The beauty of sociology

This is a composite drawing of the “ideal woman”, published in France-soir on the 31st of August 1962, based on ten details considered as the most beautiful in the world, taken from ten female celebrities.  This star of synthesis provides an eloquent example of what can lead to the totalitarian dictatorship of the fragment, opposed here to the dialectical play of the face. This dream face of cybernetics is modeled on the techniques of modern information, which are truly effective insofar as they are repression, control, classification and the maintenance of order (the composite drawing [photfit] has proved itself in police research). The methods and goals of this information obviously exist in opposition to knowledge, poetry and our possible appropriation of the world. The sociology of beauty is the equal of industrial sociology or the sociology of urban life, [and] for the same reasons: it is a mystified and mystifying elevation of the partial, which hides totalities and their movement. But the exact scientific moralism of sociology, inserted in the society of the spectacle without even wanting to think about it, also indicates to all—alongside of beauty—its use.  The new translation of Hic Rhodus hic salta can be read: “Here is beauty, here you consume!”

First published in Internationale Situationniste no. 8,  January 1963. Translated from the French by Anthony Hayes, August 2012.  Thanks to NOT BORED! and Alastair Hemmens. A scan of the original article from page 33 of IS no. 8 is available here.

UPDATE 3 August 2020. There is now a superior translation of this, by me, available at one of my other blogs. I have, however, posted the new translation in the comments below.–antyphayes

This entry was posted in I.S. no. 8, Situationist International, Translation. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The beauty of sociology

  1. Pingback: The science fiction spectacle | the sinister science

  2. antyphayes says:

    I’ve updated this translation. It is now available at my other blog, in the post ‘The science fiction spectacle‘. The following is taken from that post:

    Sociological beauty

    This is an identikit drawing [Fr: portrait–robot] of the “ideal woman”, published in France-soir on 31 August 1962, and based on ten details taken from ten female celebrities considered the most beautiful in the world. This synthetic star furnishes an eloquent example of what can lead to the totalitarian dictatorship of the fragment, opposed here to the dialectical play of the face. This dream face of cybernetics is modeled on modern information technologies, which are truly effective as repression, control, classification and the maintenance of order—for instance, the identikit portrait has proved itself in police research. Obviously, the aims and methods of this information technology are opposed to the existence of knowledge, poetry and our possible appropriation of the world. Sociological beauty is the equivalent of industrial sociology or the sociology of urban life—and for the same reasons: it is a mystified and mystifying elevation of the partial that hides totalities and their movement. Inserted into the society of the spectacle without even wanting to think about it, the precise scientific moralism of sociology also indicates, along with beauty, its use: This new translation of Hic Rhodus hic salta can be read: “Here is beauty, here you consume!”[7]

    —Situationist International, January 1963

    [7] “Hic Rhodus, hic salta!” is Marx’s détournement—i.e., plagiarism and correction—of Hegel’s “Hic Rhodus, hic saltus”. For “jump” (saltus) Marx substitutes “dance” (salta). See this.

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