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ISSN: 1705-6411

Volume 4, Number 3 (October, 2007).


Special Issue: Remembering Baudrillard



“It will happen to me soon”: Death Sentence, Baudrillard, Aphorisms

 

Jon Baldwin

(Senior Lecturer in Communications, London Metropolitan University, UK)

 

 

 

Aphorisms and proper names are characterised by their capacity for surviving the deaths of those who employ them or are designated by them, and are therefore structured by the possibility of death.1

 

           Reflection upon Jean Baudrillard and death, sooner or later, leads to the discussion of death in Symbolic Exchange and Death. Upon looking back at this and marking the margin it seemed to me that many of his comments could “work” and be quoted in the aphoristic or fragmented style that marked much of his late work. The fact that the aphorism becomes an essential element and medium of Baudrillard’s later writings might be seen to be a reflection of one of the core aphorisms of our age, Marshall McLuhan’s notion that “the medium is the message”. By way of an offering, which in principle is experimental and could easily be added to or subtracted from, here is a selection taken out of Symbolic Exchange and Death, interspersed with aphorisms from the most recent Cool Memories collection in which death is an occasional back-drop. I also include pertinent aphorisms that have caught my eye in the past on both death and the aphorism itself. It becomes apparent that death and the aphorism, “death sentences”, are intimately linked.

The pieces speak for themselves but some context of Baudrillard’s concern with death in Symbolic Exchange and Death might be necessary. Baudrillard’s focus is thoroughly anthropological and sociological. One vital context of Baudrillard, the religious sociology of Émile Durkheim2 and Marcel Mauss, is very much apparent. This is in lieu of the strictly philosophical regard for death as is the case with, for instance, Martin Heidegger’s definition of man (or Dasein) as “being toward death”. This latter sentiment is particularly prominent in Jacques Derrida’s reflections on death3. At the heart of Baudrillard’s consideration is the contrast of death as lived and experienced under the aegis of symbolic exchange by the “primitives”, and death in modern societies. One of the tasks of Symbolic Exchange and Death is the thinking through and consideration of two notions presented here in concision: “[w]e have de-socialised death”4 and “[w]e must get rid of the idea of progress in religions”5. Mauss also makes these points apparent in his study on prayer6. Prayer, however we may consider it, has become de-socialised: the practice is not fully collective anymore, prayer has “progressed” to the practice of the isolated individual. Mourning7 also has become “an individual labour”8 rather than collective. Likewise modern death has become abstract and removed from society, modern death is lonely and isolated, asocial and profane. It is simply not productive to die. Death is an affront to political economy. It is in this very exclusion from the system, like symbolic exchange is excluded, that the possible radicalism and haunting of death lies.

In a system where life is ruled by value and utility, death becomes a useless luxury, and the only alternative (Baudrillard).9

 

Death orders matters well, since the very fact of your absence makes the world distinctly less worthy of being lived in (Baudrillard).10

 

The absolute aphorism: a proper name (Derrida).11

 

Our true necropolises are no longer the cemeteries, hospitals, wars, hecatombs; death is no longer where we think it is, it is no longer biological, psychological, metaphysical, it is no longer even murder: our societies’ true necropolises are the computer banks or the foyers, blank spaces from which all human noise has been expunged, glass coffins where the world’s sterilised memories are frozen (Baudrillard).12

 

The aphorism says the truth in the form of the last judgement, and this truth carries death (Derrida).13

 

[D]eath is not an end, it is a rival, a strange rival and one that has its weaknesses. This is what ‘death throes’ properly are: the rivalry between life and death (Baudrillard).14

 

Something said briefly can be the fruit of much long thought: but the reader who is a novice in this field, and has as yet reflected on it not at all, sees in everything said briefly something embryonic, not without censuring the author for having served him up such immature and unripened fruit (Nietzsche).15

 

We have de-socialised death (Baudrillard).16

 

As its name indicates, aphorism separates, it marks dissociation, it terminates, delimits, arrests (horizō). It brings to an end by separating, it separates in order to end – and to define (Derrida).17

 

[The primitives] have never ‘naturalised’ death, they know that death (like the body, like the natural event) is a social relation, that its definition is social (Baudrillard).18

 

Neither the sun nor death can be looked at steadily (La Rochefoucauld).19

 

‘By dint of washing, soaping, furbishing, brushing, painting, sponging, polishing, cleaning and scouring, the grime from the things washed rubs off onto living things’ (Victor Hugo). The same goes for death: by dint of being washed and sponged, cleaned and scoured, denied and warded off, death rubs onto every aspect of life. Our whole culture is hygienic, and aims to expurgate life from death (Baudrillard).20

 

Today, it is not normal to be dead, and this is new (Baudrillard).21

 

The aphorism, the apophthegm, are the forms of ‘eternity’; my ambition is to say in ten sentences what everyone else says in a book – what everyone else does not say in a book (Nietzsche).22

 

The property system is so absurd that it leads people to demand their death as their own good – the private appropriation of death… A comfortable, personalised, ‘designer’ death, a ‘natural’ death: this is the inalienable right constituting the perfected form of bourgeois individual law (Baudrillard).23

 

It is aphorisms that best do justice to that cerebral electricity, those myriad microscopic ideas that ascend from the nerves to the brain and are constantly passing across it. They bear witness to that Brownian, corpuscular activity ‘beyond the lenses, beyond the frosted glass’, as Lichtenberg would say (Baudrillard).24

 

As the stamp of great minds is to suggest much in few words, so, contrariwise, little minds have the gift of talking a great deal and saying nothing (La Rochefoucauld).25

 

Ours is a culture of death (Baudrillard).26

 

Despite appearances, an aphorism never arrives by itself, it doesn’t come all alone. It is part of a serial logic (Derrida).27

 

Our whole culture is just one huge effort to dissociate life and death, to ward off the ambivalence of death in the interests of life as value, and time as the general equivalent. The elimination of death is our phantasm, and ramifies in every direction: for religion, the afterlife and immortality; for science, truth; and for economics, productivity and accumulation (Baudrillard).28

 

To integrate the end into the process: the only way of escaping mourning. To enjoy the end as a mirror magnifying the pleasure. One may even, in this sense, envisage integrating death as a magical factor (Baudrillard).29

 

Funereal pomp has more to do with the vanity of the living than the honouring of the dead (La Rochefoucauld).30

 

‘Aphorizein’ (from which we get the word ‘aphorism’) means to retreat to such a distance that a horizon of though is formed which never again closes on itself (Baudrillard).31

 

We no longer have the experience that others had of death… In any other type of society, this is something unthinkable. The hospital and medicine take charge of you; the technical Extreme Unction has replaced every other sacrament. Man disappears from his nearest and dearest before being dead. He dies somewhere else (Baudrillard).32

 

He who writes in blood and aphorisms does not want to be read, he wants to be learned by heart (Nietzsche).33

 

At the very core of the ‘rationality’ of our culture…is an exclusion that precedes every other, more radical than the exclusion of madmen, children or inferior races, an exclusion preceding all these and serving as their model: the exclusion of the dead and of death (Baudrillard).34

 

Exactly like the shaft of wit, the character trait or facial features, the fragment is made up of contradictory lineaments of meaning and their happy coincidence. The aphorism is like the starry sky, the blanks in it being the intersidereal void (Baudrillard).35


Death does not gnaw at those who gamble (Bataille). 36

 

To us, the dead have just passed away and no longer have anything to exchange. The dead are residual even before dying. At the end of a lifetime of accumulation, the dead are subtracted from the total in an economic operation. They do not become effigies: they serve entirely as alibis for the living and to their obvious superiority over the dead. This is a flat, one-dimensional death, the end of the biological journey, settling a credit: ‘giving in one’s soul’, like a tyre, a container emptied of its contents. What banality! (Baudrillard).37

 

Aphorism: separation in language and, in it, through the name which closes the horizon. Aphorism is at once necessary and impossible (Derrida).38

 

Speaking of death makes us laugh in a strained and obscene manner. Speaking of sex no longer provokes the same reaction: sex is legal, only death is pornographic (Baudrillard).39

 

In the mountains the shortest route is from peak to peak, but for that you must have long legs. Aphorisms should be peaks, and those to whom they are spoken should be big and tall of stature (Nietzsche).40

 

Death itself demands to be experienced immediately, in total blindness and total ambivalence (Baudrillard).41

 

In the capitalist mode, everyone is alone before the general equivalent. It is no coincidence that, in the same way, everyone finds themselves alone before death, since death is general equivalence (Baudrillard).42

 

The aphoristic form creates difficulty: it arises from the fact that today this form is not taken sufficiently seriously. An aphorism, properly stamped and moulded, has not been ‘deciphered’ when it has simply been read; one has then rather to begin its exegesis, for which is required an art of exegesis (Nietzsche).43

 

Never had any imagining of death: it should remain a surprise (Baudrillard).44

 

There is an irreversible evolution from savage societies to our own: little by little, the dead cease to exist (Baudrillard).45

 

It is illusory to suppose that death will look the same near at hand as we thought it did at a distance, and that our emotions, which are the very stuff of weakness, will be strong enough

not to be daunted by the toughest of all ordeals (La Rochefoucauld).46

 

Death ceases to be the Grim Reaper, and becomes an anguish concerning death (Baudrillard).47

 

Aphorism can, of course, turn out to be a device of rhetoric, a sly calculation aiming at the greatest authority, an economy or strategy of mastery which knows very well how to potentialize meaning (‘See how I formalise, in so few words I always say more than would appear’) (Derrida).48

 

The planet Earth is so congested with death, with wealth: a piercing scream is raised: on Earth, wealth and death urge only an enormous scream; it is solitude that screams (Bataille).49

 

Memento mori: Not: remember that you must die, but: don’t forget to die, remember to die (before it’s too late) (Baudrillard).50

 

This aphoristic series crosses over another one. Because it traces, aphorism lives on, it lives much longer than its present and it lives longer than life. Death sentence. It gives and carries death, but in order to make a decision thus on a sentence of death, it suspends death, it stops it once more (Derrida).51

 

Few men know death: we do not usually undergo it deliberately, but unthinkingly and out of habit, and most men die because men cannot help dying (La Rochefoucauld).52

 

‘It will happen to me soon’ (Derrida).53

 

Does the final truth resemble the most painful death? Or is this prosaic world, ordered by knowledge founded on a lasting experience, its limit? Delivered from ridiculous beliefs, are we happy before death and torture? Is this pure happiness? At the basis of a world from which the only escape is failure? (Bataille)54

 

What is this time? There is no place for a question in aphorism (Derrida).55

 

If the death drive is a myth, then this is how we will interpret it. We will interpret the death drive, and the concept of the unconscious itself, as myths, and no longer take account of their effects or their efforts at ‘truth’ (Baudrillard).56

 

In ‘each death’ there is an end of the world (Derrida).57

 

Originally the distinctive emblem of power, the immortality of the soul acts, throughout Christianity, as an egalitarian myth, as a democratic beyond as opposed to worldly inequality before death (Baudrillard).58

 

We are extremely suspicious of those who triumph over death!  (Baudrillard).59

 

Life is only a benefit in itself within the calculable order of value. In the symbolic order, life, like everything else, is a crime if it survives unilaterally, if it is not seized and destroyed, given and returned, ‘returned’ to death (Baudrillard).60

 

The reason for so much outcry against maxims that lay bare the human heart is that people are afraid of having their own laid bare (La Rochefoucauld).61

 

Every death and all violence that escapes the State monopoly is subversive; it is a prefiguration of the abolition of power. Hence the fascination wielded by great murders, bandits or outlaws, which is in fact closely akin to that associated with works of art: a piece of death and violence is snatched from the State monopoly in order to be put back into the savage, direct and symbolic reciprocity of death, just as something in feasting and expenditure is retrieved from the economic in order to be put back into useless and sacrificial exchange, and just as something in the poem or the artwork is retrieved from the terrorist economy of signification in order to be put back into the consumption of signs. This alone is what is fascinating in our system (Baudrillard).62

 

Death, like mourning, has become obscene and awkward, and it is good taste to hide it, since it can offend the well-being of others (Baudrillard).63

 

The last act is bloody, however fine the rest of the play. They throw earth over your head and it is finished for ever (Pascal).64

 

That your death may not be a blasphemy against man and the earth, my friends: that is what I beg from the honey of your soul. In your death, your spirit and your virtue should still glow like a sunset glow around the earth: otherwise yours is a bad death. Thus I want to die myself, that you friends may love the earth more for my sake; and I want to become earth again, that I may have peace in her who bore me (Nietzsche).65

 

One aphorism in the series can come before or after the other, before and after the other, each can survive the other (Derrida).66

 

May we not say of death that in it, in a sense, we discover the negative analogue of a miracle (Bataille).67

 

© Jon Baldwin




In Memoriam: Dave Charlton, 1967-2007

 


Endnotes


1 Derek Attridge. “Introduction: Aphorism Countertime” in Derek Attridge (Editor) Jacques Derrida Acts of Literature. New York and London: Routledge 1992:415.

 

2 For Durkheim religious sociology was to be considered the “corner stone” of social theory. This is typified in The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (Émile Durkheim. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Oxford University Press, 2001). From the sociological perspective there is no such thing or essence called Religion, but only religious phenomena incorporated into systems called religions. Durkheim emphasised the difference between the sacred and the profane (Ibid.:36). Religion is characterised by this classification and distinction. Religion is further considered as the “administration of the scared”. The rituals and symbolism of religion, for Durkheim, should be thought of as social not spiritual: “this reality – which mythologies have represented in so many different forms but which is the objective, universal, and eternal cause of those sui generis sensations that make up the religious experience – is society” (Ibid.:313). Put simply “the idea of society is the soul of religion” (Ibid.:314).

 

Durkheim’s “radical” sociology and use of religion include the etymological sense of religion as religare, re-ligature, re-bounding, re-connecting, re-bonding, as well as relegere, from legere, harvest, gather . A characteristic feature of modernity is disenchantment, a growth of secularity, and the eradication of the social bond. Given that religion is social it can possibly be seen to be a bringing of the social together. Fredric Jameson notes that Durkheim views religion “as a symbolic affirmation of human relationships” (Fredric Jameson. The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act. New York: Cornell University Press, 1981: 293). Religion can be a social bond insofar as it can be a disciplinary and moral force, a form of ‘collective effervescence’, a revitalising factor, and a cause of euphoria. Durkheim asserts that in modernity society finds itself in a position whereby “the old ancient gods grow old or die, and others are not yet born” (Émile Durkheim. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Oxford University Press, 2001: 322). This diminishing of religion as a traditional cohesive social bond, and lack of an entity constituting a new cohesiveness necessarily has a detrimental effect on the social bond. Religion as a bond might find itself replaced (albeit with essential ingredients missing) with phenomena such as individualism, nationalism or fascism, or cultural activity (the carnival, or certain social, sporting, musical or aesthetic events). Marcel Mauss contributes to this broad scheme as is evident in his comment from the study of sacrifice:

 

In our view, everything that characterises society for the group and its members is conceived as sacred. If the gods are leaving the temple and becoming profane, each at their appointed hour, by contrast we now see human but social things – the nation, property, work, the human person – enter it one after another. (Henri Hubert and Marcel Mauss. Sacrifice: Its Nature and Function. London: Cohen and West, 1964: 76)

 

Daniel Bell, following this notion of a decline of religion, writes that, “[t]o say, then, that ‘God is dead’ is, in effect, to say that the social bonds have snapped and that society is dead” (Bell in John O’Neill. ‘Religion and Postmodernism: The Durkheimian Bond in Bell and Jameson’. Theory, Culture and Society, 5 (2-3): 1988: 495). The response of Bell, as well as others such as Fredric Jameson and Baudrillard, O’Neill writes, is to “resort to a Durkheimian lament over the dissolution of the social bond” (Ibid.:498). The subsequent strategy, for Bell at least, is “to call for a renewal of religious symbolism to restore the social bond against postmodern values” (Ibid.: 493). In essence, this is one import of Durkheim’s sociology. This Durkheimian context of Baudrillard is emphasised by Gane (Mike Gane. Baudrillard: Critical and Fatal Theory. London: Routledge, 1991) and Merrin (William Merrin. ‘Television is killing the art of symbolic exchange: Baudrillard’s theory of communication’. Theory, Culture and Society, 16 (3) (1999): 119-140), and it should be noted that for Wernick religion should be considered the “missing transcendental” in Baudrillard (Andrew Wernick. “Post-Marx: theological themes in Baudrillard’s America”. Shadow of Spirit: Postmodernism and Religion. Philippa Berry and Andrew Wernick (Editors). London: Routledge, 1992: 69).

 

3 In an essay in a collection of philosophical eulogies for Jacques Derrida, Adieu Derrida, Hillis Miller, former Yale School colleague of Derrida, reveals that the last seminars given by Derrida before his death concerned a passage from Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. Crusoe discovers “the Print of a Man’s naked Foot on the Shore” (Defoe) and is frightened, apprehensive, but also briefly calmed down by the idea that it might have been his own forgotten print. However the unlikelihood of this only spooks him more. Crusoe is haunted by what will prove to be Friday’s trace; a mark which he had thought was his very own. Derridean themes abound here: iterability, repetition, trace, specter, and so on. Hillis Miller provides an apposite description of Derrida’s method of discussion and analysis here as being “like a great Charlie Parker riff” (J. Hillis Miller “The Late Derrida” in Costas Douzinas (Editor) Adieu Derrida. Hampshire and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007: 136), “repetition with variation” (Ibid.:139), “digression or deviation” (Ibid.:140), as regaling a “story about a story about a story” (Ibid.:135), with “word play, exuberant hyperbole, and constantly self-topping inventiveness” (Ibid.:136). The reason for this, Hillis Miller opines, is that “talking, writing philosophy, writing criticism, writing poetry, are different forms of the postponement of death” (Ibid.:148). This is the consideration of death under the aegis of différance. Hillis Miller can, “without hesitation” (Ibid.:144), assert that the late seminars are Derrida’s unique reflection upon and expression of Heidegger’s definition of man (or Dasein) as “Being toward death”.

 

Hillis Miller notes that Derrida’s reading of Robinson Crusoe has “one important peculiarity” (Ibid.:140) in that it focuses primarily upon Crusoe’s solitary experiences: Crusoe’s relation to himself. Derrida’s Crusoe exemplifies “the solitude of Dasein in the world” (Ibid.:140). This orientation of Derrida’s reading of Crusoe omits themes such as the enslavement of Friday, European racism, colonial exploitation, ethnocentrism, Puritan morality, the role of Crusoe as exemplary Protestant capitalist and homo economicus, J.M. Coetzee’s inversion in Foe (1986), or even Giles Deleuze’s reading of the “boring” novel in which one desires Friday’s cannibalistic consumption of Crusoe. Derrida’s selection, reworking and emphasis upon Heideggerian solitude, anguish, and the isolated individual rather than, for instance, the social, cultural, or political is somewhat typical of his oeuvre. Baudrillard suggests that these “modern philosophies of ‘being-towards-death’” (Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993: 149), this type of “anguish of death as a test of truth” (Ibid.:190) is actually a result of the system, integrated and complicit. It offers little that is radical, it is “in relation to a system that is itself mortifying, a vertiginous escalation, a challenge which is in fact a profound obedience” (Ibid.:190). The collection Adieu Derrida looks at the possible fate(s) of Derrida’s thought. As with Baudrillard’s fate(s), I hope that the singularity of their thought be pronounced, that we say of them what promoter Bill Graham said of the Grateful Dead: “They’re not the best at what they do, they’re the only ones that do what they do”. Worse case scenario would be the reification of their thought.

 

4 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:131.

 

5 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:128.

 

6 Mauss asserts the following of prayer:

 

Indefinitely supple, it has taken the most varied forms, by turns adoring and coercive, humble and threatening, dry and full of imagery, immutable and variable, mechanical and mental. It has filled the most varied roles: here it is a brusque demand, there an order, elsewhere a contract, an act of faith, a confession, a supplication, an act of praise, a hosanna. (Marcel Mauss. On Prayer. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2003:21)

 

One of Mauss’s suggestions in his study is that there is a necessary connection between a given practice of prayer and a given society and religion. Cultural phenomena necessarily reflect the society in which it takes place. Mauss charts the movement from the primitive to the modern in the practice of prayer. “In the beginning, only prayers that are communal or have strictly communal form are to be found” (Ibid.:35). Indeed originally and for the primitives “the idea of individual prayer simply did not even exist” (Ibid.:35). On the one hand there were the elementary forms of prayer exemplified by the Indigenous Australians. In many cases these consisted of a melodic and rhythmic formula, which was often reduced to an indefinitely repeated collective social chant occasionally accompanied with dancing. In contrast is the private, individualised, internal, singular, solemn prayer of today. Mauss writes that prayer is “[a]t first strictly collective, said in common or at least according to forms rigidly fixed by the religious group”, it then develops and “becomes the domain of the individual’s free converse with God.” (Ibid.: 24) This change and so-called ‘progress’ or ‘evolution’ of religion, prayer and society reveals a move towards increasing individualisation: “the inner god of the most advanced religions is also the god of individuals” (Ibid.:155). Mauss wishes to reverse the received evolutionary analysis of prayer: “Instead of seeing in individual prayer the principle behind collective prayer, we are making the latter the principle behind the former” (Ibid.:36). Broadly speaking, as in Durkheim’s study of religion, a social and communal practice is eroding and the individual is emerging.

 

In modernity, prayer can also become simply a thing, an empty ritual. The sacred can turn profane. In Mauss’s great study of exchange the sacred gift is supplanted by the profane commodity. Prayer can become reified: “Very often, prayers which were once wholly spiritual become simple recitations without any kind of personal content. They sink to the level of a manual rite. One simply moves the lips rather than moving the limbs.” (Ibid.:26) This is also the case with constantly repeated prayers in a language not understood, or in formulae which has lost all meaning, where the words are so dated as to be incomprehensible. These are all “striking examples” of the “regression” of prayer (Ibid.:26). Further, claims Mauss, is the possible reification and degeneration of ‘spiritual’ prayer to the fetish of “mere material object”. The rosary, the prayer-tree, the prayer-wheel, the amulet, phylacteries, miraculous medals, scapulars, ex-votos, and so forth, are examples of ‘materialised prayer’: “Prayer in religions whose dogmas have become detached from all fetishism, becomes itself a fetish.” (Ibid.:26) The distance prayer has travelled is marked by Žižek’s note on Derrida’s reflections on prayer: “not only [do] atheists also pray, but today, it is perhaps only atheists who truly pray. By refusing to address God as a positive entity, they silently address the pure Messianic Otherness.” (Slavoj Žižek. “A Plea for a Return to Différance (with a Minor Pro Domo Sua)” in Costas Douzinas (Editor) Adieu Derrida. Hampshire and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007:114)

 

7 Derrida’s aporia of mourning is somewhat apt here: “success fails” and “failure succeeds” (Jacques Derrida. The Work of Mourning. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2003:34-35). Successful mourning would be an affront to the dead, a forgetting of the dead, therefore failure to complete mourning, is in this way, somewhat of a tribute to and remembrance of the dead. However this aporia should not be regarded or presented as ahistorical. It is not how mourning has always been experienced. Baudrillard notes that an aporia such as this is specific only to our culture today (Jean Baudrillard. Fragments: Cool Memories III. London: Verso, 1997:128). Individual mourning and its internal complexities have supplanted collective mourning as a social practice. Does one, as Derrida’s discussion indicates, decide to mourn or not? Does one decide or even question the success or failure of mourning? Does this aporia ever enter into the empirical practice of mourning? Or instead, should one say of mourning that it “goes without saying”? These are the type of critical questions Pierre Bourdieu asks of the paradoxes Derrida offers. These aporias are artificial, Bourdieu opines, because they rely “on the logic of consciousness and the free choice of an isolated individual” (Pierre Bourdieu. Practical Reason: On the Theory of Action. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1994:95). The problem for Bourdieu is that this individual is abstracted from their social habitus.

 

8 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:134.

 

9 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:156.

 

10 Jean Baudrillard. Cool Memories V: 2000-2004. Cambridge and Massachusetts: Polity Press, 2006:10.

 

11 Aphorism 39. Jacques Derrida. “Aphorism Countertime” in Derek Attridge (Editor) Jacques Derrida Acts of Literature. New York and London: Routledge 1992: 433.

 

12 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:185.

 

13 Aphorism 10. Jacques Derrida. “Aphorism Countertime” in Derek Attridge (Editor) Jacques Derrida Acts of Literature. New York and London: Routledge 1992:418.

 

14 Jean Baudrillard. Cool Memories V: 2000-2004. Cambridge and Massachusetts: Polity Press, 2006:103.

 

15 Maxim 2. Friedrich Nietzsche. A Nietzsche Reader. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1977:15.

 

16 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:131.

 

17 Aphorism 2. Jacques Derrida. “Aphorism Countertime” in Derek Attridge (Editor) Jacques Derrida Acts of Literature. New York and London: Routledge 1992:416.

 

18 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:131.

 

19 Maxim 26. La Rochefoucauld. Maxims. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1981: 40. La Rochefoucauld’s ‘Reflections or Aphorisms and Moral Maxims’ published in 1665, are exemplary pieces. Pierre Bourdieu suggests they express “an extreme lucidity about the subtleties of symbolic exchange” (Pierre Bourdieu. ‘Marginalia – Some Additional Notes on the Gift’ in Alan Schrift (Editor) The Logic of the Gift – Toward an Ethic of Generosity. London: Routledge, 1997: 237). The collection is prefaced by La Rochefoucauld’s core aphorism ‘Our virtues are usually only vices in disguise’. Later we find Maxim 517: ‘We are often prevented from appreciating aphorisms proving the falseness of the virtues by our excessive readiness to believe that in our case these are genuine.’ (La Rochefoucauld. Maxims. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1981:106.)

 

20 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:180.

 

21 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:126.

 

22 Maxim 9. Friedrich Nietzsche. A Nietzsche Reader. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1977:20.

 

23 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:176.

 

24 Jean Baudrillard. Cool Memories V: 2000-2004. Cambridge and Massachusetts: Polity Press, 2006:8.

 

25 Maxim 142. La Rochefoucauld. Maxims. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1981:55.

 

26 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:127. With the modern eradication and hiding of death, it appears everywhere. “But we know what these hidden places signify: the factory no longer exists because labour is everywhere; the prison no longer exists because arrests and confinements pervade social space-time; the asylum no longer exists because psychological control and therapy have been generalised and become banal; the school no longer exists because every strand of social progress is shot through with discipline and pedagogical training…The cemetery no longer exists because modern cities have entirely taken over their function: they are ghost towns, cities of death.” (Ibid.:127) Benjamin Noys has recently written a book with the title The Culture of Death. Here Noys explores our exposure to death in contemporary culture: War, genocide, famine, the ‘death of God’, AIDS, environmental disaster, Auschwitz, Hiroshima, televised public autopsies, life-support systems, residential and nursing homes. Banal death, zombie-films of the 1960s and 1970s, television pathologists ‘reading’ the corpse, death that is ‘unknown, unhonoured, and unremarked’ (Norman Mailer), the threat of terrorism, death as spectacle, the transport crash, celebrity suicide and rock-star drug overdose. Death as ‘brute fact’, the political economy of death, and most significantly, the increasing union of death and power given developments in techno-medical and political control over our bodies. Given a century of the political organisation of mass extermination, we are subjected to “the reality and visibility of the threat of death on an industrial scale” (Benjamin Noys. The Culture of Death. London and New York: Berg, 2005: 3). Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg has noted that ‘Never before in history had people been killed on an assembly-line basis’ and Paul Virilio suggests that the Twentieth century was the century of the ‘mass production of corpses’. What is increasingly apparent today, Noys suggests, is the political dimension of death. Noys states that “[s]ome of us are more exposed to death than others, and even the new forms of our exposure to death often tend to follow the usual vectors of power: class, ‘race’, gender and sexuality.” (Ibid.:150) Death then, is perhaps not the great equaliser after all. And of course, one should not just interpret death; the point is to change (our exposure to) it.

 

27 Aphorism 6. Jacques Derrida. “Aphorism Countertime” in Derek Attridge (Editor) Jacques Derrida Acts of Literature. New York and London: Routledge 1992:416.

 

28 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:147.

 

29 Jean Baudrillard. Cool Memories V: 2000-2004. Cambridge and Massachusetts: Polity Press, 2006:7.

 

30 Maxim 612. La Rochefoucauld. Maxims. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1981:121.

 

31 Jean Baudrillard. Cool Memories V: 2000-2004. Cambridge and Massachusetts: Polity Press, 2006:31.

 

32 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993: 82.

 

33 Friedrich Nietzsche. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1969:67.

 

34 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:126.

 

35 Jean Baudrillard. Cool Memories V: 2000-2004. Cambridge and Massachusetts: Polity Press, 2006:10.

 

36 Georges Bataille. The Unfinished System of Nonknowledge. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001:254.

 

37 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:164.

 

38 Aphorism 22. Jacques Derrida. “Aphorism Countertime” in Derek Attridge (Editor) Jacques Derrida Acts of Literature. New York and London: Routledge 1992:426.

 

39 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:184.

 

40 Friedrich Nietzsche. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books , 1969:67.

 

41 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:186.

 

42 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:146.

 

43 Maxim 8. Friedrich Nietzsche. A Nietzsche Reader. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1977:20.

 

44 Jean Baudrillard. Cool Memories V: 2000-2004. Cambridge and Massachusetts: Polity Press, 2006:1.

 

45 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:126.

 

46 From Maxim 504. La Rochefoucauld. Maxims. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1981:102.

 

47 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:146.

 

48 Aphorism 8. Jacques Derrida. “Aphorism Countertime” in Derek Attridge (Editor) Jacques Derrida Acts of Literature. New York and London: Routledge 1992:417.

 

49 Georges Bataille. The Unfinished System of Nonknowledge. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001: 245.

 

50 Jean Baudrillard. Cool Memories V: 2000-2004. Cambridge and Massachusetts: Polity Press, 2006:27.

 

51 Aphorism 14. Jacques Derrida. “Aphorism Countertime” in Derek Attridge (Editor) Jacques Derrida Acts of Literature. New York and London: Routledge 1992:421.

 

52 Maxim 23. La Rochefoucauld. Maxims. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1981:40.

 

53 This was the content of a note found inside a book given to Jacques Derrida. The context is a discussion regarding the mourning of Roland Barthes. Derrida remarks upon the coincidence of finding this note found, by chance, twenty-four years after it was given. The donor said of death “It will happen to me soon.” (Jacques Derrida. The Work of Mourning. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2003: 64) and Derrida recalls, it did. With regard to an aphorism, a death sentence, a truth on the horizon for us all, it is exemplary.

 

54 Georges Bataille. The Unfinished System of Nonknowledge. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001:223.


55 Aphorism 11. Jacques Derrida. ‘Aphorism Countertime’ in Derek Attridge (Editor) Jacques Derrida Acts of Literature. New York and London: Routledge 1992:419.

 

56 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:151. Baudrillard had just quoted Freud: “The theory of the drives is so to say our mythology. Drives are mythical entities, magnificent in their indefiniteness.”

 

57 Jacques Derrida. The Work of Mourning. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2003:15.

 

58 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:129.

 

59 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:132.

 

60 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:132.

 

61 Maxim 524. La Rochefoucauld. Maxims. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1981:107.

 

62 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:175.

 

63 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. New York: Sage, 1993:182.

 

64 Blaise Pascal. Pensées. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books 1975:82.

 

65 Friedrich Nietzsche. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books , 1969:99.

 

66 Aphorism 9. Jacques Derrida. “Aphorism Countertime” in Derek Attridge (Editor) Jacques Derrida Acts of Literature. New York and London: Routledge 1992:417.

 

67 Georges Bataille. The Unfinished System of Nonknowledge. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001:273.


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