Baudrillard, Jean

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Baudrillard, Jean

Jean Baudrillard, 1929–2007, French social theorist and cultural critic. Trained as a sociologist, he taught at the Univ. of Paris X, Nanterre, from 1966 to 1987 and was a prolific writer. Influenced by Marxism, Roland Barthes, Thorstein Veblen, Marshall McLuhan, and others, he began as a critic of the consumer society, arguing in such works as The System of Objects (1968, tr. 1996), The Mirror of Production (1973), and Symbolic Exchange and Death (1976, tr. 1993) that the individual acquires meaning though objects, which are valued for their symbolic cultural significance (rather than their usefulness or monetary worth) and the world is marked the implosion of economics, politics, art, sexuality, and spheres of life, causing them to intermingle and interrelate in a confused, uncontrolled manner. Baudrillard subsequently developed a theory of media-saturated, late-capitalist technological consumer societies that saw them as characterized by simulation and hyperreality, in which the "real world" has been supplanted by artificially intensified substitutions for it and individuals are overwhelmed by the power of hyperreal objects. These ideas were developed in such works as Simulation and Simulacra (1981, tr. 1994), and Fatal Strategies (1983, tr. 1990). His later works reject critique in favor of a more aphoristic—at times, oracular—philosophical approach that is often intentionally provocative in its discussion of how appearance and illusion replace reality and truth in contemporary society. Thus The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (1991, tr. 1995) argues that the Persian Gulf War was more a media spectacle than a genuine war and in The Perfect Crime (1995, tr. 1996) he plays detective and investigates the "murder" of reality.

See selected writings ed. by M. Poster (2d ed. 2001); studies by D. Kellner (1989, 1990) and as ed. (1994), B. Turner (1993), N. Zurbrugg, ed. (1997), R. Butler (1999), and P. Hegarty (2004).

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