Spektakel: Plädoyer für die Revision eines umstrittenen Begriffs

Hauptsächlicher Artikelinhalt

Kati Röttger


How do (new) communication and information technologies contribute to the development and maintenance of modern, democratic societies? Do they promote emancipation, enlightenment, and autonomy or do they lock us hermetically into the sparkling world of images and consumption, so that we are guided by false promises and pseudo-needs? Current questions like these make it necessary to revise the concept of spectacle. This term, originally coined by Debord, has again become the focus of cultural-critical debates with the increasing power of new social media. Debord raised the spectacle to a theoretical perspective by describing it as a “society’s worldview that is transferred into the material.” On the other hand, it is precisely this totalizing claim of Debord’s concept of spectacle that is now coming under increasing pressure. Facing this problem, Juliane Rebentisch (2007) suggests suspending the concept of spectacle, as hardly any other concept has been received so unscathed and uncritically of late. I will make a plea for a long overdue revision of the term from the perspective of theater studies. With a few exceptions, the fact that the spectacle itself already has a long (pre-Debordian) history is generally not taken into account. The scope of the spectacle cannot be understood merely within the confines of Debord’s totalizing concept; moreover, it turns out to be an extremely heterogeneous and promising field of investigation, which is far from being sufficiently explored. Here, I would like to stress a potential implementation of the spectacle that, in theater theory, is traditionally placed in opposition to its role in socio-political engagement. The critical potential of the spectacle can only be opened up when the technical conditionality of the spectacle is directly related to the technical conditionality of modernity. This aspect has so far been largely ignored in the critical debates around this concept.


Röttger, K. 2022. Spektakel: Plädoyer für die Revision eines umstrittenen Begriffs. Internationale Zeitschrift für Kulturkomparatistik. 8 (2022), 9–23. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25353/ubtr-izfk-c508-d553.