- From the society of the spectacle to the society of the machinery: mutations in popular culture 1960s-2000s
- European Journal of Communication
- Volume | Issue number
- 28 | 5
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA)
When Guy Debord wrote The Society of the Spectacle in 1967, he was criticizing a society that was saturated by mass media and the endless stream of representations they crank out. This article argues that the society of the spectacle as described by Debord has mutated into a new form, best described as the society of the machinery. In it, the focus on representations is complemented by an obsession with the machinery that produces said representations. The mechanism can be seen at work in phenomena as diverse as America’s Next Top Model, the by-now obligatory Director’s Commentary on DVD releases, or the success of Hollywood and television tourism. In the society of the machinery, the dominant ideological form is the debunking mode that combines a hermeneutics of suspicion with a conservative refusal of utopianism, making it a particularly effective ideological tool for pacifying society. The second part of the article traces how the change from spectacle to machinery has occurred. Drawing on the work of Boltanski and Chiapello, the article contends that the society of the machinery is a by-product of the Situationist critique of the spectacle. Contemporary capitalism has split the Debordian critique into the artist critique and the social critique, and has incorporated the former while neutralizing the latter.
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