Spectacular Developments: Guy Debord's Parapolitical Turn

Kinkle, Jeffrey. 2010. Spectacular Developments: Guy Debord's Parapolitical Turn. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]


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Abstract or Description

Following the attacks of September 11th, 2001, Guy Debord’s concept of ‘the
spectacle’ re-emerged in the work of a variety of theorists as a critical prism through
which the attacks and subsequent ‘War on Terror’ could be approached. Debord’s
first book on the spectacle (1967) was written in the context of France’s post-war
boom; his later reflections, contained in a series of minor works written throughout
the seventies and eighties, are heavily influenced by Italy’s ‘Years of Lead’ and a
broader geopolitical climate of armed struggle, terrorism, counter-insurgency and
espionage. Nearly all post-9/11 invocations of Debord’s concept draw on the version
elucidated in Debord’s 1967 book, with its emphasis on commodity fetishism,
ideology, and alienation, and fail to engage his later work and its focus on terrorism,
secrecy, and conspiracy. Among those that do in fact reference Debord’s later work
are several writers whose work could pejoratively be labelled ‘conspiracy theory’.
Looking at Debord’s oeuvre as whole, and investigating how it combines a critique of
late capitalism in its totality with parapolitcal concerns of ‘systemic clandestinity’,
Spectacular Developments: Guy Debord’s Parapolitical Turn provides a bolstered
conception of the spectacle that aims to reconfigure the conceptual foundations of this
debate. This conception of the spectacle allows one to approach the 9/11 attacks and
all that followed in their wake with both a precision and a breadth lacking in these
other works, demonstrating the superficiality of readings that make the concept
synonymous with the mass media or that attempt to unravel nefarious conspiracies of
power. Simultaneously, this approach foregrounds the epistemological and strategic
challenges faced by researchers, politicians and activists working in and on the
society of the spectacle.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Centre for Cultural Studies (1998-2017)


24 May 2010

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

24 Jun 2010 11:24

Last Modified:

06 Sep 2022 22:03



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