Samaris create new Iceland saga
At the time when Marxism is widely being rehabilitated as the only adequate tool to deal with the excesses of a capitalism that is fast losing its grip on reality, it is well worth looking again at the Situationist International (SI) for a source of responses to the alienation inherent in major cities structured to contain and subjugate its working class populations.
Most of SI principal thinkers were communists and part of their critique was directed at the one-dimensional Marxist practice in eastern Europe.
This is particularly valid and worthy of serious attention as the collapse of the socialist experiments proved their misgivings right.
Henri Lefebvre, who was also a member of the French Communist Party, published in 1947 Critique Of Everyday Life, in which he pointed out the vicious circle of the "workers' dispossession of the product of their labour during working hours and their encounter with the very same product as potential possessions during their leisure hours." Hence their slogan "Remember you are sleeping for the boss."
The conclusion was simple - time had to be lived without any function accorded by capitalism, where workers' dependency was extended by being forcibly locked into consumerism.
The struggle was not only for the reduction of working hours but, more significantly, about wresting the control of leisure and rest time from capitalism and reshaping it as a deeply humanising and enriching everyday practice.
Guy Debord took on Marx's premise that life under capitalism gets continuously depleted.
He redefined it as a reduction to a mere accumulation of meaningless spectacles. Life "which was once lived directly becomes a mere representation."
McKenzie Wark's engaging narrative could not have come at a better time - last week's riots demonstrated tragically the profound alienation, even despair, of swathes of urban poor and destitute and minorities' worrying descent into hellish criminality.
In its heyday SI was often accused, with good reason, of complicating their rather simple and appealing ideas.
This remains true even in Wark's reader-friendly study, but it certainly is worth mustering every ounce of patience as it is going to be richly rewarded.