I Want to Create Spectacles: Debord’s the Society of the Spectacle and the Spectacular Stock Market of DeLillo’s Cosmopolis

Purcell, S. (2014) I Want to Create Spectacles: Debord’s the Society of the Spectacle and the Spectacular Stock Market of DeLillo’s Cosmopolis. Protest: University of Glasgow Postgraduate Conference, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK, 28-29 May 2014.

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Linking the terms ‘spectacle’ and ‘speculation’ by virtue of their etymological roots (from the Latin, ‘specere’ – “to look at, view”) this paper re-evaluates the theses of Guy Debord’s seminal situationist text, The Society of the Spectacle [1967], by reading these alongside Don DeLillo’s prescient analysis of stock market speculation, Cosmopolis [2003]. Both works are fundamental critiques of high capitalism. Debord’s text, and the Situationist International more broadly, remains indelibly linked to the protests of May 1968 in France, while DeLillo’s novel is concerned with a very specific moment in the year 2000, when stock market speculation was at its most vertiginous high, that paved the way for the crash of 2008 and, eventually, the Occupy Wall Street movement. This paper argues that Cosmopolis presents a ‘spectacular’ image of the stock market which, through its depiction of speculation, commodities, time, and technology, is emblematic of the key critiques of The Society of the Spectacle. Although this paper underlines the continued relevance of Debord’s theses, it also proposes that DeLillo’s critique of stock market speculation is essentially incomplete in that it fails to provide a viable counternarrative to the financial and technological upheaval of high capitalism. Cosmopolis therefore diverges from The Society of the Spectacle’s assertion that revolution and change are accomplishable through protest, and ultimately suggests that the novel is no longer an appropriate tool for critiquing contemporary society.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Purcell, Mr Stuart
Authors: Purcell, S.
Subjects:B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
N Fine Arts > NE Print media
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
College/School:University Services > Learning and Teaching Services Division

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