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ISSN: 1705-6411

Volume 4, Number 3 (October, 2007).

Special Issue: Remembering Baudrillard

“My death is everywhere, my death dreams…”1


K-Punk Obituary

(K-Punk Website, London, UK)


            Baudrillard's contribution can be most easily appreciated when you consider who condemned him and why. He was denounced by British and American empiricists as an incomprehensible obscurantist at the same time as he was dismissed by the overlords of Continental Philosophy for being a pop philosopher, flimsy and insubstantial. Behind these denunciations, you gain a glimpse of a theorist who was playful yet solemn, an opaquely lucid stylist who was in love with jargon and in touch with media.

            Baudrillard was never quite detached enough to qualify as a Continental, nor even as a philosopher (he was based, improbably, in a Sociology department). Always an outsider, projected out of the peasantry into the elite academic class, he ensured his marginalization with the marvelously provocative Forget Foucault, which wittily targeted Deleuze and Guattari's micro-politics as much as it insouciantly announced the redundancy of Foucault's vast edifice.

            In Baudrillard, theory escaped the 1960s. Baudrillard's texts, in their disappointed tone as much as anything else, belong to our world, our era. The various revolutions of the sixties were petering out as Baudrillard began to produce his work. The system proved to be voracious, protean; it absorbed the attacks of its would-be enemies and sold them back as advertising. Critique was useless; new “fatal strategies” needed to be developed, which involved the theorist homeopathically injecting elements of the system, the code, in the hope of setting the system against itself, overbalancing it.

            It is a commonplace that science fiction reveals more about the time it was written than it tells us about the future. But Baudrillard's self-styled science-fiction-theory – which drew upon the theoretical fictions of Ballard and Dick – actually did foretell the future, which is our present. Already, in the 1970s, Baudrillard was basing theoretical riffs on reality TV and the media logic of terrorism. His texts, which dispensed with the academic machinery of footnotes and references around the time of Symbolic Exchange and Death in 1977, became increasingly incantatory and aberrantly lyrical until they resembled a glacial cybernetic poetry.

            Baudrillard is condemned, sometimes lionized, as the melancholic observer of a departed reality. Reality disappeared at the same moment that art and artifice were eliminated. Deprived of its heightened reflection, extension and hyperbolization in myth, art and ritual, reality could no longer sustain itself. It is the very quest to access reality in itself, without illusion, that generates the hyperreal implosion. Here, as Baudrillard long ago realized, reality TV is exemplary. Film an unscripted scene and you might not have art, but you do not have reality either.

© K-Punk.abstractdynamics.org



1 A longer version of this obituary appeared on the K-Punk website on March 9, 2007: http://k-punk.abstractdynamics.org/archives/009126.html


© International Journal of Baudrillard Studies (2007)

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