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Title: The Situationist International : a case study of its contribution to political theory
Author: Barnard, Adam Macleod
ISNI:       0000 0001 3445 5810
Awarding Body: Nottingham Trent University
Current Institution: Nottingham Trent University
Date of Award: 2002
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The originality of the thesis is advanced in a number of ways. The first is to examine the S.I.'s contribution to political theory. This thesis is original as it is a political reading of the Situationists and this has primacy. It focuses on key political concepts and considers the contribution to these concepts by the Situationists. The discussion locates the S.I. firmly in a tradition of Marxist and existential thought. They were avowedly Marxist and this commitment needs to be emphasised in their political theory. Brau (1968: 55) clearly identifies Marxism as a central focus that underpins all other influences on the S.I.'s thought. This thesis redresses the misreading of the S.I. as artistic or as drawing from a legacy of other traditions. In addition, the thesis assesses the contribution to political theory by examining the theoretical intellectual inheritors of the Situationists. Chapter One charts the history of the Situationists and conceptualises the nature of political theory used in the thesis. Methodologically, the Chapter argues a depth hermeneutic is appropriate for this investigation. This has the advantage of requiring a social and historical contextualisation, performed in Chapters Two and Six, combined with a discursive reading, in Chapters Three, Four and Five. This investigation reconstructs the Situationists' political theory as a Situationist Manifesto. The reading developed of the S.I.'s work is a reinterpretation against purely cultural, artistic, post-modern or depohticised accounts. Chapter Two surveys the challenges of modernisation in post-war France. The Situationists responded to the challenges of economic modernisation, decolonisation, cultural Americanisation by focusing on everyday life and the city. The intellectual context in which they worked was in dialogue with, but an extension of, the political theory of 'Socialisme ou Barbarie', 'Arguments' and 'Les Temps Modernes'. The Marxist conception of alienation and the existential concept of authenticity are central to drat context. Chapter Three examines the Situationists' use of alienation. Discussion of the Situationists' contribution argues they extend the analysis of Hegel, Marx and Lukacs through Debord's spectacle thesis and Vaneigem's 'survivalism'. The change in the commodity form and modes of living, the nature of the spectacle, and the diffuse and concentrated spectacle are Debord's contribution. Loss of communication, participation and self-realisation requiring a reversal of perspective are Vaneigem's contribution. Chapter Four examines the existential influence through authenticity, arguing a political theory of authenticity is the transposition of alienation to disalienation. The construction of situations and self-management are the strategies the S.I. promoted to live authentically. Chapter Five addresses the notion of totality in the Situationists' political theory. In dialogue with Sartre, their views on unitary urbanism, art, language, consciousness and everyday hfe are elaborated. The S.I. presents the totality of 'hfe' against the totality of the spectacle where 'situations' hold the possibility for communication, participation and selfrealisation. Chapter Six positions the S.I. in relation to May 1968 and argues the events were revolt against the spectacle. Street graffiti is used to reconstruct a Situationist Manifesto and articulate their political theory. In conclusion, the argument is made that the S.I.'s spectacular political theory retains urgent contemporary relevance, is a resource to challenge de-politicised accounts of their political theory, and provides a productive political theory for the future.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Marxism