“Every day we are denied an authentic existence and sold back its representation.” The Situationists called for and set about creating a revolutionary theory based on “radical subjectivity”—abolition of work, imagination seizing power, a new era of play, and rejection of hierarchy—through the dada tactics of subversion.

The Situationist International issued a series of revolutionary manifestoes and other works in France in the first half of the ‘60s which completely redefined the zones of combat for the streetfighter of our media-saturated age. Their declaration of our collective existence as “the spectacle”—the world of illusions that our system has imposed where images become more than the things they represent—seems prophetic rather than dated a generation down the line.

Since the spectacle appropriates every form of dissent through its “recuperation”—repackaging rebellion as commodities (usually in the form of LPs seemingly)—subversion (or “détournement”) destroys the spectacle’s message while hijacking its impact.

The Situationists were largely responsible for inspiring the May ‘68 revolution which began at Nanterre University near Paris and nearly paralyzed Gaullist France. The rebels of ‘68, seeing the enemy as cybernetic power-bureaucrats of all stripes, left us such graffitti as “humanity won’t be happy till the last bureaucrat is hung with the guts of the last capitalist.”

Situationist thought reared its head again in mid-’70s England where the tactics of media-insurrection were practiced on a grand scale by the Sex Pistols, only to be recuperated by a Thatcherite Britain to a degree yet to be surpassed.

“The crane, the pulley and other hydraulic devices started out as theatrical paraphernalia; it was only much later that they revolutionized production relations. It is a striking fact that no matter how far we go back in time the domination of the earth and of men seems to depend on techniques which serve the purposes not only of work but also of illusion.” — Raoul Vaneigem, from The Revolution of Everyday Life — SS



Guy Debord

The opening salvo of a cryptic autobiography, interrupted by suicide, of the brilliant Situationist theorist . “There is nothing more natural than to consider everything as starting from oneself, chosen as the center of the world; one finds oneself thus capable of condemning the world without even wanting to hear its deceitful chatter. One has only to mark off the precise limits that necessarily restrain this authority: its proper place in the course of time and in society; what one has done and what one has known, one’s dominant passions. ‘Who then can write the truth, if not those who have felt it?’”

Publisher: Verso
Paperback: 79 pages

The Realization and Suppression of the Situationist International: An Annotated Bibliography, 1972-1992

Simon Ford

“The bibliography appears at the point in a subject’s living death when criticism reaches its critical mass.” This immense annotated bibliography contains all the sources for articles, books, essays and commentary on the Situationist International (1957-1972). Works here are in English as well as in French. This is an excellent guide book to lead the impressionable ones on a tour of found and missing texts regarding one of the most important political “artisti”’ movements in Europe. AK

Publisher: AK
Paperback: 150 pages

Revolution of Everyday Life

Raoul Vaneigem

“A Consumer Guide To Not Consuming.” Classic Situationist text, complementing Debord’s Society of the Spectacle. “Media, language, time—these are the giant claws with which Power manipulates humanity and molds it brutally to its own perspective.”

Publisher: Left Bank
Paperback: 216 pages

Situationist International Anthology

Situationist International

Comprehensive collection of the actual manifestoes, criticism, revolutionary theory and other outpourings of SI from its start in the late ‘50s through the Revolution of May ‘68.

Publisher: Bureau of Public Secrets
Paperback: 406 pages

The Society of the Spectacle

Guy Debord

Life as voyeurism, the individual as trivialized spectator. “In society where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation.”

Publisher: Zone
Paperback: 154 pages

The Veritable Split in the International

Guy Debord and Gianfranco Sanguinetti

Theses on the Situationist International, from two of its leading lights, along with some appendices. AK

Publisher: Chronos
Paperback: 204 pages

What Is Situationism? A Reader

Edited by Stewart Home

Like some of the other Stewart Home books, this acts as a streamlined sampler of writing critical of “radical” cultural phenomena. There is enough diverse criticism in this book to at once attract young hopefuls who don’t want to inherit their radicalism or read too much, while it avoids becoming just more reductive journalism à la Rolling Stone coverage (even after one of Home’s morally driven intros). This book has essays from Bob Black, Dave and Stuart Wise, and Jimmie Martin, to name three. Home’s “subjective” bashing of co-opted avant-gardism can be humorous, inciting or sometimes banal (like existentialism), but his selections and bibliography in this book, as in his others, are absolutely worthwhile reading. KH

Publisher: AK
Paperback: 204 pages