Monday, September 17, 2012

The Society of the Spectacle.

Guy Debord’s “The Society of the Spectacle” pinpoints the conflict in the mass media’s effect on the society as a whole from a philosophical point of view. Criticism is essential to help comprehend the reality of our society and here we have philosopher Debord as a media critic. Debord strongly accentuates the idea that "the spectacle is not just a servant of pseudo-use; it is already in itself a pseudo-use of life" (49). The media creates a false reality that we, the audience, fail to recognize, but which we are yet so immensely involved in its essence. These images replace and take over reality, though the real reality is that they are only fantasies. 
Debord stresses the importance and difference between reality and image. "Fragmented views of reality regroup themselves into a new unity as a separate pseudoworld that can only be looked at. The specialization of images of the world evolves into a world of autonomized images where even the deceivers are deceived" (Debord 2). For example, Facebook is a famous social website, where users have added images from their daily lives, creating the sense that you as the viewer know what is going on in their lives, but in reality, it is never enough to actually know the truth beyond those images on your screen. Moreover, "the spectacle is not a collection of images; it is a social relation between people that is mediated by images" (Debord 4).  The mass media and all its form of news, propaganda, and entertainment has become our only connection to the outside world rather than physically being at a location to understand what is going on.
 The audience is immersed in "needing" even the most unnecessary objects and items, that the fulfillment of the spectacle is about the appearance of having these items. "The present stage, in which social life has become completely dominated 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" (Debord 17). For example, designer labels and brands have become a classification in the amount of money one has. If someone were to walk by with a Louis Vuitton bag, the idea that this person has a lot of money to afford such an expensive brand would come to mind. People are overly obsessed with "showing off" their high maintenance products so that they can be noticed in society.
In Chapter 2, Debord aims at the importance of money in the commodity as spectacle. He states that "the spectacle is money one can only look at, because in it all use had already been exchanged for the totality of abstract representation" (49). The production of capital is dependent on the production of media, and the convergence of commodities and media equal capital, which becomes the whole essence and concept of the Spectacle. 
Debord emphasizes that "the loss of quality that is so evident at every level of spectacular language, from the objects it glorifies to the behavior it regulates, stems from the basic nature of a production system that shuns reality.The commodity and spectacle has successfully alienated us from our human nature by expressing messages that influences human behavior. Here, I can take in the idea that people are obsessed with enhancing their physical appearance and image, that they are consuming redundant products that the media has otherwise foretells. How many women can say that every part of their human body is all natural? How many people do you know are perfectly fine with their natural appearance without wanting to enhance the most little details? There are millions of products worldwide and cosmetic surgeries that are intriguing even the younger ones. These consumers of these products and services have become victims of the media.

 I am going to take Nicki Minaj as an example, for I genuinely dislike the message that she brings out to the audience. I personally am not a fan of her music, and even her appearance. Men are obsessed with her physical appearance, the over abundance of  meat she has on her buttocks, which were surgically produced. The thought of her being an idol to any person is absolutely degrading in my mind. The sole fact that she labels herself "Barbie" is an utmost wrongful image because Barbie is fake and plasticized, but in a sense "perfect". This message that enhancing your appearance and being unrealistic to make yourself "perfect" is just so WRONG.

          The Spectacle is inescapable for the consumer consumes to survive. "The abundance of commodities — that is, the abundance of commodity relations — amounts to nothing more than an augmented survival" (Debord 40). I can take this in two ways and that is first, the consumer is a relevant to the cycle of capital in the economy and that without consuming, our economy will fail, therefore effecting our daily lives as citizens. It is basically the idea of supply and demand. Secondly, I can take this as people buy "necessities" in able to survive, such as food, water, shelter, and clothing. "Replacing that necessity with a necessity for boundless economic development can only mean replacing the satisfaction of primary human needs (now scarcely met) with an incessant fabrication of pseudoneeds, all of which ultimately come down to the single pseudoneed of maintaining the reign of the autonomous economy" (Debord 51). Other products that are media based are cell phones, television, computers, and etc have become "necessities" to human life. It has become a "norm" for people to own such products in this century.
Furthermore, the process in which work, labor, people and time are turned into units of exchange and the more the demand of commodities and products, the more labor is produced. We as the consumer do not fully understand the process in which these products are made, and we are too oblivious to the hard work that may be done by workers, without considering the time he has put in and how much he is getting paid. "Whereas during the primitive stage of capitalist accumulation “political economy considers the proletarian only as a worker,” who only needs to be allotted the indispensable minimum for maintaining his labor power, and never considers him “in his leisure and humanity,” this ruling-class perspective is revised as soon as commodity abundance reaches a level that requires an additional collaboration from him" (Debord 43).
Although written in the 1960s, Debord's philosophical ideas ironically come out to play in today's world. It is an ongoing and even growing problem that we fail to recognize, and therefore, cannot escape.

No comments:

Post a Comment