Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Raoul Vaneigem

Belgium Writer and Philosopher

"There are more truths in twenty-four hours of a man’s life than in all the philosophies."

"As poverty has been reduced in terms of mere survival, it has become more profound in terms of our way of life."

"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."

"Down with a world in which the guarantee that we will not die of starvation has been purchased with the guarantee that we will die of boredom."

"Daily life is governed by an economic system in which the production and consumption of insults tends to balance out."

"Everything has been said yet few have taken advantage of it. Since all our knowledge is essentially banal, it can only be of value to minds that are not."

"Ideally a book would have no order in it, and the reader would have to discover his own."

"In the twentieth century, death terrifies men less than the absence of real life. All these dead, mechanized, specialized actions, stealing a little bit of life a thousand times a day until the mind and body are exhausted, until that death which is not the end of life but the final saturation with absence."

"In the kingdom of consumption the citizen is king. A democratic monarchy: equality before consumption, fraternity in consumption, and freedom through consumption."

"In an industrial society which confuses work and productivity, the necessity of producing has always been an enemy of the desire to create."

"It is much more a lack of fun which batters us than over abundance and indulgence"

"Never before has a civilization reached such a degree of a contempt for life; never before has a generation, drowned in mortification, felt such a rage to live."

"Our task is not to rediscover nature but to remake it."

"People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive in the refusal of constraints, such people have a corpse in their mouth."

"Purchasing power is a license to purchase power."

"The millions of human beings who were shot, tortured, starved, treated like animals and made the object of a conspiracy of ridicule, can sleep in peace in their communal graves, for at least the struggle in which they died has enabled their descendants, isolated in their air-conditioned apartments, to believe, on the strength of their daily dose of television, that they are happy and free. The Communards went down, fighting to the last, so that you too could qualify for a Caribbean cruise."

"The eruption of lived pleasure is such that in losing myself I find myself; forgetting that I exist, I realize myself."

"The work was what the man thought of nothing better to do with your life."

"The same people who are murdered slowly in the mechanized slaughterhouses of work are also arguing, singing, drinking, dancing, making love, holding the streets, picking up weapons and inventing a new poetry."

"The nihilist makes one mistake: he does not realise that other people are also nihilists, and that the nihilism of other people is now an active historical factor. He has no consciousness of the possibility of transcendence. The fact is, however, that the present reign of survival, in which all the talk about progress expresses nothing so much as the fear that progress may be impossible, is itself a product of history, is itself the outcome of all the renunciations of humanity that have been made over the centuries. Indeed, the history of survival is the historical movement which will eventually undo history itself. For clear awareness of just how nightmarish life has become is on the point of fusing with a consciousness of the successive renunciations of the past, and thus too with the real desire to pick up the movement of transcendence everywhere in space and time where it has been prematurely interrupted."

"The organization controlling the material equipment of our everyday life is such that what in itself would enable us to construct it richly plunges us instead into a poverty of abundance, making alienation all the more intolerable as each convenience promises liberation and turns out to be only one more burden. We are condemned to slavery to the means of liberation. "

"The world of the commodity is a world upside-down, which bases itself not upon life but upon the transformation of life into work."

"Suffering is the pain of constraints. An atom of pure delight, no matter how small, can hold it at bay. "

"To talk of a modern work of art enduring is sillier than talking of the eternal values of Standard Oil."

"To be rich nowadays merely means to possess a large number of poor objects."

"We can escape the commonplace only by manipulating it, controlling it, thrusting it into our dreams or surrendering it to the free play of our subjectivity."

"Who wants a world in which the guarantee that we shall not die of starvation entails the risk of dying of boredom?"

"Work to survive, survive by consuming, survive to consume: the hellish cycle is complete."

"If love is under siege, it is because it threatens the very essence of commercial civilization. Everything is designed to make us forget that love is our most vivid manifestation and the most common power of life that is in us. Shouldn't we wonder how the lights that glimmer in the eye can blow a fuse for a time, even as barriers of oppression break and jam our passions? Yet despite a life stunted and distorted by mediated Spectacle, nothing has ever managed to strip love of its primal force. Although the heart's music fails to overwhelm the cacophony of profit efficiency, bit by bit it composes our destinies, according to tones, chords, and dissonances which render us happy if only we learn to harmonize the scattered notes that string emotions together."

"I'm losing my way in which search byway? Protect me with the number, what curtain separating me from myself? It crumbled in pieces that make me rediscover how can I? I never knew about the uncertainty gripping'm headed. It predetermined path in front of me. It's inner world, his creations of thought; but in reality it's the line that forms a part of a mental landscape. Rubbish shove confirm the rationality and undisputed power because sa‡mas?- pellets are forcing me to jump stop; but I never leave my feet on a hard surface. And I'm doing it right with this useless game, you just lost my connection with the present, which would indicate success: most of the time away from myself, live to the rhythm of the dead time."

"Daydreaming subverts the world."

"It is entirely up to us to invent our own lives."

"People without imagination are beginning to tire of the importance attached to comfort, to culture, to leisure, to all that destroys imagination. This means that people are not really tired of comfort, culture and leisure, but of the use to which they are put, which is precisely what stops us enjoying them."

"Power offers a choice of servitudes but calls this choice liberty."

"Privative appropriation and domination are thus originally imposed and felt as a positive right, but in the form of a negative universality. Valid for everyone, justified in everyone's eyes by divine or natural law, the right of privative appropriation is objectified in a general illusion, in a universal transcendence, in an essential law under which everyone individually manages to tolerate the more or less narrow limits assigned to his right to live and to the conditions of life in general."

"The unity of primitive man and nature is essentially magical. The man truly separates itself from nature by transforming it through technology and, turning, he desecrates. But the use of technology is determined by a social organization. The company comes with the tool. Moreover, the organization is the first coherent control technique against nature. Social organization - as hierarchical-based private appropriation - gradually destroys the magical bond between man and nature, but in turn it preserves the magic she creates between her and the men a mythical unity modeled on their participation in the mystery of nature."

"Production and consumption are the nipples of modern society. Thus suckled, humanity grows in strength and beauty; rising standard of living, all modern conveniences, distractions of all kinds, culture for all, the comfort of your dreams."

"The key is within each of us. No instructions come with it."

"We must discover new frontiers... People have been standing for centuries before a worm-eaten door, making pinholes in it with increasing ease. The time has come to kick it down, for it is only on the other side that everything begins."

"What could I wish for the present but to take the greatest pleasure in being what I am?"

"The good sense of consumer society has brought the old expression 'see things my way' to its logical conclusion: whichever way you look, you see nothing but things. Become as senseless and easily handled as a brick."

"What drives us to despair is not the immensity of our unsatisfied desires, but the moment when our fledgling passion discovers its own emptiness. Insatiable desire for passionate knowledge of one pretty girl after another stems from anxiety and from fear of love, so afraid are we of never encountering anything but objects. The dawn when lovers leave each other's arms is the same dawn that breaks on the execution of revolutionaries without a revolution. Isolation a deux cannot prevail over the isolation of all. Pleasure is broken off prematurely and lovers find themselves naked in the world, their actions suddenly ridiculous and feeble. No love is possible in an unhappy world."

"What is nihilism? Rozanov responds perfectly to the issue when he writes: The representation is complete. The public stand. It's time to put on his coat and go home. It turns more coat or home."

"Work is the opposite of creativity."