Born in Manchester, England, Donald Nicholson-Smith is a longtime resident of New York City. A sometime Situationist (1965-67), he has translated Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle (Zone) and Henri Lefebvre's The Production of Space (Blackwell), as well as works by Guillaume Apollinaire, Antonin Artaud, Jean-Patrick Manchette, Thierry Jonquet, Paco Ignacio Taibo II, etc. His film work includes the English-language version of René Viénet's anti-Maoist classic Peking Duck Soup (1977).
Letters to My Children and the Children of the World to Come
Author: Raoul Vaneigem • Afterword: John Holloway • Translator: Donald Nicholson-Smith
Publisher: PM Press
Page count: 128
Readers of Vaneigem’s now-classic work The Revolution of Everyday Life, which as one of the main contributions of the Situationist International was a herald of the May 1968 uprisings in France, will find much to challenge them in these pages written in the highest idiom of subversive utopianism.
Some thirty-five years after the May “events,” this short book poses the question of what kind of world we are going to leave to our children. “How could I address my daughters, my sons, my grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” wonders Vaneigem, “without including all the others who, once precipitated into the sordid universe of money and power, are in danger, even tomorrow, of being deprived of the promise of a life that is undeniably offered at birth as a gift with nothing expected in return?”
Letters to My Children provides a clear-eyed survey of the critical predicament into which the capitalist system has now plunged the world, but at the same time, in true dialectical fashion, and “far from the media whose job it is to ignore them,” Vaneigem discerns all the signs of “a new burgeoning of life forces among the younger generations, a new drive to reinstate true human values, to proceed with the clandestine construction of a living society beneath the barbarity of the present and the ruins of the Old World.”
“In this fine book, the Situationist author, whose writings fueled the fires of May 1968, sets out to pass down the foundational ideals of his struggle against the seemingly all-powerful fetishism of the commodity and in favor of the force of human desire and the sovereignty of life.”
—Jean Birnbaum, Le Monde
“A startling and invigorating restatement for the present ghastly era of humanity’s choice: socialism or barbarism.”
—Dave Barbu, Le Nouveau Père Duchesne
Author: Anselm Jappe • Translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith • Foreword by T.J. Clark
Publisher: PM Press
Page count: 224
Subjects: Biography / Politics
This is the first and best intellectual biography of Guy Debord, prime mover of the Situationist International (1957–1972) and author of The Society of the Spectacle , perhaps the seminal book of the May 1968 uprising in France. Anselm Jappe offers a powerful corrective to the continual attempts to incorporate Debord's theoretical work into “French theory.” Jappe's focuses, to the contrary, on Debord's debt to the Hegelian-Marxist tradition, to Karl Korsch and Georg Lukács, and more generally to left-Marxist currents of council communism. His close reading of Debord's magnum opus supplies a superb gloss that has never been rivaled despite the great flood of writing on the Situationists in recent decades.
At the same time, Debord is placed squarely in context among the Letterist and Situationist anti-artists who, in the aftermath of World War II, sought to criticize and transcend the legacy of Dada and Surrealism. Jappe's book offers a lively account of the Situationists' theory and practice as this “last avant-garde” made its way from radical bohemianism to revolutionary agitprop.
Guy Debord has been translated into many languages. This PM reprint edition benefits from a new author's preface and a bibliographical update.
“A clear-headed account . . . far and away the best we have so far.”
—Times Literary Supplement
“The only book on Debord in either French or English that can be unreservedly recommended . . . particularly useful for its extensive treatment of the Marxian connection that is usually ignored in culture-oriented accounts of the Situationists.”
—Ken Knabb, editor of Situationist International Anthology
“Jappe successfully gets to grips with the content of Debord's and the SI's activity in a way that is accessible and doesn't require a vast amount of prior knowledge or an extensive vocabulary of obscure jargon in order to understand it. Debord has got a somewhat undeserved reputation for having an impenetrable and complex writing style—a myth which Jappe goes a long way towards refuting by examining the major concepts in Society of the Spectacle and other works, and putting them in the context of a wider historical basis and in terms of the SI as a whole.”
—Do or Die
“Political writing is always instrumental as well as utopian. Debord's is no exception. Only sometimes writing has to reconcile itself to the idea that its time of instrumentality—its time as a weapon—lies a little in the future. Jappe's book is true to its subject, above all, because it reads Debord, and helps us read him, with that future in mind.”
—T.J. Clark, from the Foreword
Buy book now | Download e-book now | Read reviews | Back to top
Translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith
Publisher: PM Press
Published October 2012
Page Count: 288 Pages
Size: 9 by 6
Subjects: Politics, Philospohy
Originally published just months before the May 1968 upheavals in France, Raoul Vaneigem's The Revolution of Everyday Life offered a lyrical and aphoristic critique of the "society of the spectacle" from the point of view of individual experience. Whereas Debord's masterful analysis of the new historical conditions that triggered the uprisings of the 1960s armed the revolutionaries of the time with theory, Vaneigem's book described their feelings of desperation directly, and armed them with "formulations capable of firing point-blank on our enemies."
"I realise," writes Vaneigem in his introduction, "that I have given subjective will an easy time in this book, but let no one reproach me for this without first considering the extent to which the objective conditions of the contemporary world advance the cause of subjectivity day after day."
Vaneigem names and defines the alienating features of everyday life in consumer society: survival rather than life, the call to sacrifice, the cultivation of false needs, the dictatorship of the commodity, subjection to social roles, and above all the replacement of God by the Economy. And in the second part of his book, "Reversal of Perspective," he explores the countervailing impulses that, in true dialectical fashion, persist within the deepest alienation: creativity, spontaneity, poetry, and the path from isolation to communication and participation.
For "To desire a different life is already that life in the making." And "fulfillment is expressed in the singular but conjugated in the plural."
The present English translation was first published by Rebel Press of London in 1983. This new edition of The Revolution of Everyday Life has been reviewed and corrected by the translator and contains a new preface addressed to English-language readers by Raoul Vaneigem. The book is the first of several translations of works by Raoul Vaneigem that PM Press plans to publish in uniform volumes. Vaneigem's classic work is to be followed by The Knight, the Lady, the Devil, and Death (2003) and The Inhumanity of Religion (2000).
Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Read Reviews | Return to top
For a calendar of speaking events, please click here
- Money, Sex and Power: On a Sham Biography of Guy Debord
Our age is the first in world history to claim as its sole enemies those that it manufactures itself, on its own terms and for its own spectacular purposes. Projecting all its characteristic infamy and brutality onto these simulated foes, it claims to oppose them resolutely; for as long as it needs to convince the electorate, it even pretends to take up arms against such fake enemies, which it portrays as evil and to which it lends the features of an Osama bin Laden or an Islamic State.
Boredom is always Counter-Revolutionary: Donald Nicholson-Smith and Iain Boal @ CIIS
by Steven Gray
Mar 5, 2013
Iain Boal was a smooth moderator, choosing his words carefully. At the same time he would throw in quick and quiet asides that could be devastating. During a discussion of The Long Now - a 10,000 year perspective (according to Stewart Brand) – he noted it was similar to the Department of Defense estimates for the storage of atomic waste. At another point he threw off a phrase about the “valium-soaked suburbs.” He teaches sometimes at U.C. Berkeley, and the next time he is there I want to sit in on a class.
Nicholson-Smith mentioned the necessity of “historical memory.” Having such a perspective is downright subversive when the authorities want us to slip into amnesia with the aid of pharmaceuticals. We should never forget what has happened, what we have witnessed, including the crimes of the Cheney/Bush administration. When someone in a conservative think-tank (Fukuyama) postulates “the end of history,” there is probably another prison being built.