The Society of the Spectacle (PM edition)

SKU: 9798887440569
Author: Guy Debord • Edited and translated by Ken Knabb
Series: PM Press
ISBN: 9798887440569
Published: 09/03/2024
Format: Paperback
Size: 5.5 x 8.5
Pages: 160
Subjects: Philosophy: Political • Criticism & Theory • Anarchism, Communism, Post-Communism & Socialism

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The Society of the Spectacle is a carefully considered effort to clarify the most fundamental tendencies and contradictions of the society in which we find ourselves—in order to facilitate its overthrow.

Guy Debord was the founder of the Situationist International, the notorious avant-garde group that helped trigger the May 1968 revolt in France, which brought the entire country to a standstill for several weeks. His book The Society of the Spectacle, originally published in Paris in 1967, has been translated into more than twenty other languages and is arguably the most important radical work of the twentieth century. Ken Knabb’s meticulous new translation is the first edition in any language to include extensive annotations, clarifying the historical allusions and revealing the sources of Debord’s quotations and “détournements.”

Contrary to popular misconceptions, Debord’s book is neither an ivory-tower philosophical discourse nor a mere expression of “protest.” This makes the book more of a challenge, but it is also why it remains so pertinent more than half a century after its original publication, while countless other social theories and intellectual fads have come and gone.

It has, in fact, become even more pertinent than ever, because the spectacle has become more all-pervading and glaringly obvious than ever. As Debord noted in his follow-up work, Comments on the Society of the Spectacle (1988), “spectacular domination has succeeded in raising an entire generation molded to its laws.” Debord’s book remains the best guidebook to understanding that mold and breaking it.


“I read The Society of the Spectacle again and I thought, ‘This is a fucking amazing book!’ I had forgotten how terrific it was, and it was actually quite different to how I remembered it. I insist that the key chapter is not the first one, on the spectacle itself, but the second to last—the chapter on détournement. To me, that concept is the great gift of the Situationists. They realized that one can exploit this critically—one can copy and correct in the direction of hope.”
—McKenzie Wark, author of A Hacker Manifesto, in Los Angeles Review of Books

“We are not just inspired by what happened in the Arab Spring recently, we are students of the Situationist movement. Those are the people who gave birth to what many people think was the first global revolution back in 1968 when some uprisings in Paris suddenly inspired uprisings all over the world. All of a sudden universities and cities were exploding. This was done by a small group of people, the Situationists, who were like the philosophical backbone of the movement. One of the key guys was Guy Debord, who wrote The Society of the Spectacle. The idea is that if you have a very powerful meme—a very powerful idea—and the moment is ripe, then that is enough to ignite a revolution.”
Adbusters, explaining the origins of the Occupy movement in 2011

“In Society of the Spectacle, Debord sets out his best-known statement of how the categories of capitalism colonize everyday life to such an extent that we can barely imagine an existence beyond them.”
Sydney Review of Books

“Never before has Debord’s work seemed quite as relevant as it does now, in the permanent present that he so accurately foretold? Open his book, read it, be amazed, pour yourself a glass of supermarket wine—as he would wish—and then forget all about it, which is what the Spectacle wants.”
—Will Self, professor of Modern Thought at Brunel University London

About the Contributors

Guy Debord was the founder of the Situationist International (1957), the editor of its journal Internationale Situationniste (1958–1969), the author of several books, and the creator of seven films, including one based on his book The Society of the Spectacle.

Ken Knabb has translated numerous works by Guy Debord and the Situationist International, including Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle (2014; reissued by PM Press in 2024) and Debord’s Complete Cinematic Works (2003; to be reissued by PM Press in 2025). Knabb’s own writings, published in Public Secrets: Collected Skirmishes of Ken Knabb (1997) and posted online at his “Bureau of Public Secrets” website, have been translated into more than fifteen languages. He is currently presenting a series of Zoom webinars on The Society of the Spectacle and the Situationist International Anthology.

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