printed in 1959, it is the second of two collaborative books by the two men whilst they were both members of the Situationist International.

Official culture

Official culture is the culture that receives social legitimation or institutional support in a given society. Official culture is usually identified with bourgeoisie culture. For revolutionary Guy Debord, official culture is a "rigged game", where conservative powers forbid subversive ideas to have direct access to the public discourse, and where such ideas are integrated only after being trivialized and sterilized.A widespread observation is that a great talent has a free spirit. For instance Pushkin, which some scholar regard as Russia's first great writer, attracted the mad irritation of the Russian officialdom and particularly of the Tsar, since he


Psychogeography is an exploration of urban environments that emphasizes playfulness and "drifting". It has links to the Situationist International. Psychogeography was defined in 1955 by Guy Debord as "the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals." It has also been defined as "a total dissolution of boundaries between art and life". Another definition is "a whole toy box full of playful, inventive strategies for exploring cities... just about anything that takes pedestrians off their predictable paths and jolts them into a new awareness of the urban landscape."

Ralph Rumney

Ralph Rumney (5 June 1934 – 6 March 2002) was an English artist, born in Newcastle Upon Tyne.

In 1957 lifelong conscientious objector Rumney - he evaded National Service by going on the run in continental Europe - was one of the co-founders of the London Psychogeographical Association. This organization was, along with COBRA and the Lettrist International, involved in the formation of the Situationist International. Amongst those present at the founding in the Italian village of Cosio d'Arroscia were Walter Olmo, Michèle Bernstein (later his second wife) Asger Jorn, and Guy Debord. However, within seven months Rumney had been 'amiably' expelled from the SI by Debord for allegedly "failing to hand in a psychogeography report about Venice on time."

Rumney spent much of his life living as a wanderer, and was variously described as both a 'recluse' and a 'media whore', seeing his existence as a 'permanent adventure and endless experiment.' Rumney married Pegeen Guggenheim, the daughter of Peggy Guggenheim. He moved, as his friend Guy Atkins said, "between penury and almost absurd affluence. One visited him in a squalid room in London's Neal Street, in a house shared with near down-and-outs. Next, one would find him in Harry's Bar in Venice, or at a Max Ernst opening in Paris. He seemed to take poverty with more equanimity than riches."

Ralph Rumney died of cancer at his home in Manosque, Provence, France, in 2002, aged 67.

Report on the Construction of Situations

Report on the Construction of Situations is the founding Manifesto of the Situationist International revolutionary organization. The pamphlet was published by Guy Debord in June 1957, and the following month the organization was founded, at Cosio d'Arroscia, Italy.

The organization was founded by the fusion of three organizations: the Lettrist International, the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus, and the London Psychogeographical Association.

The complete title is Report on the Construction of Situations and on the International Situationist Tendency’s Conditions of Organization and Action.

Richard Maxfield

Richard Vance Maxfield (February 2, 1927 – June 27, 1969) was a composer of instrumental, electro-acoustic, and electronic music.

Born in Seattle, Maxfield studied at Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley (with Roger Sessions) and privately with Ernst Krenek in Los Angeles. A Hertz Prize travel scholarship allowed Maxfield to travel to Europe, where he met Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Luigi Nono. in 1953 he studied at Tanglewood with Aaron Copland. In 1954-55 he studied at Princeton University with Sessions and his pupil Milton Babbitt. A Fulbright Scholarship allowed Maxfield to live in Europe between 1955 and 1957, where he studied with Luigi Dallapiccola and Bruno Maderna, lived for a brief period with Hans Werner Henze and met John Cage and David Tudor. In 1958, he attended Cage's courses at the New School for Social Research (now The New School). In 1959 he taught classes there himself, becoming the first American to teach purely electronic music (as opposed to electronic music based on musique concrete-style real life recordings). As a student at University of California and in Europe in the 1950s, he composed instrumental scores in a neoclassical style and then adopted 12-tone techniques. It is however techniques for composing with magnetic tape that would prove decisive in the development of Maxfield's mature compositions. Among his innovations with tape music were the simultaneous performance of improvised instrumental solos with tapes based upon samples of the same soloist, re-editing of tapes before each public performance so that the pieces were not fixed in a single form, and the use of the erase head of the tape machine as a sound source. He was also an active Fluxus participant and a friend of La Monte Young who participated in the publication An Anthology of Chance Operations. Young now maintains the archive of Maxfield's works.In 1960, he and Young co-curated the early Fluxus concerts at Yoko Ono's loft: the first Downtown concerts. In 1967, Maxfield left his tape music, scores and equipment in the care of artist friend Walter de Maria. He moved to San Francisco, where he taught at San Francisco State College (1966–67). In 1969, he moved to Los Angeles. On June 27, 1969, Maxfield committed suicide in LA by jumping out a window of the Figueroa Hotel at the age of 42.

Maxfield recorded a number of electronic minimalist pieces, a few of which have seen commercial release.

In 2017, art historian Gerald Hartnett finished a doctoral dissertation on Maxfield at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. Hartnett places Maxfield as a crucial contributor to the experimental art and music of the late 1950s and early 1960s, placing him in the context of Guy Debord, William Burroughs, and Samuel Beckett. Hartnett wrote about "...experimental, time-based, and technologically reproducible art objects produced between 1954 and 1964 to represent 'the real'... [in which] ...vectors of influence between art and the cybernetic and computational sciences...responded to technological reproducibility in three ways. First of all, writers Guy Debord and William Burroughs reinvented appropriation art practice as a means of critiquing retrograde mass media entertainments and reportage. Second, Western art music composer Richard Maxfield mobilized chance techniques and indeterminacy to resist scientific and philosophical determinism’s pervasive influences upon post-1945 art and life. Third, author and playwright Samuel Beckett conjectured that ubiquitous recording might become problematic to the quality of experiential life in technologically mediated environments."

Situation (Sartre)

One of the first times in which Jean-Paul Sartre discussed the concept of situation (French: situation) was in his 1943 Being and Nothingness, where he famously said that

there is freedom only in a situation, and there is a situation only through freedom... There can be a free for-itself only as engaged in a resisting world. Outside of this engagement the notions of freedom, of determination, of necessity lose all meaning

Earlier in 1939, in his short story The Childhood of a Leader, collected in his famous The Wall, referring to a fake turd, he said that in pranks "There is more destructive power in them than in all the works of Lenin."

Another famous use of the term was in 1945, in his editorial of the first issue of Les Temps modernes (Modern Times); arguing the principle of the responsibility of the intellectual towards his own times and the principle of an engaged literature, he summarized: "the writer is in a situation with his epoch."

An, influential use of the concept was in the context of theatre, in his 1947 essay For a Theatre of Situations. A passage that has been frequently quoted is the following, in which he defines the Theater of Situations:

if it's true that man is free in a given situation and that in and through that situation he chooses what he will be, then what we have to show in the theatre are simple and human situations and free individuals in these situations choosing what they will be.... The most moving thing the theatre can show is a character creating himself, the moment of choice, of the free decision which commits him to a moral code and a whole way of life.

He then published his series Situations, with ten volumes on Literary Critiques and What Is Literature? (1947), the third volume (1949), Portraits (1964), Colonialism and Neocolonialism (1964), Problems of Marxism, Part 1 (1966), Problems of Marxism, Part 2 (1967), The Family Idiot (1971-2), Autour de 1968 and Melanges (1972), and Life/Situations: Essays Written and Spoken (1976).

Situationist International

The Situationist International (SI) was an international organization of social revolutionaries made up of avant-garde artists, intellectuals, and political theorists, prominent in Europe from its formation in 1957 to its dissolution in 1972.The intellectual foundations of the Situationist International were derived primarily from anti-authoritarian Marxism and the avant-garde art movements of the early 20th century, particularly Dada and Surrealism. Overall, situationist theory represented an attempt to synthesize this diverse field of theoretical disciplines into a modern and comprehensive critique of mid-20th century advanced capitalism. The situationists recognized that capitalism had changed since Marx's formative writings, but maintained that his analysis of the capitalist mode of production remained fundamentally correct; they rearticulated and expanded upon several classical Marxist concepts, such as his theory of alienation. In their expanded interpretation of Marxist theory, the situationists asserted that the misery of social alienation and commodity fetishism were no longer limited to the fundamental components of capitalist society, but had now in advanced capitalism spread themselves to every aspect of life and culture. They rejected the idea that advanced capitalism's apparent successes—such as technological advancement, increased income, and increased leisure—could ever outweigh the social dysfunction and degradation of everyday life that it simultaneously inflicted.Essential to situationist theory was the concept of the spectacle, a unified critique of advanced capitalism of which a primary concern was the progressively increasing tendency towards the expression and mediation of social relations through objects. The situationists believed that the shift from individual expression through directly lived experiences, or the first-hand fulfillment of authentic desires, to individual expression by proxy through the exchange or consumption of commodities, or passive second-hand alienation, inflicted significant and far-reaching damage to the quality of human life for both individuals and society. Another important concept of situationist theory was the primary means of counteracting the spectacle; the construction of situations, moments of life deliberately constructed for the purpose of reawakening and pursuing authentic desires, experiencing the feeling of life and adventure, and the liberation of everyday life.When the Situationist International was first formed, it had a predominantly artistic focus; emphasis was placed on concepts like unitary urbanism and psychogeography. Gradually, however, that focus shifted more towards revolutionary and political theory. The Situationist International reached the apex of its creative output and influence in 1967 and 1968, with the former marking the publication of the two most significant texts of the situationist movement, The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord and The Revolution of Everyday Life by Raoul Vaneigem. The expressed writing and political theory of the two aforementioned texts, along with other situationist publications, proved greatly influential in shaping the ideas behind the May 1968 insurrections in France; quotes, phrases, and slogans from situationist texts and publications were ubiquitous on posters and graffiti throughout France during the uprisings.

Spectacle (critical theory)

The spectacle is a central notion in the Situationist theory, developed by Guy Debord in his 1967 book, The Society of the Spectacle. In its limited sense, spectacle means the mass media, which are "its most glaring superficial manifestation." Debord said that the society of the spectacle came to existence in the late 1920s.The critique of the spectacle is a development and application of Karl Marx's concept of fetishism of commodities, reification and alienation, and the way it was reprised by György Lukács in 1923. In the society of the spectacle, the commodities rule the workers and the consumers, instead of being ruled by them, are passive subjects that contemplate the reified spectacle.

The Society of the Spectacle

The Society of the Spectacle (French: La société du spectacle) is a 1967 work of philosophy and Marxist critical theory by Guy Debord, in which the author develops and presents the concept of the Spectacle. The book is considered a seminal text for the Situationist movement. Debord published a follow-up book Comments on the Society of the Spectacle in 1988.

The Society of the Spectacle (film)

La Société du Spectacle (Society of the Spectacle) is a black and white 1973 film by the Situationist Guy Debord based on his 1967 book of the same name. It was Debord's first feature-length film. It uses found footage and détournement in a radical Marxist critique of mass marketing and its role in the alienation of modern society.

In academia

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