Guy Debord’s, “Society of the Spectacle” is an excellently composed analysis of the culture of modern human dominance and control. Debord illustrates in this piece how modern human society has morphed into a society in which everything we see, think, and desire is commodity.
Debord defines the spectacle as being “the stage at which the commodity has succeeded in totally colonizing social life” (Debord 42). The spectacle does indeed have a tremendous impact, most especially today, where technology and convergence has paved the way for the marketing of commodities to reach the masses. Nowadays, you can’t watch a television show for more than eight minutes without some company trying to sell you a product you don’t need. And once that commercial comes on, you pick up your cell phone only to find another advertisement waiting to be seen at the bottom of an application.
A logo displaying the extent at which companies will go to sell their product
The commodity is the driving force behind the economy, and the human desire for non-essential commodities has been the fire behind this driving force. This broken system has become so inflated that it has created a false reality that exists in our minds, and the same media that delivers useless messages that are irrelative to our realities has supreme control over our the way we think. This is the epitome of domination. Debord explains “the domination of society by “intangible as well as tangible things” attains its ultimate fulfillment in the spectacle where the real world is replaced by a selection of images which are projected above it”(Debord 36).
In this society, we categorize one another by economic class, the amount of money we make, which can also equate classifying one another by the amount of commodities one can have. The higher economic class we reach, the more we can flatter ourselves in this false reality with more and more commodities that are non-essential to survival.
Even though this passage was written from the perspective of a Marxist theorist in times of French economic reform, it still holds value today because we still live in times of mass production and wage labor, times where society is driven by the economy. In fact, Debord states that this same economy “has transformed the world, but it has merely transformed it into a world dominated by the economy” (Debord 40). Society tells us that we must work in order to survive, but what is surviving if all we are surviving for is the desire for more merchandise that will only push us farther in this fictitious realm of commodity.