‘The Most Radical Gesture’ is the first major study of the Situationist International, a revolutionary movement of extraordinary ambition and influence whose reflections on art, everyday life, pleasure, spontaneity, the city, and the spectacle have ensured it a vital, but largely hidden, role in the development of twentieth-century culture and politics. Revealing the extent to which situationist ideas and tactics have influenced subsequent political theory and cultural agitation, this book discusses a variety of specific movements and moments of contestation, including Dada, surrealism, the events of May ’68, the Italian autonomists, the Angry Brigade, and punk, placing the situationists in a line of impassioned antiauthoritarian dissent which also informs the work of writers like Lyotard and Deleuze and underwrites contemporary debates on postmodernism. It suggests that Baudrillard’s reflections on hyperreality are impoverished reworkings of the situationists’ critical analysis of capitalist society as a spectacle, and challenges postmodern denials of meaning, reality, and history by showing that postmodernism itself depends on a tradition which completely undermines the purposeless pessimism it promotes.
In addition to its unprecedented treatment of situationist theory, ‘The Most Radical Gesture’ is therefore also the first book to situate postmodern ideas in this vital historical, cultural, and political context. The product of a long-standing engagement with situationist ideas, it uses theoretical reflection, polemical speculation, and accounts of particular moments of cultural and political excitement to tell a fascinating and accessible tale with wide appeal to the general reader and those interested in all aspects of twentieth-century culture. ‘The Most Radical Gesture’ will also be welcomed by those engaged with radical artistic, cultural, and political interventions, and debates around Marxism, poststructuralism, and postmodernism. Sadie Plant is Lecturer in Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham. — From the preface.