The Revolution of Everyday Life

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(1934 - )
Raoul Vaneigem (Dutch pronunciation: [raːˈul vɑnˈɛi̯ɣəm]; born 21 March 1934) is a Belgian writer known for his 1967 book The Revolution of Everyday Life. He was born in Lessines (Hainaut, Belgium) and studied romance philology at the Free University of Brussels (now split into the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel) from 1952 to 1956. He was a member of the Situationist International from 1961 to 1970. He currently resides in Belgium and is the father of four children. (From :


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Dedication To Ella, Maldoror and those who helped this adventure upon its way. “I LIVE ON THE EDGE OF THE UNIVERSE AND I DON’T NEED TO FEEL SECURE.” “Man walketh in a vain shew, he shews to be a man, and that’s all.” We seem to live in the State of variety, wherein we are not truly living but only in appearance: in Unity is our life: in one we are, from one divided, we are no longer. While we perambulate variety, we walk but as so many Ghosts or Shadows in it, that it self being but the Umbrage of the Unity. The world travels perpetually, and every one is swollen full big with particularity of interest; thus traveling together in pain, and groaning under enmity: laboring to bring forth some one thing, some another, and all bring forth nothing but wind and confusion. Consider, is there not in the best of you a body of death? Is not the ro... (From :

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Introduction I have no intention of revealing what there is of my life in this book to readers who are not prepared to relive it. I await the day when it will lose and find itself in a general movement of ideas, just as I like to think that the present conditions will be erased from the memories of men. The world must be remade; all the specialists in reconditioning will not be able to stop it. Since I do not want to understand them, I prefer that they should not understand me. As for the others, I ask for their goodwill with a humility they will not fail to perceive. I should have liked a book like this to be accessible to those minds least addled by intellectual jargon; I hope I have not failed absolutely. One day a few formulas will emerge from this chaos and fire point-blank on our enemies. Till then these sentences, read and re-read, will have to do their slow work. The path toward simplicity is the most complex of all, and here in p... (From :

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Part I. The Perspective of Power Chapter 1. The Insignificant Signified Because of its increasing triviality, everyday life has gradually become our central preoccupation . No illusion, sacred or deconsecrated , collective or individual, can hide the poverty of our daily actions any longer . The enrichment of life calls inexorably for the analysis of the new forms taken by poverty, and the perfection of the old weapons of refusal . 1 The history of our times calls to mind those Walt Disney characters who rush madly over the edge of a cliff without seeing it, so that the power of their imagination keeps them suspended in mid-air; but as soon as they look down and see where they are, they fall. Contemporary thought, like Bosustov’s heroes, can no longer rest on its own delusions. What used to hold it up, today brings it down. It rushes full tilt in front of the reality that will crush it: t... (From :

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Impossible Participation or Power as the Sum of Constraints Chapter 2. Humiliation The economy of everyday life is based on a continuous exchange of humiliations and aggressive attitudes. It conceals a technique of wear and tear (usure), which is itself prey to the gift of destruction which it invites contradictorily . Today, the more man is a social being the more he is an object . Decolonization has not yet begun . It will have to give a new value to the old principle of sovereignty . 1 One day, when Rousseau was traveling through a crowded village, he was insulted by a yokel whose spirit delighted the crowd. Rousseau, confused and discountenanced, couldn’t think of a word in reply and was forced to take to his heels amid the jeers of the crowd. By the time he had finally regained his composure and thought of a thousand possible retorts, any one of which would have silenced the joker once and for all... (From :

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Chapter 3. Isolation Para no sentirme solo por los siglos de los siglos All we have in common is the illusion of being together. And beyond the illusion of permitted anodynes there is only the collective desire to destroy isolation . — Impersonal relationships are the no-man’s land of isolation. By producing isolation, contemporary social organization signs its own death-sentence . 1 It was as if they were in a cage whose door was wide open without their being able to escape. Nothing outside the cage had any importance, because nothing else existed any more. They stayed in the cage, estranged from everything except the cage, without even a flicker of desire for anything outside the bars. it would have been abnormal — impossible in fact — to escape into something which had neither reality nor importance. Absolutely impossible. For ins... (From :

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Chapter 4. Suffering Suffering caused by natural alienation has given way to suffering caused by social alienation, while remedies have become justifications . Where there is no justification, exorcism takes its place . But from now on no subterfuge can hide the existence of an organization based on the distribution of constraints . Consciousness reduced to the consciousness of constraints is the antechamber of death. The despair of consciousness makes the murderers of Order; the consciousness of despair makes the murderers of Disorder . The symphony of spoken and shouted words animates the scenery of the streets. Over a rumbling basso continuo develop grave and cheerful themes, hoarse and singsong voices, nostalgic fragments of sentences. There is a sonorous architecture which overlays the outline of streets and buildings, reinforcing or counteracting the attractive or repulsive tone of a district. But from Notting Hill to Oxford... (From :

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Chapter 5. The Decline and Fall of Work The duty to produce alienates the passion for creation. Productive labor is part and parcel of the technology of law and order. The working day grows shorter as the empire of conditioning extends. In an industrial society which confuses work and productivity, the necessity of producing has always been an enemy of the desire to create. What spark of humanity, of a possible creativity, can remain alive in a being dragged out of sleep at six every morning, jolted about in suburban trains, deafened by the racket of machinery, bleached and steamed by meaningless sounds and gestures, spun dry by statistical controls, and tossed out at the end of the day into the entrance halls of railway stations, those cathedrals of departure for the hell of weekdays and the nugatory paradise of weekends, where the crowd communes in weariness and boredom? From adolescence to retirement each 24-hour cycle repeats the same shat... (From :

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Chapter 6. Decompression and the Third Force Until now, tyranny has merely changed hands. In their common respect for rulers, antagonistic powers have always fostered the seeds of their future coexistence. (When the leader of the game takes the power of a Leader, the revolution dies with the revolutionaries.) Unresolved antagonisms fester, hiding real contradictions. Decompression is the permanent control of both antagonists by the ruling class. The third force radicalizes contradictions and leads to their supersession, in the name of individual freedom and against all forms of constraint. Power has no option but to smash or incorporate the third force without admitting its existence. To sum up. Millions of men lived in a huge building with no doors or windows. The feeble light of countless oil lamps competed with the unchanging darkness. As had been the custom since remotest antiquity, the upkeep of the lamps was the duty of the poor, so that... (From :

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Impossible Communication or Power as Universal Mediation Chapter 7. The Age of Happiness The contemporary welfare state belatedly provides the guarantees of survival which were demanded by the disinherited members of the production society of former days . Richness of survival entails the pauperization of life . Purchasing power is license to purchase power, to become an object in the order of things. The tendency is for both oppressor and oppressed to fall, albeit at different speeds, under one and the same dictatorship: the dictatorship of consumer goods . 1 The face of happiness vanished from art and literature as it began to be reproduced along endless walls and hoardings, offering to each particular passerby the universal image in which he is invited to recognize himself. Three cheers for Adam Smith and Jeremy Bentham: happiness is not a myth! “The more we produce, the better we shall l... (From :

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Chapter 8. Exchange and Gift The nobility and the proletariat conceive human relationships on the model of giving, but the proletarian way of giving supersedes the feudal gift. The bourgeoisie, the class of exchange, is the lever which enables the feudal project to be overthrown and superseded in the long revolution . History is the continuous transformation of natural alienation into social alienation, and the continuous strengthening of a contradictory movement of opposition which will overcome all alienation and end history. The historical struggle against natural alienation transforms natural alienation into social alienation, but the movement of historical disalienation eventually attacks social alienation itself and reveals that it is based on magic. This magic has to do with privative appropriation. It is expressed through sacrifice. Sacrifice is the archaic form of exchange. The extreme quantification of exchange reduces man to an ob... (From :

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Chapter 9. Technology and Its Mediated use Contrary to the interests of those who control its use, technology tends to disenchant the world. Mass consumption society strips gadgets of any magical value. Similarly, organization (a technique for handling new techniques) robs new productive forces of their subversive appeal and their power of disruption. Organization thus stands revealed as nothing but the pure organization of authority . Alienated mediations make man weaker as they become indispensible. A social mask disguises people and things. In the present stage of privative appropriation, this mask transforms its wearers into dead things, commodities. Nature no longer exists. To rediscover nature means to reinvent it as a worthwhile adversary by constructing new social relationships. With the expansion of material equipment, the old hierarchical society is bursting at the seams 1 The same bankruptcy is evident in non-indu... (From :

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Chapter 10. Down Quantity Street Economic imperatives seek to impose on the whole of human activity the standardized measuring system of the market. Very large quantities take the place of the qualitative, but even quantity is rationed and economized. Myth is based on quality, ideology on quantity. Ideological saturation is an atomization into small contradictory quantities which can no more avoid destroying one another than they can avoid being smashed by the qualitative negativity of popular refusal . The quantitative and the linear are indissociable. A linear, measured time and a linear, measured life are the definitions of survival, or living on: a succession of inter-changeable instants. These lines are part of the confused geometry of power 1 The system of commercial exchange has come to govern all of man’s everyday relations with himself and with his fellow men. Every aspect of public and private life is dominat... (From :

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Impossible Realization or Power as the Sum of Seductions Chapter 11. Mediated Abstraction and Abstract Mediation Today, reality is imprisoned in metaphysics in the same way as it was once imprisoned in theology. The way of seeing which power imposes, ‘abstracts’ mediations from their original function, which is to extend into the real world the demands which arise in lived experience; it resists the magnetic pull of authority. The point where resistance begins is the look-out post of subjectivity. Until now, metaphysicians have only organized the world in various ways; the point is to change it, by opposing them . The regime of guaranteed survival is slowly undermining the belief that power is necessary . This leads to a growing rejection of the forms which govern us, a rejection of their (coercive) ordering principle. Radical theory, which is the only guarantee of the coherence of such a rejection, penetrates the masses because... (From :

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Chapter 12. Sacrifice Where constraint breaks people, and mediation makes fools of them, the seduction of power is what makes them love their oppression. Because of it people give up their real riches: (a) for a cause that mutilates them [chapter twelve], (b) for an imaginary unity that fragments them [chapter thirteen], (c) for an appearance that reifies them [chapter fourteen], (d) for roles that wrest them from authentic life [chapter fifteen], (e) for a time whose passage defines and confines them [chapter sixteen]. There is such a thing as a reformism of sacrifice that is really a sacrifice to reformism. Humanistic self-mortification and fascistic self-destruction both leave us nothing — not even the option of death. All causes are equally inhuman. But the will to live raises its voice against this epidemic of masochism, wherever there is the slightest pretext for revolt; for what appear to be merely partial demands actually conceal... (From :

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Chapter 13. Separation Privative appropriation, the basis of social organization, keeps individuals separated from themselves and from others. Artificial unitary paradises seek to conceal this separation by assimilating, more or less successfully, people’s prematurely shattered dreams of unity. To no avail. People may be forced to swing back and forth across the narrow gap between the pleasure of creating and the pleasure of destroying, but this very oscillation suffices to bring Power to its knees. People live separated from one another, separated from what they are in others, and separated from themselves. The history of humanity is the history of one basic separation which precipitates and determines all the others: the social distinction between masters and slaves. By means of history men try to find one another and attain unity. The class struggle is but one stage, though a decisive one, in the struggle for the whole man. (From :

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Chapter 14. The Organization of Appearances The organization of appearances is a system for protecting the facts. A racket. lt represents the facts in a mediated reality to prevent them emerging in unmediated form. Unitary power organized appearances as myth. Fragmentary power organizes appearances as spectacle. Challenged, the coherence of myth became the myth of coherence. Magnified by history, the incoherence of the spectacle turns into the spectacle of incoherence (eg, pop art, a contemporary form of consumable putrefaction, is also an expression of the contemporary putrefaction of consumption) . The poverty of ‘the drama’ as a literary genre goes hand in hand with the colonization of social space by theatrical attitudes. Enfeebled on the stage, theater battens on to everyday life and attempts to dramatize everyday behavior. Lived experience is poured into the molds of roles. The job of perfecting roles has been turned over to experts . (From :

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Chapter 15. Roles Stereotypes are the dominant images of a period, the images of the dominant spectacle. The stereotype is the model of the role; the role is a model form of behavior. The repetition of an attitude creates a role; the repetition of a role creates a stereotype. The stereotype is an objective form into which people are integrated by means of the role. Skill in playing and handling roles determines rank in the spectacular hierarchy. The degeneration of the spectacle brings about the proliferation of stereotypes and roles, which by the same token become risible, and converge dangerously upon their negation, i.e., spontaneous actions (1,2). Access to the role occurs by means of identification. The need to identify is more important to Power’s stability than the models identified with. Identification is a pathological state, but only accidental identifications are officially classed as “mental illness.” Roles are the bloodsuckers of t... (From :

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Chapter 16. The Fascination of Time People are bewitched into believing that time slips away, and this belief is the basis of time actually slipping away. Time is the work of attrition of that adaptation to which people must resign themselves so long as they fail to change the world. Age is a role, an acceleration of ‘lived’ time on the plane of appearances, an attachment to things. The growth of civilization’s discontents is now forcing every branch of therapeutics towards a new demonology. Just as, formerly, invocation, sorcery, possession, exorcism, black sabbaths, metamorphoses, talismans and all the rest were bound up with the suspect capacity for healing and hurting, so today (and more effectively) the apparatus for offering consolation to the oppressed medicine, ideology, compensatory roles, consumer gadgetry, movements for social change serves the oppressor and the oppressor alone. The order of things is sick: this is... (From :

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Survival and false opposition to it Chapter 17. Survival Sickness Capitalism has demystified survival. It has made the poverty of daily life intolerable in view of the increasing wealth of technical possibilities. Survival has become an economizing on life. The civilization of collective survival increases the dead time in individual lives to the point where the death forces are liable to carry the day over collective survival itself. The only hope is that the passion for destruction may be reconverted into a passion for life. Up until now people have merely complied with a system of world transformation. Today the task is to make the system comply with the transformation of the world. The organization of human societies has changed the world, and the world in changing has brought upheaval to the organization of human societies. But if hierarchical organization seizes control of nature, while itself undergoin... (From :

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Chapter 18. Spurious Opposition Survival is life reduced to economic imperatives. In the present period, therefore, survival is life reduced to what can be consumed (seventeen). Reality is giving answers to the problem of transcendence before our so-called revolutionaries have even thought of formulating this problem. Whatever is not transcended rots, and whatever is rotten cries out for transcendence. Spurious opposition, being unaware of both these tendencies, speeds up the process of decomposition while becoming an integral part of it: it thus makes the task of transcendence easier but only in the sense in which we sometimes say of a murdered man that he made his murderer’s task easier. Survival is non-transcendence become unlivable. The mere rejection of survival dooms us to impotence. We have to retrieve the core of radical demands which has repeatedly been renounced by movements which started out as revolutionary (eighteen). There comes a moment of t... (From :

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Part II. The Reversal of Perspective Chapter 19. The Reversal of Perspective The light of power is waning. The eyes of individual subjectivity cannot adapt to mere holes in a mask, which are the eyes of those fog-bound in shared illusion. The individual’s point of view must prevail over false collective participation. In total self-possession, reach society with the tentacles of subjectivity and remake everything startingwith yourself. The reversal of perspsctive is what is positive in negativity, the fruit which will burst out of the old world’s bud (1–2). One day Monsieur Keuner was asked just what was meant by “reversal of perspective”; and he told the following story. Two brothers deeply attached to one another had a strange habit. They marked the nature of the day’s events with pebbles a white one for each happy moment and a black one for each moment of misfortune or displeasure. But when, a... (From :

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Chapter 20. Creativity, Spontaneity, and Poetry Human beings are in a state of creativity twenty-four hours a day. Once revealed, the scheming use of freedom by the mechanisms of domination produces a backlash in the form of an idea of authentic freedom inseparably bound up with individual creativity. The passion to create which issues from the consciousness of constraint can no longer be pressed into the service of production, consumption or organization. . Spontaneity is the mode of existence of creativity; not an isolated state, but the unmediated experience of subjectivity. Spontaneity concretizes the passion for creation and is the first moment of its practical realization: the precondition of poetry, of the impulse to change the world in accordance with the demands of radical subjectivity. . The qualitative exists wherever creative spontaneity manifests itself. It entails the direct communication of the essential. It is poetry’s chance. A cryst... (From :

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Chapter 21. Masters Without Slaves Power is the social organization which enables masters to maintain conditions of slavery. God, State, Organization: these three words reveal well enough the amount of autonomy and historical determination there is in power, three principles have successively held sway: the domination principle (feudal power), the exploitation principle (bourgeois power) and the organization principle (cybernetic power) . Hierarchical social organization has perfected itself by desacralization and mechanization, but its contradictions have increased. it has humanized itself to the extent that it has emptied men of their human substance. it has gained in autonomy at the expense of the masters; (the rulers are in control but it’s the strings that make them dance), today, those in power are perpetuating the race of willing slaves, those whom Theognis said were born with bowed heads, they have lost even the unhealthy pleasures of domination... (From :

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Chapter 22. The Space-Time Of Lived Experience The dialectic of decay and supersession is the dialectic of dissociated and unitary space-time (l). The new proletariat carries within itself the realization of childhood, which is its space-time . The history of separations is slowly resolved at the end of “historic” history . Cyclical time and linear time. — Lived space-time is space-time in transformation, and the role’s space-time is that of adaptation. — The function of the past and of its projection into the future is to outlaw the present. Historical ideology is the screen that comes between the will to individual self-realization and the will to construct history; it prevents them joining up and merging . The present is the space-time to be constructed; it entails the correction of the past. 1 As specialists organize the survival of the species and leave learned diagrams to program history... (From :

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Chapter 23. The Unitary Triad: Self-Realization, Communication And Participation The repressive unity of power is threefold: coercion, seduction and mediation. This is no more than the inversion and perversion of an equally threefold unitary project. The new society, as it develops underground, chaotically, is moving towards a total honesty — a transparency — between individuals: an honesty promoting the participation of each individual in the self-realization of everyone else. Creativity, love and play stand in the same relation to true life as the need to eat and the need to find shelter stand in relation to survival . Attempts to realize oneself can only be based on creativity . Attempts to communicate can only be based on love . Attempts to participate can only be based on play . Separated from one another these three projects merely strengthen the repressive unity of power. Radical subjectivity is the presence — which can be se... (From :

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Chapter 24. The Interworld And The New Innocence 1 On the fringes of uneasy subjectivity the canker of power eats away. There thrives undying hate, the demons of revenge, the tyranny of envy, the rancor of frustrated desire. It may be a marginal infection, but it threatens every side; an interworld. The interworld is the no-man’s land of subjectivity. Its borders tremble with the fundamental cruelty of cop and rebel, oppression and the poetry of revolt. Halfway between its recuperation by the spectacle and its revolutionary use, the dreamer’s extra-space-time spawns monstrous creations after the image of his own desires and that of power. The increasing poverty of daily life has turned into a sort of public amenity suitable for every kind of investigation, an open battlefield between creative spontaneity and what corrupts it. As a faithful explorer of the mind, Artaud sums up perfectly this evenly-matched struggle: “My unc... (From :

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Chapter 25. You’re Fucking Around With Us? — Not For Long! In Watts, Prague, Stockholm, Stanleyville, Gdansk, Turin, Port Talbot, Cleveland, Cordoba, Amsterdam, wherever the act and wareness of refusal generates passionate break-outs from the factories of collective illusion, the revolution of everyday life is under way. The struggle intensifies as misery becomes universal. What for years were reasons for fighting specific issues — hunger, restrictions, boredom, illness, anxiety, isolation, deceit — now reveal misery’s fundamental rationality, its omnipresent emptiness, its appalling oppressive abstraction. For this misery, the world of hierarchical power, the world of the State, of sacrifice, exchange and the quantitative — the commodity as will and representation of the world — is held responsible by those moving towards an entirely new society that is still to be invented and yet is already among us. All over the globe, r... (From :


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