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People who talk about revolution sticker


The classic situationist quote from Raoul Vaneigm.

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People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive in the refusal of constraints, such people have a corpse in their mouth”



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“those who speak of revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive in the refusal of constraints, such people have a corpse in their mouth.”

– Raoul Vaneigem, The Revolution of Everyday Life

I wrote the following chapters about the above sentence. I argue that only by understanding precisely what is subversive about love, can we escape the dominion of the spectacle. I undertook this project because the idea of pairing love and revolution attracts me – I find it erotic in a disgustingly intellectual sort of way. I sought to analyze the work with regard to love, and to present the elements of his philosophy that I felt were relevant to love alongside with my own experiences with the subject.

As far as Vaneigem’s ideas on how to escape the spectacle – his harsh critiques of bourgeois life, religion, reformism, and basically everything else – I have tried to withhold critical judgement. I have not undertaken a critique of his economic philosophy, his interpretation of Hegel, or his artistic criticism; I know nothing about those fields. As far the issue of Vaneigem’s originality, I defer to the author’s own words: “I am not trying to launch novelties on the culture market. One tiny adjustment in what is essential has much greater important than one hundred incidental improvements” (Vaneigem 17).

The work I present here is a reading of the interplay in Vaneigem among love, revolution, and the status quo – an explanation of “what is subversive about love” and an elucidation of “the reconstruction of life; rebuilding the world; one and the same thing”.

Much has been written about the Situationists in recent years, and much of what has been written has been unsatisfactory. I intend to investigate and re-apply both the theory and the essence of the Situationist critique, thereby preserving both the critical edge and edgy attitude that make Situationist books so delightful. My goal is to perform an analysis of the text that does not stray from the realm of everyday life, and in doing so, to perform a critique of everyday life along Vaneigem’s lines. Central to this project is the question of the development of the spectacle today – has the spectacle developed too far for us to challenge it, or is there still room to squirm out from under its embrace? I answer, with Vaneigem, No! Verily, there is no longer any coherent political solution – the violence of modern society is too great. But on the level of daily life, of daily love, there exist a million opportunities for subversion. We must move from a focus on political events to the guerilla war of everyday life – to counteracting the poison of the spectacle in our everyday thoughts and relationships, to pushing back the colonizers. And the main tool in the guerilla war of everyday life is everyday love, that much maligned emotion, which we only comprehend in its spectacular incarnations.

As such, I devote this thesis to specifying and extolling the virtues of love as a revolutionary force; a force in whose essential realization lies the downfall of the commodity-spectacle economy, because of its very exile. I first rescue love from spectacularization and redefine it in a revolutionary context. I then examine each of love’s revolutionary layers in turn, over the three primary chapters of the thesis. Those who wish to acquaint themselves with other Situationist ideas, related but not essential, may consult the appendices. I highly recommend the footnotes – they were my favorite part.

Before proceeding, I’d like to discuss the act of writing a book such Vaneigem’s, a treatise and manual on revolution. Vaneigem takes the time to clarify his intent is not a pedagogical one, but merely one step in his own revolutionary struggle. I reprint his disclaimer in full (Vaneigem 111-112):

“If I write, it is not, as they say, ‘for others’. I have no wish to exorcise other people’s ghosts. I string words together as a way of getting out of the well of isolation, because I need others to pull me out. I write out of impatience, and with impatience. I want to live without dead time. What other people say interests me only in as much as it concerns me directly. They must use me to save themselves just as I use them to save myself. We have a common project. But it is out of the question that the project of the whole man should entail a reduction in individuality. There are no degrees in castration. The apolitical violence of the young, and its contempt for the interchangeable goods displayed in the supermarkets of culture, art, and ideology, are a concrete confirmation of the fact that the individual’s self-realization depends on the application of the principle of ‘every man for himself’, though this has to be understood in collective terms – and above all in radical terms.

At that stage in a piece of writing where people used to look for explanations, I would like them from now on to find a settling of scores.”

This paragraph, which I read as poetry, allows me to see the Revolution of Everyday Life as memoir in addition to tract.

For I too wish upon the reader a small degree of discomfort when reading the following pages. In my view, the discomfort most people will feel – the discomfort I felt when reading The Revolution of Everyday Life – is the discomfort of having one’s life on the examining table, poked, prodded, scoffed and spit upon. Vaneigem is not about a revolution by halves – there are numerous points in the book when he claims lives lived in certain ways are not worth living at all. Indubitably, your life is one of those. The important realization – after which you will experience a similar discomfort in a more radical way – is that Vaneigem criticizes nobody’s life but his own. Vaneigem is exorcising his own ghosts, cross-examining his own will to live, and analyzing his own failures. All the criticisms he makes are criticisms of his own life. Hence, the discomfort we feel when reading his book is the discomfort of realizing how similar our lives are to his – as we overcome the general isolation and find community with Vaneigem. Similarly, the examples I use all come from my own life and my own failures – constraints I have needlessly obeyed, mediations I have accepted for years, ideologies I am still seduced by. When you read, your discomfort will be in proportion to our similarity. Such a similarity, though desperate, does wonders to fight the isolation we have internalized throughout our lives under the alibi of individualism. In empathizing with my critique, you make it your own.

One last note. I write this book to budding radicals, to people who have that angst, those nebulous grievances against authority, the spirit of freedom deep within their fiery bellies. To revolutionaries in potentialis: and, as with most important words in this text, I – not Webster’s – chose the definitions. Because language too is a power structure, and to use another’s language is to let another rule. When I write revolutionary, I intend the personal over the political meaning. Black and red flags flutter nicely in the wind, and I look to them on certain holidays (perhaps), but I find the everyday social interactions with the people and environment around me much more important: the gas station is the real revolutionary theatre.

The current tide of disenfranchisement may find you asking yourself, “What can I do?” You may ask yourself, “Do I have any power?” You may ask yourself, “What is activism?” And, you may ask yourself, “How do I work this?” I believe the traditional wardens of free society – teachers, big corporations, governments, judges, priests – sing unanimously in their chorus of conformity, a long reverberation of negativity: You are powerless, you must adapt to the system, and if you somehow feel the need to make minor changes to our system, you have to assume the framework of the system from within.

For me, getting past the negativity and the cynicism is the first, revolutionary, step. The next is the understanding that any kind of political or worldly change is ultimately about love. My first instinct was to write ‘ultimately about people’, and the love of people, but I think it would be a failure to write a tract that doesn’t at least throw a bone to the environment and the war being raged for its destruction. I’m sure the statistics I don’t know speak for themselves.

And sometimes you may despair as I do when I write ‘never’, ‘always’, and ‘totality’. But you must keep in mind, as I try to, that cynicism and inevitability hypotheses get us nowhere – I wrote the following words and paragraphs and pages out of love, and the point of my writing it is to provide hope for myself in this crazy world, and perhaps for you, too.

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