Making Sense of the Global 1960s: The Situationist International and the Navel of the World1

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This article revisits the history of the Situationist International (SI) from the perspective of its relationship with the Third World, with a specific focus on the Congo and, to lesser degree, Algeria. The SI is most often remembered for its critique of alienation in the West. Yet, the questions of decolonization, the Third World, and Third-Worldism were at the center of its political project, including its conceptualization of everyday life and of the society of spectacle. This project was not static and the SI went from a warm embrace of Third World revolutions to a position of strong skepticism, which was further accentuated after the uprisings of May 1968 in France. In its analysis of this evolution, the article revisits the works of Guy Debord, Raoul Vaneigem, Mustapha Khayati, and René Vienet; it also draws from the journal of the SI, the published correspondence of Debord, and various archival documents about the group. A strong focus is put on the importance of the notion of totality in the situationist critique. The article argues that this notion offers an interesting entry point into the current historiographical debate about the periodization of the global 1960s.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-161
Number of pages27
JournalGlobal Sixties: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023


  • Congo
  • Guy Debord
  • Third-Worldism
  • global sixties
  • situationist international
  • totality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Cultural Studies


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