Mr Eric-John Russell

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Research project: Why Everything Is as It Seems: Hegelian Speculation in Guy Debord's Concept of the Society of the Spectacle

Abstract

My dissertation examines the work of French postwar Marxist Guy Debord, author of TheSociety of the Spectacle (1967) and leading theoretician of the Situationist International.Specifically, my dissertation investigates the Hegelian thought at work in Debord's theory ofthe spectacle and how Debord's work remains an unacknowledged extension of the ideas ofCritical Theory as developed by Adorno. At its core, Debord's theory of the spectacle is alogic of commensurability, an identity of and within difference between subject and object,production and consumption, state and economy, spectator and spectacle. Historicallygrounded within the principle of commodity exchange which reproduces withoutextinguishing the qualitative distinction of both human activity and its products in a relationof abstract equality, the spectacle is for Debord a social structure of unity-in-separation,modeled on elements of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit and Science of Logic, which givesspeculative truth and identity to seeming dualities and antinomies, most notably betweenessence and appearance. This is the speculative nature of the spectacle. Its autonomous andreified logic gives credence to the manifold social phenomena that, in his book, Deborddescribes with critical and conceptual continuity under the multivalent category of thespectacle as a peculiar form of social domination that has developed within 20th centurycapitalism. My dissertation as a whole pulls Debord away from the discourses in which he isnormally situated, such as media studies and avant-garde art history, and instead examineshis work within the lineage of German Idealism, Left Hegelianism and Hegelian Marxism.

  • Research degree: PhD
  • Title of project: Why Everything Is as It Seems: Hegelian Speculation in Guy Debord's Concept of the Society of the Spectacle
  • Research supervisor: Professor Peter Osborne
  • Other research supervisor: Professor Peter Hallward

Biography

I am a doctoral candidate at the Centre for Research in Modern Europe Philosophy in London. My dissertation examines the ways in which elements of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit and Science of Logic, together with Marx's critique of political economy, appear within Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle.

Areas of research interest

  • German Idealism
  • Critical Theory
  • Marxism
  • Classical and Heterodox Political Economy
  • Aesthetics

Qualifications

  • MA in Philosophy at the New School for Social Research, the New School, New York
  • MA in Critical Theory and the Arts at the School of Visual Arts, New York