Baudrillard's Bestiary: Baudrillard and Culture

Baudrillard's Bestiary: Baudrillard and Culture

Baudrillard's Bestiary: Baudrillard and Culture

Baudrillard's Bestiary: Baudrillard and Culture


Drawing on several of Baudrillard's key writings which are still only available in French, Gane provides us with the essential guide to Baudrillard as cultural critic.


He must…take upon himself the weight of the double infidelity


Baudrillard's work represents an attempt to establish a general theory of two fundamental social forms. In one sense it is an evident attempt to rewrite Durkheim's two basic social formations (segmental, organized). But Baudrillard's relation to Durkheim is certainly not direct, and, if Baudrillard is fundamentally Durkheimian, this is apparent only in displacement, repositioning, total revision. In a sense, however, to regard Baudrillard from this point of view is extremely enlightening. It could be said that what Baudrillard wants to do is to convert the main focus of analysis away from types of social solidarity to two basically opposed forms of culture. There are immediate difficulties in posing the problem in these terms however, and even Baudrillard struggles to maintain a consistent vocabulary. For, at his most consistent, primitive societies do not have cultures. Their societies are lived in the symbolic, and in symbolic exchange. Theirs is a society of 'us' and outsiders (others, gods, animals). Ours is a universal society of the human: it is the latter universe which strictly speaking is 'culture', and its other is the inhuman (1976:193). Baudrillard develops this distinction through increasingly radical forms.

It is not easy to describe or identify precisely Baudrillard's point of departure or fundamental position in this project. It is facile to suggest that he simply supports the position of the primitive against culture. It is only slightly more sophisticated to argue that he is best interpreted as a Nietzschean surveying the disenchanted world with

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