A general shift from having to appearing

From Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle (section 17).  The translation is Ken Knabb’s.

The first stage of the economy’s domination of social life brought about an evident degradation of being into having – human fulfillment was no longed equated with what one was, but with what one possessed.  The present stage, in which social life has become completely dominated by the accumulated production 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.  At the same time all individual reality has become social, in the sense that it is shaped by social forces and is directly dependent on them.  Individual reality is allowed to appear only if it is not actually real.

La première phase de la domination de l’économie sur la vie sociale avait entraîné dans la définition de toute réalisation humaine une évidente dégradation de l’être en avoir. La phase présente de l’occupation totale de la vie sociale par les résultats accumulés de l’économie conduit à un glissement généralisé de l’avoir au paraître, dont tout « avoir » effectif doit tirer son prestige immédiat et sa fonction dernière. En même temps toute réalité individuelle est devenue sociale, directement dépendante de la puissance sociale, façonnée par elle. En ceci seulement qu’elle n’est pas, il lui est permis d’apparaître.

However much I’m inclined to think Debord often fails to recognize or simply suppresses the diachronic truth of his analysis – e.g. that even with our limited evidence of Roman culture no close reader of Juvenal can fail to recognize similarities with the framework Debord constructs – I cannot help admire how he consistently reads as a fifty year early analysis of the ills of Instagram.

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