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Guy Debord, ‘Gilded Poverty’, and the Contemporary Crisis: On Marxism, Spectacle, and the Banality of Inequality

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In his famed revolutionary treatise on the zenith of Keynesian prosperity, Debord discusses poverty as ‘gilded poverty’. Beyond a simple understanding of inequality, lack of well-being, or neoliberal subsistence minimums, Debord seeks to understand poverty through Marx's formulation of the fetishism of commodities, as the systemic subservience of social life to the needs of commodity circulation. This perspective is crucial because it extends a conceptualisation of poverty into moments and spaces of prosperity. This paper will develop a theorisation of poverty as ‘gilded poverty’. It will conclude with a link between Marx's complex theorisation of the necessity of poverty for capitalist accumulation and Debord's understanding that this is as true for opulent places and moments as it is for deprived places and moments. Ultimately, I suggest in response to ‘gilded poverty’, that cultural studies scholars engage Debord's concept of the ‘proletarian revolution’.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 2012

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