The Society of the Spectacle is a society that is obsessed with commodity. Debord describes the spectacle as “the stage at which the commodity has succeeded in totally colonizing social life” (Debord). He describes the world we see as a world of commodity. It impacts us to where we no longer see anything else but commodity. We receive these images dictating how we are supposed to live and what we should live for. In that moment we forget about the basic needs of survival and adopt a different set of requirements to survive in this society of the spectacle.
Debord states in The Commodity as Spectacle, “The spectacle is a permanent opium war designed to force people to equate goods with commodities and to equate satisfaction with a survival that expands according to its own laws. Consumable survival must constantly expand because it never ceases to include privation. If augmented survival never comes to a resolution, if there is no point where it might stop expanding, this is because it is itself stuck in the realm of privation. It may gild poverty, but it cannot transcend it.” (Debord) The Spectacle has conditioned our society to want things that they don’t necessarily need. Instead of trading goods for other goods that are necessary for survival the society has evolved into trading goods for the commodity. People no longer work to survive but to have the money to buy the commodity being pitched to us in the barrage of ads.
The commodity has changed the society into revolving around having rather than living. People want to have the commodity and then show off that they have it as an expression of status. The society is in a way brainwashed by the images delivered in the media to want to look like what they see on the tube. The media regulates what is normal and what is good and bad. It delivers the commodity and to fit in, people trade goods to obtain this commodity they have grown to be obsessed with.
Debord explains that the society has gotten to this stage from the attainment of an abundant economy. He states, “With the achievement of economic abundance, the concentrated result of social labor becomes visible, subjecting all reality to the appearances that are now that labor’s primary product. Capital is no longer the invisible center governing the production process; as it accumulates, it spreads to the ends of the earth in the form of tangible objects. The entire expanse of society is its portrait.” (Debord) Once they had a surplus in money, which represents the goods necessary for survival, they begin to want to obtain something tangible. Once they have gotten all the goods needed to survive and still have money left over, the question of what else is there to do with the surplus money surfaces. The capitalists take advantage of this using the media to send propaganda to the consumers and convince them to think they need their products as well to survive. When everyone begins to have these products and a commodity is formed, people begin to feel left out and that they need to obtain this commodity. They feel they need to prove they are equal to the rest of the society and begin to want to have the ideal image being televised by the media in mass amounts of images.
To serve this mass population obsessed with the commodity deficiencies in quality are formed in the creation of mass quantity. Other consequences, like a stupefied society no longer awake enough to deal with real issues in the world, arise from this addiction to commodity. People brush off the problems going on globally and focus on reality television and celebrity news. The society is hypnotized to serve its economy by feeding into the commodity not realizing how well off they already are and how chaotic life can be in other places around the world.