Rethinking the Spectacle
Guy Debord, Radical Democracy, and the Digital Age
Spectacle is usually considered a superficial form of politics, which tries to influence viewers by shocking, distracting, emotionally overwhelming, or even deceiving them. It is difficult to see how this type of politics could be reconciled with the democratic requirement of active and informed agency.
In Rethinking the Spectacle, Devin Penner re-examines the tension between spectacle and political agency in our digital society and explores the nature of spectacle and radical democracy. Penner uses the theories and practices of Guy Debord and the organization of social revolutionaries he co-founded, the Situationist International, as a point of departure, offering both a critical review of Situationist ideas and a way to develop their radical democratic potential in the current political climate. Penner asserts that we cannot assume witnesses to spectacle are merely passive consumers, as Debord claimed. Emphasizing the importance of thinking about the connection between spectacles and broader democratic processes, the book includes an assessment of various models of social and political organization and an in-depth look at the 2011 Occupy movement.
Ultimately, Rethinking the Spectacle concludes that spectacles can be used to mobilize the public for egalitarian purposes, but we must ensure they enhance rather than replace democratic dialogue.
This book will appeal to scholars and students of democratic theory and radical politics, and in particular to those interested in the ideas of Guy Debord and the Situationist International, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Hannah Arendt.
Receive the latest UBC Press news, including events, catalogues, and announcements.Subscribe to our newsletter now
Read past newsletters