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The theory of the spectacle and the Marxist learning of Guy Debord

Grant number: 14/20813-9
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctorate
Effective date (Start): June 01, 2015
Effective date (End): September 21, 2016
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Sociology - Sociology of Knowledge
Cooperation agreement: Coordination of Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES)
Principal researcher:Ricardo Musse
Grantee:Gabriel Ferreira Zacarias
Home Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Associated scholarship(s):15/23316-9 - Guy Debord and French Marxism, BE.EP.PD


This research aims to clarify Guy Debord's rapport to the philosophy of Karl Marx and to the French Marxist debate of the post-war years. Debord had been initially a vanguard artist, moving later to the theoretical and political debate to elaborate his own critical theory, the theory of the spectacle, which he presented in his main oeuvre The Society of the Spectacle (1967). Nowadays, Debord's theory is currently solicited in academic debate, but frequently out of context, especially in Brazil where studies about Debord are still rare. To properly understand Debord's thought, it is important to consider his unusual trajectory and his autodidactic learning, and in particular his appropriation of Marxist's concepts. The objective of this research is precisely to elucidate Debord's Marxist learning, taking into account the mediation of French Marxism and the theoretical debate of 1950-1960. In order to do that, we intend to study not solely Debord's published texts, but also his unpublished reading notes that are conserved at the "Fonds Guy Debord" at Bibliothèque nationale de France. Through this rich documentation we can study in detail Debord's relationship to the texts of Karl Marx and to that of other Marxists authors of his time, which should allow us to draw a genealogy of his own theory. After clarifying how Debord is connected to a philosophical tradition and to a specific intellectual debate, we should be able to better understand how he re-elaborates Marxist thought to explain the transformations of advanced capitalist society and its configuration as a "society of the spectacle". (AU)

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