Situationist-City - The strange respectability of the...

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The strange respectability of the Situationist City in the Society of the Spectacle. Erik Swyngedouw School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford University, Mansfield Road, Oxford OX1 3TB, UK e-mail: [email protected] tel: 00-44-(0)1865-271901 Toute la vie des sociétés dans lesquelles règnent les conditions modernes de production s’annonce comme une immense accumulation de spectacles . Tout ce qui était directement vécu s’est éloigné dans une représentation (1 st thesis of La Société du Spectacle (Debord, 1967)). Over the past few years, Situationism, the Situationist City and related 1960s urban cultural, architectural and political movements have gained renewed cultural, scholarly, and activist attention. A plethora of new and re-edited books and collections have been published and a series of prestigious exhibitions have been staged 1 . This review critically engages with the regained ‘respectability’ of what was once revolutionary, anti-establishment, anarcho-marxist, and radically transformative movements. This essay engages particularly with the present re-invention of the 1 In addition to the books referred to below, see, among many others, Beaudrillard (2001); Blazwick (1989); Bonnett (1989); Sussman (1989); Various (1989); Plant (1992); Jappe (1993; 1999); Andreotti and Costa (1996); Pinder (1996; 2000); Gray (1998); Edwards (2000). Or the string of recent prestigious exhibitions celebrating the Situationists’ urban explorations in, among others, Barcelona, Paris, London, New York, Boston, and The Hague.
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Situationist Movement and argues that this re-discovery of the ‘Situationist City’ celebrates an intellectualised, aestheticised and de-politicised version that is particularly obvlious to the political and revolutionary theories and programmatic liberatory urban agenda that underpinned the Situationist Movement. We shall attempt to re-connect this rediscovery of the Situtationists and their urban imaginations to the profound theoretical and political insights, particularly those of Guy Debord, that developed in tandem with their concern with the production of a new way of living, one that revolved squarely around recapturing the urban. The concrete expressions of the living spatial practices that Debord and the Situationists considered to form the germs of a different form of urbanism reside not in the stale academic re-edition of past texts, even less so in scholarly accounts of the ‘Situationist City’, but in the proliferating number of active re-possessions and consciouss real and symbolic reconstructions of every day urban spaces and practices of the kind we have seen mushrooming lately in my many parts of the world. Few will remember that the inflatable chairs and sofas that one can buy these
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Situationist-City - The strange respectability of the...

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