Political and Artistic Radicalism in the 20th Century: A Situationist Solution for an International Value Conflict

  • Oana Serban
Keywords: Situationism, avant-gardes, commodity fetishism, detour, alienation, capitalism, cultural criticism, derive, society of spectacle, Guy Debord, neo-Marxism


At 50 years from May ’68 and 150 years from the moment when Marx’s Capital was published, revisiting the Situationist International appears to be one of the most urgent tasks that any attentive observer of the effects of the French “intellectual revolution” must fulfil in order to explain the cultural synchronicities and mutual interdependencies between the European (Leftist) cultural revolutions of the 20th century. On the one hand, the S.I. explicitly aimed to overcome the collapse of May ’68, considered an aborted and failed revolution, by engaging a radical agenda for the reformation of the so-called “society of the spectacle”, ideologically framed by Debord. On the other hand, in the light of the Thesis and the multiple manifestos that the S.I. movement developed as a cultural program, the ex-partisans of Lettrism conceived their social and political  measures, supported by artistic productions, as an intended and necessary radicalization of capitalist detours, at the end of which society emerges from “constructed lived situations” through which individuals can resist to alienation and to the consequences of commodity fetishism that expresses the mediation of social relations through consumption objects. There through, in the first part of my article I will explain the manner in which the S.I. ideologically puzzled a set of objectives, concepts and methods inspired by the Marxist thought and the May ’68 program, as main coordinates that prepare the axiological radicalization developed by Situationism as a two folded-process of political and artistic radicalism. The second part of this research endeavours to reframe the cultural and artistic coordinates of Situationism in order to explain it as one of the last and, arguably, most politicized, avant-gardes of the 20th century.