to the thing signified, the copy to the original,
representation to reality, appearance to essence,
… truth is considered profane, and only illusion is
sacred. Sacredness is in fact held to be enhanced in
proportion as truth decreases and illusion increases,
so that the highest degree of illusion comes to be seen
as the highest degree of sacredness.
-Feuerbach, Preface to the Second Edition of
The Essence of Christianity
In societies where modern conditions of production
prevail, life is presented as an immense accumulation of
spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has receded into
The images detached from every aspect of life merge into
a common stream in which the unity of that life can no
longer be recovered. Fragmented views of reality regroup
themselves into a new unity as a separate pseudo-world that
can only be looked at. The specialization of images of the
world has culminated in a world of autonomized images
where even the deceivers are deceived. The spectacle is a
concrete inversion oflife, an autonomous movement of the
The spectacle presents itself simultaneously as society itself,
as a part of society, and as a means of unification. As a part
of society, it is ostensibly the focal point of all vision and
all consciousness: But due to the very fact that this sector
is separate, it is in reality the domain of delusion and false
consciousness: the unification it achieves is nothing but an
official language of universal separation.
The spectacle is not a collection of images; it is a social
relation between people that is mediated by images.
The spectacle cannot be understood as a mere visual excess
produced by mass-media technologies. It is a worldview
that has actually been materialized, that has become an
Understood in its totality, the spectacle is both the result
and the project of the present mode of production. It is not
a mere supplement or decoration added to the real world,
it is the heart of this real society's unreality. In all of its
particular manifestations-news, propaganda, advertising,
entertainment-the spectacle is the model of the prevailing
way of life. It is the omnipresent affirmation of the choices
that have already been made in the sphere of production and
in the consumption implied by that production. In both
form and content the spectacle serves as a total justification
of the conditions and goals of the existing system. The
spectacle is also the constant presence of this justification
since it monopolizes the majority of the time spent outside
the modern production process.
Separation is itself an integral part of the unity of this world,
of a global social praxis split into reality and image. The
social practice confronted by an autonomous spectacle is
at the same time the real totality which contains that spectacle. But the split within this totality mutilates it to the
point that the spectacle seems to be its goal. The language
of the spectacle consists of signs of the dominant system of
production-signs which are at the same time the ultimate
end-products of that system.
The spectacle cannot be abstractly contrasted to concrete
social activity. Each side of such a duality is itself divided.
The spectacle that falsifies reality is nevertheless a real product of that reality, while lived reality is materially invaded by
the contemplation of the spectacle and ends up absorbing
it and aligning itself with it. Objective reality is present on
both sides. Each of these seemingly fixed concepts has no
other basis than its transformation into its opposite: reality
emerges within the spectacle, and the spectacle is real. This
reciprocal alienation is the essence and support of the
In a world that has really been turned upside down, the true is
a moment of the false.
The concept of "the spectacle" interrelates and explains
a wide range of seemingly unconnected phenomena. The
apparent diversities and contrasts of these phenomena
stem from the social organization of appearances, whose
essential nature must itself be recognized. Considered in its
own terms, the spectacle is an affirmation of appearances and
an identification of all human social life with appearances.
But a critique that grasps the spectacle's essential character
reveals it to be a visible negation of life-a negation that has
taken on a visible form.
In order to describe the spectacle, its formation, its functions,
and the forces that work against it, it is necessary to make
some artificial distinctions. In analyzing the spectacle we
are obliged to a certain extent to use the spectacle's own
language, in the sense that we have to operate on the
methodological terrain of the society that expresses itself in
the spectacle. For the spectacle is both the meaning and the
agenda of our particular socio-economic formation. It is the
historical moment in which we are caught.
The spectacle presents itself as a vast inaccessible reality that
can never be questioned. Its sole message is: "What appears
is good; what is good appears." The passive acceptance it
demands is already effectively imposed by its monopoly of
appearances, its manner of appearing without allowing any
The tautological character of the spectacle stems from the
fact that its means and ends are identical. It is the sun that
never sets over the empire of modern passivity. It covers
the entire surface of the globe, endlessly basking in its own
The society based on modern industry is not accidentally
or superficially spectacular, it is fundamentally spectaclist. In
the spectacle-the visual reflection of the ruling economic
order-goals are nothing, development is everything. The
spectacle aims at nothing other than itself.
As indispensable embellishment of currently produced objects, as general articulation of the system's rationales, and
as advanced economic sector that directly creates an everincreasing multitude of image-objects, the spectacle is the
leading production of present-day society.
The spectacle is able to subject human beings to itself
because the economy has already totally subjugated them.
It is nothing other than the economy developing for itself.
It is at once a faithful reflection of the production of things
and a distorting objectification of the producers.
The first stage of the economy's domination of social life
brought about an evident degradation of being into havinghuman fulfillment was no longer equated with what one
was, but with what one possessed. The present stage, in
which social life has become completely occupied by the
accumulated productions of the economy, is bringing
about a general shift from having to appearing-all "having"
must now derive its immediate prestige and its ultimate
purpose from appearances. At the same time all individual
reality has become social, in the sense that it is shaped by
social forces and is directly dependent on them. Individual
reality is allowed to appear only insofar as it is not actually
When the real world is transformed into mere images, mere
images become real beings-figments that provide the direct
motivations for a hypnotic behavior. Since the spectacle's
job is to use various specialized mediations in order to show
us a world that can no longer be directly grasped, it naturally
elevates the sense of sight to the special preeminence once
occupied by touch: the most abstract and easily deceived
sense is the most readily adaptable to the generalized abstraction of present-day society. But the spectacle is not
merely a matter of images, nor even of images plus sounds.
It is whatever escapes people's activity, whatever eludes their
practical reconsideration and correction. It is the opposite
of dialogue. Wherever representation becomes independent,
the spectacle regenerates itself.
The spectacle inherits the weakness of the Western philosophical project, which attempted to understand activity
by means of the categories of vision, and it is based on the
relentless development of the particular technical rationality
that grew out of that form of thought. The spectacle does
not realize philosophy, it philosophizes reality, reducing
everyone's concrete life to a universe of speculation.
Philosophy-the power of separate thought and the thought
of separate power-was never by itself able to supersede
theology. The spectacle is the material reconstruction
of the religious illusion. Spectacular technology has not
dispersed the religious mists into which human beings had
projected their own alienated powers, it has merely brought
those mists down to earth, to the point that even the most
mundane aspects of life have become impenetrable and
unbreathable. The illusory paradise representing a total
denial of earthly life is no longer projected into the heavens,
it is embedded in earthly life itself. The spectacle is the
technological version of the exiling of human powers into
a "world beyond"; the culmination of humanity's internal
As long as necessity is socially dreamed, dreaming will
remain necessary. The spectacle is the bad dream of a
modern society in chains and ultimately expresses nothing
more than its wish for sleep. The spectacle is the guardian
of that sleep.
The fact that the practical power of modern society has
detached itself from that society and established an independent realm in the spectacle can be explained only by
the additional fact that that powerful practice continued
to lack cohesion and had remained in contradiction with
itself. The root of the spectacle is that oldest of all social specializations, the specialization of power. The spectacle plays the specialized role of speaking in the name of all the other
activities. It is hierarchical society's ambassador to itself,
delivering its messages at a court where no one else is
allowed to speak. The most modern aspect of the spectacle
is thus also the most archaic.The spectacle is the ruling order's nonstop discourse
about itself, its never-ending monologue of self-praise, its
self-portrait at the stage of totalitarian domination of all
aspects of life. The fetishistic appearance of pure objectivity
in spectacular relations conceals their true character as relations between people and between classes: a second
Nature, with its own inescapable laws, seems to dominate
our environment. But the spectacle is not the inevitable
consequence of some supposedly natural technological
development. On the contrary, the society of the spectacle
is a form that chooses its own technological content. If
the spectacle, considered in the limited sense of the "mass
media" that are its most glaring superficial manifestation,
seems to be invading society in the form of a mere technical
apparatus, it should be understood that this apparatus is in
no way neutral and that it has been developed in accordance
with the spectacle's internal dynamics. If the social needs
of the age in which such technologies are developed can be
met only through their mediation, if the administration
of this society and all contact between people has become
totally dependent on these means of
instantaneous communication, it is because this "communication" is essentially
unilateral. The concentration of these media thus amounts
to concentrating in the hands of the administrators of the
existing system the means that enable them to carry on this
particular form of administration. The social separation
reflected in the spectacle is inseparable from the modern
state-that product of the social division of labor that is
both the chief instrument of class rule and the concentrated
expression of all social divisions.
Separation is the alpha and omega of the spectacle. The
institutionalization of the social division of labor in the
form of class divisions had given rise to an earlier, religious
form of contemplation: the mythical order with which every
power has always camouflaged itself. Religion justified the
cosmic and ontological order that corresponded to the
interests of the masters, expounding and embellishing
everything their societies could not deliver. In this sense,
all separate power has been spectacular. But this earlier
universal devotion to a fixed religious imagery was only
a shared belief in an imaginary compensation for the poverty of a concrete social activity that was still generally
experienced as a unitary condition. In contrast, the modern
spectacle depicts what society could deliver, but in so doing
it rigidly separates what is possible from what is permitted.
The spectacle keeps people in a state of unconsciousness
as they pass through practical changes in their conditions
of existence. Like a factitious god, it engenders itself and
makes its own rules. It reveals itself for what it is: an autonomously developing separate power, based on the increasing productivity resulting from an increasingly refined division
of labor into parcelized gestures dictated by the independent
movement of machines and working for an ever-expanding
market. In the course of this development, all community
and all critical awareness have disintegrated; and the forces
that were able to grow by separating from each other have
not yet been reunited.
The general separation of worker and product tends to
eliminate any direct personal communication between
the producers and any comprehensive sense of what
they are producing. With the increasing accumulation of
separate products and the increasing concentration of the
productive process, communication and comprehension are
monopolized by the managers of the system. The triumph
of this separation-based economic system proletarianizes the
Due to the very success of this separate production of
separation, the fundamental experience that in earlier
societies was associated with people's primary work is in
the process of being replaced (in sectors near the cutting
edge of the system's evolution) by an identification of life
with nonworking time, with inactivity. But such inactivity
is in no way liberated from productive activity. It remains
dependent on it, in an uneasy and admiring submission
to the requirements and consequences of the production
system. It is itself one of the products of that system.
There can be no freedom apart from activity, and within
the spectacle activity is nullified-all real activity having
been forcibly channeled into the global construction of
the spectacle. Thus, what is referred to as a "liberation
from work," namely the modern increase in leisure time, is
neither a liberation within work itself nor a liberation from
the world shaped by this kind of work. None of the activity
stolen through work can be regained by submitting to what
that work has produced.
The reigning economic system is a vicious circle of isolation.
Its technologies are based on isolation, and they contribute
to that same isolation. From automobiles to television, the
goods that the spectacular system chooses to produce also
serve it as weapons for constantly reinforcing the conditions that engender "lonely crowds." With ever-increasing
concreteness the spectacle recreates its own presuppositions.
The spectacle was born from the world's loss of unity, and
the immense expansion of the modern spectacle reveals the
enormity of this loss. The abstractifying of all individual
labor and the general abstractness of what is produced are
perfectly reflected in the spectacle, whose manner of being
concrete is precisely abstraction. In the spectacle, a part of the
world represents itself to the world and is superior to it. The
spectacle is simply the common language of this separation.
Spectators are linked solely by their one-way relationship to
the very center that keeps them isolated from each other.
The spectacle thus reunites the separated, but it reunites
them only in their separateness.
The alienation of the spectator, which reinforces the contemplated objects that result from his own unconscious
activity, works like this: the more he contemplates, the less he lives; the more he identifies with the dominant images
of need, the less he understands his own life and his own
desires. The spectacle's estrangement from the acting subject is expressed by the fact that the individual's gestures
are no longer his own; they are the gestures of someone else
who represents them to him. The spectator does not feel at
home anywhere, because the spectacle is everywhere.
Workers do not produce themselves, they produce a power
independent of themselves. The success of this production,
the abundance it generates, is experienced by the producers
as an abundance of dispossession. As their alienated products
accumulate, all time and space become foreign to them.
The spectacle is the map of this new world, a map that is
identical to the territory it represents. The forces that have
escaped us display themselves to us in all their power.
The spectacle's social function is the concrete manufacture
of alienation. Economic expansion consists primarily of the
expansion of this particular sector of industrial production.
The "growth" generated by an economy developing for its
own sake can be nothing other than a growth of the very
alienation that was at its origin.
Though separated from what they produce, people nevertheless produce every detail of their world with ever-increasing power. They thus also find themselves increasingly
separated from that world. The closer their life comes to
being their own creation, the more they are excluded from
The spectacle is capital accumulated to the point that it
When it comes to continental philosophers bemoaning the modern world and its degradation I find that Evola and Guénon are much more apt and grounded in their beliefs than Feuerbach. Although I disagree with them on many points I do find their descriptions of the Kali Yuga and the cyclical nature of history to be applicable across the world. It does take a lot of reading to suitably grasp their philosophy, however.
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