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Re: Habermas and Debord

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  • timotheu1971
    Matt I have read some of the Habermas s books but I didn t read TCA yet. Perhaps my partial understanding of Habermas is the reason why I don t know of any
    Message 1 of 4 , Nov 11, 2006
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      Matt

      I have read some of the Habermas's books but I didn't read TCA yet. Perhaps my partial understanding of Habermas is the reason why I don't know of any reference that he might have made to Debord.

      However, I suppose that Habermas would disagree with at least two aspects of Debord's Spectacle theory. At same time I see two quasi- similarities between them.

      ----------------------------------

      A1) Whereas Debord placed the proletariat in the position of the macrosubject of history (The Society of Spectacle, 52, 74, 78, 84, 90), Habermas has declared his disbelief in historical macrosubjects and teleology because neither the proletariat nor the civil society can bring a differentiated society under control and at the same time act for it. (pp.282-283 of the chapter 7 of Truth and Justification and p.372 of the chapter 8 of Between Facts and Norms).

      I must confess that I don't clearly understand how Habermas harmonizes this disbelief in macrosubjects with his belief that some minorities can make a society attain a post-conventional level of moral consciousness even if the majority of the society's members remains at a conventional level (Habermas expressed this belief in his interview to Hviid Nielsen in the Spanish translation of the volume of interviews and essays Die nachholende Revolution).

      A2) Whereas Debord believed that the workers's councils could replace both the market and the state in the coordination of the production and distribution of goods (SoS 116-121,179), Habermas from a fallibilistic perspective understands the market as a kind (in my words) of evolutive acquisition of differentiated societies (Chapters 2, 3 and 6 of Autonomy and Solidarity - Verso 1992)

      These two aspects are also connected with the Debord's great refusal to be a reformist. Instead of an ameliorated commodification, he wanted a radical extermination of all commodification (SoS 59, 114, 122, 197, 220). By contrast, Habermas has accepted both the market and the state as long as they don't colonize the lifeworld. Furthermore, Habermas, since Communication and Evolution of Society, has been using his theoretical reconstruction method to update the concepts of historical materialism like you are trying to do with the concept of alienated consumption.

      ------------------------------------

      Despite the differences previously showed, there are quasi- similarities between Debord and Habermas concerning both the thesis of the 1) colonization of the lifeword and the related 2) rationalization of the everyday life (in the rest of this message I will be using lifeword and everyday life as synonyms and I will be using the concept of the lifeword as Habermas has presented in the chapter 4 - Action, speech acts, linguistically mediated interactions and lifeworld - of the Portuguese translation of Nachmetaphysisches Denken).

      B1) SoS exposed the way how the capitalist societies are dominated by the fetishism of commodities that had become the fetishism of images. Debord explicitly admitted that this critique was due to the influence of Lukacs's History and Class Consciousness (SoS, 35 ,112).

      SoS is also a revolutionary critique of the passive everyday life in the consumerist societies. This focus on a passive everyday life was due to Lefebvre's direct influence on Debord. In 1961, Debord , during a lecture on the revolution of everyday life, defined his thesis of " the colonization of the everyday life " (in SoS, 42, he changed the emphasis to social life) as follows:

      "Henri Lefebvre has extended the idea of uneven development so as to characterize everyday life as a lagging sector, out of joint with the historical but not completely cut off from it. I think that one could go so far as to term this level of everyday life a colonized sector. We know that underdevelopment and colonization are interrelated on the level of global economy. Everything suggests that the same thing applies at the level of socioeconomic structure, at the level of praxis. Everyday life, policed and mystified by every means, is a sort of reservation for good natives who keep modern society running without understanding it--this society with its rapid growth of technological powers and the forced expansion of its market. History- -the transformation of reality--cannot presently be used in everyday life because the people of everyday life are the product of a history over which they have no control. It is of course they themselves who make this history, but not freely." (see more at http://library.nothingness.org/articles/SI/en/display/89)

      B2) I don't know what Lefebvre proposed for the transformation of everyday life; however, Debord presented, in the same aforementioned lecture, a vague guide for that transformation. For Debord, everyday life would be underdeveloped because of its inability to invent a technique for the liberation of everyday experience. He added that such liberation could be rationally attained by means of free communication, conscious choice, creativity and self-realization. He also emphasized that the revolutionary movement had to be aware that any conserving of the relations prevailing in the existing society imperceptibly would lead to a reconstitution of one or another variant of this society .

      Thus, though he didn't see the structural differentiation of the Lifeworld into society/culture/personality in the same way that Habermas sees, Debord implicitly recognized the importance of the rationalization of these three structural elements and their respective processes for the symbolic and material transformation of society.

      Weber via Lukacs also affected Debord because in SoS Debord recognized a capitalist economic rationality which had become irrationality (SoS, 72, 108,198). Whereas in Habermas's view the everyday life already is rationalized, Debord saw the everyday life as a place of irrationality (SoS, 217) that could be eliminated by the class of the proletariat who would be the bearer of the true rationality (SoS, 128, 221).

      There is another quasi-similarity in the fact that Debord defined the colonization of the lifeworld also as absence of free communication and Habermas views it as delinguistification, i.e. actions regulated by the communicative rationality are replaced by actions guided by the functionalist rationality of the steering media of money and power. Thus, in my opinion, the functionalist rationality could be almost equated with the spectacular (ir) rationality.

      ----------------------------------------

      C) Though I have only a partial understanding of Habermas's work, I am aware that (a) over the years Habermas has moved his theoretical positions away from the historical materialism and that (b), in the above comparisons, I confronted Habermas's recent formulations with SoS, which was written in 1967. For these reasons, I believe that, even if Habermas in 1967 didn't know of Debord's specific ideas, they might have had more similar ideas then.

      D) For some time Paolo Virno has been proposing a theory of communicative labor. As his theory is complementary to your idea of communication via consumption, I think that the following essay would interest you: http://www.generation-online.org/c/fcimmateriallabour2.htm

      Tim Garcia

      -------------------

      P.S. from Gary Davis: Tim posted the above as 4 short postings “In order to avoid a single and very long message.” I’ve merely combined the four and deleted his comment (quoted here) at the end of the first one indicating that he would post 3 more. The separator lines are the divisions between his postings. I’ve done nothing else to his discussion. THANK YOU, Tim, for your work! I believe that a person would rather receive one long posting than four with the same subject line that looks like 3 mistaken instances of the same posting.

      Tim, if you think YOUR discussion is too long for one posting, you might think I’ve been excessive in past years (if you’ve browsed the archive). But it’s good to have conscientiousness about one’s “time” of speaking, which in text is the space of speaking. In fact, complex issues take space.

      Another way to approach this concern, rather than dividing a single-subject-lined discussion into parts is rather to divide the draft discussion into distinctly titled different sections, each with its own subject line, with a circumspective commentary in the first posting (then posting "[title1] (1 of 4)," etc). That way, a reader can respond to a delimited, thematized focus (which is good for discussion itself) by responding to one of the postings. Of course, one could do that if your postings had been posted as 4; and you could have given each one a different subject line. The “thread” feature of the software also helps, *provided* someone responds with their email software’s “reply” function, rather than initiating a new posting as a reply. But still, the thread either becomes in the archive a series of postings with the same subject line (though multiple original postings are being discussed) or the respondent changes the subject line, and a reader doesn't know it's a thread unless the archive footer information is sought.

      What often happens, though, is that people use the reply function for new topics, and the thread feature becomes misleading. So it goes in the wild west of Internet discussion (though a traffic code is available), which I suppose suits the ephemoral, if not spontaneous, relationship that people have to topics. O, what an unappreciated medium this is.
    • SolaBlueAngel
      ... Debord saw the everyday life as a place of irrationality (SoS, 217) that could be eliminated by the class of the proletariat who would be the bearer of
      Message 2 of 4 , Nov 11, 2006
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        Tim wrote:
        > (timotheu1971 <pessoa@...>)

        "Debord saw the everyday life as a place of irrationality (SoS, 217) that could be eliminated by the class of the proletariat who would be the bearer of the true rationality (SoS, 128, 221)."


        That sure is silly and dang IRRATIONAL. WHO could EVER take that seriously? Has something essential been left out here that might help us comprehend that idea. Most likely you know the expanded version of that concept....what is it? Sola


        SOLABLUEANGEL
      • Matthew Piscioneri
        Tim, thanks for the insightful elaboration on the Habermas/ Debord linkage . I have appreciated your discussion of Debord s work and influences -- he is a
        Message 3 of 4 , Nov 11, 2006
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          Tim,

          thanks for the insightful elaboration on the Habermas/
          Debord "linkage". I have appreciated your discussion of Debord's
          work and influences -- he is a thinker who I am not very familiar
          with, so I find any pointers useful.

          It's possible Debord might have read Habermas's _Structural
          Transformation_. It's also interesting that in the early-1960s there
          was an explosion of media-theory (TV) similar to the 1990s (IT,
          internet).

          Thanks in particular for this:

          >D) For some time Paolo Virno has been proposing a theory of
          >communicative labor. As his theory is complementary to your idea of
          >communication via consumption, I think that the following essay
          >would interest you: http://www.generation-
          >online.org/c/fcimmateriallabour2.htm

          mattP

          --- In habermas@yahoogroups.com, "timotheu1971" <pessoa@...> wrote:
          >
          > Matt
          >
          > I have read some of the Habermas's books but I didn't read TCA
          yet. Perhaps my partial understanding of Habermas is the reason why
          I don't know of any reference that he might have made to Debord.
          >
          > However, I suppose that Habermas would disagree with at least two
          aspects of Debord's Spectacle theory. At same time I see two quasi-
          similarities between them.
          >
          > ----------------------------------
          >
          > A1) Whereas Debord placed the proletariat in the position of the
          macrosubject of history (The Society of Spectacle, 52, 74, 78, 84,
          90), Habermas has declared his disbelief in historical macrosubjects
          and teleology because neither the proletariat nor the civil society
          can bring a differentiated society under control and at the same
          time act for it. (pp.282-283 of the chapter 7 of Truth and
          Justification and p.372 of the chapter 8 of Between Facts and Norms).
          >
          > I must confess that I don't clearly understand how Habermas
          harmonizes this disbelief in macrosubjects with his belief that some
          minorities can make a society attain a post-conventional level of
          moral consciousness even if the majority of the society's members
          remains at a conventional level (Habermas expressed this belief in
          his interview to Hviid Nielsen in the Spanish translation of the
          volume of interviews and essays Die nachholende Revolution).
          >
          > A2) Whereas Debord believed that the workers's councils could
          replace both the market and the state in the coordination of the
          production and distribution of goods (SoS 116-121,179), Habermas
          from a fallibilistic perspective understands the market as a kind
          (in my words) of evolutive acquisition of differentiated societies
          (Chapters 2, 3 and 6 of Autonomy and Solidarity - Verso 1992)
          >
          > These two aspects are also connected with the Debord's great
          refusal to be a reformist. Instead of an ameliorated
          commodification, he wanted a radical extermination of all
          commodification (SoS 59, 114, 122, 197, 220). By contrast, Habermas
          has accepted both the market and the state as long as they don't
          colonize the lifeworld. Furthermore, Habermas, since Communication
          and Evolution of Society, has been using his theoretical
          reconstruction method to update the concepts of historical
          materialism like you are trying to do with the concept of alienated
          consumption.
          >
          > ------------------------------------
          >
          > Despite the differences previously showed, there are quasi-
          similarities between Debord and Habermas concerning both the thesis
          of the 1) colonization of the lifeword and the related 2)
          rationalization of the everyday life (in the rest of this message I
          will be using lifeword and everyday life as synonyms and I will be
          using the concept of the lifeword as Habermas has presented in the
          chapter 4 - Action, speech acts, linguistically mediated
          interactions and lifeworld - of the Portuguese translation of
          Nachmetaphysisches Denken).
          >
          > B1) SoS exposed the way how the capitalist societies are dominated
          by the fetishism of commodities that had become the fetishism of
          images. Debord explicitly admitted that this critique was due to the
          influence of Lukacs's History and Class Consciousness (SoS, 35 ,112).
          >
          > SoS is also a revolutionary critique of the passive everyday life
          in the consumerist societies. This focus on a passive everyday life
          was due to Lefebvre's direct influence on Debord. In 1961, Debord ,
          during a lecture on the revolution of everyday life, defined his
          thesis of " the colonization of the everyday life " (in SoS, 42, he
          changed the emphasis to social life) as follows:
          >
          > "Henri Lefebvre has extended the idea of uneven development so as
          to characterize everyday life as a lagging sector, out of joint with
          the historical but not completely cut off from it. I think that one
          could go so far as to term this level of everyday life a colonized
          sector. We know that underdevelopment and colonization are
          interrelated on the level of global economy. Everything suggests
          that the same thing applies at the level of socioeconomic structure,
          at the level of praxis. Everyday life, policed and mystified by
          every means, is a sort of reservation for good natives who keep
          modern society running without understanding it--this society with
          its rapid growth of technological powers and the forced expansion of
          its market. History- -the transformation of reality--cannot
          presently be used in everyday life because the people of everyday
          life are the product of a history over which they have no control.
          It is of course they themselves who make this history, but not
          freely." (see more at
          http://library.nothingness.org/articles/SI/en/display/89)
          >
          > B2) I don't know what Lefebvre proposed for the transformation of
          everyday life; however, Debord presented, in the same aforementioned
          lecture, a vague guide for that transformation. For Debord, everyday
          life would be underdeveloped because of its inability to invent a
          technique for the liberation of everyday experience. He added that
          such liberation could be rationally attained by means of free
          communication, conscious choice, creativity and self-realization. He
          also emphasized that the revolutionary movement had to be aware that
          any conserving of the relations prevailing in the existing society
          imperceptibly would lead to a reconstitution of one or another
          variant of this society .
          >
          > Thus, though he didn't see the structural differentiation of the
          Lifeworld into society/culture/personality in the same way that
          Habermas sees, Debord implicitly recognized the importance of the
          rationalization of these three structural elements and their
          respective processes for the symbolic and material transformation of
          society.
          >
          > Weber via Lukacs also affected Debord because in SoS Debord
          recognized a capitalist economic rationality which had become
          irrationality (SoS, 72, 108,198). Whereas in Habermas's view the
          everyday life already is rationalized, Debord saw the everyday life
          as a place of irrationality (SoS, 217) that could be eliminated by
          the class of the proletariat who would be the bearer of the true
          rationality (SoS, 128, 221).
          >
          > There is another quasi-similarity in the fact that Debord defined
          the colonization of the lifeworld also as absence of free
          communication and Habermas views it as delinguistification, i.e.
          actions regulated by the communicative rationality are replaced by
          actions guided by the functionalist rationality of the steering
          media of money and power. Thus, in my opinion, the functionalist
          rationality could be almost equated with the spectacular (ir)
          rationality.
          >
          > ----------------------------------------
          >
          > C) Though I have only a partial understanding of Habermas's work,
          I am aware that (a) over the years Habermas has moved his
          theoretical positions away from the historical materialism and that
          (b), in the above comparisons, I confronted Habermas's recent
          formulations with SoS, which was written in 1967. For these reasons,
          I believe that, even if Habermas in 1967 didn't know of Debord's
          specific ideas, they might have had more similar ideas then.
          >
          > D) For some time Paolo Virno has been proposing a theory of
          communicative labor. As his theory is complementary to your idea of
          communication via consumption, I think that the following essay
          would interest you: http://www.generation-
          online.org/c/fcimmateriallabour2.htm
          >
          > Tim Garcia
          >
          > -------------------
          >
          > P.S. from Gary Davis: Tim posted the above as 4 short postings "In
          order to avoid a single and very long message." I've merely combined
          the four and deleted his comment (quoted here) at the end of the
          first one indicating that he would post 3 more. The separator lines
          are the divisions between his postings. I've done nothing else to
          his discussion. THANK YOU, Tim, for your work! I believe that a
          person would rather receive one long posting than four with the same
          subject line that looks like 3 mistaken instances of the same
          posting.
          >
          > Tim, if you think YOUR discussion is too long for one posting, you
          might think I've been excessive in past years (if you've browsed the
          archive). But it's good to have conscientiousness about one's "time"
          of speaking, which in text is the space of speaking. In fact,
          complex issues take space.
          >
          > Another way to approach this concern, rather than dividing a
          single-subject-lined discussion into parts is rather to divide the
          draft discussion into distinctly titled different sections, each
          with its own subject line, with a circumspective commentary in the
          first posting (then posting "[title1] (1 of 4)," etc). That way, a
          reader can respond to a delimited, thematized focus (which is good
          for discussion itself) by responding to one of the postings. Of
          course, one could do that if your postings had been posted as 4; and
          you could have given each one a different subject line. The "thread"
          feature of the software also helps, *provided* someone responds with
          their email software's "reply" function, rather than initiating a
          new posting as a reply. But still, the thread either becomes in the
          archive a series of postings with the same subject line (though
          multiple original postings are being discussed) or the respondent
          changes the subject line, and a reader doesn't know it's a thread
          unless the archive footer information is sought.
          >
          > What often happens, though, is that people use the reply function
          for new topics, and the thread feature becomes misleading. So it
          goes in the wild west of Internet discussion (though a traffic code
          is available), which I suppose suits the ephemoral, if not
          spontaneous, relationship that people have to topics. O, what an
          unappreciated medium this is.
          >
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