Issue #012 Published: 02-06-2017 // Written by: Guy Debord (1967)

Found words #01

165 – CAPITALIST PRODUCTION has unified space, breaking down the boundaries between one society and the next. This unification is at the same time an extensive and intensive process of banalisation. Just as the accumulation of commodities mass-produced for the abstract space of the market shattered all regional and legal barriers and all the Medieval guild restrictions that maintained the quality of craft production, it also undermined the autonomy and quality of places. This homogenizing power is the heavy artillery that has battered down all the walls of China.

166 – THE FREE space of commodities is constantly being altered and redesigned in order to become ever more identical to itself, to get as close as possible to motionless monotony.

167 – WHILE ELIMINATING geographical distance, this society produces a new internal distance in the form of spectacular separation.

168 – TOURISM – HUMAN circulation packaged for consumption, a by-product of the circulation of commodities – is the opportunity to go and see what has been banalised. The economic organisation of travel to different places already guarantees their equivalence. The modernization that has eliminated the time involved in travel has simultaneously eliminated any real space from it. 

169 – THE SOCIETY that reshapes its entire surroundings has evolved its own special technique for moulding its own territory, which constitutes the material underpinning of all the facets of this project. Urbanism – ‘city planning’ – is capitalism’s method for taking over the natural and human environment. Following its logical development toward total domination, capitalism now can and must refashion the totality of space into its own particular décor. 

170 – THE CAPITALIST need that is satisfied by urbanism’s conspicuous petrification of life can be described in Hegelian terms as a total predominance of a ‘peaceful coexistence within space’ over the ‘restless becoming that takes place in the progression of time.’

171 – WHILE ALL THE technical forces of capitalism contribute toward various forms of separation, urbanism provides the material foundation for those forces and prepares the ground for their deployment. It is the very technology of separation. 

172 – URBANISM is the modern method for solving the ongoing problem of safeguarding class power by atomising the workers who have been dangerously brought together by the conditions of urban production. The constant struggle that has had to be waged against anything that might lead to such coming together has found urbanism its most effective field of operation. The efforts of all the established powers since the French Revolution to increase the means of maintaining law and order in the streets have finally culminated in the suppression of the street itself. Describing what he terms ‘a one-way system,’ Lewis Mumford points out that ‘with the present means of long-distance mass communication, sprawling isolation has proved an even more effective method of keeping a population under control’ (The City in History). But the general trend towards isolation, which is the underlying essence of urbanism, must also include a controlled reintegration of the workers based on the planned needs of production and consumption. This reintegration into the system means bringing isolated individuals together as isolated individuals. Factories, cultural centres, tourist resorts and housing developments are specifically designed to foster this type of pseudo-community. The same collective isolation prevails even within the family cell, where the omnipresent receivers of spectacular messages fill the isolation with the ruling images – images that derive their full power precisely form that isolation. 

From The Society of the Spectacle, Guy Debord, 1967.
(No copyright)

Image: Anton Weflo