The Society of the Spectacle

Degradation of Human Life

Debord traces the development of a modern society in which authentic social life has been replaced with its representation: “All that was once directly lived has become mere representation.”[1] Debord argues that the history of social life can be understood as “the decline of being into having, and having into merely appearing.”[2] This condition, according to Debord, is the “historical moment at which the commodity completes its colonization of social life.”[3]

With the term spectacle, Debord defines the system that is a confluence of advanced capitalism, the mass media, and the types of governments who favor those phenomena. “… the spectacle, taken in the limited sense of “mass media” which are its most glaring superficial manifestation…”.[4] The spectacle is the inverted image of society in which relations between commodities have supplanted relations between people, in which “passive identification with the spectacle supplants genuine activity”. “The spectacle is not a collection of images,” Debord writes. “rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images.”[5]

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