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--American Heritage Dictionary

Guy Debord on consumerism [...]

The satisfaction that no longer comes from using the commodities produced in abundance is now sought through recognition of their value as commodities. Consumers are filled with religious fervor for the sovereign freedom of commodities whose use has become an end in itself. Waves of enthusiasm for particular products are propagated by all the communications media. A film sparks a fashion craze; a magazine publicizes night spots which in turn spin off different lines of products. The proliferation of faddish gadgets reflects the fact that as the mass of commodities becomes increasingly absurd, absurdity itself becomes a commodity. Trinkets such as key chains which come as free bonuses with the purchase of some luxury product, but which end up being traded back and forth as valued collectibles in their own right, reflect a mystical self-abandonment to commodity transcendence. Those who collect the trinkets that have been manufactured for the sole purpose of being collected are accumulating commodity indulgences — glorious tokens of the commodity’s real presence among the faithful. Reified people proudly display the proofs of their intimacy with the commodity. Like the old religious fetishism, with its convulsionary raptures and miraculous cures, the fetishism of commodities generates its own moments of fervent exaltation. All this is useful for only one purpose: producing habitual submission. --Guy Debord, 1967

Image as commodity

Guy Debord was the spokesperson for the Situationists International, social critics who, in the 1960s, were the first to suggest that image was the real commodity in our society and that image would replace more traditional goods in the economy of the future. To understand image as commodity, just consider the entire world of television -- from the advertisers conflating their every product with sex, to the stars, their PR firms, and the gossip industry that makes them who we think they are. Also consider the consumer of television images and what he or she is purchasing from the couch. The Situationist concept of the "society of the spectacle" -- in which living is replaced by viewing -- maps perfectly to our culture of virtuality. The Situationists might be considered partly responsible for the smug superiority and intolerance of today's politically correct. --R.U. Sirius

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