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Guy Debord

Guy Ernest Debord
Full name Guy Ernest Debord
Born December 28, 1931(1931-12-28)
Paris, France
Died November 30, 1994 (aged 62)
Bellevue-la-Montagne, Haute-Loire, France
Era 20th century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Marxism, Situationist
Main interests Social theory â· Reification
Commodity fetishism
Notable ideas Spectacle
DĂ©tournement
Psychogeography
DĂ©rive
Recuperation

Guy Ernest Debord (December 28, 1931 - November 30, 1994) was a French Marxist theorist, writer, filmmaker, hypergraphist and founding member of the groups Lettrist International and Situationist International (SI). He was also briefly a member of Socialisme ou Barbarie.

Contents

[edit] Life

Guy Debord was born in Paris. His father died early, and he was raised by his grandmother in a series of Mediterranean towns. He was a headstrong youth, and after graduating high school he dropped out of the University of Paris where he had been studying law. He became a revolutionary poet, writer and film-maker founding the Lettrist International schism with Gil J. Wolman. In the 1960s he led the Situationist International group, which influenced the Paris Uprising of 1968. Some consider his book Society of the Spectacle (1967) to be a catalyst for the uprising.[1]

In the 1970s Debord disbanded the Situationist International, and resumed filmmaking with financial backing from the movie mogul and publisher GĂ©rard Lebovici (Ă©ditions Champ Libre). His two most recognized films date from this period: a film version of Society of the Spectacle (1973) and the autobiographical "In Girum Imus Nocte Et Consumimur Igni" (1978). After the dissolution of the Situationist International, Debord spent his time reading, and occasionally writing, in relative isolation, although he continued to correspond on political and other issues, notably with Lebovici and the Italian situationist Gianfranco Sanguinetti [2] and designed a war game [3]. He was married twice, to Michele Bernstein and Alice Becker-Ho.

His lifelong steady alcohol consumption began to take a toll on his health. Apparently to end the suffering from a form of polyneuritis brought on by his excessive drinking, he committed suicide,[4] shooting himself in the heart at his property in Champot, near Bellevue-la-Montagne, Haute-Loire, on November 30, 1994.

In order to prevent the selling of Debord's archive to Yale University [5] the French Ministry of Culture officially declared it to be 'a national treasury', justifying this act by stating that "he has been one of the most important contemporary thinkers, with a capital place in history of ideas from the second half of the 20th century".[6]

[edit] Works

Guy Debord's best known works are his theoretical books, Society of the Spectacle and Comments on the Society of the Spectacle. In addition to these he wrote a number of autobiographical books including "Mémoires", "Panégyrique", "Cette Mauvaise Réputation..." and "Considérations sur l'assassinat de Gérard Lebovici". He was also the author of numerous short pieces, sometimes anonymous, for the journals "Potlatch", "Les Lèvres Nues," "Les Chats Sont Verts," and "Internationale Situationniste".

In broad terms, Debord's theories attempted to account for the spiritually debilitating modernisation of both the private and public spheres of everyday life by economic forces during the post-WW2 modernisation of Europe. He rejected as the twin faces of the same problem both capitalism of the West and the statism of the Eastern bloc. Alienation, Debord postulated, could be accounted for by the invasive forces of the 'spectacle' - "a social relation between people that is mediated by images". Debord's analysis developed the notions of "reification" and "fetishism of the commodity" pioneered by Karl Marx and Georg LukĂ¡cs. This analysis probed the historical, economic and psychological roots of 'the media'. Central to this school of thought was the claim that alienation is more than an emotive description or an aspect of individual psychology: rather, it is a consequence of the mercantile form of social organization which has reached its climax in capitalism.

The Situationist International, a political/artistic movement organized by Debord and his colleagues and represented by a journal of the same name, attempted to create a series of strategies for engaging in class struggle by reclaiming individual autonomy from the spectacle. These strategies, including "dérive" and "détournement", drew on the traditions of Lettrism.

The SI was the fusion of several extremely small avant-garde artistic tendencies: the Lettrist International, the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus (an off-shoot of COBRA), and the London Psychogeographical Association in 1957. After an intense period of theoretical analysis, publication and the expulsion of most of its few members, leading to the Second Situationist International, the Situationist Antinational and the Situationist Bauhaus, Debord dissolved the SI in 1972.

Debord's first book, MĂ©moires, was bound with a sandpaper cover so that it would destroy other books placed next to it.

Debord has been the subject of numerous biographies, works of fiction, artworks and songs, many of which are catalogued in the bibliography by Shigenobu Gonzalves, "Guy Debord ou la Beaute du Negatif".

On January 29 2009, 15 years after his death, the archive of his works have been classified as "National treasure" by the Minister of Culture, Christine Albanel, in response to a sale request by Yale University.[7]

[edit] Films

Complete Cinematic Works (AK Press, 2003, translated and edited by Ken Knabb) includes the scripts for all six of Debord's films, along with related documents and extensive annotations.

[edit] Popular culture

Debord was the inspiration for the character in the film Waking Life (2001) named "Mr. Debord",[citation needed] who quotes Robert Louis Stevenson: "Suicide carried off many. Drink and the devil took care of the rest."

[edit] Bibliography

[edit] Works by Debord

[edit] Further reading

[edit] References

  1. ^ Andreotti, L. "Review: Leaving the twentieth century: The Situationist International." Journal of Architectural Education, 49(3), p. 197.
  2. ^ Guy Debord
  3. ^ Le Jeu de la Guerre : RelevĂ© des positions successives de toutes les forces au cours d'une partie accessed 14th January 2008
  4. ^ Hussey, Andrew (28 July 2001). "Situation Abnormal". London: The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2001/jul/28/biography.artsandhumanities. Retrieved July 8, 2009. 
  5. ^ Gallix, Andrew (March 18, 2009). "The resurrection of Guy Debord". The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2009/mar/18/guy-debord-situationist-international. Retrieved May 4, 2010. 
  6. ^ Journal Officiel de la Republique Francaise du 12 fevrier 2009 (texte 120)
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ [2]

[edit] External links




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