Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Recently, I read Andy Merrifield’s book on Guy Debord. Debord is the author of the 1967 book The Society of the Spectacle, which he also turned into a movie, in both book and film he claims that social relations are mediated by empty signs (images, logos, brand names, celebrities, spin doctors, marketing, pr, etc.), and he is one of the founders of the Situationist International. Merrifield writes about the eighties: “just when the Right was triumphant about its ‘meta-narrative’ of the market, the Left started to proclaim its incredulity to all meta-narratives, to all big stories about humanity and progress. Soon they’d begin to proclaim a viewpoint called ‘postmodern’. […] Thus the paradox: the Right had set off on its long march across the entire globe, dispatching its market missionaries, spreading TINA [There Is No Alternative] doctrines, cajoling here, oppressing there, using heavy artillery to smash anything in its path. At the same time, the Left had embarked on an intricate philosophical debate about the meaning of meaning.” The Left criticized here is what Richard Rorty calls the Cultural Left. The Cultural Left is busy reading books while the Right declares the end of history and, thus, blocking political/ideological discussions – and much needed change. No longer believing in a less cruel world (cruelty is the worst vice according to Judith Shklar, because it leads to fear), no longer believing in a world less humiliating (Avishai Margalit claims that humiliation is caused by an attitude that economic inequality is morally deserved and thus should bring an array of privileges) is cynical. One approach is what Debord called dĂ©tournement, i.e. we turn TINA on her head, so we will again have the possibility to see new openings and act accordingly. Debord: “a lie that can no longer be challenged becomes a form of madness.”

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