% 13. Spectacle, Carnival & Festival
SUMMARY of TD13: Spectacle, Carnival & Festival.  I see three inter-related systems: Festival, Carnival, and Spectacle.  
Similarities to other TD methods:
  • Ô  14.Postmodern 
  • O 1. Community Organizing
  • 11. Restorying
  • a  4. SEAM
  • [  9. Mythmaking
  • I  16. Critical Theory

Dissimilar to other TD Methods:

  • ?  7. Reengineering
  • {  6. Appreciative Inquiry

  main site http://web.nmsu.edu/~dboje/TDgameboard.html 

Festival is what we get if we are able to disengage from lives of over-consumption and violent production. Carnival is when power gives its to nod to parody and satire of the power holders and celebrities of spectacle. it is that bit of theatrics when the workers dress up like the boss for the day and act out in ways to get the attention of power the their exploited condition. Spectacle is what is accumulated all around us in acts of production and consumption. Disney and Las Vegas are just the obvious examples. The Spectacle approach is based in Guy Debord's work and that of Steve Best and Douglas Kellner. 

It is time to realize that Spectacles, the least important of Aristotle's (350 BCE) day, is now the most important theatrical element of late modern capitalism (Boje, 2002c). I view spectacles and carnival in dialectic relatioin, and here and there (but not always), a festive third alternative emerges.

For more on this see the FESTIVALISM study guides

SPECTACLE - Spectacle goes back to Roman gladiators, the appropriation of entertainment, art, and festival for political and control purposes. By spectacle I mean Debord’s (1967) the Society of the Spectacle, a theatrics that is often violent and oppressive social control that masquerades as a celebration of progress by recycling pseudo-reforms, false-desires, and selective sightings of progressive evolution, never devolution. Spectacles are defined as 'intertextual.' Various types of spectacle are intertextual' to other spectacles (the types are explained below); spectacles are embedded in socio-economic contexts by decontextualizing and recontextualizing.  

FESTIVAL - By festival I mean Victor Turner's theatrics that is more related to in-the-moment enjoyment of a thing for its own sake. In ancient times, festival transgressed the boundary of nature and culture. See Festivalism web site

CARNIVAL - By carnival I mean Bakhtin's theory of the theatrics of rant and madness seeking repair to separation and alienation, a call for help from corporate power, a cry of distress and repression mixed with laughter and humorous exhibition meant to jolt power into awareness of its psychic organization. Carnivalesque examples (McDonalds) (Carnival web site).

More on Spectacles definitions SEE http://cbae.nmsu.edu/~dboje/septet/spectacles.htm 

How does Guy Debord, Steve Best & Douglas Kellner treat Spectacle?

For Debord (1967) spectacle is the basis of late capitalism. The four types of spectacle include concentrated, diffuse, integrated and mega (Best & Kellner, 1997, 2001). ). Best and Kellner (1997) develop Debord’s spectacle types and in 2001 propose the “megaspectacle,” our national fetish to use the media to turn war or scandal into mass entertainment (e.g. the Gulf War and War on Terrorism are popular culture events, as were Watergate, the OJ Simpson trial, and the funeral of Princess Diana).

In sum, I assume that contemporary organizations produce, distribute, and consume spectacle Metatheatrics.

What follows is excerpts from my book Theatres of Capitalism (Boje, 2002c), an all conference paper on Enron presented in London in July (Boje, 2002a), an Academy of Management conference paper presented in August (Boje, 2002b), and a paper my colleagues and I have under review (Boje, Rosile, Durand, & Luhman, 2002). Please read and reference the original papers (See below). 

For MORE ENRON SPECTACLE examples GO THERE NOW, or read on... 


What are the 4 types of spectacles? (first 3 from Debord, 4th from Best & Kellner 2001).

  1. Concentrated Spectacles - the theatrical performances of the firm; how the spectacle is produced.

  2. Diffuse Spectacles - the theatrical performances of spectacle in the market. Spectacles diffuse through franchising and advertising, and dissemination throughout the globe.

  3. Integrated Spectacles - these integrate the first two (concentrated plus diffuse). Its like McDonalds that has a spectacle stage in each franchise site, has diffused to thousands of sites (and stages), and tries to integrate the two. Now all three phases of intertextual are manifest: spectacles are produced, distributed, and consumed by the masses. 

  4. Mega Spectacles - from time time to time the integration disintegrates into scandal (megaspectacle). And these become mass entertainment. You know the examples (Watergate, OJ Simpson, Rodney King, Clinton and Monica, Princess Diana's funeral, & Enrongate). 

Where do I find more on Spectacles? 

Recommended Web Sites on SPECTACLE

What is relation of Spectator to Spectacle?

When spectacle and festival yield mega-spectacle: spectacle is the image, festival is the lived experience; they can compliment each other, however, one also may dominate crowd out the other.  When the image/spectacle is closer to the lived experience, compliments and reinforces the lived experience, celebrates it, we have a building up and strengthening dynamic. When the image is farther from the lived experience, when more life and energy is diverted to support the spectacle at the expense of the festive, this leads to crisis and a dynamic of a deconstructive mega-spectacle, with self-reflective questioning and carnivalesque resistance.

I have two books, one being published and one searching for a home.

Boje, D. M. (2002c) Theatres of Capitalism. Book being published by Hampton Press (San Francisco). Available until publication, on line, at http://cbae.nmsu.edu/~dboje/theatrics/index.htm (password is required).

Boje, D. M. (2002d) Spectacles, Carnivals & Festivals of Capitalism. S&F - Use aggie359 (ID) and adventure (pass word). 

Related Sites

Festivalism is an alternative to both the spectacles of state socialism and the late capitalism. Festivalism is rooted in Ahimsa, the practice of non-violence to all species.  It provides an alternative to production and consumption practices rooted in violence to life. Festival is the self-management and self-design of our own leisure time and space, the realization of what we need to live and evolve as a species, with the most minimal harm to any other species.  Festival is a way of doing business that respects people, communities, and the ecology.  Festival balances stakeholder interests in the future generation (stakeholders include workers, managers, owners, investors, customers, local communities, future generations, and the ecosystem). Please consult study guide on Festivalism.

Carnival -  Carnival is the theatrics of parody and satire sanctioned by power. It can even be organized by power as a way for citizens to let off steam.  In a more enlightened era carnival was a way for power to see how it felt to be under foot. I did some re-reading of Kristeva (1980: 65) and found it was on  Bakhtin's dialogic of text and context and particularly his concepts of the polyphonic and carnivalesque novels that Kristeva demarcated intertextual from structural or comparative analyses. Kristeva (1980: 78) says carnival is the double, "it is a spectacle, but without a stage; a game, but also a daily undertaking; a signifier, but also a signified."  The context of the carnival is the crowd, the stage, the actors, and the game itself. Intertextuality analysis has moved carnival aside. For example, I note that Fairclough's (1992) approach to intertextuality analysis does not include carnivalesque, but instead gives it a different (and still useful) twist. For Fairclough the bottom line is a hegemonic analysis of intertextuality. With this move he resituates intertextuality analysis into the philosophy of critical theory, into the vertical axis of not only context but power.

  • Examples of Carnival
  • How about this one - a parody of Nobel Prize Ceremony and Awards (press here)

See Festivalism