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  The Situationist International was a small group of European ultra-radical left-wing thinkers who existed in various fragile combinations from 1957 until 1972. Their most famous participant was Guy Debord, whose book Society of the Spectacle (Debord, 1970) might have been regarded — by a less fractious group — as its manifesto.

Situationism\'s artistic roots lay in surrealism, and its philosophical ones in existentialism (though Debord spat on both). That it has been influential in human geography is chiefly because the situationist analysis of capitalism put space at its centre and accordingly looked to space as one of its chief means of (a fleeting) liberation. For the situationists, the market economy had reached an apogee, including whole areas of everyday life once left out of social and cultural contention: \'There remains nothing which has not been transformed and polluted according to the means and interests of modern industry\' (Debord, 1970). In particular, the production and consumption of things has given way to the production and consumption of images. Hence \'the society of the spectacle\'; \'the spectacle is capital accumulated until it becomes an image\' (Debord, 1970). But it was possible to fight back against this all-consuming monster by creating pockets of disorder and dissonance in the fabric of everyday life which could show the masses their torpid, image-drugged state: \'revolution is the critique of human geography through which individuals and communities have to create places and events suitable for the appropriation of their own history\' (Debord, 1970, p. 23). Thus the situationists developed a number of \'psychogeographic\' technologies like the dérive (\'drifting\') which could produce, however briefly, subversive and irreverent antiauthoritarian spaces in cities by turning art into life, rather than life into art. In other words, they would actively construct \'situations\' (hence \'situationist\').

Though the situationists\' activities were on the political margins, many of their concepts (which were themselves heavily influenced by the work of writers like Breton, Sartre and Lefebvre) and artistic conceits (and, most especially, their slogans, artwork and urban architecture) were incorporated into later analytical frameworks (see cognitive mapping). They have therefore proved more influential beyond their time than in it. (NJT)

References Blazwick, I. 1989: An endless passion: an endless banquet. A situationist scrapbook. London: Verso. Bonnett, A. 1989: Situationism, geography and post of mutualism. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 7: 131-46. Debord, G. 1970: Society of the spectacle. Detroit: Black and Red. Debord, G. 1997: Panégyriques. Paris. Gonzalvez, S. 1997: Guy Debord ou la Beauté du Négatif. Paris: Mille et une Nuits. Marcus, G. 1992: Lipstick traces. A secret history of the twentieth century. London: Secker and Warburg. Pinder, D.A. 1996: Subverting cartography: the situationists and maps of the city. Environment and Planning A 28: 405-28. Plant, S. 1992: The most radical gesture. The situationist international in a postmodern age. London: Routledge. Sussmann, E. 1989: On the passage of a few people through a rather brief moment in time. The Situationist International 1957-1972. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.



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