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The Revolution of Everyday Life

by Raoul Vaneigem


"Introduction"

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 travelling together in pain, and groaning under enmity: labouring 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 root of rebellion planted in your natures? Is there not also a time for this wicked one to be revealed?

You little think, and less know, how soon the cup of fury may be put into your hands: my self, with many others, have been made stark drunk with that wine of wrath, the dregs whereof (for ought I know) may fall to your share suddenly."

From: "Heights in Depths and Depths in Heights (or TRVTH no less secretly than sweetly sparkling out its Glory from under a cloud of Obloquie)" by the Ranter Jo. Salmon (1651).

 

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 formulae 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 particular it seemed best not to tear away from the commonplace the tangle of roots which enable us to transplant it into another region, where we can cultivate it to our own profit.

I have never pretended to reveal anything new or to launch novelties onto the culture market. A minute correction of the essential is more important than a hundred new accessories. All that is new is the direction of the current which carries commonplaces along.

For as long as there have been men -- and men who read Lautréamont -- everything has been said and few people have gained anything from it. Because our ideas are in themselves commonplace, they can only be of value to people who are not.

The modern world must learn what it already knows, become what it already is, by means of a great work of exorcism, by conscious practice. One can escape from the commonplace only by manhandling it, mastering it, steeping it in dreams, giving it over to the sovereign pleasure of subjectivity. Above all I have emphasized subjective will, but nobody should criticize this until they have examined the extent to which the objective conditions of the contemporary world are furthering the cause of subjectivity day by day. Everything starts from subjectivity, and nothing stops there. Today less than ever.

From now on the struggle between subjectivity and what degrades it will extend the scope of the old class struggle. It revitalizes it and makes it more bitter. The desire to live is a political decision. We do not want a world in which the guarantee that we will not die of starvation is bought by accepting the risk of dying of boredom.

The man of survival is man ground up by the machinery of hierarchical power, caught in a mass of interferences, a tangle of oppressive techniques whose rationalization only awaits the patient programming of programmed minds.

The man of survival is also self-united man, the man of total refusal. Not a single instant goes by without each of us living contradictorily, and on every level of reality, the conflict between oppression and freedom, and without this conflict being strangely deformed, and grasped at the same time in two antagonistic perspectives: the perspective of power and the perspective of supersession. The two parts of this book, devoted to the analysis of these two perspectives, should thus be approached, not in succession, as their arrangement demands, but simultaneously, since the description of the negative founds the positive project and the positive project confirms negativity. The best arrangement of a book is none at all, so that the reader can discover his own.

Where the writing fails it reflects the failure of the reader as a reader, and even more as a man. If the element of boredom it cost me to write it comes through when you read it, this will only be one more argument demonstrating our failure to live. For the rest, the gravity of the times must excuse the gravity of my tone. Levity always falls short of the written words or overshoots them. The irony in this case will consist in never forgetting that.

This book is part of a current of agitation of which the world has not heard the last. It sets forth a simple contribution, among others, to the recreation of the international revolutionary movement. Its importance had better not escape anybody, for nobody, in time, will be able to escape its conclusions.

 

 

My subjectivity and the Creator : This is too much for one brain.
-- LAUTRÉAMONT

 

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