Situationism and “The Protester”

January 2, 2012

Dan Hind, author of The Return of the Public and The Threat to Reason and this year’s winner of the Bristol Festival of Ideas Prize, expressed his opinion on Situationism and the Occupy Movements in AlJazeera’s Opinion Space. While the whole article is worth reading, here are some quotes: 

In the years after the World War II, the US and Western Europe saw unprecedented rates of sustained economic growth. Food and accommodation were cheap and working people could afford a vast range of novel commodities – electronic gadgets, cars, new styles in furniture and opportunities for leisure. Decades of war, depression and social unrest in Europe were over. Material life had never been better.

But Guy Debord and other writers and intellectuals associated with ‘Situationism’ claimed that this prosperity had been achieved at a cost that was both unacceptable and unnecessary. The technology of production had solved the problem of subsistence, but was now busy creating new, additional desires to clinch the sale of new commodities.

The choices offered by the market posed as the entire range of what could be chosen to fulfil those desires. But the sum of commodities crowded out something that couldn’t be sold. The Situationists called this crowding out the ‘Spectacle’. They wanted to find the world that the Spectacle overlaid, imitated and sold to us. There was, they said, a beach underneath the pavement. 


But the situation of freedom, to the extent that it remained mute, remained beyond appropriation and available for radical purposes. It is being picked up again and put to new uses. The Occupations are situations in which new kinds of experience become possible.

The act of taking space creates a shared risk, a sense that each of us is consequential. The gathering of individuals who believe that what they do matters is the beginning of political power. Politics ceases to be something that one watches from a distance and becomes something that one does.  

AlJazeera: Dan Hind: Have you considered a career in total revolution? 


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