The aim of this essay is to revisit Guy Debord’s critical theory of the spectacle as formulated 50 years ago in the ‘Society of the Spectacle’ in light of the contemporary production of spectacles. Debord’s arguments about appearance, visibility and celebrity are echoed in the way organizations increasingly focus on their brand, image, impression, and reputation. Yet, the role of spectacles in organizational life has remained under-researched in organization studies. As the boundaries between fact and fiction, reality and representation, substance and appearance become increasingly blurred, questions about the production and effects of spectacles seem more pertinent than ever. Are representations faithful mirrors of reality, or attempts to conceal reality? Do they replace reality, or bring new realities into being? By articulating three possible understandings of the spectacle, as fetishism, hyper-reality or performativity, this essay invites organization scholars to examine the organization of the real and the making of organizations through processes of spectacular representation including discursive practices, visual images and theatrical performances.
- Commodity fetishism
- Situationist movement