Stop looking, Mr. Bueno

Stop looking, Mr. Bueno, for I have found a definition of the show different from the mass-media one in Preliminary to a definition of unity within the revolutionary programme-Capitalism, a culture less society, by Canjuers and Debord, dated July the twentieth nineteen sixty.

{1} [Culture can be defined as the totality of the tools by which a given society thinks and displays itself (and therefore chooses all aspects of the uses its added value will be available for, that is to say, the organisation of every thing which exceeds the immediate needs of its reproduction. {a:  utilitarism})

Capitalism having taken all meaning away from production activities for themselves {b: utilitarism}, has endeavoured to give to leisure time the status of meaning of life and thus, gives a new bend to production activities. From the viewpoint of the leading moral doctrine, production being hell, consuming would be really living, the use of goods.

However, most of these goods are of no use whatsoever, they are only here to satisfy some hypertrophy in private needs, so as to fulfil market demands. Genuine needs being forced to remain at the stage of non achievement (or compensated for in the shape of shows).

Then, and this is the main thing, these goods are of no social use, for the social skyline is totally obstructed by the factory; outside the factory walls, the only lay out to be seen is a desert (a dormitory town, a motorway, a parking lot. . .) Desert is the venue as regards consumption. ]

One should know: is the venue for consumption the show, or is it the desert? A slave is alone to spend his earnings. Consumption is this desert where a slave spends his earnings, alone. For Debord, consumption equals the show (see excerpt n° 3). But what is to be seen? We can see out of work slaves scraping their shoe soles on the sidewalk asphalt, jamming the streets with their cumbersome yoghurt pots on wheels, a somewhat sinister and disgusting sight ; in no way the happy image of unity that this gentleman claims this to be. This is the actual so called consumption show: the awful swarming of out of work human resource, that is to say, a sight of unfortunate unification. Human resource being a euphemism for cattle. Whereas the slave remained human in a negative way as humanity had been denied to him, cattle is nothing but cattle, humanity doesn't even remain as a denied human status. Cattle is pure positivity. The consuming human resource is similar to grazing cattle, the difference being that human resource doesn't graze peacefully in the way cattle does; it lives in the fear of being different and of paying a few cents too much.

Nevertheless, it seems that in this passage the genuine use of goods for Debord and Canjuers is the social use.

Please take mark of the unavoidable utilitarian references: (a) the main issue for a society would be the way in which surplus value is used, the organisation of what exceeds the immediate needs of its reproduction, and not the issue of its totality.

(b) No element whatsoever can be taken away from productive activity, as productive activity is what remains once capitalism has taken away all meaning of it for itself. For Debord, the utilitarian, there would be an all meaningful productive activity which is mentioned in the second part of the document. "A shift from life's axis, from passive leisures to a new form of productive activity." The thing is, a meaningful productive activity is no longer a productive one. This is a contradiction in terms. What makes an activity a productive one is its poverty, its isolation. For instance, the artist's activity wasn't a productive one, although one may well speak about an artist's production in the same way as one may speak about potato production. The Kirivina gardeners activity wasn't a productive one, although one may well speak about Yam production.

{2} [The genuine use of goods is simply as social display, all signs of prestige an differentiation becoming compulsory for all, a fatal trend followed by Industrial goods. ]

It would be nice to know: goods would have no social use, but their only use would be as social display! Isn't use as social display social use par excellence, as certified by all Ethnographic science?

In fact, and Canjuers and Debord underline this fact, this social display use fails, as signs of prestige and differentiation disappear, because signs of prestige and differentiation being compulsory for all are not signs of prestige and differentiation any longer, but signs of submission. Actually, rather than being recognised, the thing is not to be singled out, or well to be singled out in submission the way the roller skated human resources do. Thus, goods have no social use (other than submission, as with certain species of monkeys, where the dominated male shows his buttocks to the domineering one to show his submission. What an enlightening show!): but only because the social display use fails miserably.

{3} [The world of consumption is actually the staging of a show made by everybody and for everybody. ]

So, here is this famous definition which doesn't assimilate the show to the media. Now, for the same reasons sub mentioned by the writers, this isn't so. The staging of the show by all and for all hasn't taken place, can't take place, as the signs that single out individuals are compulsory and lead to greater conformism, to greater gregariousness. Gregariousness, communion in submission and separation have taken the place of the community. It is similar to a nostalgia for the Earthly Paradise of community. And this is how Plato explains sexual attraction. This attraction would be nothing but the expression of a lost unity, of a time when man and woman were one single being. Instead of this, we have, as writers have put it so well, an atrocious desert which appears exactly that way, that is, as the sad show of a sad conformism, and not only sad tropics. So, quite the reverse of a show, as things seem to appear as they are. You know about this, Mr. Bueno, as you live right under the Tropic of Capricorn. If I were to think, nevertheless, that this is it, a show, it would be because, in fact, I believe that behind the scenes of this pitiful show, communication is at work and can't be seen. A desert can be seen, with plenty of inhabitants, by the way, nevertheless this desert is caused by communication. Were I to think there was a show, it would be for reasons totally opposite to those of Mr. Debord. Communication takes place, however it can't be seen. Therefore everything one sees is a show. This viewpoint recalls Plato's, the difference being that, although invisible, communication occurs in this world. Notably, neither Marx nor Debord have experienced communication at work, which can't be said of Hegel. Communication has always been around as communication doesn't necessarily imply reconciliation.

I am sure that Debord saw himself as one of Marx's great critics. After the publishing, in late 1976, of "An Investigation", where I took the risk of criticising (on page 41) two passages of "The true split" "The functioning of the Economical system has entered, on its own, the road that leads to self destruction." And, "Capitalism has at last brought the evidence that it can no longer develop productive forces" (what a great Marx critic, indeed, one who wrote such sentences! Actually, even more so than culture, Ecology will be the next century's Important market, and it will generate huge profits). Debord tells me stiffly "You must have read 'The true split' badly". I'll let you imagine what his face looked like when he saw my poster "Paris streetwalkers " on which I claimed that nobody had criticised Marx. This was a crime against his Majesty, a personal attack!

{4} [The managing sphere of this show is its hard stage manager.

Outside work, the show is the domineering mode of communication of men with each other. It is only through the show that men obtain some knowledge-falsified knowledge-of certain global aspects of social life, from Scientific or technical feats to leading behaviour practices, as well as what happens, on the way, when Leaders meet. ]

Such is the definition of the show as a mass media one. So here is this famous "social intercourse between people, mediated by images": it is what connects people with the world through the Media. How interesting!

Truly so, as Canjuers and Debord have put it, culture can be defined as the sum of tools by which one given society thinks and sees itself. Quite simply, nowadays, within the logic of Capitalism as it has been for the two last centuries, culture has been industrialised, as everything else has. After the industrialisation of assassination by Hitler, the show according to Canjuers and Debord's definition is nothing else but the industrialisation of culture, of Ideology and propaganda (obviously, with a helping hand from the secret services). However, nothing more. Culture, until the present area, as previously it was the privilege of Aristocrats and of the upper classes, (Archiduke Rudolph could play the cello score in the string trio piece that was dedicated to him) culture is nowadays massed produced and aimed to uneducated masses. And this is sod culture and its ministry, only slightly different from the Ministry of Industry. When I used the expression "Mass Individualism" for the first time it was supposed to be a joke, however, since then, I have noticed that numerous writers have used this term very seriously without even being conscious of the contradiction in terms which was inherent to it. What can someone such as Alcibiade and a roller skate human resource character have in common?

As regards consumption, how could it b e the main system connecting one man to another, as Debord says himself, consumption is a desert, that is, no connection whatsoever. Consumption is a slave who spends his earnings, alone.

One can notice that Debord was never able to make any further progress and that he merely dressed up his 1960 theories in new clothes. (Pompeii ones?)

The most interesting word among those quoted is the word desert. Recently, in France, Michel Houellebecq has made astonishing descriptions of this desert and its human resource inhabitants in Extension of the field of struggle, and in Elementary particles. Like Debord or Flaubert, Houellebecq (Mme Bovary, c'est lui! *) fails to see, within this desert, communication getting down to work. This is why, as regards "a good side of things", he has to resort to mysticism. The good side of things is in this world.

To summarise: according to the previous excerpts, the show is consumption, a staging of everybody, for everyone. Nevertheless, consumption is a desert, according to Debord himself. Consumption is the pitiful show of human resource grazing in fear. Therefore, as I had clearly said, the only place where consumption can be found as an image of happy unity is advertising, on a wider scale, the Mass Media. When he portrays another image, as we have just seen, it is quite an absurd one, and mere observation will demonstrate how wrong it is. And if you can't give me a definition of the show which will be different from the mass Media one, then tell me where such a show can be seen, to compensate for its lack of definition. One has to admit that the worst thing that can happen to a show is to remain invisible and never appear.

Flaubert aim was: take a look at what education can do to a farm girl. Houellebecq’s is: take a look at what education can do to two slaves. Giving education to a slave doesn’t make him a free man.

Jean-Pierre Voyer

M. Ripley s'amuse