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9. Yet Another Introduction to the Situationist International . . . Bill Brown

1). THE SITUATIONIST INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZED and conducted itself as an avant garde group, indeed, as if it were going to be the very last of this century's many avant garde groups. Though it was militant about maintaining (the appearance of) equality among the members of the group, the SI was nevertheless an elite group of revolutionaries. It sought to recruit the most promising people and to expel those who after a period of time were falling to make good on their promise. The problem here is that America is a country without an avant garde tradition. The cultural movements that do very well here are anti-elitist, inclusive and "of the times" (rather than "ahead of the times"). Little groups -- no matter how grand their names and ambitious their programs -- are easily, indeed routinely lost in a country the size and breadth of the USA. And so, if the example of the SI is to be brought to or adopted in America, would-be situationists must find a way of building a heterogenous, populist movement that is not theoretically nor organizationally incoherent as a result of its inclusiveness.

2). THE SITUATIONIST INTERNATIONAL EMERGED from a [general] culture in which both the State and the private sector were in the business of funding, distributing and exhibiting works of modern art. Thus there were in this culture two possible agencies of what the SI called "recuperation": i.e., the turning of rebellion into money. To combat both of these agencies of recuperation, the SI found it increasingly necessary as it developed to renounce the practice of art (even the practice of such situationist art techniques as detournement, drifting and psychogeography) and to denounce those who practiced it without sufficient regard for the dangers associated with recuperation. The problem here is that, in America, the State has never really been in the modern art business; only the private sector is used to recuperate the wounding attacks and dangerous demands that are made through art. And so, if there are to be American situationists, they need to less dogmatic than the original situationists when it comes to the production of art, but without losing awareness of the crucial function of recuperation.

3). THE SITUATIONIST INTERNATIONAL EMERGED from a political culture that had a long tradition of anarchist struggle against both private and bureaucratic capitalism. Though European anarchism had won no decisive battles or launched any successful revolutions, in the 1957 to 1971 period it remained an active social tendency with its share of followers. As a result, the SI could use anarchism -- something from which it strove to kept its distance at all times -- as something to define and clarify the SI's own position with respect to the dominant institutions of society. The problem here is that America -- despite its traditional lawlessness and individualism, and despite its own an anarchist tradition (which stretches from Benjamin Tucker and William Godwin to the Industrial Workers of the World and Dwight MacDonald) -- is strongly and deeply suspicious of anarchism, which it routinely confuses with terroristic violence against the State. And so would-be American situationists must define and practice anarchism in such a way that both "rugged individualists" and anti-bureaucratic anti-capitalists such as themselves can feel comfortable with it.

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