About Baudrillard’s death

On tuesday night, back from a highly disappointing Champion’s League evening that saw Olympique Lyonnais being kicked out from the competition, I learnt that Jean Baudrillard had passed away a few hours ago.
I recall my encounter with his thoughts a few years ago, when, as I started to get interest by consumption, I read “The Consumer Society”. Amazingly enough this book, just like many others he wrote, remains remarkably relevant to today’s society, almost 40 years after it first publication in French (1970). Indeed, I would argue that societies have moved closer to the Consumer Society than they were back in the 70´s.
It had been quite amazing for me to encounter the writings of someone so far ahead of traditional mainstream marketing literature to which I grew accustomed to in my business school years in Lyon. Most of contemporary’s post-industrial society “extra-marketing marketing literature” as Stephen Brown (1995, p.136) calls it, is heavily indebted, though sometimes critically, to ideas first developed by Baudrillard.

Baudrillard Nov 1996 - Nevada

Rather than writing here something which would not pay the tribute his intellectual achievements deserve, I have elected an excerpt to be remembered among many many others (in French, as I cannot get hold of the English text right now) :

“On se rend mal compte combien le dressage actuel à la consommation systématique et organisée est l’équivalent et le prolongement au XXe siècle, du grand dressage, tout au long du XIXe siècle, des populations rurales au travail industriel. Le même processus de rationalisation des forces productives qui a eu lieu au XIXe dans le secteur de la production trouve sons aboutissement au XXe dans le secteur de la consommation (…). Toute l’idéologie de la consommation veut nous faire croire que nous sommes entrés dans une aire nouvelle, et qu’une “Révolution” humaine décisive sépare l’Âge douloureux et héroïque de la Production de l’Âge euphorique de la Consommation, où il est enfin rendu droit à l’Homme et à ses désirs. Il n’en est rien. Production et Consommation – il s’agit là d’un seul et même grand processus logique de reproduction élargie des forces productives et de leur contrôle. Cet impératif qui est celui du système, passe dans la mentalité, dans l’éthique et l’idéologie quotidiennes – c’est là l’immense astuce – sous sa forme inverse: sous forme de libération des besoins, d’épanouissement de l’individu, de jouissance, d’abondance, etc. Les thèmes de la Dépense, de la Jouissance, du Non-Calcul (“Acheter maintenant, vous paierez plus tard”) ont pris la relève des thèmes puritains de l’Épargne, du Travail, du Patrimoine. Mais il ne s’agit là qu’en apparence d’une Révolution Humaine: en fait, c’est la substitution à usage interne, dans le cadre d’un processus général et d’un système inchangé pour l’essentiel, d’un système de valeur à un autre devenu (relativement) inefficace. Ce qui pouvait être finalité nouvelle est devenu, vidé de son contenu réel, médiation forcée de la reproduction du système.
Les besoins et les satisfactions des consommateurs sont des forces productives, aujourd’hui contraintes et rationalisées comme les autres (force de travail, etc.). De toute part nous l’avons (à peine) explorée, la consommation nous est donc apparue à l’inverse de l’idéologie vécue, comme une dimension de contrainte:
1/ Dominée par la contrainte de signification, au niveau de l’analyse structurale.
2/ Domniée par la contrainte de production et du cycle de production dans l’analyse stratégique (socio-economico-politique)”

in Jean Baudrillard, La société de consommation, folio essais, 2003, p.115-6

Notoriously, Baudrillard wrote about “the liquidation of all references” which got replaced by a real without origin nor reality. What he described as “hyperreality”. Based on this view of life as simulated experiences, he provocatively claimed, that the Golf War I did not happen. Ironically, one may ask today whether his death really happened. What he has become along the years has made him something of a simulation perpetrated throughout his books, articles, conferences, photos etc that, in the eyes of us readers, largely dissolved his corporeal subjectivity. Somehow his death is hyperreal.

France Culture radio station has gathered links, audio documents and organized a few special programs which you can be found here

References:
Brown, S. (1995) Postmodern Marketing, London: Routledge.

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1 Response to “About Baudrillard’s death”


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Let this diversity of opinions be propounded to, and laid before him; he will himself choose, if he be able; if not, he will remain in doubt. "Che non men che saver, dubbiar m' aggrata." ["I love to doubt, as well as to know."-- Dante, Inferno, xi. 93] for, if he embraces the opinions of Xenophon and Plato, by his own reason, they will no more be theirs, but become his own. Who follows another, follows nothing, finds nothing, nay, is inquisitive after nothing. "Non sumus sub rege; sibi quisque se vindicet." ["We are under no king; let each vindicate himself." --Seneca, Ep.,33]"
Montaigne - Essais I, XXVI, Of The Education of Children
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