Society of the Spectacle

by Guy Debord


Detroit: Black & Red, 1973. First edition, second printing. 8vo (22×13,5cm), printed card wrappers. Unpaginated 219pp. Text in English. Mild wear to covers with slight rubbbing to spine-ends. Near fine.


Guy Debord was a French theorist, cultural critic, artist, filmmaker, and the leading figure of the Situationist International. His book La société du spectacle was published in 1967 and critiques a society that, in his opinion, is increasingly obsessed with images and appearances instead of reality, truth and experience.

One year after Debord published his manifesto, the May 1968 revolts broke out and Situationist slogans could be found on many banners on the streets of Paris, which the Situationists considered their personal success. Guy Debord‘s The Society of the Spectacle is in the tradition of Marxist theory and was published exactly 100 years after Das Kapital. It is a critique of post-war capitalism that had a similar influence on the revolt of 1968 as Horkheimer and Adorno‘s Dialectic of Enlightenment.

This scarce copy is the second printing of the unauthorized English edition of La société du spectacle, published and translated by Fredy Perlman on his Black & Red imprint in Detroit. The first (1970) and second printing (1973) still have the iconic photograph of a movie audience wearing special 3D glasses on the rear cover, which was moved from the back to the front in later editions.

The photo was originally taken by LIFE photographer J.R. Eyerman at the first screening of the film Bwana Devil, directed by Arch Oboler, which was the first full length color 3D motion picture, and was published for the first time in the December 15, 1952 issue of LIFE magazine.

Thomas Y. Levin wrote in his essay Dismantling the Spectacle: The cinema of Guy Debord »Ciné qua non«: Guy Debord and Filmic Practice as Theory, that

“this picture, taken by J.R. Eyerman, has since become a veritable cliché not only for the alienation of late consumer culture but also for the ten years
following World War II: it appears, for example, on T-Shirts, bags, and buttons as well as on the cover of the brochure that accompanied an exhibition of photographs from LIFE magazine held at the International Center of Photography (New York) and entitled: The Second Decade, 1946-1955.”