Beau comme le tremblement des mains dans l’alcoolisme’: A Cavalier History of Drugs and Intoxication in the Situationist International

  • Alastair Hemmens


The Situationist International (SI), considered by many to be the most important revolutionary organisation of the twentieth century, has always carried with it a certain reputation for intoxication. Guy Debord, the group’s co-founder and central theorist, was a famously unapologetic alcoholic. Alexander Trocchi, the only Scottish member of the SI, was a heroin addict who explicitly explored his addiction through literature. The collective Situationist practice of dérive, moreover, almost invariably involved some form of intoxication; and the extant literature on the SI is full of references that evoke the group’s penchant for a heady mixture of alcohol and revolution. Yet, despite this almost legendary reputation, critics have generally avoided any attempt to define the relationship between the Situationists and intoxication. Indeed, such examples of drug use tend to appear no more than anecdotally in studies of the SI, as pieces of colour in a counter-cultural narrative of the sixties and, particularly in the case of Debord, as somewhat romanticised biographical titbits. There is good reason, however, to take a closer look at this relationship. The Situationists released several public statements about drugs; they made limited use of intoxication in their critical practices and, particularly in the cases of Trocchi and Debord, developed often opposing critical positions that explicitly addressed the development of counter-cultural movements around drugs and addiction in their own time.


Urban Space Heroin Addict Critical Practice Situationist International Lower East Side 
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© Alastair Hemmens 2015

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  • Alastair Hemmens

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