Jean Baudrillard
(Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

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Simulations (1981) is a very confused book, like many of the books written by that generation of French philosophers. The map now precedes the territory. Simulation precedes reality. The reason is that society is so permeated by maps and models that we live inside maps and models, detached from whatever reality they refer to. This is not new: images (such as the Byzantine icons) are murderers of the real. But there are four stages of the image, and the last one is the one in which the image is no longer a reflection of reality, nor a distortion of reality, nor a reaction to our ignorance of reality, but it is pure simulacrum. In the age of simulacra there is nothing to distinguish true and false. The destruction of the difference between true and false was first enacted by capital, which replaced it with the difference between supply and demand. Baudrillard offers a bird's eye view of the big themes of his age, the age after World War I and before the fall of communism. Each one is revealed as a simulacrum. Mummies die when they are transported to a museum: they become objects of history instead of dead people. Disneyland is a simulacra of the city in which it is hosted, Los Angeles. The television documentary "An American Family" (1971) follows the Lourd family, a simulacrum of the middle-class family (the first "reality" show): the spectator has become the spectable. Nuclear deterrence is implosive violence that, paradoxically, maintain peace. The space and nuclear races are similar in their goals of dominance. The Vietnam war is lost in the interest of establishing peaceful relations with China.

We live in the age in which reality has been replaced by "hyper-reality", which is really a system of signs, a simulation of reality. Signs were stable in the feudal world, when caste was set at birth. There was only truth. Signs began volatile with the Renaissance, signs got emancipated, signs proliferated. Then the false was born. The Renaissance is the age of theater, of simulation of reality. During the industrial revolution humans achieved the status of machine. All reality was reproduced artificially. Benjamin and McLuhan studied not the age of production but the age of reproduction, the age in which an object can be replicated at will in an infinite number of serial copies. The copy is as "real" as the original because they are identical. There is no distinction between the real and the simulacrum, between the territory and the map. The real is something that can be reproduced, and, in fact, that which is always being reproduced. The real gets further "simulated" as it transits from medium to medium. Reality is hyper-real. We live in an hallucination of reality. Art is everywhere because artifice is at the very heart of reality. At the same time this means that art is dead. Public opinion becomes both medium and message.

Too bad that this generation of philosophers were so totally ignorant in Information Theory, Cybernetics and the likes. It would have been interesting (and more plausible) to interpret these concepts in cybernetic terms.

(Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )