Postmodern Theories and Texts
Image: Project Baudrillard

Jean Baudrillard
General Ideas  & 
Simulacra & Simulation
Quotes & Examples
An Outline (Brian Chen)
Ecstasy of Communication: An Outline (Wanli Liu)
Brian Chen, Wanli Liu and Kate Liu

General Ideas  & Questions
I. Different Phases of his Work
  1. "Starting with a re-evaluation and critique of Marx's economic theory of the object, especially as concerns the notion of 'use-value', JB develops the first major phase of his work with a semiotically based theory of production and the obejct, one that emphasises the 'sign-value' of objects.
  2. . . .from his writings of the mid-1970s onwards, starting with Symbolic Exchange and Death, B has taken uup the radical consequences, as he sees them, of the pervasiveness of the code in late-modern societies.  The code certainly refers to computerisation, and to digitalisation, but it is also fundamental in physics, biology and other natural sciences where it enables a perfect reproduction of the object or situation; for this reason the code enables a by-passing of the real and opens up what B has famously designated as 'hyperreality'.  (Lechte, 233)
II. Central Ideas: Code and Reproduction
  1. code: e.g. the binary code of computer technology; the DNA code in biology, or the digital code in television and sound recording -- the code in information technology.
  2. "Central to Baudrillard's concerns is the connection between code and reproduction -- reproduction which is itself 'original'.  The code entials that the object produced -- tissue in biology, for example -- is not a copy in the accepted sense of the term, where the copy is the copy of an original, natural object.  (Lechte, 235)

  4. Use Value, Exchange Value and Sign Value:  (The following note explains why production is consumption, and vice versa, for Baudrillard.)
[The usefulness of a thing makes it a use-value. ... Exchange- value appears first of all as the quantitative relatin, the proportion, in which use-values of one kind exchange for use-values of another kind. ...
the exchange relation of comodities is characterised precisely by its abstraction from their use-values" (Marx Capital 126-27).  

VI. Questions:

Simulacra and Simulation
The simulacrum is never what hides the truth--  
it is truth that hides the fact that there is none.  
The simulacrum is true.  
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.  

Baudrillard, "The Precession of Simulacra,"  Simulacra and Simulation , p. 6.  

Implosion: ". . .nothing seprates one pole from the other, the initial from the terminal: there is just a sort of contraction into each other, a fantastic telescoping, a collapsing of the two traditional poles into one another: an IMPLOSION --an absorption of the radiating model of causality, of the differential mode of determination, with its positive and negative electricity -- an implosion of meaning.  This is where simulation begins."

The Examples of Simulation:
A. the biological and scientific -- 1. simulation of symptoms; 10. DNA model reproduction; 11. Nuclear deterrence
B. the religious -- 2. the simulacrum of divinity;
C. museumification of culture -- 3. the return of the Tasaday; 4. the salvage of Rameses' mummy, 5. return of part of a Cloister to its origin,
D. popular culture -- 6. Disney; 9. the filming of the Louds
E. the political -- 7. Watergate; 12. Vietnam war, Algerian war
F. social crimes -- 8. all holdups, hijacks,

  • Jean Baudrillard

  • Lechte, John.  Fifty Key Contemporary Thinkers.  New York: Routledge, 1994.