French sociologist, philosopher and cultural theorist
Jean Baudrillard (27 July 1929 – 6 March 2007) was a French sociologist, philosopher, cultural theorist, political commentator, and photographer. His work is frequently associated with postmodernism and specifically post-structuralism.
- The real is not only what can be reproduced, but that which is already reproduced, the hyper-real.
- Simulations (1983), New York: Semiotext, p. 146
- The Marxist critique is only a critique of capital, a critique coming from the heart of the middle and petit bourgeois classes, for which Marxism has served for a century as a latent ideology…. The Marxist seeks a good use of economy. Marxism is therefore only a limited petit bourgeois critique, one more step in the banalization of life toward the "good use" of the social!
- Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory 15 (1987) "When Bataille Attacked the Metaphysical Principle of Economy"
America (1986) edit
- Trans. Chris Turner, 1988, New York: Verso, ISBN 0-860-91978-1
- Driving is a spectacular form of amnesia. Everything is to be discovered, everything to be obliterated. Admittedly, there is the primal shock of the deserts and the dazzle of California, but when this is gone, the secondary brilliance of the journey begins, that of the excessive, pitiless distance, the infinity of anonymous faces and distances, or of certain miraculous geological formations, which ultimately testify to no human will, while keeping intact an image of upheaval. This form of travel admits of no exceptions: when it runs up against a known face, a familiar landscape, or some decipherable message, the spell is broken: the amnesic, ascetic, asymptotic charm of disappearance succumbs to affect and worldly semiology.
- Vanishing Point (pp. 9-10)
- Yet there is a certain solitude like no other - that of the man preparing his meal in public on a wall, or on the hood of his car, or along a fence, alone. You see that all the time here. It is the saddest sight in the world. Sadder than destitution, sadder than the beggar is the man who eats alone in public. Nothing more contradicts the laws of man or beast, for animals always do each other the honour of sharing or disputing each other’s food. He who eats alone is dead (but not he who drinks alone. Why is this?).
- New York (p. 15)
Cool Memories (1987, trans. 1990) edit
- There are cultures that can only picture their origins and not their ends.
Some are obsessed by both.
Two other positions are possible: only picturing one's end - our own culture; picturing neither beginning nor end - the coming culture.
- Chapter 1
- Boredom is like a pitiless zooming in on the epidermis of time. Every instant is dilated and magnified like the pores of the face.
- Chapter 3
- A series of accidents creates a positively lighthearted state.
- Chapter 4
- There is no aphrodisiac like innocence.
- Chapter 5
- One day, we shall stand up and our backsides will remain attached to our seats.
- Dying is nothing. You have to know how to disappear. Dying comes down to a biological chance and that is of no consequence. Disappearing is of a far higher order of necessity. You must not leave it to biology to decide when you will disappear. To disappear is to pass into an enigmatic state which is neither life nor death. Some animals know how to do this, as do savages, who withdraw while still alive, from the sight of their own people.
- Two bodies side by side, which are not asleep and know it: a strange kind of communication sets in between them, formed of respect for simulated sleep, and yet it needs to betray itself by some furtive sign — a breathing pattern which is not that of real sleep or movements which are not those of a dreaming body, Neither, however, wants to break the spell. It is a conspiracy in the dark, an emotional conspiracy filled with delicious tension.
- There has been much discussion of the uninterpretable answer to the question: 'are you lying?' But ask someone next to you, very softly so as not to wake him: 'are you asleep?' If he replies that he is, then that makes him a liar. But he can reply by pretending to be asleep, which is not actually lying, but pretend-ing to lie. There is a big difference, since this is a lovers' game. The question itself is a lovers' game because it assumes the partner is not asleep while making every effort not to wake him. Besides, these are the same questions: do you love me? are you lying to me? are you asleep? And the reply — yes, I love you, yes, I'm lying, yes, I'm asleep — is equally paradoxical. But it is not untruthful. It simply comes from another world which is not the truth of the first. 'Yes, I'm asleep. Yes, I'm lying. Yes, I love you': all these answers reflect a marvellous somnambulism and, all in all, a very clear grasp of the relations we establish with reality when we are sleeping, lying or in love.
- Here begins my delirious self-criticism (all self-criticism is delirious, the worst form of the critical spirit being that which claims to be directed against itself). Nonetheless, I accuse myself of:
- having surreptitiously mixed my phantasies in with reality and, more precisely, with the little amount of reality available at this most mediocre moment in history
- having systematically opposed the most obvious and well-founded notions, in the hope that they would fall into the trap of this radicalism, which has not occurred
- having dreamt of a different world which — whether women or concepts — would have been that of a sacred form of prostitution
- having subtly drawn my energy from the energy of others according to a mental law of derivation
- having cultivated a twilight zone of thought the more effectively to disguise the difference between night and day
- never having been tempted to throw everything away, but merely obsessed by a sense of frustration and of having sublimated all cowardice in theoretical radicalism
- having sinned by omission of references
- Of being profoundly carnal and melancholy
- Of having withdrawn from things to the extent that any judgement I make is merely the word of a phantom
- But where are the blinding insights of yesteryear? Around me I see nothing but groundless hysteria and unscrupulous vitality
- October 1980
The Ecstasy of Communication (1987) edit
- L'autre par lui-même (Paris: Éditions Galilée, 1987); trans. Bernard and Caroline Schutze, New York:Semiotext(e)
- The need to speak, even if one has nothing to say, becomes more pressing when one has nothing to say, just as the will to live becomes more urgent when life has lost its meaning. (p. 30)
- Picturing others and everything which brings you closer to them is futile from the instant that ‘communication’ can make their presence immediate. (p. 42)
- The close-up of a face is as obscene as a sexual organ seen from up close. It is a sexual organ. The promiscuity of the detail, the zoom-in, takes on a sexual value. (p. 43)
- Challenge, and not desire, lies at the heart of seduction. (p. 57)
- Seduction is the world’s elementary dynamic… All this has changed significantly for us, at least in appearance. For what has happened to good and evil? Seduction hurls them against one another, and unites them beyond meaning, in a paroxysm [sudden outbreak of emotion] of intensity and charm. (p. 59)
- Distinctive signs, full signs, never seduce us. (p. 59)
- THERE IS NEVER ANYTHING TO PRO-DUCE. In spite of all its materialist efforts, production remains a utopia. We can wear ourselves out in materializing things, in rendering them visible, but we will never cancel the secret. (p. 65)
- And so one can imagine that in amorous seduction the other is the locus of your secret — the other unknowingly holds that which you will never have the chance to know. (p. 65)
- Take provocation, for instance, which is the opposite and the caricature of seduction. It says: "I know that you want to be seduced, and I will seduce you." Nothing could be worse than betraying this secret rule. Nothing could be less seductive than a provocative smile or inciteful behaviour, since both presuppose that one cannot be seduced naturally and that one needs to be blackmailed into it, or through a declaration of intent: "Let me seduce you" (p. 67)
- The discourse of truth is quite simply impossible. It eludes itself. Everything eludes itself, everything scoffs at its own truth, seduction renders everything elusive. The fury to unveil the truth, to get at the naked truth, the one which haunts all discourses of interpretation, the obscene rage to uncover the secret, is proportionate to the impossibility of ever achieving this. …But this rage, this fury, only bears witness to the eternity of seduction and to the impossibility of mastering it. (p. 73)
Simulacra and Simulation (1981) edit
- The simulacrum is never what hides the truth—it is truth that hides the fact that there is none. The simulacrum is true. — Ecclesiastes
- "The Precession of Simulacra," p. 1
- Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or substance. It is a generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.
- "The Precession of Simulacra," p. 1
- It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges persist here and there in the deserts that are no longer those of the Empire, but ours: The desert of the real itself.
- "The Precession of Simulacra," p. 1
- For it is with the same imperialism that present-day simulators try to make the real, all of the real, coincide with their simulation models.
- "The Precession of Simulacra," pp. 1–2
- To dissimulate is to pretend not to have what one has. To simulate is to feign to have what one doesn't have. One implies a presence, the other an absence. But it is more complicated than that because simulating is not pretending: "Whoever fakes an illness can simply stay in bed and make everyone believe he is ill. Whoever simulates an illness produces in himself some of the symptoms" (Littré). Therefore, pretending, or dissimulating, leaves the principle of reality intact: the difference is always clear, it is simply masked, whereas simulation threatens the difference between the "true" and the "false," the "real" and the "imaginary."
- "The Precession of Simulacra," p. 3
- "If he is this good at acting crazy, it's because he is." Nor is military psychology mistaken in this regard: in this sense, all crazy people simulate, and this lack of distinction is the worst kind of subversion. It is against this lack of distinction that classical reason armed itself in all its categories. But it is what today again outflanks them, submerging the principle of truth.
- "The Precession of Simulacra," p. 4
- The Jesuits founded their politics on the virtual disappearance of God and on the worldly and spectacular manipulation of consciences—the evanescence of God in the epiphany of power—the end of transcendence, which now only serves as an alibi for a strategy altogether free of influences and signs. Behind the baroqueness of images hides the éminence grise of politics.
- "The Precession of Simulacra," p. 5
- Such would be the successive phases of the image:
it is the reflection of a profound reality;
it masks and denatures a profound reality;
it masks the absence of a profound reality;
it has no relation to any reality whatsoever: it is its own pure simulacrum.
In the first case, the image is a good appearance—representation is of the sacramental order. In the second, it is an evil appearance—it is of the order of maleficence. In the third, it plays at being an appearance—it is of the order of sorcery. In the fourth, it is no longer of the order of appearances, but of simulation.
- "The Precession of Simulacra," p. 6
- When the real is no longer what it was, nostalgia assumes its full meaning.
- "The Precession of Simulacra," p. 6
- Our entire linear and accumulative culture collapses if we cannot stockpile the past in plain view.
- "The Precession of Simulacra," p. 10
- Disneyland exists in order to hide that it is the "real" country, all of "real" America that is Disneyland (a bit like prisons are there to hide that it is the social in its entirety, in its banal omnipresence, that is carceral). Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real.
- "The Precession of Simulacra," p. 12
- This world wants to be childish in order to make us believe that the adults are elsewhere, in the "real" world, and to conceal the fact that true childishness is everywhere—that it is that of the adults themselves who come here to act the child in order to foster illusions as to their real childishness.
- "The Precession of Simulacra," p. 13
- People no longer look at each other, but there are institutes for that. They no longer touch each other, but there is contactotherapy. They no longer walk, but they go jogging, etc. Everywhere one recycles lost faculties, or lost bodies, or lost sociality, or the lost taste for food.
- "The Precession of Simulacra," p. 13
- Watergate was thus nothing but a lure held out by the system to catch its adversaries—a simulation of scandal for regenerative ends.
- "The Precession of Simulacra," p. 16
- We are in a logic of simulation, which no longer has anything to do with a logic of facts and an order of reason. Simulation is characterized by a precession of the model, of all the models based on the merest fact—the models come first, their circulation, orbital like that of the bomb, constitutes the genuine magnetic field of the event. The facts no longer have a specific trajectory, they are born at the intersection of models, a single fact can be engendered by all the models at once.
- "The Precession of Simulacra," pp. 16—17
- The great event of this period, the great trauma, is this decline of strong referentials, these death pangs of the real and of the rational that open onto an age of simulation. Whereas so many generations, and particularly the last, lived in the march of history, in the euphoric or catastrophic expectation of a revolution—today one has the impression that history has retreated, leaving behind it an indifferent nebula, traversed by currents, but emptied of references. It is into this void that the phantasms of a past history recede, the panoply of events, ideologies, retro fashions—no longer so much because people believe in them or still place some hope in them, but simply to resurrect the period when at least there was history, at least there was violence (albeit fascist), when at least life and death were at stake.
- "History: A Retro Scenario," pp. 43—44
- Photography and cinema contributed in large part to the secularization of history, to fixing it in its visible, "objective" form at the expense of the myths that once traversed it. Today cinema can place all its talent, all its technology in the service of reanimating what it itself contributed to liquidating. It only resurrects ghosts, and it itself is lost therein.
- "History: A Retro Scenario," p. 48
- Fascism itself, the mystery of its appearance and of its collective energy, with which no interpretation has been able to come to grips (neither the Marxist one of political manipulation by dominant classes, nor the Reichian one of the sexual repression of the masses, nor the Deleuzian one of despotic paranoia), can already be interpreted as the "irrational" excess of mythic and political referentials, the mad intensification of collective value (blood, race, people, etc.), the reinjection of death, of a "political aesthetic of death" at a time when the process of the disenchantment of value and of collective values, of the rational secularization and unidimensionalization of all life, of the operationalization of all social and individual life already makes itself strongly felt in the West. Yet again, everything seems to escape this catastrophe of value, this neutralization and pacification of life. Fascism is a resistance to this, even if it is a profound, irrational, demented resistance, it would not have tapped into this massive energy if it hadn't been a resistance to something much worse. Fascism's cruelty, its terror is on the level of this other terror that is the confusion of the real and the rational, which deepened in the West, and it is a response to that.
- "History: A Retro Scenario," p. 48
- Forgetting extermination is part of extermination, because it is also the extermination of memory, of history, of the social, etc. This forgetting is as essential as the event in any case unlocatable by us, inaccessible to us in its truth. This forgetting is still too dangerous, it must be effaced by an artificial memory (today, everywhere, it is artificial memories that effect the memory of man, that efface man in his own memory). This artificial memory will be the restaging of extermination—but late, much too late for it to be able to make real waves and profoundly disturb something, and especially, especially through medium that is itself cold, radiating forgetfulness, deterrence, and extermination in a still more systematic way, if that is possible, than the camps themselves.
- "Holocaust," p. 49
- If every strategy today is that of mental terror and of deterrence tied to the suspension and the eternal simulation of catastrophe, then the only means of mitigating this scenario would be to make the catastrophe arrive, to produce or to reproduce a real catastrophe. To which Nature is at times given: in its inspired moments, it is God who through his cataclysms unknots the equilibrium of terror in which humans are imprisoned. Closer to us, this is what terrorism is occupied with as well: making real, palpable violence surface in opposition to the invisible violence of security. Besides, therein lies terrorism's ambiguity.
- "The China Syndrome," p. 58
- The very ideology of "cultural production" is antithetical to all culture, as is that of visibility and of the polyvalent space: culture is a site of the secret, of seduction, of initiation, of a restrained and highly ritualized symbolic exchange.
- "The Beaubourg Effect," p. 64
- We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning.
- "The Implosion of Meaning in the Media," p. 79
- [In cloning,] the Father and the Mother have disappeared, not in the service of an aleatory liberty of the subject, but in the service of a matrix called code.
- "Clone Story," p. 96
- This is how one puts an end to totality. If all information can be found in each of its parts, the whole loses its meaning. It is also the end of the body, of this singularity called body, whose secret is precisely that it cannot be segmented into additional cells, that it is an indivisible configuration, to which its sexuation is witness (paradox: cloning will fabricate sexed beings in perpetuity, since they are similar to their model, whereas thereby sex becomes useless—but precisely sex is not a function, it is what makes a body a body, it is what exceeds all the parts, all the diverse functions of this body). Sex (or death: in this sense it is the same thing) is what exceeds all information that can be collected on a body. Well, where is all this information collected? In the genetic formula. This is why it must necessarily want to forge a path of autonomous reproduction, independent of sexuality and of death.
- "Clone Story," p. 97
- It is the fantasy of seizing reality live that continues—ever since Narcissus bent over his spring. Surprising the real in order to immobilize it, suspending the real in the expiration of its double. You bend over the hologram like God over his creature: only God has this power of passing through walls, through people, and finding Himself immaterially in the beyond. We dream of passing through ourselves and of finding ourselves in the beyond: the day when your holographic double will be there in space, eventually moving and talking, you will have realized this miracle. Of course, it will no longer be a dream, so its charm will be lost.
- "Holograms," p. 105
- Meaning, truth, the real cannot appear except locally, in a restricted horizon, they are partial objects, partial effects of the mirror and of equivalence. All doubling, all generalization, all passage to the limit, all holographic extension (the fancy of exhaustively taking account of this universe) makes them surface in their mockery.
Viewed at this angle, even the exact sciences come dangerously close to pataphysics. Because they depend in some way on the hologram and on the objectivist whim of the deconstruction and exact reconstruction of the world (in its smallest terms) founded on a tenacious and naive faith in a pact of the similitude of things to themselves. The real, the real object is supposed to be equal to itself, it is supposed to resemble itself like a face in a mirror—and this virtual similitude is in effect the only definition of the real—and any attempt, including the holographic one, that rests on it, will inevitably miss its object, because it does not take its shadow into account (precisely the reason why it does not resemble itself)—this hidden face where the object crumbles, its secret. The holographic attempt literally jumps over its shadow, and plunges into transparency, to lose itself there.
- "Holograms," pp. 108–109
- One has never said better how much "humanism", "normality", "quality of life" were nothing but the vicissitudes of profitability.
- "The Animals: Territory and Metamorphoses," p. 131
- Never would the humanities or psychoanalysis have existed if it had been miraculously possible to reduce man to his "rational" behaviors.
- "The Animals: Territory and Metamorphoses," p. 132
- Once animals had a more sacred, more divine character than men. There is not even a reign of the "human" in primitive societies, and for a long time the animal order has been the order of reference. Only the animal is worth being sacrificed, as a god, the sacrifice of man only comes afterward, according to a degraded order. Men qualify only by their affiliation to the animal: the Bororos "are" macaws.
- "The Animals: Territory and Metamorphoses," p. 133
- Whatever it may be, animals have always had, until our era, a divine or sacrificial nobility that all mythologies recount. Even murder by hunting is still a symbolic relation, as opposed to an experimental dissection. Even domestication is still a symbolic relation, as opposed to industrial breeding. One only has to look at the status of animals in peasant society. And the status of domestication, which presupposes land, a clan, a system of parentage of which the animals are a part, must not be confused with the status of the domestic pet—the only type of animals that are left to us outside reserves and breeding stations—dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, all packed together in the affection of their master. The trajectory animals have followed, from divine sacrifice to dog cemeteries with atmospheric music, from sacred defiance to ecological sentimentality, speaks loudly enough of the vulgarization of the status of man himself.
- "The Animals: Territory and Metamorphoses," p. 134
- Those who used to sacrifice animals did not take them for beasts. And even the Middle Ages, which condemned and punished them in due form, was in this way much closer to them than we are, we who are filled with horror at this practice. They held them to be guilty: which was a way of honoring them. We take them for nothing, and it is on this basis that we are "human" with them. We no longer sacrifice them, we no longer punish them, and we are proud of it, but it is simply that we have domesticated them, worse: that we have made of them a racially inferior world, no longer even worthy of our justice, but only of our affection and social charity, no longer worthy of punishment and of death, but only of experimentation and extermination like meat from the butchery.
- "The Animals: Territory and Metamorphoses," pp. 134–135
- The "hard law of value," the "law set in stone"—when it abandons us, what sadness, what panic! This is why there are still good days left to fascist and authoritarian methods, because they revive something of the violence necessary to life—whether suffered or inflicted. The violence of ritual, the violence of work, the violence of knowledge, the violence of blood, the violence of power and of the political is good! It is clear, luminous, the relations of force, contradictions, exploitation, repression! This is lacking today, and the need for it makes itself felt.
- "Value's Last Tango," p. 156
- The apocalypse is finished, today it is the precession of the neutral, of forms of the neutral and of indifference. I will leave it to be considered whether there can be a romanticism, an aesthetic of the neutral therein. I don't think so—all that remains, is the fascination for desertlike and indifferent forms, for the very operation of the system that annihilates us. Now, fascination (in contrast to seduction, which was attached to appearances, and to dialectical reason, which was attached to meaning) is a nihilistic passion par excellence, it is the passion proper to the mode of disappearance. We are fascinated by all forms of disappearance, of our disappearance. Melancholic and fascinated, such is our general situation in an era of involuntary transparency.
I am a nihilist.
I observe, I accept, I assume the immense process of the destruction of appearances (and of the seduction of appearances) in the service of meaning (representation, history, criticism, etc.) that is the fundamental fact of the nineteenth century.
- "On Nihilism," p. 160
- For nothing can be greater than seduction itself, not even the order that destroys it.
- Seduction (1990)
- The end of history is, alas, also the end of the dustbins of history. There are no longer any dustbins for disposing of old ideologies, old regimes, old values. Where are we going to throw Marxism, which actually invented the dustbins of history? (Yet there is some justice here since the very people who invented them have fallen in.) Conclusion: if there are no more dustbins of history, this is because History itself has become a dustbin. It has become its own dustbin, just as the planet itself is becoming its own dustbin.
- The Illusion of the End (1992) (L'Illision de la Fin) Tr. Chris Turner, 1994, Stanford University Press, ISBN 0804725012, p. 26, "The Event Strike"
The Perfect Crime (1993) edit
- Translated by Ian Michel and William Sarah (1995)
- We will never know if an advertisement or opinion poll has had a real influence on individual or collective wills, but we will never know either what would have happened if there had been no opinion poll or advertisement.
Radical Thought (1994) edit
- One may dream of a culture where everyone bursts into laughter when someone says: this is true, this is real.
- If the thought enunciates an object as a truth, it is only as a challenge to this object's own self-fulfillment.
- Not only does reality resist those who still criticize it, but it also abandons those who defend it. Maybe it is a way for reality to get its revenge from those who claim to believe in it for the sole purpose of eventually transforming it: sending back its supporters to their own desires.
- The simulacrum now hides, not the truth, but the fact that there is none, that is to say, the continuation of Nothingness.
New millennium edit
- Today's terrorism is not the product of a traditional history of anarchism, nihilism, or fanaticism. It is instead the contemporary partner of globalization.
- The Spirit of Terrorism (2003) "The Violence of the Global"
- Particularly in the case of all professional of press-images which testify of the real events. In making reality, even the most violent, emerge to the visible, it makes the real substance disappear. It is like the Myth of Eurydice : when Orpheus turns around to look at her, she vanishes and returns to hell. That is why, the more exponential the marketing of images is growing the more fantastically grows the indifference towards the real world. Finally, the real world becomes a useless function, a collection of phantom shapes and ghost events. We are not far from the silhouettes on the walls of the cave of Plato.
- This realistic image, however, does not catch at all what really is, but what should not be - death and misery - what should not exist, from our moral and humanistic point of view. And at the same time making an aesthetic and commercial, perfectly immoral use and abuse of this misery. Images that actually testify, behind their pretended "objectivity", of a deep denial of the real, and of an equal denial of the image - assigned to present what does not even want to be represented, assigned to the rape of the real by burglary.
- The Violence of the Image European Graduate School.
- The world is not dialectical -- it is sworn to extremes, not to equilibrium, sworn to radical antagonism, not to reconciliation or synthesis. This is also the principle of evil.
- Jean Baudrillard in: Eldon Taylor What Does That Mean?: Exploring Mind, Meaning, and Mysteries, Hay House, Inc, 15 January 2010, p. 171
- To challenge and to cope with this paradoxical state of things, we need a paradoxical way of thinking; since the world drifts into delirium, we must adopt a delirious point of view. We must no longer assume any principle of truth, of causality, or any discursive norm. Instead, we must grant both the poetic singularity of events and the radical uncertainty of events. It is not easy. We usually think that holding to the protocols of experimentation and verification is the most difficult thing. But in fact the most difficult thing is to renounce the truth and the possibility of verification, to remain as long as possible on the enigmatic, ambivalent, and reversible side of thought.
- The Vital Illusion (2000) "The Murder of the Real". Wellek Library Lectures given May 1999 at the University of California, Irvine
Photography, or the Writing of Light, (2000) edit
- Photography, or the Writing of Light European Graduate School
- There are only a few images that are not forced to provide meaning, or have to go through the filter of a specific idea.
- So-called "realist" photography does not capture the "what is." Instead, it is preoccupied with what should not be, like the reality of suffering for example.
- It is perhaps not a surprise that photography developed as a technological medium in the industrial age, when reality started to disappear. It is even perhaps the disappearance of reality that triggered this technical form. Reality found a way to mutate into an image.