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Jean BaudrillardFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia(Redirected from Baudrillard)

Jean Baudrillard (27 July 1929 6 March 2007) (French pronunciation: [

bodija])[2] was

a French sociologist,philosopher, cultural theorist, political commentator, and photographer. His work is frequently associated withpostmodernism and post-structuralism.

[edit]LifeBaudrillard was born in Reims, northeastern France, on July 27, 1929. He told interviewers that his grandparents werepeasants and his parents were civil servants. During his high school studies at the Reims Lyce, he came into contact with pataphysics (via the philosophy professor Emmanuel Peillet), which is said to be crucial for understanding Baudrillard's later thought.[3] He became the first of his family to attend university when he moved to Paris to attendSorbonne University.[4] There he studied German language and literature, which led to him to begin teaching the subject at several different lyces, both Parisian and provincial, from 1960 until 1966.[3] While teaching, Baudrillard began to publish reviews of literature and translated the works of such authors as Peter Weiss, Bertolt Brecht, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Wilhelm Emil Mhlmann.[5] During his time as a teacher of German language and literature, Baudrillard began to transfer to sociology, eventually completing his doctoral thesis Le Systme des objets (The System of Objects) under the dissertation committee of Henri Lefebvre, Roland Barthes, and Pierre Bourdieu. Subsequently, he began teaching sociology at the Universit de Paris-X Nanterre, a university campus just outside of Paris which would become heavily involved in the events of May 1968.[6]During this time, Baudrillard worked closely with Philosopher Humphrey De Battenburge, who described Baudrillard as a "visionary".[7] At Nanterre he took up a position asMatre Assistant (Assistant Professor), then Matre de Confrences (Associate Professor), eventually becoming a professor after completing his accreditation, L'Autre par lui-mme (The Other by Himself). In 1970, Baudrillard made the first of his many trips to the USA (Aspen), and in 1973, the first of several trips to Japan (Kyoto). He was given his first camera in 1981 in Japan, which led to his becoming a photographer.[8] In 1986 he moved to IRIS (Institut de Recherche et d'Information Socio-conomique) at the Universit de Paris-IX Dauphine, where he spent the latter part of his teaching career. During this time he had begun to move away from sociology as a discipline (particularly in its "classical" form), and, after ceasing to teach full time, he rarely identified himself with any particular discipline, although he remained linked to the academic world. During the 1980s and 1990s his books had gained a wide audience, and in his last years he became, to an extent, an intellectual celebrity,[9] being published often in the French- and English-speaking popular press. He nonetheless continued supporting the Institut de Recherche sur l'Innovation Sociale at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and was Satrap at the Collge de Pataphysique. Baudrillard taught at

theEuropean Graduate School in Saas-Fee[10] and collaborated at the Canadian theory, culture and technology review Ctheory, where he was abundantly cited. In 1999-2000, his photographs were exhibited at the Maison europenne de la photographie in Paris.[11] In 2004, Baudrillard attended the major conference on his work, "Baudrillard and the Arts," at the Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe in Karlsruhe, Germany.[12]



Baudrillard was a social theorist and critic best known for his analyses of the modes of mediation and technological communication. His writing, though mostly concerned with the way technological progress affects social change, covers diverse subjects including consumerism, gender relations, the social understanding of history, journalistic commentaries about AIDS, cloning, the Rushdie affair, the first Gulf War and the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. His published work emerged as part of a generation of French thinkers including Gilles Deleuze, JeanFranois Lyotard,Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida and Jacques Lacan who all shared an interest in semiotics, and he is often seen as a part of the poststructuralist philosophical school.[13] In common with many poststructuralists, his arguments consistently draw upon the notion that signification and meaning are both only understandable in terms of how particular words or "signs" interrelate. Baudrillard thought, as many post-structuralists, that meaning is brought about through systems of signs working together. Following on from the structuralist linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, Baudrillard argued that meaning (value) is created through difference - through what something is not (so "dog" means "dog" because it is not-"cat", not-"goat", not-"tree", etc.). In fact, he viewed meaning as near enough self-referential: objects, images of objects, words and signs are situated in a web of meaning; one object's meaning is only understandable through its relation to the meaning of other objects; in other words, one thing's prestige relates to another's mundanity. From this starting point Baudrillard constructed broad theories of human society based upon this kind of self-referentiality. His pictures of society portray societies always searching for a sense of meaning or a "total" understanding of the world that remains consistently elusive. In contrast to poststructuralists such as Foucault, for whom the formations of knowledge emerge only as the result of relations of power, Baudrillard developed theories in which the excessive, fruitless search for total knowledge lead almost inevitably to a kind of delusion. In Baudrillard's view, the (human) subject may try to understand the (nonhuman) object, but because the object can only be understood according to what it signifies (and because the process of signification immediately involves a web of other signs from which it is distinguished) this never produces the desired results. The subject, rather, becomes seduced (in the original Latin sense, seducere, to lead away) by the object. He therefore argued that, in the last analysis, a complete understanding of the minutiae of human life is impossible, and when people are seduced into thinking otherwise they become drawn toward a "simulated" version of reality, or, to use one of his neologisms, a state of "hyperreality." This is not to say that the world becomes unreal, but rather that the faster and more

comprehensively societies begin to bring reality together into one supposedly coherent picture, the more insecure and unstable it looks and the more fearful societies become.[14] Reality, in this sense, "dies out."[15] Accordingly, Baudrillard argued that the excess of signs and of meaning in late 20th century "global" society had caused (quite paradoxically) an effacement of reality. In this world neither liberal nor Marxist utopias are any longer believed in. We live, he argued, not in a "global village," to useMarshall McLuhan's phrase, but rather in a world that is ever more easily petrified by even the smallest event. Because the "global" world operates at the level of the exchange of signs and commodities, it becomes ever more blind to symbolic acts such as, for example, terrorism. In Baudrillard's work the symbolic realm (which he develops a perspective on through the anthropological work of Marcel Mauss and Georges Bataille) is seen as quite distinct from that of signs and signification. Signs can be exchanged like commodities; symbols, on the other hand, operate quite differently: they are exchanged, like gifts, sometimes violently as a form of potlatch. Baudrillard, particularly in his later work, saw the "global" society as without this "symbolic" element, and therefore symbolically (if not militarily) defenseless against acts such as the Rushdie Fatwa[16] or, indeed, the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States and its military establishment (see below). In 2004, the International Journal of Baudrillard Studies was launched.


object value system

In his early books, such as The System of Objects, For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign, and The Consumer Society, Baudrillard's main focus is upon consumerism, and how different objects are consumed in different ways. At this time Baudrillard's political outlook was loosely associated with Marxism (and situationism), but in these books he differed from Marx in one significant way. For Baudrillard, it was consumption, rather than production, which was the main drive in capitalist society. Baudrillard came to this conclusion by criticising Marx's concept of "use-value." Baudrillard thought that both Marx's and Adam Smith's economic thought accepted the idea of genuine needs relating to genuine uses too easily and too simplydespite the fact that Marx did not use the term 'genuine' in relation to needs or use-values. Baudrillard argued, drawing from Georges Bataille, that needs are constructed, rather than innate. He stressed that all purchases, because they always signify something socially, have their fetishistic side. Objects always, drawing from Roland Barthes, "say something" about their users. And this was, for him, why consumption was and remains more important than production: because the "ideological genesis of needs"[17] precedes the production of goods to meet those needs. He wrote that there are four ways of an object obtaining value. The four value-making processes are as follows:[18] 1. The first is the functional value of an object; its instrumental purpose. A pen, for instance, writes; and a refrigerator cools. 2. The second is the exchange value of an object; its economic value. One pen may be worth three pencils; and one refrigerator m