Modernity and Culture
In both readings the authors’ aims at not only sensitizing individuals concerning the importance of being aware of oppression but also helping us to recover from the dogma of capitalism by empowering them to produce their realities. It is worth noting that the Spectacle society that Debord examined was to a greater extent influenced by Marxist critical theory, and was involved with a French group that is referred to as the Situationists. According to him, the entire life of the societies in which modern production conditions triumph and present themselves as an immense accumulation of spectacles. The spectacle in Debroid`s view entails the social relations among individuals who have been mediated by images (Debord, 2007). It explains and unifies a great diversity of apparent phenomena. However, the spectacle is everywhere in the community, especially in a society that embraces modern industry as a superficial spectacular (Garoian & Gaudelius, 2008). In the ruling economic perspective, the spectacular can be linked to the situation where the government has no substantial goals that have been set in place, but it proceeds to develop everything.
Additionally, Baudrillard proceeds to explain the dangers that are associated with the aspect of not taking care of or controlling the high number of changes that the society embraces. In order to achieve this, Baudrillard has extensively criticized the society of Spectacle, especially in the manner in which it blind folds the inhabitants to the extent that they cannot contemplate the difference between what is real and what is fake. Initially, Baudrillard was an adherent of Max`s logic (which was also embraced and implemented by Debord) and concentrated on the exchange value as well as the use value in particular. However, since in the spectacle society things have changed with time, Baudrillard contemplated that the Marxist logic was unsatisfactory, and this is what stimulated him to explore on hyper-real society (Baudrillard, 1981). According to him, the majority of the objects in the spectacle society are currently divorced from production, and the symbolic value reduces them to the level of operating as abstract signs. For this reason, Baudrillard found it necessary the society should no longer continue to use exchange value and use value alone. Additional aspects such as the ‘symbolic’ exchange value (like conspicuous consumption and the display of goods based on their intended status) and the various consumption logics became easily jumbled and confused.
The key difference between Debord’s “Spectacle” and Baudrillard’s “Simulacra and Simulation” is that the latter`s book focuses on the mass perception of reality that was initially shaped by the former. Precisely, Baudrillard focuses on the hyper-real society that we live in especially by examining the simulation of the society in terms of how industry, products, and identities make up the entirety of the non-reality we live in. the society of Spectacle that Debord has talked about in the “Spectacle” sometimes existed before the Baudrillard`s “Simulacra and Simulation.” For this reason, Baudrillard presents his perceptions or arguments on the postmodern and tries to demonstrate how things in society have drastically changed (Debord, 2007). For example, he opens the book by describing “On Exactitude in Science” which is short fable from Jorge Luis Borges. In this narrative, the empire creates a map on a scale of 1:1 with the actual world that it attempts to represent. The map perfectly covers the whole territory and settles over the top of it.
Apparently, when the empire started to decay the occupants could no longer contemplate what was real and what the map was. The map represents the Spectacle society, which Baudrillard perceives as a society that has found itself in an analogous situation of contemplating its boundaries from the map in reality (Baudrillard, 1981). Precisely, Baudrillard finds it challenging when it comes to differentiating reality and appearance, especially in the historical perspective. The term real in this situation is broadly used to refer to the current objects which are functioning differently to those which have been represented in the image. In the Spectacle society, things were functioning in normal ways, but as time went by, their functionality started to change. Actually, if Baudrillard`s argument can be interpreted more deeply, the current society has worsened especially due to the fact that the current inhabitants can no longer differentiate between what is real and fake or imitation. A number of things have disappeared in the present society, including the relationship between one individual and the other, the sovereign difference, products that we consume among others.
Based on the texts of both Debord and Baudrillard and their concepts of “Spectacle” and “Simulacra and Simulation” the notion of power has been portrayed negatively. Power tends to blindfold leaders to such an extent that they rarely focus on things which are beneficial to the general public. For example, leaders focus on implementing development projects without first planning and setting evidence-based goals such as establishing what individuals require the most, the costs, timely, as well as ways in which the projects will benefit the members of the public. The result is that the projects developed costs lots of billions of taxpayers’ money but have limited benefits to them (Garoian & Gaudelius, 2008). For example, as aforementioned earlier, the society of Spectacle had an influence from the French group that is referred to as the Situationists (Debord, 2007). Based on this influence, the individuals who were in power at that time inherited the philosophical development projects from the Western, without contemplating that a philosophical project in the latter may not effectively be beneficial to the former. However, if the philosophical projects inherited from the West had weaknesses, the same is duplicated in society.
Moreover, the Western philosophical projects aim at contemplating an activity based on the vision, and the development of particular technical rationality arises out of that form of thought. Unfortunately, the society of Spectacle does not understand philosophy, and instead, it tends to philosophize reality, and this is detrimental since it reduces every individual`s concrete life to a universe of speculation (Debord, 2007). Additionally, when power is in the wrong hands, an individual fails to understand the difference the thought of separate power and the power of separate thought. That is why the rulers in the society of Spectacle cannot manage to come up with their own philosophical projects but to depend on those which are proposed by Western society.
Additionally, power blind folds individuals to the extent that they fail to manage, evaluate or control the objects that they are introduced to by the developed societies. For example, the issue of technology and mass media may appear as important or beneficial to the locals in the short run but are detrimental if they are not controlled. Moreover, the greed for power results in the poor economic performance of society as well as disunity among the community members. In the long run, internal conflict arises and the society that was initially living in peace starts to eat its members. This is perfectly illustrated by Baudrillard, especially in what he claimed as “On Exactitude in Science.” (Baudrillard, 1981). Initially, the map covered the entire territory, but as soon as it started to decay, the inhabitants separated from their original ways of life. The social cohesion, which ought to prevail in order for economic development to be achieved, could no longer prevail.
Additionally, power promotes a culture of a un-ending monologue of self-praise, which is characterized by a stage of totalitarian domination in all aspects of life. This is evident especially in the society of the spectacle, where leaders choose or dictate what should be broadcasted in the technical apparatus or the mass media. In the long run, what is broadcasted is anything relating to the rulers. The apparatus used in the society of spectacle are no way neutral and has been developed based on the society`s internal dynamics. In addition, power results in a division in terms of social and economic class, whereby the administrators cannot freely interact with those in the lower social and economic class. Communication between the administrators and the society members becomes unilateral, and can only be achieved through mediation (Debord, 2007). Direct personal communication between the producers and the worker is eliminated, and this affects the quality and quantity of goods produced and consumed. Additionally, in the production system, individuals in the society of spectacular always work with the fear of being replaced by those in power.
Baudrillard J., (1981). Simulacra and Simulations.
Debord G., (2007). The Society of the Spectacle.
Garoian, C. R., & Gaudelius, Y. (2008). Spectacle pedagogy: Art, politics, and visual culture. Albany: State University of New York Press.