Thoughts on the Presidential Election


For the last year-and-a-half or so, we have all been spectators in the reality TV show that was the 2016 Presidential Election. There were noteworthy movements inside of both parties, but the biggest one that everyone has been paying attention to was the rise of Donald Trump.

During the ascent of Trump to the top of the Republican Party, the Democrats looked on with glee, as Trump supposedly tore the party apart. This was seen as a potential moment of major party realignment. This was the end of the Republican Party. Rome was burning and we were all watching Trump play the fiddle and reveling in the destruction.

Until we weren’t.


Notes on Society of the Spectacle: Chapters 8 and 9


Chapter 8: “Negation and Consumption Within Culture”

#180 “Culture is the general sphere of knowledge and of representations of the lived.” Once culture separates out on its own, it becomes imperialist and ends up suppressing its independence and eventually negating itself.

#181 Cultural development is a struggle between tradition and innovation, but can only be carried out with the permanent victory of innovation. Innovation can only be carried out by historical movement, but the “totality” of the historical movement tends to overshadow its cultural beliefs and suppresses any separation.

Hegel, Power, and Debt


A couple of months ago BBC Radio 4 put out a great series of short episodes on the history of debt. Noted anthropologist and anarchist, David Graeber, narrated the series and went through the definition of debt, its historical development, and basically analyzed why we put so much emphasis on following through on our debt obligations.

In the very first episode of the series, he made a great point when he asked why we feel that debt is a social contract that must never be broken. He points out that politicians make social contracts with the citizens who vote for them and those always get broken, so what makes debt a social contract that must never be broken? Surely we don’t feel that the relationship between debtor and creditor is more important than the relationship between the people and their government, do we? I bet if that were a question polled to the majority of people in the United States or even around the world, the answer would be a resounding “No!”

So why do we value the principle of debt more than we value the principle of something like governance?

Notes on Society of the Spectacle: Chapter 7


Chapter 7: The Organization of Territory

#165 The globalization of capitalism under the spectacle is also a process of banalization. The extensive banalization takes place as the spectacle invades all countries no matter how far away they may be, and destroys their autonomy and quality. Their are still some small differences in culture between countries, but everywhere you go there is a system in place for the commodification of life. Big skyscrapers in big cities, with expensive shops, restaurants, billboards, tourist attractions, etc. 

#166 I may be misunderstanding this thesis, but I understand him as saying here: free space is constantly changed within the spectacle in order to become more identical and banal. If I am understanding this right, I would relate this to what David Harvey talks about in regards to public space within cities. And the fact that it is important, for example, for people in Gezi Park in Turkey to protest to keep their public space and not allow further banalization by letting them put in shopping malls. 

#167 More dialectics! “This society which eliminates geographical distance reproduces distance internally as spectacular separation.” As we become more globalized within the spectacle, we become more alienated from real living. 

Notes on Society of the Spectacle: Chapter 6


Notes from chapters 1-3 can be found here.

Notes from chapter 4 can be found here.

Notes from chapter 5 can be found here.

Chapter 6- Spectacular Time

#147 The time of production, commodity-time, is the abstraction of irreversible time. Which means (I think), that Debord is saying what Marx said, in that when you are at work producing a commodity, you are embedding your labor in it, but the capitalist makes this process murky in that you feel like you are on the company time and that you are really just doing your job. You don’t necessarily realize that your labor power is being taken advantage of. Your boss will never let you know the point in the day in which your labor power has sufficiently paid for what you have produced and when you are supplying surplus value to the company. If you were to know that, you would probably request either more money or to work less time. The abstraction of this process keeps you naive, in the harness, and makes you devalue your time. 

Notes on Society of the Spectacle: Chapter 5


Notes from chapters 1-3 can be found here.

Notes from chapter 4 can be found here.

Chapter 5- Time and History

#125 Man is identical to time. “History has always existed, but not always in historical form.” It gets that historical form from the temporalization of man. #126 Historical movement of time begins in the “real nature of man.” 

#127 Nomadic populations experience cyclical time because their conditions are repeated day after day, and are governed by the cyclical movement of the seasons. This continues into the transition of the beginning of labor, as nomadism turns into agrarian production (i.e. Polish Peasants in Reymont). The agrarian mode of production is the “basis for fully constituted cyclical time.” You wake up, take care of the crops and an animals, do chores, eat, sleep, and then repeat the next day. Time is a continuous circle of the same every single day. It is a bit like “Groundhog’s Day” come to life. “Eternity is internal to it.” Great quote.

Sunday Morning Link Brunch: 3/1/2015


Ethical consumption is seductive but dangerous to the values ethical consumers seek to promote. This article reminded me of this Slavoj Žižek video. 

The British government will now discipline unemployed 18-21 year olds. Neoliberalism at it’s finest.

More evidence that demonstrates that the rich own American “democracy.”

A nice, basic explainer of how US corporations engage in billions of dollars worth of tax evasion each year.

More links after the jump.

Notes on Society of the Spectacle: Chapter 4


Notes from chapters 1-3 can be found here.

Chapter 4 The Proletariat as Subject and as Representation

A lot of Marx and Marxist history and theory in this chapter.

#73 Basic Marx. The spectacle began as soon as the bourgeoisie won in the economy and became “visible” after politicians that represented these interests were put in office. The development of capitalism and its “productive forces” tore down the way in which humans used to relate to the goods they produced.

#74 The real study of history should be understood as “the living producing himself.” Essentially, the different ways in which humans have related to what they produce to keep themselves alive.

Sunday Morning Link Brunch: 2/15/2015


Russian oligarchs are buying up luxury apartments in New York City.

Speaking of Russia, to understand the country’s history, you have to go back further than their Soviet past. It’s also helpful to understand what the word “smuta” means.

BBC Witness podcast on the first McDonald’s to open in Moscow after the collapse of the USSR.

BBC Documentaries podcast on digitizing Stalin’s personal papers.

More links after the jump.

Notes on Society of the Spectacle: Chapters 1-3


In recent weeks I’ve begun reading Guy Debord’s classic Society of the Spectacle. I always like to take long-winded notes when I read, but due to the abstract nature of Debord’s writing and the fact that he packs so much into tiny paragraphs called “theses”, my notes are even more long-winded than usual. Thus, I am breaking my notes into sections of chapters. Today, chapters 1-3. I will post other chapters as I finish them.

My notes aren’t organized necessarily well, and they may have some grammatical or spelling errors. This is not a polished essay, but literally just notes I typed up in my notepad while I was reading.

If you would like to read the original text yourself, you can find it for free online here.

Notes are after the jump.