Magazine article World Literature Today

La Civilización del Espectáculo

Magazine article World Literature Today

La Civilización del Espectáculo

Article excerpt

Mario Vargas Llosa. La civilización del espectáculo. México D.F. / Madrid. Santillana / Alfaguara. 2012. isbn 9786071117663

La civilización del espectáculo is a controversial and pessimistic book that also brims with vibrant energy and instigating ideas, many of which might make the reader consider Mario Vargas Llosa a politically incorrect writer. His main argument proposes that culture, as it has been known traditionally, is on the verge of disappearing; it is disappearing at such a fast rate that no one can fully grasp the disastrous consequences of the cultural changes that are taking place before our very eyes.

The book centers on four main themes: banality of culture, disappearance of eroticism, frivolity of politics, and religious tolerance. Common to these four scenarios is the fact that they have emerged within a type of society that privileges, above all, spectacle and entertainment. The author asks the following question: "What does the civilization of spectacle mean? A civilization that gives the greatest importance to entertainment, a civilization in which enjoyment and the avoidance of boredom are the universal passions."

For Vargas Llosa, the problem mentioned above reflects a moral issue that is causing, without exception, the total collapse of high culture throughout the Western world. The reasons are many; one of them-perhaps the most damaging for Vargas Llosa-originates with the democratization of culture: since a generalized agreement regarding what is good and bad, culturally speaking, is long gone in today's society, we now live in a time of confusion in the sense that everything has value and nothing has value at the same time. According to Vargas Llosa, the reason for this is that what is understood to be culture is nothing more than "a pleasant way of passing time" and by no means a profound experience associated with questioning and exploring human existence. …

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