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Disgusted with French society where powdered fops gossip in code and bejewelled coquettes whisper behind fans, poet Alceste embarks on a one-man Nothing ever happens but there is immediate publicity everywhere. S0ren Kierkegaard 2 Jean Baudrillard was born in Reims in Among his earliest published writings were reviews of literature for Les Temps modernes at a time when he was still teaching German at a provincial lycee and translating the works, among others, of Peter Weiss, BertoIt Brecht and Wilhelm Miihlmann.

In the s he made the transition to sociology, largely under the guidance of Henri Lefebvre, and began to teach the subject 1. The Present Age. Translated and with an Introduction by Alexander Du. London: Collins, , p. Baudrillard's first period as a social theorist began with an analysis of the world of everyday objects and, by extension, of advertising and the media, in such works as The System of Objects , The Consumer Society and For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign Nanterre was the birthplace of the 'rnouvement du 22 mars', which played a prominent role in the events of May Baudrillard left Nanterre in , at a point when it had been definitively 'normalized', and spent the latter part of his teaching career at Paris-IX Dauphine.

Translated by Chris Turner London: Routledge, , p. Thinkers within the world of anthropology were engaged on similar critiques at this same time, though rarely with an equal degTee of radicalism.

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L'echange symbolique et la mort Paris: Gallimard, , p. My translation. Translated by W. Halls London: Routledge, Some have criticized Baudrillard's reliance on an anthropological critique as representing a nostalgic dimension in his work e. In conversation with Maria Elena Ramos at Caracas in , he describes his position as representing 'Ia nostalgia di une cultura non primitiva, sino radical' 'nostalgia for a culture not primitive, but radical'.

L'ichange symbolique et la mort, p. Simulation is, as he puts it elsewhere, the replacement of the world with a kind of substitute universe, a counter-world of signs. In an article entitled 'La prise d'otage' Hostage taking , also published in Utopie l2 and incorporated with minor changes into Symbolic Exchange and Death, the political import of this understanding of the symbolic is brought out: 'It is impossible to destroy the system by a contradiction-based logic or by reversing the balance of forces - in short, by a direct, dialectical revolution affecting the economic or political infrastructure.

Everything that produces contradiction or a balance of forces or energy in general merely feeds back into the system and drives it on. VIffSIff being understood here in the very basic sense of handing over, as in the expression 'verslff une somme'. In March-Apri And, crucially, he also argues there that our modern western societies, having existed up to then on a basis of 'expansion and explosion at all levels' , were on the point of implosion, a process heralded by the prevalence of terrorism in its radical non-representativeness and by the Baudrillard tells an interviewer, 'May '68 was an illogical event, irreducible to simulation, one which had no status other than that of coming from someplace else - a kind of pure object or event', and one senses here the traces of a kind of 'primal scene' With De La seduction of a further key term takes its place among the battery of concepts that structure Baudrillard's symbolic order: 'With the decline of psychoanalysis and sexuality as strong structures,' he writes, 'one may catch a glimpse of another, parallel universe In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities.

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My emphasis. Needless to say, this is a thoroughly poststructuralist position. The passage continues: 'A universe that can no longer be interpreted in terms of structures and diacritical oppositions, hut implies a seductive reversibility.

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It is a process of extermination of the structural position of each term, of the subject position of each of the antagonists, and in particular of the one who issues the challenge. Les strategjesfatales Paris: Grasset, , p. This is a radical, unprecedented shift, engendering what one commentator has called a 'post-metaphysical tension' in Baudrillard's writings 'De subjectobject relatie wordt dus niet zozeer opgelost, als wel omgekeerd, waardoor een postrnetafysische spanning wordt gecreeerd Since what is over-exposed is, of course, obscene, the 'poetics' of the symbolic order can be seen now virtually to volunteer the opposition between seduction and scene, on the one hand, production and the obscene, on the other.

This spiralling play between concepts is a characteristic and durable feature of Baudrillard's ecriture: as, in his later work, he increasingly 'withdraws' himself as active subject and goes over, as he puts it, to the side of the object, this sense of a poetic and often ironic dynamic within language itself underwrites the authenticity of the symbolic order and its various 'forms', which can thereby be seen also to preserve a secret, to guard a mystery.

One aspect of which is that canonic sociological explanations entirely miss the point: 'Deep down, things have never functioned socially, but symbolically, magically, irrationally, etc. Pietro Bellasi pointed long ago to the 'ingrained poetic quality' of Baudrillard's theoretical writings: 'se non e poesia, c'e la grana profonda e segreta della poesia'. There is a sense not just that all hope of an alternative social project has 'imploded', not merely that 'all potential modes of expression' have been absorbed into 'that of advertising' ,23 but that, with the merciless advance of simulation, a reality is being produced that is extreme in itself, extreme in the absence of critical distance it grants us, in the all-enveloping nature of its short-circuited, real-time, asphyxiating immediacy.

At the same time, where once it was capital that caused all that was solid to melt into air, now a process of the 'destructuration of every referential, of every human objective' - the process Baudrillard calls the 'deterrence of every principle'24 - has turned around against power, capitalist or other, and reduced every institutional reality to simulation and hyperreality: things do not disappear by their determinate negation, but by being driven on to this 'hyper' level. This is the world of the 'beyond', of the 'after': The Transparency of Evil opens with a piece entitled 'Mter the Orgy', the orgy in question being 'the moment when modernity exploded upon us, the moment of liberation in every sphere'.

Simulacra and Simulation. They are becoming 'extreme' in the literal sense - ex terminis. The course of the world is now dominated by a grandiose programme of total production which itself supplants the world, realizes it in the sense of turning it wholly into known, rationally structured reality, seeks to produce a total simulation, a virtual reality that aspires to obliterate entirely Baudrillard's realm of symbolic exchange. This goes far beyond Debord's Society of the Spectacle. We are no longer spectators, but actors in the performance, and actors increasingly integrated into the course of that performance.

Whereas we could face up to the unreality of the world as spectacle, we are defenceless before the extreme reality of this world, before this virtual perfection. We are, in fact, beyond all disalienation. This is the new form of terror, by comparison with which the horrors of alienation were very small beer.


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Translated by Chris Turner London: Verso, , p. Or to what Baudrillard sometimes simply calls reality though this is the most paradoxical - as well as the most paroxystic - term, because it is a 'reality' with all reality 'driven out' of it ibid. It must be emphasized, if only because critics who should know better come to grief over this question, that the 'obvious' opposition between 'the real' and 'the virtual' was never at all pertinent for Baudrillard, who is never, as a theorist, tempted into realism 'Mais moi, je ne crois pas au reel.

Mter all, reality is itself a convention, as he says in the same video, of 'framing'. And in the latest volume in the Cool Memmies series, he writes: 'Never believed in reality: I respect it too much to believe in it. Symbolic exchange is the opposite of exchange. There is an order of exchange and an order of fate. Glossing 'la strategie fatale', Baudrillard tells Sylvere Lotringer, 'Whether you call it the revenge of the object, or the Evil Genius of matter, it is not representable.

But it is a power all the same. That exists, it is inextricable, it cannot be destroyed' ibid. In these writings, Baudrillard has embarked on analyses that have little to do with sociology as conventionally and narrowly understood and has moved in to a space of theory which he occupies with a small number of others whom he considers significant today the list contains the names Zizek, Agamben, Sloterdijk and Virilio, but not perhaps too many more , Simply put, these works are philosophical analyses of present events and in best Deleuzian fashion creations and elaborations of concepts with which to 'theorize' them,3l though the relationship between theory perhaps the only strategie fatafil2 and events or non-events remains resolutely consistent with the theory itself: there are two orders 'metaphors must remain metaphors, concepts must remain concepts' - and the relationship between them is a 'symbolic' one of deft, of challenge,33 In these 'theory-fictions', the process of 'simulation' has mutated into an even more extreme process of virtualization In , he told Anne Laurent, 'L'ichange symbolique et La mMt is the last book that inspired any confidence.

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Everything I write is deemed brilliant, intelligent, but not serious. There has never been any real discussion about it. I don't claim to be tremendously serious, but there are nevertheless some philosophically serious things in my work!


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  • Us stratigiRs fatales, p. Baudrillard now explicitly points up the connection also with Nietzsche's concept of the 'vital illusion' In an interview dating from , he says: The world of symbolic exchange was the world of illusion in the sense of the vital illusion in Nietzsche. These [primitive] societies or our earlier societies still knew how to handle this We illusion. For us this radical illusion is difficult to bear. For me the world of simulation isn't a world of alienation any longer. What is involved here is something more akin to what is perhaps a 'fateful' strategy of escaping from the world of appearance and phenomena into the world of simulation, into an artificial world that is, potentially, virtually perfect.

    There is a 'softer' version of this thought, in which the whole of human life is presented as having become experimental, 'a limitless experimentation on human beings themselves. Written 'within the shadow cone of the events of 11 September', one of its central concerns is global power and the forms of resistance to it: those forms which surge up in abreaction to the excessive, prophylactic order of good, including such recognizably Baudrillardian 'objective ironies' as the globe's own 'negative reaction' to 'globalization' below, page We are back here, in dramatic form, with the system's reaction to its own perfection, with a kind of violent transparence du mal - a transparence, a 'showing-through' of evil.

    That phrase presents In a move that further reinforces the Nietzschean underpinnings of his position, Baudrillard here dovetails his own history of succeeding conceptions of reality into the famous passage in Nietzsche's '.

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    But good and evil have already been done away with here. The global free market has no time for them. And we stand on this side [diesseits] of good and evil. Instead of transcendence - implosion and catastrophe. Speaking on Tout arrive, France Culture, 11 May Transparency, as positive value in Enlightenment discourse and one of the great buzzwords of modern European politics, is not without a little linguistic sleight of hand perhaps reversed into a 'transparence of evil', a state of affairs in which, despite all fine words and good intentions, evil repeatedly transparait.

    L'intelligence du mal is a similarly polysemic, reversible title: not only does it imply an insight into 'evil' on the part of subjects, but it can signify also the intelligence of the object 'evil', the world's own greater 'understanding' of its mode of operation than is possessed by its observers. And beneath it again lies a sense of intelligence avec le mal in the sense in which one speaks in English of intelligence with the enemy.

    On the contrary, it has grown, and sooner or later it explodes. Not evil as seen from a moral point of view, but something in reality itself which radically contradicts the ope rationalization of the world, globalization, etc. First, it must be said that it is to be understood not theologically as substance, but metaphysically as form. It is, as Baudrillard says elsewhere, the 'non-unification of things - good being defined as the unification of things in a totalized world' - and, as such, it In Cool Memories V.