Detournements, Allusions and Quotations
in Guy Debord's
The Society of the Spectacle

Thesis 1

“All of life in the societies in which modern conditions of production reign presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles.

Détournement of Marx, Capital: “The wealth of societies in which the mode of capitalist production prevails appears as ‘an immense accumulation of commodities.’”

Thesis 2

“in which the liar has lied to himself”

Détournement of Hegel, The Science of Logic: “Truth verifies itself.”

“the autonomous movement of the non-living”

Allusion to Hegel, The First Philosophy of Spirit: “Money is the material, existing concept, the form of unity or even the possibility of all the things needed. Need and work elevated to this universality thus form for themselves in a great number of people an immense system of community and reciprocal dependence, a life that dies in itself autonomously from a dead reality”

Thesis 4

“The spectacle is not an ensemble of images, but a social connection between people, mediated by images.”

Détournement of Marx, Capital: “Thus one discovers that instead of being a thing, capital is a social connection established by the intermediary of things.”

Thesis 6

“is at once the result and the project”

Allusion to A. Kojeve, Introduction to Reading Hegel: “As a result that is a project and as a project that is a result -- a result born from the project and a project engendered by a result; in a word, the real is revealed in its dialectical truth as a synthesis.

“It is not a supplement to the real world, its added-on decoration.”

Allusion to Marx, Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right: “Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopedic compendium (...) its solemn complement.”

Thesis 7

“separation makes itself part of the unity of the world”

Détournement of Hegel.

Thesis 8

“This doubling is itself doubled”; “Objective reality is present on both sides. Each notion thus fixed has for a foundation only its passage into its opposite”; “This reciprocal alienation is the essence”

Détournements of Hegel.

Thesis 9

“In the world that is really inverted, the true is a moment of the false.”

Détournement of Hegel, Thesis 39, Preface to The Phenomenology of Spirit: “Yet we cannot therefore say that the false is a moment of the true, let alone a component part of it”

Thesis 12

“What appears is good, what is good appears.”

Détournement of Hegel, Preface to The Philosophy of Right: “What is real is rational, what is rational is real.”

Thesis 13

“It is the sun that never sets”

Détournement of formula applied to the Empire of Charles V: “The Empire on which the sun never sets”

Thesis 14

“The goal is nothing, development is everything.”

Détournement of E. Bernstein, Theoretical Socialism and Social-Democratic Practice: “Movement is everything and the end is nothing.”

Thesis 17

“degradation of being into having

Allusion to Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts: “In place of all the physical and intellectual meanings there have thus appeared the meaning of having, which is to imply the alienation of all meaning.”

Thesis 18

“There where the real world changes into mere images, mere images become real beings.”

Détournement of Marx, The Holy Family: “For the man for whom the external world changes into a mere idea, mere ideas become sensible beings.”

Thesis 19

“The spectacle is the inheritor of all the weaknesses of the Western philosophical project, which was a comprehension of activity dominated by the categories of seeing.

Allusion to Johan Huizinga, The Decline of the Middle Ages: “One of the fundamental traits of the declining Middle Ages was the predominance of the sense of sight, a predominance that seems to be in close connection with the atrophy of thought. One thinks and expresses oneself through visual images.”

“It does not realize philosophy, but philosophizes reality.”

Allusion to Marx, Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right: “You cannot surmount philosophy without realizing it.”

Thesis 20

“have not dissipated the religious clouds in which human beings have placed their own powers, which have been detached from them: it has only bound them to a terrestrial base. Thus it is the most earthbound life that becomes opaque and unbreathable. It no longer projects into heaven, but lodges in itself its absolute withdrawal, its fallacious paradise. The spectacle is the technical realization of the exile of human power in a beyond; the split achieved in the interior of the human being.”

Allusions to Feuerbach.

Thesis 21

“To the extent that necessity finds itself socially dreamed, the dream becomes necessary.”

Détournement of Marx.

Thesis 22

“The fact that the practical power of modern society has detached itself from itself, and has built an independent empire in the spectacle, can only be explained by the fact that this powerful practice continues to lack cohesion and remains in contradiction with itself.”

Détournement of Marx, Theses on Feuerbach: “For the fact that the secular basis lifts off from itself and establishes itself in the clouds as an independent realm can only be explained by the inner strife and intrinsic contradictoriness of this secular basis.”

Thesis 23

“The most modern in [the spectacle] is also the most archaic.”

Allusion to Marx, Introduction to The Critique of Political Economy (the Introduction to the Grundrisse): “Such determinations would be common to the most modern epoch and the most ancient.”

Thesis 24

“The fetishistic appearance of pure objectivity in spectacular relations hides their relational character between human beings and between classes: a second nature appears to dominate our environment through its fatal laws.”

Lukacs, History and Class Consciousness.

Thesis 29

“In the spectacle, a part of the world represents itself to the world and is superior to it.”

Détournement of Marx, Theses on Feuerbach: “H ence this doctrine is bound to divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society.”

“The spectacle unites the separate, but it unites it as the separate.

Détournement of Hegel, Youthful Theological Works: “In love, the separate still exists but no longer as separate: as a unity, and the living encounters the living.”

Thesis 30

“The alienation of the spectator to the profit of the contemplated object (which is the result of its own unconscious activity) expresses itself thus: the more he contemplates, the less he lives; the more he accepts recognizing himself in the dominant images of need, the less he understands his own existence and his own desires. The exteriority of the spectacle with respect to the actor appears in the fact that his own gestures are no longer his, but those of another who represents them to him. This is why the spectator does not feel at home anywhere, because the spectacle is everywhere.”

Détournement of Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts: “The renunciation of self, the renunciation of life and all desire is the central thesis [of political economy] . . . . The less you are, the less you manifest your life; the more you have, the more your alienated life grows, the more you accumulate your alienated being.”

Thesis 31

“The spectacle is the map of this new world, a map that exactly covers the territory.”

Allusion to Jorge Luis Borges, "On Exactitude in Science"

Thesis 35

“In the essential movement of the spectacle, which consists in retrieving for itself all that exists in the fluid state in human activity, so as to possess it in a coagulated state, insofar as things have become the exclusive value by their formulation in the negative of lived value, we recognize our old enemy that we know so well.”

Détournement of Marx, Toast to the Anniversary of the People's Paper.

“appears at first glance something trivial and understandable in itself, while it is, on the contrary, quite complex and full of metaphysical subtleties: the commodity.

Allusion to Marx, Capital: “A commodity appears at first sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very strange thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties.”

Thesis 38

“equality in itself, the category of the quantitive”

Hegel, Encyclopedia.

Thesis 41

“like the familiar that isn't, for all that, unknown,”

Allusion to Hegel, Preface to The Phenomenology of Spirit: “What is well known in general, exactly because it is well known, is not known.”

Thesis 47

“the tendency of use value to fall”

Détournement of Marx, Capital: “the tendency of the rate of profit to fall”

Thesis 51

“this autonomous victory must at the same time be its loss”

Allusion to Marx, Letter to Ruge, September 1843: “its victory is at the same time its loss.”

Thesis 52

“There where the economic Id was, must come the Ego.

Détournement of Freud, The Ego and the Id.

Thesis 53

“where the commodity contemplates itself in a world it has created.”

Détournement of Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts: “He contemplates himself in a world that he himself has created.”

Thesis 63

“surrounded by desolation and terror, at the tranquil center of misfortune.”

Quotation from Herman Melville, Moby Dick.

Thesis 66

“does not sing of men and their arms”

Allusion to Virgil, Aeneid: “Of warfare and a man I sing.”

“It is in this struggle that each commodity, by following its passion, in fact realizes in unconsciousness something more elevated:”

Détournement of Hegel, Reason in History: “The tools and the means of something are more elevated, more vast, which they know nothing of, which they realize in an unconscious fashion.”

“the becoming-world of the commodity, which is also the becoming-commodity of the world.”

Détournement of Marx, Differences between Democritus and Epicurus: “At the same time that the world becomes philosophy, philosophy becomes the world.”

“the particularity of the commodity exhausts itself by fighting”

Allusion to Hegel, Reason in History: “It is the particular that exhausts itself in combat and is destroyed in part.”

Thesis 71

“Nothing stops for it; this is the state that is natural for it and yet the most contrary to its inclinations.”

Détournement of Détournement of Blaise Pascal, Thoughts.

Chapter IV

“The proletariat as subject and representation.”

Détournement of Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation.

Thesis 73

“The real movement that suppresses existing conditions”

Quotation from Marx, The German Ideology.

Thesis 74

“men see themselves constrained to envision their relations in a disabused manner.”

Allusion to Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto: “Men are finally forced to envision their conditions of existence and their reciprocal relations with disabused eyes.”

Thesis 76

“Hegel no longer had to interpret the world, but the transformation of the world.”

Allusion to Marx, Theses on Feuerbach: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in diverse manners: it is now important to transform it.”

“absolute heroes who did what they wanted and wanted what they did.”

Allusion to Hegel, Encyclopedia: “The great men have wanted what they did, and did what they wanted.”

“and close the session of the only tribunal at which the sentence of the truth can be rendered.”

Allusion to Hegel, Principles of the Philosophy of Right: “The history of the world is the tribunal of the world.”

“This historical thought is still only the consciousness that always arrives too late and that enunciates the justification post festum

Allusion to Hegel, Preface to The Philosophy of Right.

“the glorification of what exists”

Quotation from Korsch.

Thesis 77

“this thought of history isn’t forgotten”

Allusion to Hegel, Lessons on the History of Philosophy: “Often it seems that the spirit forgets itself, loses itself”

Thesis 80

“its historical injuries do not leave scars.”

Détournement of Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit: “The injuries of the Spirit heal without leaving scars.”

“salvage by transfer”

Quotation from Korsch.

“Of all the instruments of production, the greatest productive power is the revolutionary class itself”

Quotation from Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy.

Thesis 83

“disarmed prophets”

Quotation from Machiavelli (on Savonarole).

Thesis 84

“consciousness always arrives too soon”

Détournement of Hegel, Preface to The Philosophy of Right: “Philosophy always arrives too late.”

Thesis 87

“by a revolutionary transformation of all of society or by the shared destruction of the classes in struggle”

Quotation from The Communist Manifesto.

Thesis 90

“in which the theory of praxis is confirmed by becoming practical theory.”

Allusion to Lukacs, History and Class Consciousness.

“And already the highest theoretical truth of the International Association of Workers was its own existence in practice”

Allusion to Marx, The Civil War in France: “The greatest social measure of the Commune”.

Thesis 91

“and everywhere the result has greatly differed from what was wanted.”

Détournement of Engels.

Thesis 92

“The anarchists realized an ideal.

Détournement of Marx, The Civil War in France: “The working class has not realized an ideal.”

Thesis 103

“democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants”

Quotation of slogan by Lenin.

Thesis 107

“bureaucratic atoms“

Allusion to Hegel.

“the sovereign of the world who in this fashion knows himself to be the absolute person, in the awareness of which there doesn’t exist any higher spirit”

Allusion to Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit: “The sovereign of the world in this fashion knows himself to be the absolute person, embracing at the same time in himself all the being-here and in the awareness of which there does not exist any higher spirit”.

“The sovereign of the world possesses the effective awareness of what he is – the universal power of effectiveness – in the destructive violence that he exercises against the Self of his subjects [and] contrasting with it”; “the power ravaging this terrain

Quotations from Hegel.

Thesis 114

“the demand for the permanent domination of the present over the past”

Allusion to Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto: “In bourgeois society, the past dominates the present; in communist society, it is the present that dominates the past.”

“because the proletariat cannot truly recognize itself in a particular wrong it has suffered, nor in the reparation of a particular wrong, nor in a great number of these wrongs, but only in the absolute wrong of being pushed into the margins of life.”

Allusion to Marx, Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right: “A class that claims no particular right due to the fact that it does not suffer from a particular wrong but absolute injustice.”

Thesis 117

“the proletarian movement is its own product and this product is the producer himself. He himself is his own goal.”

Détournement of Hegel, Reason in History: “They have drawn from themselves the idea that they have made themselves; and it is their own goal that they have accomplished.”

Thesis 119

“it does not represent the class.”

Allusion to Marx, Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right: “a class that represents all the classes.”

Thesis 121

“arms are nothing other than the essence of the combatants”

Détournement of Hegel.

Thesis 122

“it can no longer combat alienation with alienated forms.

Allusion to Hegel, Lessons on the Philosophy of History: “[The Church] has maintained the combat against the barbarity of sensuality in a barbaric and terroristic manner.”

Thesis 123

“men without qualities”

Allusion to Robert Musil, The Man Without Quality.

Thesis 125

“Man, 'the negative being who uniquely is to the extent that he suppresses Being,' is identical to time.”

Allusion to Kostas Papaioannou, Hegel: “Man and time are identical.”

Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit: “The negative being uniquely is to the extent that he suppresses Being.”

“History has always existed, but not always in its historical form.”

Détournement of Marx, Letter to Ruge, September 1843: “Reason has always existed, but not always in its rational form.”

Thesis 126

“the real nature of man”; “nature that is born in human history – in the generating act of human society”

Quotations from Marx.

Thesis 128

“the negative inquietude of the human”

Allusion to Hegel, Encyclopedia: “[Man] is what he isn’t and isn’t what he is”.

Thesis 138

“decline of the Middle Ages”

Allusion to title of book by J. Huizinga.

Thesis 143

“There was history, but now no longer”

Quotation of Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy.

Thesis 159

“Bringing the workers to the status of 'free' producers and consumers of commodified time was the preliminary condition for the violent expropriation of their time.

Détournement of Marx, Capital.

Thesis 163

“all that exists independently of individuals”

Quotation from Marx, The German Ideology.

Thesis 164

“The world already possess the dream of a time, of which it must now possess the consciousness so as to really live it.”

Détournement of Marx, Letter to Ruge, September 1843: “The world has for a long time possessed the dream of a thing, of which it now suffices to become aware so as to really possess it.”

Thesis 165

“the heavy artillery that brought down all the walls of China”

Quotation from The Communist Manifesto.

Thesis 177

“Even here, nothing ever happens; and nothing ever happens to it.

Asger Jorn, Speech to the Penguins and Other Writings.

Thesis 181

“The struggle of tradition and innovation”

Allusion to Harold Rosenberg, The Tradition of the New.

Thesis 188

“When art become independent, representing its world with brilliant colors, a moment of life has grown old and it does not let itself be rejuvenated with brilliant colors [...] The grandeur of art only begins to appear with the fall of life.”

Détournement of Hegel, Preface to The Philosophy of Right: “When philosophy paints gray on gray, a form of life grows old and does not let itself be rejuvenated with gray on gray; it only lets itself be known; the Owl of Minerva only takes flight at the fall of night.”

Thesis 189

“recollection of memories”

Quotation from Hegel.

Thesis 191

“Dadaism wanted to suppress art without realizing it; and surrealism wanted to realize art without suppressing it.

Détournement of Marx, Introduction, Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right: “Philosophy could not realize itself without abolishing the proletariat; [and] the proletariat could not abolish itself without realizing philosophy.”

Thesis 195

“conflict is at the origin of all things of its world.”

Détournement of Heraclitus, Fragment 53: “War is the father of all things.”

Thesis 200

“This is because history itself haunts modern society as a specter”

Allusion to The Communist Manifesto.

Thesis 202

“As in all historical social science, it is always necessary to keep in view, for the comprehension of 'structuralist' categories, that the categories express forms of existence and conditions of existence.”

Détournement of Marx, Introduction to Critique of Political Economy (Introduction to the Grundrisse): “It must not be forgotten that their subject – here modern bourgeois society – is always what is given, in the mind as well as in reality, and that categories therefore express the forms of being, the characteristics existence.”

“Just as one does not appreciate the value of a man according to the conception that he has of himself”

Allusion to Marx, Preface to the Critique of Political Economy: “One does not judge an individual on the idea that he has of himself.”

“Structure is the daughter of current power.”

Détournement of Jonathan Swift: “Praise is the daughter of current power.”

“With the result that it is not structuralism that feels it must prove the transhistorical validity of the society of the spectacle; it is, on the contrary, the society of the spectacle that imposes itself as a massive reality that feels it must prove the cold dream of structuralism.”

Détournement of Marx, Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy (Introduction to the Grundrisse): “This example of labor shows strikingly how even the most abstract categories, despite their validity – precisely because of their abstractness – for all epochs, are nevertheless, in the spercific character of this abstraction, themselves likewise a product of historic relations, and possess their full validity only for and within these relations.”

“One cannot appreciate such epochs of transformation according to the awareness that these epochs have of themselves; quite the contrary, one must explain that awareness with the aid of the contradictions of material life”

Quotation from Marx, Preface, Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.

Thesis 203

“Because it is obvious that no idea can lead beyond the existing spectacle, but only to the beyond of the ideas existing in the spectacle. To effectively destroy the society of the spectacle, it is necessary that men put into action a practical force.”

Allusion to Marx, The Holy Family: “Ideas can never lead beyond an old order of the world, they can only lead beyond the ideas of an old order of the world (...) To realize ideas, it is necessary that men put them into play as a practical force” [or] Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts: “To abolish the idea of private property, the idea of communism is completely sufficient. To effectively abolish private property [itself], there must be effective collective action”

“This theory does not expect miracles from the working class.”

Allusion to Marx, The Civil War in France: “The working class does not expect miracles from the Commune.”

Thesis 205

“In its very style, the exposition of dialectical theory is a scandal and an abomination according to the rules of the dominant language, and for the tastes that they have produced, because in the positive use of existing concepts it includes, at the same time, the intelligence of their recovered fluidity and their necessary destruction.”

Allusion to Marx, Postface/Afterword to the Second German Edition of Capital: “In its rational aspect, [the dialectic] is a scandal and an abomination for the ruling classes and their doctrinaire ideologues, because in the positive conception of existing things, it includes, at the same time, the intelligence of their fatal negation, and their necessary destruction.”

Thesis 207

“Ideas improve. The meaning of the words participates in it. Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It stays close to the phrase of an author, makes use of his expressions, erases a false idea, replaces it with the right one”

Exact quotation of Lautréamont, Poesies.

Thesis 208

“Detournement has not founded its cause on anything exterior to its own truth”

Détournement of Stirner, The Ego and Its Own: “I have founded my cause on nothing.”

Thesis 215

“the expression of the separation and the distancing between men”

Quotation from Marx.

“new power of deception”; “with the mass of growing objects . . . the new domain of strange beings to whom man is enslaved”

Quotations from Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts.

Thesis 217

“separation has built its world.”

Allusion to Proverbs, 9, 1: “Wisdom has built her house.”

Thesis 221

“To emancipate itself from the material bases of the inverted truth, this is what the self-emancipation of our epoch consists. This 'historical mission to instaurate truth in the world' . . . .”

Allusion to Marx, Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right: “It is thus the task of history, before the beyond of the truth has disappeared, to establish the truth in the here-and-now.”

“the class that is capable of being the dissolution of all the classes”

Quotation from Marx, Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right.

“Directly tied to universal history”

Quotation from Marx.

(Releve des citations ou detournements de “La Societe du Spectacle,“ published by Editions Farandola, Paris, 2002; supplemented by material in Guy Debord Oeuvres, Gallimard, 2006. Translated from the French and corrected by NOT BORED! and Anthony Hayes, respectively, on 20 February 2013. No attempt has been made to harmonize these renderings of Debord's text with those of other translators.)

To Contact NOT BORED!