Randall Cherry and Ian Patterson's translation of Raoul Vaneigem's 1986 book Le Mouvement du libre-esprit -- published by Zone Books in 1994 as The Movement of the Free Spirit: General Considerations and Firsthand Testimony Concerning Some Brief Flowerings of Life in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and, Incidentally, Our Own Time -- is a crucial contribution to the development of the situationist movement in English-speaking countries such as our own. Predominantly Protestant, the United States needs a really good new book on the movement of the Free Spirit. "The first studies and publications of the supporters of the movement of the Free Spirit were the works of Protestants," Vaneigem writes in one of his many footnotes. Much like the relatively well-respected Freemasons, "[the supporters of the movement] were seen as antisacramental mystics, hostile to Rome and slandered by the Church."
It was at this point in human development that the fall from life into survival occurred. In place of a unitary mode of existence, slowly disengaging from nature without ever breaking with it, a society arose in which human beings, having become both their own enemy and the enemy of their fellow humans, saw the object of their actions turned against them. Instead of moving toward a human transcendence of the contradiction between a free life and the fight for survival that characterizes the animal kingdom, market civilization socialized both. The freedom of nature was sacrificed to a competitive struggle whose aim was no longer the brutal satisfaction of drives (which would now be satisfied in the form of a secret, shameful tribute to repressed animality), but rather the maintenance of a parasitic system [i.e., work] offering the social collectivity an abstract guarantee of survival: the exploitation of nature through man's exploitation of man.