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Leisure is Working

Internationale Situationniste #9 (August 1964)

Translated by Thomas Y. Levin

WITH THE DEVELOPMENT of leisure and of forced consumption, pseudo-culture and pseudo-games not only become expanding sectors of the economy — betting on horse races has become the fifth largest business in France in terms of turnover — but tend to be what makes the entire economy run, by representing the very objective of that economy. The almost complete fusion within the cultural spectacle of what is ordinarily considered "the best and the worst" inevitably tends toward this "worst." This is what gives the cultural spectacle its only meaning: a consumption of survival that goes so far as to prefer a socially forecast, planned, and guaranteed death. The avant-garde of capitalism is already speculating on consumption during death itself and encourages everyone to establish pensions in order to finally be able to enjoy the absolute in survival.

The Young Musicians Club of France, Club Med, the Friends of the Book Club, and the journal Planète have just joined together to form the Association of Frenchmen of the Twentieth Century. This association — constituted according to the Law of 1901 as not-for-profit and without religious or political affiliation — is open not to individuals but to groups wishing to participate in organized exchanges between different types of leisure organizations. In listening to the organizers of the four founding organizations, one might ask oneself what unites them besides strictly commercial interests. One of the four gave the following explanation: "We all work in a realm that is little known but continuously expanding, the realm of popular culture and leisure."

Le Monde, 22-2-64.

In the latest issue of the journal published by the Barclay Bank, one reads that the Beatles represent "an invisible export that contributes significantly towards the equalization of the balance of payments in Great Britain."

Reuters, 25-2-64.

Many people like the Beatles because, so it is claimed, they express the authentic voice of the working class masses in Liverpool . . . But is the "Mersey sound" really what the Communist Daily Worker claims it to be, that is, a cry of revolt emanating from the eighty thousand slum dwellings housing three hundred thousand unemployed workers? . . . Even if they have retained and even emphasized the popular accent of their origins, the Beatles today speak to a much wider audience composed not only of the new working class, but also of the middle classes and all the beneficiaries of the society of adundance. And it is because they have clearly understood this evolution that their impresarios have advised them to wear clean clothes and to wash their hair.

Henri Pierre, Le Monde, 12-12-63.

The largest spectacle the world has ever seen, an investment of one billion dollars (of which ninety percent will have disappeared two years later without a trace), a fantastic collection of objects and living beings: from the Watutsi dancers that comprise the personal ballet of his majesty, the King of Burundi (whose sacred drum has never before left its native land) to the most complicated electronic machines, from Michelangelo's Pietà to the capsule in which men are preparing to land on the moon. "Peace through Understanding" is the motto of the New York [World's Fair] that opens its doors on Wednesday . . .

Visitors to the fair will travel into the future in tiny cars. They will drive through the city of the future in which all traffic problems will be resolved, highways will be tunneled underground, the parking lots located on the ground floor, the stores on the first floor, the residential houses on the second, and the parks, wooded areas, and spaces laden with plants on the third. A mere fantasy? The advertising agents of the powerful company retort that at the 1939 New York Exhibition, General Motors had already sketched a vision of highways, bridges and underground passages that seemed fantastic at the time and have since become a part of American life . . .

Coca-Cola . . . will offer the curious a "round-world-tour" of a very special sort. Visitors will be able "to feel, touch, and taste the most far-away places of the earth," and, what is more, they will be able to hear the most exquisite music and song as well as experiencing a multitude of other emotions. Of course, all these smells and all these tastes will be "synthesized" and controlled automatically by electronic brains . . .

The UAR will try to gain the sympathies of the Americans by showing them the gold objects of the Pharoahs. General Franco will attempt to do the same by presenting paintings by old and modern masters from Vélasquez to Goya and from Picasso to Miró . . .

For art lovers there will be a huge exhibit of modern art and for the more scientifically minded there will be a pavilion housing recent discoveries. Nor have the female visitors been forgotten: in the Clairol pavilion every woman will be able to decide what she will look like in the following season — blonde, redhead, chestnut, brunette, and so on. Thanks to "practical beauty" machines they will be able to try on clothes "in color." The pavilion will also be equipped with an electronic brain that will give good tips based on the physical data of each individual: what color she should choose for her powder, her lipstick, her eyeliner, her eyebrow pencil, her nail polish, and so on.

Le Monde, 22-4-64.

Visit "Technology for Living." "Come see how you will be living in fifteen years." In the great room at Harrods, one of the most famous stores in London . . . "Why waste your time bringing wine to room temperature? Buy an 'electronic room-temperaturizer' : the button on the left for Bordeaux, the button on the right for Burgundy. The price: seven pounds" . . . "Technology for Living" is anticipation within hand's reach; an anticipation that one buys on credit with payments spread over twelve or twenty-four months . . . "Why have wallpaper on the walls?" the female vendor continues. "Hang up heliorama instead (an electric painting with moving colors)."

France-Soir, 28-2-64.

Six prisoners in the Harris county jail in Texas, quite impressed by the official report on the ill effects of tobacco, announced yesterday that they had decided to quit smoking because they were determined not to die of lung cancer. The six men, imprisoned for various crimes, are all condemned to die in the electric chair.

U.P.I., Houston, 13-2-64.

Ettinger describes the refrigeration of the body as "the greatest promise — and perhaps the greatest problem — of history." Whatever may eventually happen — one should be practical — the American expert advises all those human beings who think ahead toward the future to specify in their wills if they want to be frozen, and to put aside money for their temporary death and for their second life. According to Ettinger's estimation, the sojourn in the refrigerated "dormitories" where cadavers will be stacked (in the United States there will be fifteen million tons of them) will cost about two hundred dollars a year.

France-Soir, 17-6-64.

Absence and its Costumers