The packaging of “free-time”

[from Internationale Situationniste no. 10,  March 1966]

Through the art of advertising’s reuse of all the scraps of partial critical conclusions, our epoch will teach to those who are more accommodating that those who speak more or less [about] the same questions, and who employ almost the same formulas, are not for all that “close” [to us], and can [even] express rigorously antagonistic orientations. An “advertising enquiry” on “vacation sickness” (inserted into diverse publications, among them Le Nouvel Observateur of 1-4-[19]65) shows this marvellously.  “Club Méditerranée” is praised in terms likely to attract an “educated” stratum to it, badly represented in its first years.[1] In the customary style of Planète — “We are on the verge of a metamorphosis”; “it is here that it is necessary to come and decipher the civilisation of tomorrow” — the smooth-talking salesman [bonimenteur] promises that we will be introduced there “to thought and the arts, to history and the sciences”, and that “friendship is born from all the gestures” in “the leading organisation of leisure in Europe, the laboratory of the vacations of the future”.[2]  This institution has, however, the sensitivity to leave “to the politicians, the thinkers, the artists, the educators, even to the heroes” the task of “building a new morality, promoting a freer morality or reforming industrial society”, because “its role is limited to one-twelfth [i.e. one month] of life”.

An organisation of vacations is what the existing organisation of work takes for its point of departure, and arranges to treat the waste of this work industrially — it’s pseudo-freedom, [which] is the time reserved for the spontaneity of robots. How can they meet? On the basis of their fundamental alienation. The principle of their one-twelfth of friendship is the contrary of Montaigne’s remark: “because it was not he, because it was not I”.[3] But the organisers of the vacation industry strongly criticise the artisans of “conventional vacations”, denouncing everywhere else a real “levelling by mediocrity”, for which they alone produce a remedy: “Today, man’s Sunday invades all of the week little by little. What will he make of this freedom? To create still more obligations, addictions, [and] alienations? And what if the great fair of vacations was only a drug, a new opium of the people?”

Thus is created — waiting [for] its integration into the State: “there is still no country in the world with a coherent politics of leisure” — a business for the sale of the most recent opium of the masses: the freedom-commodity. All other forms of slavery combine to furnish it with clients, and its advertising has taken notice of this: “Urban life, in which everyone is one’s own guardian, spy and teacher, and which has cut time into slices in order to compartmentalise men, their hearts, their strength, still exists …” The Club Méditerranée would be ungracious to not to let this happen, since it sucks up a concession on nothing less than a global slice of a twelfth of the year. “Henceforth, thanks to the promises of automation and to the new psychology of business relations, work will abandon more and more of time and space to leisure.” This perspective does not frighten managers who henceforth know how to keep people in the cracks of work; as a result of which they can admit that “though much degraded, it [work] has even become a sign of frustration. For many, it is no more than a necessary nightmare, an alibi which makes vacations possible… In the underdeveloped countries, the unions begin to demand time instead of demanding money”.

And for these vacations, which will be taken to provide so much consolation and value, the faith-healers of Club Méditerranée already present an ambitious ideology, which must naturally recuperate, in a combinatorial style, the maximum echo of modern critical theory. For the purchaser of freedom-commodities, “if only he lets his age-old taste for play and festivals return (which consists of improvising, as one goes along, rules that are used only once), he will re-establish broken communication with other people… We speak highly of the play of vacations, but not to confuse it with childish play. This is the play that, the further we go back in civilisation, gave birth to ceremonies, to sports, to theatre, to the circus, to the imaginings of art — in a word, to intelligence. To restore this play is to wager that anyone, facing strangers who offer themselves to him openly, will be able to cease being the suspicious and docile spectator of his own life and, on the contrary, become the creator of it.”

Some contemplate this in the Club Méditerranée; as do we, but quite otherwise, as we sometimes say.

[The following détournements & comment originally appeared at the top of page 61]

“For better productivity in the factory, put on a play for bosses and workers”

the specialists of psychodrama, meeting in congress in Paris, recommend[4].

THE SELF-MANAGEMENT OF ALIENATION (France-Soir, 3-9-64)

“M. Georges Lapassade is a cunt”

Situationist International no. 9, August 1964

“Was there ever a century in which the thinkers better merited the motto: What do I know? They all fall into a pleasant error: in every science, they forget the fundamental problem, which is the pivot of the entire science… It is a methodical carelessness, until it regularly bears upon essential questions.”

Charles Fourier, The Theory of the Four Movements

First published in Internationale Situationniste no. 10, March 1966, pp. 60-61. Translated from the French by Anthony Hayes, October 2013. Thanks to Not Bored! for help with the translation. You can find a pdf of the original issue number 10 here.


TRANSLATOR’S FOOTNOTES

[1] An early ‘package-tour’ organisation for overseas holidays. Founded in 1950 Club Méditerranée (aka “Club Med”), underwent considerable expansion after being bought by Baron Edmond de Rothschild in 1961. Initially the Club offered communal accommodations in ‘exotic’ locals for mostly young, single, French speaking tourists.

[2] ‘The journal Planète often incurred the criticism of the S.I. […] Planète, a magazine that combined science fiction stories with articles on speculative ‘science’, is perhaps the progenitor of such English language magazines as Omni and Wired, and is indeed the forerunner of the ideological function of such magazines. In their article Ideologies, Classes, and the Domination of Nature from I.S. no. 8, the Situationists compared Planète’s function to that of the journal Arguments. Whereas Arguments, under the guise of being a journal of ‘eclectic’ and ‘critical’ Marxist theory, was criticized for producing ‘the futile questioning of pure speculation’ (and thus played an important role in the spectacle of criticism), Planète was criticized for haranguing ‘ordinary people with the message that henceforth everything must be changed — while at the same time taking for granted 99% of the life really lived in our era.’ Thus the similarity of function – both journals were mouthpieces of the ideology of ‘progressive’ change (a central tenant of bourgeois ideology in its ‘free market’ and ‘state capitalist’ variants), whilst operating within and by virtue of the parameters of the bourgeois market. Their function as commodities that offered non-threatening change was central to the Situationist critique of them. Thus it was this appearance of modernity that was effectively non-threatening vis-à-vis capitalist modernity that was most egregious in the eyes of the Situationists, whose alternative was encapsulated in their conception of a coherent revolutionary project. Such an appearance would soon be shifted into the spectacle of post-modernism; the babble of ultra-modern theoretical radicalism that apparently interrogated everything all the better to hide the unitary nature of capitalist exploitation and alienation.’ (from fn. 5, Well Said S.I.! (I.S. No. 9)

[3] “Si on me presse de dire pourquoi je l’aimais, je sens que cela ne se peut exprimer qu’en répondant : «Parce que c’était lui, parce que c’était moi.»” Montaigne, De l’Amitié (“If you press me to say why I loved him, I can say no more than because he was he, and I was I.”)

[4] See “controlled froth” (I.S. no. 9).

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One Response to The packaging of “free-time”

  1. Keesha says:

    Thanks for stnirtag the ball rolling with this insight.

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