With and Against: the Situationist International in the Age of Automation

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    Dominique Routhier

    Publisher: Verso

    Year: 2023

    Format: Paperback

    Size: 273 pages

    ISBN: 9781804292556

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The little-known story of the Situationist International’s struggle against the automation of everyday life

No other art movement has so profoundly influenced radical politics as the Situationist International. But beyond the clichés about its purported leader Guy Debord, the "society of the spectacle," détournement and dérive, lies a more complex story about key historical shifts in the composition of capital, work, labor, art, and revolutionary theory during the 1950s and 60s.

With and Against reframes the history of the Situationist International as a struggle to come to terms with the then-emerging ideologies of cybernetics and automation. Through each of the book's four chapters, Dominique Routhier dissects Situationist pamphlets, documents, artworks, and objects that refract elements of a "cybernetic hypothesis": the theoretically hyperbolic belief that technological progress, computers and automation make class struggle and the idea of revolution obsolete.

With equal attention to aesthetic detail and to the broader contours of political economy, this book serves as a critical intervention in art history as well a call to reconsider, more broadly, the contemporary lessons of the most political of all artistic avantgardes.

What People Are Saying

"Evincing a breathtaking command of the broader historical context that informed the rise of the Situationist International during the age of automation and the birth of cybernetics, Dominique Routhier's innovative analysis transcends the discipline of art history, allowing us to link early 20thcentury avant-garde struggles against the alienated separation of art and labour with all the nuances of the SI imperative. Given our anxieties today about the impact of Artificial Intelligence on labour and art, Routhier's study could not be more timely." Abigail Susik, Willamette University, author of Surrealist Sabotage and the War on Work

"The situationists once described themselves as racing against the police for control of the technologies of modern conditioning. In With and Against, Dominique Routhier provides us with a stunningly insightful commentary on that race's progress over the course of the 1950s and '60s, from the rooftop of Le Corbusier's apartment block in Marseille to the classrooms of Nanterre's university. Drawing our attention to the SI's previously neglected struggle over the postwar world's latest "science of control and communications," cybernetics, he argues persuasively that this last avant-garde of the 20th century was precociously engaged with a key technology of the 21st. With and Against is a vital contribution, not only to our understanding of the SI, but also of our own moment as it has been shaped by the "cybernetic hypothesis."" Tom McDonough, Professor of Art History at Binghamton University, Author of "The Beautiful Language of My Century": Reinventing the Language of Contestation in Postwar France, 1945–1968

"Dominique Routhier has written a hugely important work of historical retrieval combining theoretical finesse with important archival findings supplying us with a new understanding of the Situationists' anti-artistic and anti-political endeavor. With and Against maps the emergence of the cybernetic paradigm and a whole new ensemble of forms of domination the Situationists fought fiercely against. These forms of domination have only been further augmented and we have unfinished revolutionary business to do. Routhier's book is both a pivotal contribution to the historical analysis of the Situationist project as well as a necessary tool in the coming struggles against an ever-refined architecture of separation." Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen, Professor of Political Aesthetics, University of Copenhagen

"Routhier's freshly researched account of the beginnings and elaboration of the SI across Europe offers detailed insight at amolecular level into the last and most radical iteration of the avant-garde, setting it into dialectical relation with the emergence of a technocratic society of control. Attending to the co emergence of automation and computing as forms of capitalist social subsumption, With and Against proposes a sense of what motivated the SI's specific gestures, tactics and language. This is no simple social context, but a historicist theory of forms of real resistance against the runaway autonomy and indifference of capital to social relations in a proto digitalized world hostile to human human freedom." Jaleh Mansoor, University of British Columbia, author of Marshall Plan Modernism: Italian Postwar Abstraction and the Beginnings of Autonomia, published by Duke University Press (September 2016)

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