22 May 2021

Jappe—Debord—Unfulfilled Wishes

Anselm Jappe
Guy Debord (1993)
trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (1999)
...the Situationist criticism of the work of art is curiously reminiscent of the psychoanalytical account, according to which such productions are the sublimation of unfulfilled wishes. For the Situationists, inasmuch as progress had removed all obstacles to the realization of desires, art had lost its function, which was in any case subordinate to desires themselves. (70)
This is a comparison I would not have thought to make, perhaps because psychoanalysis is calibrated toward individual psychology (note lower case) whereas the Situationists often spoke in the broadest (i.e. social/societal) terms. It is thus not clear to me that such a comparison achieves much besides highlighting a common concern with desire. It should therein be kept in mind that cultural production Beyond Necessity does not necessarily entail anything quite rising to the level of "desire" per se; also that it is not quite so easy to compartmentalize the Necessary and the Cultural: if food must be gathered no matter what, there will nonetheless be a different gait (dare I say aesthetic?) to each gatherer.

AJ appropriately labels this critique "debatable," which, channeling psychoanalysis again, is a cue to consider motive. If "the further culture advanced, the more doubt it was obliged to cast on its own social role," (70) then it is but a small step from there to a comprehensive value system (or Revolutionary Program, if you insist) which privileges not only the ultimate Revolution but also what can only be called a certain primitivism vis-a-vis culture prior to its later "advance."

[from a post-it, 2017 or 2018]

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