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L'Internationale Situationniste, Socialisme ou Barbarie, and the Crisis of the Marxist Imaginary Author(s): Stephen

L'Internationale Situationniste, Socialisme ou Barbarie, and the Crisis of the Marxist Imaginary Author(s): Stephen Hastings-King Source: SubStance, Vol. 28, No. 3, Issue 90: Special Issue: Guy Debord (1999), pp. 26-54 Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

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L'Internationale Situationniste,

Socialismeou Barbarie, and theCrisis

oftheMarxist Imaginary

StephenHastings-King

The SituationnisteInternationalewas a small transnational group of artist-revolutionariesthatcameoutoftheneo-DadaistLettristemovement.' In Paris, Guy Debordand a small, changing castoffriendsand supporting characters2 tracked through theParisianculturaland politicalunderground

along the path laidearlier by the Surrealists.3 Skilledas provocateurs, anxious to abandontheconstraintsofartistic production and to acquirelegitimacy as revolutionaries, Debordandhisfriendsalmost immediatelybegan tolook tothe journal Socialismeou Barbarie, edited by the group ofthesame name led by CorneliusCastoriadis.4 SB is a crucial, though little discussed, referentin theevolutionof Guy Debord. The relationship was centralfor Debord, and workedon several levels.AftermonthsofdiscussionwithSB militants, Debord joined the group fora few months during 1960-1961.The merger was inconclusiveand strained. However, inthe pages ofthe journal L'Internationale Situationniste,

SB

movement"withwhichDebord increasingly identified. Initially, SB was

simplypart ofthe politicallandscape.

involved, SBbecamemuchmore central, and the"Situ" journal muchmore deferentialtowardtheolder group. Debordwas a sympathetic observerof SB, and hisaccountsformoneofthefewviewsofthe group froman outside perspective. SB functionsas an Archimedean point aroundwhichtheSitus

triedto pivot fromartand culturaldissentinto revolutionarypolitics. When

SB exploded in1963andCastoriadis began to publish his

etla th6orie r6volutionnaire"-inwhichhe

point whereone can eitherbe Marxistora revolutionary"- Debord

a sustained attempt toexcludeSB fromthe revolutionary movementand to

usurp its role in a new revolutionary vanguard. Elements of SB's

played

an

important role as the symbol

of the "new

revolutionary

However, onceDebordbecamemore

long

text"Marxisme

that"ithas cometothe

began

argues

26

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CrisisoftheMarxist Imaginary

27

revolutionaryproject werecentral components inDebord's collageapproach

toMarxismand

and as dismantledinthe1975filmofthesamename.Debord's use ofSB is curiousforitsexternal viewpoint. He maps SB's notionsofthe history ofthe workers' movement, bureaucratic capitalism and socialism as direct democracy ontoa MarxistframeworkclosertoLukacsand Althusserinits

argue

abstractrelationto the working class and revolution.In this paper, I

thatDebord'sreversiontodialecticalMarxismis a response tothe implosion

of SB. Debord's collage

actorwithinand symptom of the crisisof the Marxist

interesting as an Imaginary.

cultural critique as deployed inthe1967 Societyof the Spectacle

approach to revolutionarypolitics makes him

SB and theMarxist Imaginary

When theSituationisteInternationale began to publish its journal in 1958and to position itselfonthe fringes oftheParisianculturaland political

underground, Socialismeou Barbariewas regarded as themost "proletarian"

and sophisticated of revolutionary Marxist organizations. The group was founded by Castoriadis, Claude Lefortand a circleof less well-known militantsas an oppositionaltendency withinthe Trotskyist PartiCommuniste Internationaliste (PCI) in1946. The Chaulieu-Montal Tendency, as it was known, brokewiththePCI in 1948over the problem of interpreting the

SovietUnion.Between1948and 1956, SB

revolutionarytheory notableforits sweep and attentiontothesituationof

the working class, then undergoing radical change through

implementation of Fordism and the crisis of Stalinism. By 1958, SB's

revolutionaryproject hadbecomea primaryreference-point fornewradical

organizations thatwere emerging inthe space created by theintensification

ofthe Algerian Warandtheretreatintoself-isolationofthePartiCommuniste

Franqais. SB's project was builtaroundextended interpretations

developed a variantofMarxist

the

of working-

classactionssince1953andseemedconfirmed by the Hungarian Revolution of October-November, 1956. SB definedthe termsin which these new organizations understoodtheirsituation.The following isa cursory overview ofthenotionoftheMarxist Imaginary, the social-imaginary formationthat shaped how SB articulateditselfand its object, its entry intoa protracted crisisand therole played inthis by the Hungarian Revolution. Thecentralelementsof revolutionarytheory, orof any visionof society

(and in this, revolutionarytheory isnomoreorlessa fantasy than anyother), arewhatCorneliusCastoriadishas called "social-imaginarysignifications." These are the product of intellectuallabor expended upon social spaces,

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28

StephenHastings-King

shaping definitionsofthe world, its history, the possibilities of change and modes availablefor political entitiesto shape or participate in that change.

Social-imaginarysignifications structure representational, intentionaland affectiverelationsto thesocial-historical.5 The post-war FrenchLeftwas dominated by the PartiCommuniste Frangais and itstrade-union ally, the Conf6deration G6neraledu Travail.It

and was,

referencetoa working-classconstituency: italso exertedan enormous pull overthe para-academic urbanculturewithinwhichcirculatedmostdissident Parisianstudentsand intellectualworkers (Badie, 1977). The system was opposed toitsLeft by a seriesofsmallmilitant organizations that operated

in a nebulous culturalenvironmentthatPierreBourdieuhas called the

"delimitedfieldof ideological production."6 These organizations were comprised of "specialists in ideologicalproduction" who, lacking thematerial resourcesofthePCF-CGT system, workedtofashion positions with specific referencetothetextualtraditionat thecoreoftheMarxist Imaginary. All heretical projects had to work through Marxist significations as shaped by the dominantPCF-CGT position.They also had to position

themselves horizontally-withrespect toeachother-and vertically-with

respect toan imagined versionofthe revolutionaryworking class.In postwar

Marxism, the paradigm forsuch heresy was

represented the bureaucratizationof the Russian Revolution and was

thereforenotLenin's legitimate heir.For Trotsky, theultimatedemonstration

ofhis claimswould comewitha second proletarian revolution.Led

"real" revolutionaryvanguard and mobilizing the "real" proletariat, the secondrevolutionwould sweep away Stalinismand institutein its place a

moreradicalsocialism.Most revolutionarygroupsappropriated versions of thisnarrativeto emplot themselvesand theirvisionof the Imaginary. Centraltoall versionswas a relationtothe working class.Theconstruction ofa representation ofthe"real" proletariat was a fundamentalelementin

collective self-fashioning for revolutionaryorganizations: this representation

gave coherencetointentional relations-to-the-world, whichinturnenabled

individualmilitantsand workersto map affectontoa visionof revolutionary

social change.7 PCF-CGTdominanceoverthedelimitedfieldandits imaginedworking class made itselfevidentin the fashioning of historiesof the workers' movementin general. ThePCF-CGT systemlegitimated itselfandits political actionsin the present withreferenceto a narrativeofthe past. Therefore, any counter-claim necessarily involvedthe production ofa counter-history. Thesecounter-historieswereoftenfashioned through thelensof dogmatic

in turn, shapedby it.ThePCF-CGT systemagitated with primary

Trotsky, who argued thatStalin

by

the

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CrisisoftheMarxist Imaginary

29

Marxism, whichcaused themto reproduce thesame self-referential,self- legitimating characteras could be seen in thePCF-CGT.The effectwas to rendertranscendentMarx'shistorical-materialist categories, whichinturn led to conceptual and political closureand stasis. By the mid-1950s,this

conceptual stasiswas generalizedamong the fragments ofthe revolutionary opposition. Socialismeou Barbariewas an exception.Turning thesame heretical pattern on theheretics themselves, SB announceditselfin 1948withthe

slogan: "Without development of revolutionarytheory,[there can be] no development of revolutionary action."The group betthaticonoclasmwith respect to institutedMarxism could be justifiedby their analysis of

contemporarycapitalism. From1948to 1957, this gamblepaid

SB's situation changedquickly and dramatically as a resultofthe Hungarian

Revolution.Ina mediacontextdominated byparalysis, SB

Lefort's pamphlet"L'insurrectionhongroise" withinweeks oftheevents.

Written quickly and publishedalong witha highlypolemical

PCF, itwas thefirstcoherent reading to appear on theParisianscene.'

The pamphlet'sgeneral lineis that Hungaryexperienced a realsocial revolution.Thisrevolution alreadyrequired a totalsocialcrisis.Sucha crisis was simpler to thinkaboutin theEasterncontextthanitwas in the West, becausethestatesineachwere quite different.Lefort argued thecentraland

most revolutionary featureoftherevoltwas

who began almost immediately to set up

administer everyday life. Hungary becamea direct-democratic society fora

couple ofweeks:this was, for SB, proof thatitsvisionofsocialismwas viable

and an occasiontoextendand refine thinking aboutthatvision. Lefort's analysis drew upon SB'sbroader analytic framework.The group

developed its revolutionarytheoryalongnegative/ criticaland positive/

revolutionary axes. The formerwas builtaround a sweepingcritique of contemporary social, economicand politicalorganizations and ideologies. Modern capitalism, SB argued, should be seen as a new type of socio-

economic formation, the defining featuresofwhichcouldbe seenin

in the separation of ownership from management and the rise of mass production. Thisnewformwas bureaucratic capitalism, whichwas instituted

in "centralized" and "fragmented" formsin the East and the West

respectively.Following the "string of bureaucracy," SBextendedtheir critique

to encompass most aspects SB saw the

wave ofautonomousworkeractionsthathad begun soonafterStalin'sdeath

offinisolation.

published Claude

attackon the

theroleofthe factory workers, direct-democraticcouncils to

industry

ofFordistculture.' Revolutionas theculminationofa

Hungarian

mounting

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30

StephenHastings-King

in 1953.In themonths followingHungary,building offofLefort's reading ofthe revolt, Castoriadistriedtoformalizethe implications ofthisrevolution by an extendedconsiderationofdirect-democratic society("Sur le contenu

du

contenudu socialisme III"). This optimistic narrativewas centralto the pamphlet and to the theorizing aboutrevolutioninthe pages ofSB during 1957-1958.Itwas not,

however, the onlyway thatthe journal narratedeventsin Hungary. Daniel

Moth6's autobiographical accountstolda ratherdifferent story ofthecrisis

as it played out at

socialisme II") and itslinksto everyday conflictin thefactories ("Sur le

Renault'sBillancourt factory. Ratherthana period of

increased revolutionarypossibilities, Mothedescribeda collapse ofMarxism as social-imaginarysignification thathad enabled individualworkersto articulate themselves, butas part ofa classwitha revolutionary telos, and to

act upon that identification.10 Thedoublenarrativemirroredboththe political situationandthenature oftheSB readership. SB constructeditselfandits journal aroundan ongoing

(thoughlargelyimaginary/problematic)dialogue withtheworkeravant- garde. The journal is a kindoftextual collage. At itscenterweretextslike those by Moth6, written by workersabouttheirown experience. Around

this image was constructed another, of theworker avant-garde in action through strike reports and analyses.Situating thesewas a broad critical theorypredicated on a close engagement with Marxism and with the conditions particular to bureaucratic capitalism. These rings of textwere supplemented with more self-critical writings about the nature of

revolutionaryorganization and theory.Very littleinformation appeared about theactuallifeofSB as a group. Readerswere invitedto engage withthe

elementsofthis collage, whichresolved through the

a compleximage ofthe revolutionaryworking class. Therelationofthe signifiers thatmade up this collage totheir empirical

referentwas problematic. SB collectivelymisrecognized the specificity and complexity ofthenarrative viewpoint aroundwhich theyhoped would be

elaborated accounts of worker experience." SB readership was, more

logically, a

relationto the working class was a combinationoffascination (following

fromtheaxiomsofMarxist revolutionarytheory) anddistance (as a function

ofthenatureofFrenchsocial geography). SB's

a text-generatedsignified and thecentral social-imaginarysignification aroundwhichSB and its journal wereordered.Definitionsof political action

and roleswere predicated on a relationto this signified and its practical

process of reading into

reflectionofthe group itself: educated, urbanand Marxist, whose

working classwas therefore

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CrisisoftheMarxist Imaginary

31

activity. Broader oppositional attitudeswerestructuredand legitimated with referencetoit.The image of proletariat was thecentralmaterial upon which the revolutionary movement expended intellectuallabor.If Moth'-the "Worker"in SB's internalworld-described a situationnot particular to Billancourt, butonethatcouldbe generalized tothe working classas a whole, thenthecrisisoftheMarxist Imaginary had already entereditsfirst phase. In the period after 1956, the pages of SB were dominated by the

optimisticreading of Hungary and the possibilities forrevolutionit presented. This reading was important for the newly constituted revolutionary Leftbecause it enabled themto extractthecentralMarxist categories out fromunder Stalinism, and use themto constructa general orientationfortheiranti-waractivities.The political situation grew more ambiguous after May 1958.Charlesde Gaulle effectivelystaged a coup d'etat in May 1958toend a near-civilwar inFrancethatwas driven by a cadreof

ultra-right-wingparatroopers in Algeria.According tothe Trotskyisttheory ofhow revolutions happen, socialcrisisresultedindual power thatbecame civilwar and thenrevolution (ifpolitical conditionswere ripe, of course.)

Theeventsof May shouldhavebeenthe signal for working-class action. But the workersdid not act: they even supported the Fifth Republic Constitutionwhenitwas placed beforetheelectoratein September. Atthis

point, various people intheLeft Oppositionbegan toaskwhethertherehad beensomekindofbasic change inthesituationofthe working class, and if this changerequired a reconsiderationoftraditionalMarxist categories and politics. In the past, thiskindofissuehad oftenled militantsto thinktheir way outof politics- whichleftthe general situation unchanged. This time, however, the question would not go away and thedebatearounditis the firstroundina long seriesthatmarkthe history ofthe collapse oftheMarxist

Imaginary at thelevelof politicalorganization. ThiscrisisoftheMarxist Imaginary shouldnotbe understoodin overly

teleological terms.Because of the intensity and complexity of affective

investments, itwas confronted onlygradually. Whenthecrisiswas

directly, theresultwas usually traumatic.SB was among thefew groups to

try toconfrontit directly, butnotuntil 1963. During 1957and 1958, the group

had feverishly triedto publish the journal on a regular basis inordertotake

advantage of theirnewfound visibility. These effortsexacerbated

running financialand organizationalproblems.By thesummerof 1958, SB collapsed into itself, as a dispute overhow to reorganize the group inorder

to rationalizethe production ofthe journal becamea fight overtheroleof bureaucracy in the revolutionary movement.This disputeprompted the

engaged

long-

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32

StephenHastings-King

departure ofthemoreanarchistmembersof SB, including Claude Lefort and HenriSimon.It was clearto all,however, thatthis dispute coincided withthe emergence of questions aboutthe political roleofthe working class. As a result, everybody involvedunderstoodthemselvesin symptomatic

termsas indicativeoftheneed fora new type of revolutionarypolitics and

a new type of revolutionaryorganization.

PublicationWars: IS and SB

During thefallof 1959, Debord and his comradeswere filming the

"psychogeographicalexperiments" in Les Halles thatbecame thebasis for

"Sur

temps"(Debord 1978). The

justappeared; a copy ofitreachedDaniel Blanchard, a university student

le passage de quelques

personnes a traversune assez courteunitdde

thirdissue ofL'InternationaleSituationnistehad

and memberofSB since1957:

Therearemomentsinone'sexistencethatstand out, as ifofa moresolid

texture, drawnin stronger lines [that] contrastwiththefuzzinessand [

ambiguity oftherestoflife.And

meaning,impartedby

Often, that specialqualityonly revealsitself retrospectively, but sometimes,

too, itis

theautumn 1959, whenI

think-oftheIS. Atthe time, I

group[ ]

myeye wasattracted by that sleek, elegantpublication, withits scintillating

coverandincredibletitle.I tookholdofitand

whatI gradually cametosee as a newfoundlandof

]

theyreally are charged with objective

a movementofa sortofhistoricoverdetermination.

perceivedimmediately. ThatiswhatI experienced onthe day, in

first glancedthrough an

participated in

issue-number 3, I

theSocialismeou Barbarie

That day, as a fewofus

were goingthrough the weekly mail,

immediatelybegan to explore

modernity, bizarre

but fascinating.12

Blanchard's relationship withDebord holds a particularplace

in the

former'saffective world, as a kindofsustainedbrushwithstardom.Moments in the relationship seem etchedon his mind:the packaging ofthe IS, for example, and the impression itmade on him. Everything aboutthe journal

markeditas differentfrommost revolutionarypublications. The cover,title, typeset and paper wereall unusual.The layout was broken up by untitled photographs of people,clipped advertisementsforautomobilesorfall-out shelters, examples ofditournementdoneon "Terry andthePirates"andother comics.The journalpresented itselfas a kindof politicizedPop Artartifact.

Socialismeou Barbarie opted fora very traditional printedself-presentation.

TractsandPouvoirOuvrierwere designed toreacha

and retainedthe traditionallook of militant publications:cheap paper, typescript text reproduced on mimeograph or roneotype,primitive orhand-

working-class audience,

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CrisisoftheMarxist Imaginary

33

drawn graphics, when any wereused.Themain journal, SB, was also austere,

withits red, whiteandblack covers, simpletypesets,moderate-gradepaper, and lackofillustrations.Twodifferentnotionsofhow to present theavant- garde: one as proletarian, "authentic," tiedto worker traditions; theother self-consciouslybreaking withthesesame audiencesand traditions. WhileIS lookedlike nothing else, mostofthearticleswere attempts to

work throughways of framingproblems of culture, art and

inheritedfromSurrealism. Situationist politics were, and remained,

predicated on subjectiveexperience elevated to a

revolution

trans-subjective level

through complicatedby Debord's suspicion of representation and itsfunctioninthe

contextof the

inversionofthisartistrole. Subjectivism was consistentwithDebord's use

variations on the traditionalnotion of the Artist.This was

spectacle,

which prompted him to fashionforhimselfan

of everydayexperience as a point of departure for thinking aboutalienation. This approach both opened up and limitedhis access to the terrainof

revolutionarypolitics. In 1959,however, the journal'spackaging andconcerns

suggested thatthe IS

Blanchardthatitwas developing in parallel toSB.

In principle, SB and Debord/IS werekindred groups, and the timing of theirencounterfortuitous. However, the timing was off.As the IS was working to articulatea position foritselfat the edge ofa new culturaland

politicalavant-garde, SB was grappling witha major internal challenge to

the

revolutionaryproject had been constructed.

Castoriadis'stext"Modern Capitalism and Revolution"'3argued thatthe GaullisttransformationofFranceintoa Fordiststatehad eliminatedmost non-manageable structuralcontradictions.The changes inthe organization

of theStateand its relationto European financialstructuresbuilton the effectsforthe working class oftheFordistassimilationofthetrade-unions intotheindustrialstatus quo, the weight ofStalinismon Marxist discourse, andthe importation ofmass-consumerculture. Implying thattherehadbeen

a suddenextensionof assembly-lineproductiontechniques intosemi-skilled industrialsectors (which isnot empirically the case) Castoriadischaracterized theoutcomeofthiscombinationoffactorsas a political destructurationof

the proletariat. InMarxist terminology, the working classhad regressed from

being a class foritselfto a class in itself.As such, it was not capable of

producing the patterns ofsocialization upon whichrestedSB's notionsof

revolutionand socialism, and their self-conception as a revolutionary

organization.

was "new" and "radical," and convincedDaniel

premisesupon

whichits

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34

StephenHastings-King

Castoriadis argued thatthecrisisofthe proletariat did notmeanthat all possibilities hadbeeneliminatedfor revolutionary action.Fordist attempts

to disempowerpolitics in general and manage the population through

consumption norms, paradoxically dirigeants and exdcutants, which had

production. The resultwas a multiplication of sources for potentially significant conflict.Thiscombinationof arguments enabledSB to continue

to use schemata developed through the analysis of the working class to

comprehend theseconflicts. However, the challenge to thismostbasic

signifiers made the group'srelationship toitmore rigid. Destructuration posed more problems forSB. They had to be able to

theorizesocial conflicts originating from any numberof potential sources, and devise ways forthe revolutionary movementto assume a rolein the

production of significations(types of hierarchy, modesof self-organization, ways of thinking aboutthese patterns in a self-conscious manner)-a role SB had assigned to theworker avant-garde. It was notclear exactly what thiswould entail.Atthelevelof theory, however, this position shouldhave

opened the way forsocial critique.Revolutionarytheory could no longer simply dismissthedominantcultureas radically false;instead, it had to workout linksto social, political and artisticmovementsand actionsthat originated from within, and in opposition to, thedominant culture.14 This was already theSituationistbailiwick.In practice, however, mostSBmilitants

continuedto act as before.Most stillconsidered revolutionarypolitics to centeron interactionwiththe working class.'5

generalized the struggle between been most evident at the point of

of

SB-IS Liaison: "Preliminariesto Define the Unity ofthe

RevolutionaryAgenda"

In principle, therefore, theinteractionofSB and theSituationistscould havebeenusefulforboth groups. Blanchardhad long talkswithDebordin

bistros, and

Blanchard's participation in the filming of On the Passageof a Few People

through a Rather Brief Unit ofTime, and a jointly-written tractentitled "Preliminaire pour une d6finitionde l'unite du programmer6volu- tionnaire."16 Thisdocumentis interesting inthe development ofthenotion of the spectacle as the translationintoculturaltermsof the divisionof intellectuallaborcharacteristicofbureaucratic capitalism(betweendirigeants and exdcutants). The dominant culture is also racked by the central contradictionofthat system:

during endless roamingthrough the city. The mainresultwas

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CrisisoftheMarxist Imaginary

upon reificationofhuman activities, whichassuresthe fixing ofthe living and

itstransmission along themodelofthetransmissionof

whichenforcesthedominationofthe past overthefuture. Such a cultural functioning entersintocontradictionwiththe constant imperative of capitalism, whichis to obtaintheadherenceof

people

imprisoned. In sum, the capitalist order only

liveson theconditionthatit

confinesinwhich they are

The mechanismof culturalconstitutionthusrelies

a

merchandise, and

and to constantly solicittheircreative activity withinthenarrow

ceaselesslyprojects beforeitselfa new past.

("Prenliminaires"? 2).17

35

The first paragraph outlinesa definitionofthe spectacle as a system of

social organization rootedina generalizedcommodity fetishism.Thesecond

connectsthisto a generalization ofthe dirigeant/executant distinction.The

effectis a disempowerment of desire, crucial to the maintenanceand reinforcementofthe spectacle:"Capitalistconsumptionimposes a movement ofthereductionofdesires by the regularity withwhichartificialneedsare satisfied, whichremainneedswithoutever having been desires; authentic desires are constrained to remain at the level of non-realization (or

compensated in theformof spectacles)."("Preliminaires"? 6)

"Prdliminaires "is

intwo parts. The first, "Le

capitalisme: socidtdsans

"La politique

document produced

culture" appears tohavebeenwritten by Debord; the second,

rdvolutionnaireetla culture," by Blanchard. In sucha

throughdialogue, one would expect some migration ofrhetoric.Debord's

sectionrevealsa tentativeassimilationof key SB concepts,particularly in the reworking ofthenotionofthe spectacle. Thatof Blanchard, on theother

hand, is more

closed-off, and is a resumeofSB's pre-1959position.'8 The

juxtaposition indicates the complementarity of the projects, and the incommensurability of their respective theoretical languages and assumptions. Debord assumed controloverthetract's layout and the expense ofits publication. Afterit appeared on July 20,1960, itcirculatedaroundSBwithout arousing muchinterest. By this point, Blanchardhad leftto do volunteer serviceas a teacherinGuinea.19ThetaskofliaisonwithDebordfelltoPierre

Guillaume, a 19-year-oldprotge' of Jean-FranqoisLyotard at theSorbonne

and in SB. In 1995, he published a problematic accountofhis relationship

withDebord.Thetexttriestoestablisha parallel betweenthe

Debordofthe1960sand therevisionistGuillaumeofthe1990s.This

general project is recapitulated inhisaccountofDebord's relationship withSB: just

as Debordbecamean object ofscandaland rumor upon

bytelling thetruthand beingpolite, so Guillaume-the-revisionist imagines

revolutionary

leaving SB simply

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36

StephenHastings-King

himselftobe victimized.Extendedinto25 pages, thetextis an exercisein

literaryabjection.20

Debord in SB

Debord joined SB sometimein thefallof 1960.He attended regular

meetings as well as thoseofthe journal's editorialcommitteeand thatof

PouvoirOuvrier.He traveledto

"team"thatwentto survey thesituationthathad resultedfromtherecent

the"team" met

Robert Dehoux, who becamethecore-or the only member-of "Pouvoir

Ouvrier Belge," which put out Alternatif, a journal thathad an SB/PO line and a Situ graphicssensibility. An assemblage of political tracesmakethe trip sound quiteimportant: Guillaumedescribesit as having been "quite loony" and "disappointing."22

general framework. Using

(December-January)general strike.21Whilein Belgium,

Belgium in February, 1961as part

ofan SB

Debordmade one attempt toinfluence SB's

a reviewofGodard'sA boutde souffle written by SB memberSebastiende

Diesbach (Chatel) and published

"revolutionaryjudgment ofart."The limitationsofSB's engagement with

thedominantor popular cultureswereevidentfromthestart.Reviewsof

booksand filmswere usually written by thestudentswho joined SB starting

in1957 (Blanchard,Chatel). Thefilm pieces

versionofthe theory ofartarticulatedin "Hamlet."Filmwas treatedas a

mirror.Filmsthat might servethe purposes of revolutionarytheoryprovide an image oflifein comparison to whichthatofthe spectatormight seem impoverished(Come Back Africa), orrevealthe impoverished natureofthe everydaybyperforming it (A boutde souffle). Debord attackedthisrelationto filmat severallevels.It accepted as naturalthedivisionbetween spectator andwork byusing a traditionalform of critique, whichDeborddefinedas:

in SB no. 31, Debord triedto outlinea

in

particular reliedona reductive

An interpretationamong othersofa workoverwhichonehas no hold.

Oneclaimsthatoneknowsbetterthantheauthorwhatheis

This

accepts the separateness ofthe specialist in question, one despairs ofever

actingupon himorwithhim (modalities thatwould obviouslyrequire

thatone concern oneselfwithwhathewas explicitlytrying to

un jugement" ? 4)

trying to say.

completely

do.)("Pour

apparentpride is infacta

radical humility, becauseone

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CrisisoftheMarxist Imaginary

37

The role of thecritictherefore places artoutsidehis or her purview,

beyond

a "second-order spectacle."

hisreachand inso doingproduces a critique thatis littlemorethan

Critique isthatwhichwritesinto spectacle itsstateof spectatorship.[The]

specializedspectator, andthereforetheideal spectator, elaborateshisideas

beforea workinwhichhehasnoreal participation. He rehearses,re-situates

(remet en scene) hisownnon-interventioninthe spectacle. Theweakness

of fragmentaryjudgments,haphazard and largelyarbitrary, on spectacles

thatdonotconcernusisourfatein many banaldiscussionsin

Butthe critique ofartmakesa showofsuch weakness, made exemplary.

("Pour un jugement" ? 5)

private life.

The roleofthecriticin thiscase is likethatofa designengineer who worksat patterns ofcultural passivity and transmitsthemtothe generalist spectator. Thecriticis unlikea Fordist dirigeant inthatthisroleis rehearsed ina moreorlessunconsciousmanner.Thecritichas no position outsidethe

spectacle, but possesses specialized instruments (training,ability to manipulatewords) thatenablehimto articulatehis own passivity. One is invitedto participate in the spectacle-to watchand be inspiredby a film, say-but such engagement must come with a manual. This notion of

spectatorship is built around alienation in everyday experience. The exemplary instance for thinking the phenomenon of alienation is

consumption. Thisscenariodeterminesthe

how toovercome it, and theculturaldivisionoflabor

For Debord, whatis

ofthisidea is a centraltaskfor theory: "we

all art, nota critique of revolutionary art":

possibilities for thinking about

upon

whichitisbuilt.

required is a new "revolutionary art."The elucidation

need a revolutionarycritique of

The revolutionary modificationofforms presentedby culturecanbe

overcoming/transcendence(dipassement) ofall

nothing otherthanthe

aspects ofaestheticandtechnicalinstrumentalitiesthat together constitute

the

spectacle as

separated fromlife.Itis notinthesurface significations

society,

un

function as spectacle.("Pour

thatonemustseektherelationofthe spectacle tothe problems of

butat a deeper level, at thelevelofits

jugement ", ? 4)

Revolutionary artwould be producedthrough the deployment of free creative activity in a contextwherethe separation of performer/artist and

spectator had beenbrokendown.WhileDebordoffersno idea ofwhatthis might entail, he is clearaboutits goal, whichis: "nottoshow people how to

live,

itbacks away fromthemoreimbricated positionoccupiedby the critic, who

buttomakethemlive."Whatis curiousaboutthisformulationis how

Substance#90,1999

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38

StephenHastings-King

issocializedinto patterns of interaction withculturein ways that onlypermit their recapitulation. Here, Debordmakesa cleardistinctionbetween spectacle and "lif