Spectacle, The

Spectacle is derived from Latin spectare, meaning “to view, watch, behold,” and denotes a visually attractive or striking event or performance. While its exceptional aesthetic qualities are able to assemble large audiences (thus potentially creating a general public), critics of the spectacle have regularly denounced it as rendering its onlookers passive and incapable of acting in politically rational ways. In the context of surveillance, three uses of the concept can be distinguished broadly: As a central element in the visual regime of modernity, it is used by historians and philosophers to indicate a paradigm shift in the relations among power, vision, and the public. In the second half of the 20th century, it became synonymous with mass media. In sociology, the spectacle is also used ...

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