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200 × 130 × 10 mm
176 pages
20 illustrations
01 Aug 2005
Critical Lives

Guy Debord Andrew Merrifield

Guy Debord (1931-94) was one of the most important and intriguing intellectual figures of the twentieth century. Filmmaker and poet, urban critic and political theorist, adventurer and activist extraordinaire during Paris’s May 1968 uprisings, Debord was simultaneously behind and ahead of his times. Best-known as guru of the avant-garde revolutionary movement the Situationist International (1957-72), and for a classic indictment of post-war capitalist consumerism The Society of the Spectacle (1967), Debord’s life and work remains fascinating to this day. Yet the man himself remained elusive and enigmatic throughout his life. Master urban tactician in the 1950s, political muckraker, organizer and theorist during the 1960s, vagabond throughout the 1970s, fleeing to Spain and Italy, he lived as a recluse during the 1980s and early 1990s in an isolated farmhouse in Champot (Auvergne), behind a high stone wall.

Guy Debord crosses over that Champot wall, pushes back Debord’s shutters and peers through his windows. It crosses his threshold, drinks his wine, and listens to him talk. Andy Merrifield focuses on the particulars of Debord’s life, shedding light on this admirable yet apparently impenetrable figure, a free spirit who was radically at odds with life but at the same time loved many things in it, and thought them worth fighting for. The book reveals the dynamics of the man, his ideas, and his times – which have much to say to our own, equally troubled times. The ideas of Guy Debord, who died only 10 years ago, continue to expose the fragility of our democracy and the mismatch between people and political power today; this book shows that the lessons of Debord are as fresh, subversive, and relevant now as they were forty years ago.

‘Writing a good biography, like Andy Merrifields Guy Debord, requires a balance of humility and hubris . . . I recommend that anyone who reads The Society of the Spectacle also check out this biography . . . Merrifield captures much of what is left unsaid about Debord, the happiness and melancholy that are abstractly present beneath the surface of his political theories.’ — Maximum RocknRoll

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Andy Merrifield is an educator and writer. His books include Dialectical Urbanism: Social Struggles in the Capitalist City (Monthly Review Press, 2002), Metromarxism: A Marxist Tale of the City (Routledge, 2002) Guy Debord (Reaktion Books, 2005), Magical Marxism (2011) and John Berger (Reaktion, 2012).

1. Eyes for Blowing Up Bridges
2. The Café of Lost Youth
3. It Never Said Anything Extreme
4. Aesthete of Subversion
5. I am Not Somebody Who Corrects Himself
6. Land of Storms
Select Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements