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The Situationists and the City
Book Review by Andy Ridley, March 2010
Edited by Tom McDonough, Verso, £14.99
This book is an anthology taken from Situationist International.
It ran from 1958 to 1969 and the revolutionary ideas that came from its pages played a significant role in the great events of May 1968 in France. The Situationists were predominantly artists, urban planners, architects and other intellectuals. Their influence internationally is still felt today by activists keen to make radical, political and artistic interventions in the world.
After the Second World War the two great cultural tendencies of the left - Modernism and Surrealism - had lost their subversive edge. Modernist architectural ideals for communal living were being used to justify tower block prisons and plastic conformity. Surrealism's search to define unconscious desires was becoming the wet dream of the ad man and the curator.
For the Situationists the two defining commodities were the car and standardised housing. These represented the separation of work from home - production from consumption. Alienation strangles our creative potential to live, work and play together.
The Situationists wanted liberation from this. They attempted to fuse the best of Marxism and Surrealism and looked to the working class as the agent of liberation.
Although to some extent the Situationists represent the politics of substitutionism, you will be inspired by this book. Rage and desire drip from every page.
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