Guy Debord

Preface to the fourth Italian Edition of
The Society of the Spectacle

Translations of this book, which was published in Paris towards the end of 1967,[1] have already appeared in about ten or so countries, and, more often than not, several have been produced in the same language by competing publishers, and nearly always they are bad. The first translations everywhere were unfaithful and incorrect, with the exception of Portugal and possibly Denmark. The translations published in Dutch and German are good in their second versions, even though the German publisher on this occasion neglected to correct a large number of mistakes in the printing. In English and Spanish the third editions had to be awaited in order to know what I had really written. There was nothing worse than the situation it Italy, however, where, as early as 1968, the publisher De Donato put out the most monstrous one of all, which has only been partially improved upon by the two rival translations that followed. Moreover, Paolo Salvadori, having gone to find those responsible for this excess in their offices, had hit them and had even literally spat in their faces, for such is naturally the way good translators act when they meet bad ones. It suffices to say that the fourth Italian translation, which is by Salvadori, is excellent.

This extreme deficiency of so many translations, which, with the exception of the four or five better ones, were not submitted to me [prior to publication], does not mean that this book should be more difficult to understand than any other that has ever really deserved to be written. Poor treatment is not particularly reserved for subversive works, because in this case the falsifiers at least do not have to fear being taken to court by the author, or because the ineptitude added to the text [by bad translations] will give some small encouragement to the whims of bourgeois or bureaucratic ideologues to refute it. One cannot fail to note that the great majority of translations published in recent years, in whichever country it happens to be -- and even when it is a question of classics -- are contrived in the same manner. Paid intellectual labor normally tends to obey the law of the industrial production of decadence, where the contractor's profit depends on the speed with which the job is carried out and on the bad quality of the material used. This production -- so proudly freed from all appearance of contrivance of the public's taste, since, being concentrated financially and thus always better equipped technologically, it holds a monopoly over the entire space of the market with the non-qualitative presence of supply -- has managed to speculate with an increasing boldness on the forced submission of demand, and on the loss of taste, which is temporarily its consequence in the mass of its customers. Whether it is a matter of housing, the meat of a reared ox,[2] or the fruit of the ignorant spirit of a bad translator, the consideration of sovereign importance is that one can now obtain very quickly (and for less cost) that which, before, demanded rather long hours of qualified work. It is true enough, on the other hand, that translators have little reason to pour over the meaning of a book, and above all to learn the language in question beforehand, when nearly all the current authors who publish have written books in such evident haste that they will be out of date in a very short time. What is the point of translating well something that has already uselessly written and which will not ultimately be read? It is in this aspect of its special harmony that the spectacular system is perfect, though it fails to pieces in other aspects.

Yet this current practice of most publishers is ill-adapted in the case of The Society of the Spectacle, which interests quite another public, for another use. Various kinds of books exist in a clearly more distinct way than before. Many are not even opened; few are copied on to walls. These latter derive their popularity and their power of conviction precisely from the fact that the despised representatives of the spectacle do not speak of them, or only mention them in passing a few commonplace remarks about them. Individuals who will have to stake their lives, beginning from a certain description of historical forces and their use, of course have the wish to examine the documents for themselves and in rigorously exact translations. Undoubtedly, in the current conditions of the overmultiplied production and the overconcentrated distribution of books, the vast majority of the titles are successful or, more often, unsuccessful for the first few weeks after their publication. The ungraded products of current-day publishing bases its policy of hasty arbitrariness and fait accompli on this, which is suitable enough for those books that will be spoken about, probably any old way and only once. This privilege is denied to it here, and it is altogether futile to translate my book in a slap-dash manner, since the task will always be started over again by others, and bad translations will be unceasingly supplanted by better ones.

A French journalist[3] who had recently worded a thick volume, which was proclaimed appropriate for renewing the entire debate of ideas, attributed his failure a few months later to the fact that he lacked readers rather than ideas. He then declared that we are in a society where no one reads, and that if Marx were to publish Capital nowadays, he would appear one evening on a literary television programme, explaining his intentions, and the next day it would no longer be spoken about. This ludicrous error stinks of the milieu from which it originates. Obviously, if nowadays anyone were to publish a veritable book of social critique, they would absolutely abstain from appearing on television, and from other colloquies of the same kind as well, so that ten or even twenty years later it would still be spoken about.

As a matter of fact, I believe that there is nobody in the world capable of being interested in my book apart from those who are enemies of the existing social order and who act efficaciously, starting from this position. My certainty in this respect, well-founded in theory, is confirmed by the empirical observation of the rare and poverty-stricken critiques or allusions to which it has given rise amongst those who hold, or who are still only striving to acquire, the authority to speak publicly in the spectacle, in front of people who remain silent. These varied specialists of the semblance of discussions, which are still abusively called "cultural" or "political," have necessarily aligned their logic and their culture with that of the system that can employ them -- not only because they have been selected by it, but, above all, because they have never been educated by anything else. Of all those who have quoted from this book in order to acknowledge some importance in it, I have not seen one up till now who took the risk to say, even briefly, what it was about: in fact, it was their concern simply to give the impression that they were not unaware of it. At the same time, all those who have found a fault in it seem not to have found any others, as they said nothing else about it. But each time, this exact fault has something that sufficed to satisfy its discoverer. One faulted this book for not tackling the problem of the State; another thought it took no account of the existence of history; another rejected it as an irrational and incommunicable eulogy of pure destruction; another condemned it as being the secret guide of all the governments constituted since its publication. Fifty others immediately reached so many peculiar conclusions in the same sleep of reason.[4] And whether they wrote in periodicals, books or pamphlets composed ad hoc, the same tone of capricious impotence was used by all, for lack of something better, no doubt. On the other hand, to my knowledge it is in the factories of Italy that this book has found for the moment its best readers. The workers of Italy -- who can be held up as an example to their comrades in all countries for their absenteeism, their wildcat strikes that no particular concession can manage to appease, their lucid refusal of work, and their contempt for the law and for all Statist parties -- know the subject well enough by practice to have been able to benefit from the theses of The Society of the Spectacle, even when they read nothing but mediocre translations of them.

Most often the commentators pretended not to understand to what usage a book can be destined if it will never be able to be classified into any of the categories of the intellectual productions that the dominant society wants to take into consideration, and if it was not written from the point of view of any of the specialized trades that it encourages. Thus, the intentions of the author seemed obscure. However, there is nothing mysterious about them. Clausewitz remarked in The 1815 French Campaign: "The essential of all strategic critique is to place oneself exactly at the standpoint of the actors; it is true that this is often quite difficult to do. The great majority of strategic critiques would disappear completely or would be reduced to very slight distinctions of comprehension if writers would or could place themselves, in thought, in all the circumstances in which the actors found themselves."

In 1967 I wanted the Situationist International to have a book of theory. The SI was at this time the extremist group that had done the most to bring back revolutionary contestation to modern society; and it was easy to see that this group, having imposed its victory on the terrain of critical theory, and having skillfully followed through on the terrain of practical agitation, was then drawing near the culminating point of its historical action. So it was a question of such a book being present in the troubles that were soon to come and that would pass it on after them to the vast subversive sequel that these troubles could not fail to open up.

One knows of the strong tendency of men [sic] to uselessly repeat simplified fragments of the old revolutionary theories whose wear and tear remains hidden from them by the simple fact that they do not try to apply them in any effective struggle to transform the conditions in which they really find themselves; in this way, they scarcely understand any better how these theories have been able, with varying fortunes, to be brought into action in the conflicts of other days. In spite of this, there is no doubt for anyone who examines the question coldly that those who really want to shake an established society must formulate a theory that fundamentally explains it, or which at least has the air[5] of giving a satisfactory explanation of it. As soon as this theory has been divulged a little (even before it comes to be exactly understood) -- provided that the work of dissemination is done in confrontations that disturb the public peace -- the discontent felt everywhere will be heightened and made more bitter by the sole faint knowledge of the existence of a theoretical condemnation of the order of things. And after that, it is by beginning to conduct with anger the war for freedom[6] that all proletarians can become strategists.

Undoubtedly, a general theory calculated for this end must first avoid appearing obviously false, and so must not expose itself to the risk of being contradicted later on by the outcome of events. But it must also be a completely unacceptable theory. To the indignant stupefaction of all those who find the very centre of the existing world to be good, it must be able to denounce the centre as bad, precisely because it has exposed the existing world's exact nature. The theory of the spectacle meets these two requirements.

The foremost merit of an exact critical theory is to make all the others seem ridiculous instantaneously. So, in 1968 -- while not one of the other organized currents (which, in the movement of negation in and through which the degeneration of the current forms of domination began, came to defend their own backwardness and their limited ambitions) had in their possession a book of modern theory, nor even recognized anything new in the class power that they wished to overthrow -- situationists were capable of putting forward the sole theory of the redoubtable revolt of May [1968], and were the only ones who took account of the new blazing grievances that no one had uttered. Who weeps for the consensus? We have finished it off. Cosa fatta capo ha.[7]

Fifteen years previously, in 1952, four or five scarcely recommendable people from Paris decided to search for the supersession of art. It appeared then, by a fortunate consequence of a daring advance on this path, that the old defense lines that had smashed the previous offenses of the social revolution found themselves outflanked and overturned. The chance to launch another offensive was then discovered. This supersession of art is the "North West Passage" of the geography of real life that had so often been sought for more than a century, beginning especially with auto-destructive modern poetry. The previous attempts, where so many exploiters had got lost, had never directly emerged onto such a perspective. This is probably because there still remained something in the old artistic realm for them to ravage and, above all, because the flag of revolution seemed to be brandished previously by other, more expert hands. But moreover, never had this cause undergone such a complete rout, and never had the battlefield been left so empty, than at that moment when we came to array ourselves on it. I think that the recalling of these circumstances is the best elucidation that can be brought to bear on the ideas and the style of The Society of the Spectacle. If anyone wants to read this book, they will gather that I neither slept away nor squandered the 15 years that I spent meditating on the ruination of the State.[8]

There is not a word to be changed in this book in which, apart from three or four typographic mistakes, nothing has been corrected in the course of the dozen or so reprints it has known in France. I flatter myself to be a very rare contemporary example of someone who has written without immediately being contradicted by the event, and I do not mean contradicted a hundred or a thousand times like the others, but not once. I have no doubt that the confirmation all my theses encounter ought not to last right until the end of the century and even beyond. The reason for this is simple: I have understood the constituent factors of the spectacle "in the course of the movement and consequently by their ephemeral aspect,"[9] that is to say, by envisaging the whole of the historical movement that has been able to edify this order, and which is now beginning to dissolve it. On this scale, the eleven years that have gone by since 1967, and whose conflicts I have been able to know fairly closely, have been but a moment in the necessary consequence of what had been written; although, in the spectacle itself, these years have been filled by the appearance and replacement of six or seven generations of thinkers, each more definitive than the others. During this time, the spectacle has done nothing but meet more exactly its concept, and the real movement of its negation has done nothing but spread itself extensively and intensively.

In fact, it fell to spectacular society itself to add something of which this book, I think, had no need: heavier and more convincing proofs and examples. We have been able to see the falsification, like a sticky fog that accumulates at the ground level of everyday existence, thicken and descend down to the fabrication of the most trivial things. We have been able to see the technical and police control of men and of the natural forces aspire to the absolute, and even up to "telematic"[10] madness, while its mistakes are growing just as quickly as its means. We have been able to see the State lie develop in itself and for itself, having so well forgotten its conflictual link with truth and plausibility that it can forget and replace itself from hour to hour. Around the time of the kidnapping and execution of Aldo Moro, Italy had the opportunity to contemplate this technique at the highest degree it has ever reached, and which, however, would soon be surpassed, here and elsewhere. The Italian authorities' version of this event, aggravated rather than ameliorated by a hundred successive alterations, and which all commentators made it their duty to acknowledge in public, was not credible for a single instant. Its intention was not to be believed, but to be the only one in the shop window, and, afterwards, to be forgotten exactly like a bad book.

The kidnapping and execution of Aldo Moro was a mythological opera with great machinations, where terrorist heroes are, by turns, foxes so as to ensnare their prey, lions so as to fear nobody as long as they retain it, and stool-pigeons so as not to draw from this coup d'etat anything harmful to the regime they aspire to defy. We are told they [the Red Brigades] have the luck of having to deal with the most incapable of police, and that, besides, they were capable of infiltrating its highest spheres without hindrance. This explanation is hardly dialectical. A seditious organization that would put certain of its members in contact with the security services of the State -- unless it had them worm their way into it a number of years previously, in order for them to loyally undertake their task when a great opportunity arises for them to make use of -- should expect that its manipulators would be in turn sometimes manipulated, and would be thus deprived of this Olympian assurance of impunity that characterizes the Chief of Staff of the "Red Brigade." But the Italian State has something better to say, with the unanimous approval of those who support it. Like any other State, it has thought of infiltrating agents of its special services into the clandestine terrorist networks, where it is so easy for them to ensure for themselves a rapid career track up to leadership positions, from which they bring about the fall of their superiors -- as did Malinowski, the man who deceived even the cunning Lenin on behalf of the Czarist Okhrana, and Avez, who, once at the head of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party's "combat organization," carried this mastery to the point of instigating the assassination of Stolypin, the Prime Minister. One single unfortunate coincidence came to interfere with the goodwill of the State: its special services had just been dissolved. Up to now, a secret service had never been dissolved like, for example, the lading of a giant oil tanker in some coastal waters, or a fraction of the modern industrial production in Seveso. While keeping its archives, its informers and its practicing officers, the secret service simply changed its name. It is thus that in Italy, the S.I.M. (Military Intelligence Service of the fascist regime, so well known for its sabotages and its assassinations abroad) became the S.I.D. (the Defense Intelligence Service) under the Christian-Democratic regime. Moreover, when a kind of robot-doctrine of the "Red Brigade" -- a gloomy caricature of what one would be presumed to think and carry out if one were to advocate the disappearance of the State -- had been programmed on a computer, a slip of which (how true it is that these machines depend on the unconscious of those who feed data into them!) has caused these same initials -- S.I.M., as in the "International Society of Multinationals" -- to be attributed to the only pseudo-concept that the "Red Brigade" repeats automatically. This S.I.D., "steeped in Italian blood," had to be dissolved recently because, as the State acknowledges post festum, it was the organization that since 1969 had carried out directly, most often but not always with bombs, this long series of massacres that were imputed (according to the time of year) to anarchists, neo-fascists or situationists. Now that the "Red Brigade" does exactly this same work, and, for once, with a distinctly superior operational value, the S.I.D. cannot combat it, since it has been dissolved. In any secret service worthy of the name, even its dissolution would be secret. Hence one cannot distinguish what proportion of units in the S.I.D. was permitted an honorable retirement, what other proportion was assigned to the "Red Brigade" or perhaps lent to the Shah of Iran to burn down a cinema in Abadan, and what other proportion was discreetly exterminated by a State probably indignant to learn that sometimes its instructions have been exceeded, a State one knows that will never hesitate to kill the sons of Brutus[11] in order to make its laws respected, since its intransigent refusal to envisage even the most minimal concession to save Moro has proved at last that it had all the staunch virtues of republican Rome.

Giorgio Bocca -- who is considered the best analyst of the Italian press, and who was in 1975 the first dupe of Censor's Veritable Report,[12] immediately dragging along with him the entire nation, or at least the qualified strata that writes in newspapers -- has not been discouraged from the profession by this awkward demonstration of his foolishness. And maybe it's a blessing for him that it was then proved by such scientific experimentation, because, if not, one could have been fully assured that it was either out of venality or fear that in May 1978 he wrote his book Moro, Una tragedia italiana, in which he hastens to swallow, without missing one, the mystifications in circulation, and spews them up again on the spot, declaring that they are excellent. For one single moment he is brought to recall the center of the question, but of course upside-down, when he writes that:

Today things have changed; with the red terror behind them, the extremist working class fringes can oppose, or attempt to oppose, trade union politics. Anyone who was at an assembly of workers in a factory like Alfa Romeo of Arese could have seen that the group of extremists, which comprises no more than a hundred individuals, is nevertheless capable of placing itself in the front row and of shouting accusations and insults that the Communist Party must bear.

Nothing is more normal than for revolutionary workers to insult Stalinists, thus gaining the support of nearly all their comrades, since they want to make a revolution. Do they not know, having been taught by their long experience, that the preliminary step is to expel Stalinists from meetings? Not being able to do this is why the revolution failed in 1968 in France and in 1975 in Portugal. What is senseless and odious is to pretend that these "extremist working class fringes" can reach this necessary stage because they have terrorists "behind them." Quite to the contrary, it is because a large number of Italian workers have escaped being enrolled by the Stalinist trade union police that the "Red Brigade," whose illogical and blind terrorism could only embarrass them, was set in motion, and that the mass media seized the opportunity to recognize in the "brigade" their advanced detachment of troops and their disquieting leaders beyond the shadow of a doubt. Bocca insinuates that Stalinists are compelled to put up with the insults that they have so richly deserved everywhere for the past sixty years, because if they did not, they would be physically threatened by terrorists that working class autonomy would hold in reserve. This is nothing but a particularly foul boccasserie, since everybody knows that at that time and long afterwards, the "Red Brigade" took great care not to attack Stalinists personally. Although they want to give this appearance, it is not according to chance that the "Red Brigade" chooses its periods of activity, nor out of its own inclinations, its victims. In such a climate as this, we inevitably note the broadening of a peripheral layer of sincere small-time terrorism that is more or less watched over and temporarily tolerated, like a fish preserve in which some culprits can always be hauled out in order to be displayed on a platter, but the "striking force" of the central interventions could only have been comprised of professionals, which corroborates every detail of their style.

Italian capitalism, and its governmental personnel along with it, is very divided on the really vital and eminently uncertain question of the utilization of Stalinists. Certain modern sectors of big private capital are, or have been, resolutely in favor of utilizing Stalinists; other sectors, which many managers of semi-statist entrepreneurial capital support, are more hostile. High State personnel enjoy a wide autonomy of maneuver, because the decisions of the captain override those of the ship-owner when the boat is sinking. But these personnel are themselves divided on this question. The future of each clan depends on the way in which they will know how to impose their reasons, by proving them in practice. Moro believed in the "historic compromise," that is to say, in the capacity of the Stalinists to finally smash the movement of revolutionary workers. Another tendency, which is for the moment in the position of giving orders to the "Red Brigade" supervisors, did not believe in it, or at least believed that the Stalinists -- for the feeble services they could render, and which they will render anyway -- are not to be handled exaggeratedly with kid gloves, and that they must be given the stick more harshly, so that they do not become too insolent. It has been seen that this analysis was not without its worth: given that Moro was kidnapped as an inaugural affront to the "historic compromise" that was finally legalized by act of Parliament, the Stalinist party has continued to make a show of believing in the independence of the "Red Brigade." The prisoner [Moro] was kept alive as long as it was thought possible to prolong the humiliation and embarrassment of friends, who were to suffer the blackmail by nobly feigning not to understand what the unknown barbarians expected of them. For all that, this was brought to a close as soon as the Stalinists bared their teeth, alluding publicly to obscure maneuvers, and Moro died deceived. In fact, the "Red Brigade" has another function of a more general interest, which is to disconcert or discredit proletarians who really rise up against the State, and maybe one day to eliminate some of the most dangerous of them. The Stalinists approve of this function because it helps them in their heavy task. They limit the excesses of the side that proves injurious to them with veiled insinuations in public at crucial moments, and by precise and howled threats in their constant and intimate negotiations with State power. Their weapon of dissuasion,[13] is that they could, all of a sudden, tell everything they know about the "Red Brigade" from the beginning.[14] But no one is ignorant of the facts that they cannot use this weapon without smashing the "historic compromise" and that they thus sincerely wish to be able to remain as discreet about this matter as about the exploits of the rightly so-called S.I.D. in its time. What would become of the Stalinists in a revolution? So they get jostled a bit, but not too much. Ten months after Moro's kidnapping, when the same invincible "Red Brigade" -- for the first time -- laid low a Stalinist trade unionist, the so-called Communist Party reacted immediately, but only on the terrain of protocol, namely, by threatening its allies in order to compel them to designate it henceforth as a party that is certainly always loyal and constructive, but which will soon be on the side of the majority, and no longer a side in the majority.

The keg always smells of herring, and a Stalinist will always be in his [sic] element wherever one detects the stink of occult state crime.[15] Why should the Stalinists be so vexed by the atmosphere of the discussions at the top of the Italian State, when they have a knife up their sleeves and a bomb under the table? Was it not in the same style that the disputes were settled between, for example, Khrushchev and Beria, Kadar and Nagy, Mao and Lin Piao? Besides, the leaders of Italian Stalinism were themselves butchers in their youth, at the time of the first "historic compromise," when they -- at the service of the democratic republic of Spain and with the other employees of the "Komintern" -- undertook the counter-revolution of 1937. It was then that their own "Red Brigades" kidnapped Andres Nin and killed him in a clandestine prison.

Of these sad facts many Italians have been aware, and many more straight away took them into account. But they have never been published anywhere, because the latter have been deprived of the means of doing it and the former of the wish to do so. But it is at this stage of the analysis that one is well-founded in calling to mind a "spectacular" politics of terrorism, and not the "fact," repeated vulgarly with subaltern finesse by so many journalists and professors, that terrorists are sometimes prompted by the desire to make themselves spoken about. Italy sums up the social contradictions of the entire world and attempts, in ways well known to us, to amalgamate in one country the repressive Holy Alliance between class power -- bourgeois and bureaucratic-totalitarian -- that already openly functions over the surface of the entire earth, in the economic and police solidarity of all States, although, in this too, not without some discussions and settling of accounts in the Italian manner. Being for the moment the most advanced country in the slide towards proletarian revolution, Italy is also the most modern laboratory for international counter-revolution. The other governments born of the old pre-spectacular bourgeois democracy look with admiration at the Italian State for the impassiveness that it manages to maintain, thought it is at the center of all degradations, and for the tranquil dignity with which it wallows in the mud. These are lessons that they will have to apply in their respective home countries for a long time to come.

In fact, governments and the numerous subordinate powers that second them tend to become more modest everywhere. They already content themselves with making their funambulic and terrified management of a process that becomes unceasingly stranger and that they despair of mastering look like a peaceful and routine disposal of current affairs. And like them, on the wind of time, the spectacular commodity has been brought to an astonishing reversal of its type of lying justifications. It used to present as extraordinary -- as the key to a superior and perhaps even elitist existence -- goods that are quite normal and commonplace: a car, some shoes, a PhD in sociology. Today, the spectacle is compelled to present as normal and familiar things that have become quite extraordinary. Is this bread? wine? a tomato? an egg? a house? a town? The answer to all these questions in "surely not," since a sequence of internal transformations -- economically useful in the short-term to those who control the means of production -- has managed to retain the name and a good part of the appearance of these things, and yet has withheld the taste and the content from them. However, one is assured that the various consumable goods indisputably answer to their traditional names, and the fact that nothing else exists is offered as proof, and thus there is no longer any possible comparison. In the same way that very few people know where to find the genuine in the places where they still exist, the false can legally replace the name of the true, which has meanwhile died out. And the same principle that governs food and people's habitats reaches everywhere, to books and to the latest appearance of democratic debate that the spectacle wants shown.

The essential contradiction of spectacular domination in crisis is that it has failed on its strongest point -- certain paltry material satisfactions that excluded many other satisfactions, but which were presumed to be sufficient to procure the continued adhesion of the masses of producers/consumers. And it is exactly this material satisfaction that spectacular domination has polluted and ceased to supply. The society of the spectacle began everywhere in coercion, deceit and blood, but it promised a happy path. It believed itself to be loved. Now it no longer says "What appears is good; what is good appears"; now it says simple "It is so." The society of the spectacle admits frankly that it is no longer essentially reformable, though change is its very nature (the transmutation of everything for the worst). It has lost all its general illusions about itself.

All the experts of power and all their computers are convened in permanent, multi-disciplinary consultations, if not in order to find the means to cure a sick society, then at least in order to retain the appearance of survival for as long as it will be able to do so, and even beyond the state of coma, as did Franco and Boumediene. An old popular song from Tuscany ends more quickly and wisely: E la vita non e la morte, E la morte non e la vita, La canzone e gia finita.[16]

Anyone who will read this book attentively will see that it gives no kind of assurances about the victory of the revolution or the duration of its operations or the rough roads it will have to travel, and still less about its capacity -- sometimes rashly boasted of -- to bring perfect happiness to everyone. Less than any other, my conception[17] -- which is historical and strategic -- can only hold that life should be a trouble-free and evil-free idyll, for the sole reason that it would be pleasant for us, and that the evil doings of a few owners and leaders alone create the unhappiness of the masses. Each person is the offspring of their works; as passivity makes it bed, so it shall lie in it. The most significant result of the catastrophic decomposition of class society is that, for the first time in history, the old problem of knowing if men [sic] as a whole really love freedom finds itself superceded, because now they are going to be compelled to love it.

It is fair to recognize the difficulty and the immensity of the tasks of the revolution that wants to create and maintain a classless society. It can begin easily enough wherever autonomous proletarian assemblies, not recognizing any authority outside themselves or the property of anyone whatsoever, placing their will above all laws and specializations, abolish the separation of individual, the commodity economy and the State. But it will only triumph by imposing itself universally, without leaving a patch of territory to any form of alienated society that still exists. There we will see again an Athens or a Florence that reaches to all the corners of the world, a city from which no one will be rejected and which, having brought down all of its enemies, will at last be able to surrender itself joyously to the true divisions and never-ending confrontations of historical life.

Who can still believe in some less radically realistic issue? Under each result and under each project of an unfortunate and ridiculous present, we see inscribed the Mene, Tekel, Upharsin[18] that announces the inevitable fall of all cities of illusion. The days of this society are numbered; its reasons and its merits have been weighed in the balance and have been found wanting; its inhabitants are divided into two sides, one of which wants this society to disappear.

[1] Though published in 1967, The Society of the Spectacle was mostly written between 1963 and 1964.

[2] For Debord's comments about food, especially meat, see his 1981 essay Hunger Reducer.

[3] Alain de Benoist, a right-wing philosopher.

[4] Allusion to the title by Goya: "The sleep of reason engenders monsters."

[5] "This leads one to understand that a theory, even a false one, that has the air of being sufficiently true to incite the revolt of the proletarians would already be a good thing. It is in this sense that one can say that subversion can turn to account, in an instant, someone who "has the air" of being a revolutionary like Vaneigem, but not like Perniola!" Guy Debord, letter to Paolo Salvadori dated 7 February 1979.

[6] "Evoking the phrase of Saint-Just: 'The war for freedom must be fought with anger.' Anger is not 'rabbia' [rage]: it is a little less violent; it is more justified." Guy Debord, letter to Paolo Salvadori dated 7 February 1979.

[7] A remark attributed to Mosca de' Lamberti (1215), meaning that a vendetta should be carried through to the end.

[8] Detournement of the following statement about The Prince by its author, Niccolo Machiavelli: "In this work, if it were read, they would see that I have been at the study of statecraft for fifteen years and have not slept nor played about" (letter to Francesco Vettori, 10 December 1513).

[9] Marx, on the dialectic, in the "Preface to the Second German Edition" of Capital.

[10] "The 'telematic' is the last ideology of an absolute 'information society. It has been the official doctrine in France since last year. . . ." Guy Debord, letter to Paolo Salvadori dated 7 February 1979.

[11] "Allusion to Machiavelli, who actually said, 'He who founds a tyranny and does not kill Brutus, or he who founds a republic and does not kill Brutus along with his sons, will not maintain his rule for long.'" Guy Debord, letter to Paolo Salvadori dated 7 February 1979.

[12] Veritable Report on the Last Chance to Save Capitalism in Italy, written in Italian by Gianfranco Sanguinetti in 1975, and translated into French by Debord in 1976.

[13] "'Dissuasion' in the sense of 'the balance of thermo-nuclear terror.'" Guy Debord, letter to Paolo Salvadori dated 7 February 1979.

[14] "By making such threats, the Stalinists immediately made the enemy realize that it had reached 'the culminating point of the offensive.' This type of allusion is exactly comparable to nuclear "dissuasion" in the pseudo-war of our epoch: all are de facto allies and none want to nor can actually start a conflict, and simultaneously the attitudes of each of the allies are still slightly hostile and often very hostile on several points, so that -- every time that it is necessary to do so -- each ally saves itself by issuing the reminder that it is not permitted to push too far an advantage without seeing all of the rules of the game collapse, to the absolute detriment of all the associated powers." Guy Debord, letter to Paolo Salvadori dated 18 September 1978.

[15] "An old proverb that means: 'One always retains something of one's origins.' Find the Italian equivalent, but it is necessary that it is slight pejorative and vulgar. In French, 'le hereng' also connotes the 'procurer,' the pimp. A beautiful image for a Stalinist!" Guy Debord, letter to Paolo Salvadori dated 7 February 1979.

[16] "And life is not death / And death is not life / The song has already ended."

[17] Karl Marx, Preface to the first edition of Capital.

[18] "It has been counted and counted, weighed and divided" (Book of Daniel, V, 8).

Note: the original English translation of Debord's January 1979 Preface, made by Michel Prigent and Lucy Forsyth in October 1979 and published by Chronos Publications (BM Chronos, London WC1N 3XX), was riddled with both typographical errors and badly worded English phrases. The text presented here has been both proofread and copy edited by NOT BORED!, which also added the footnotes. When necessary, the original translation has been modified.

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