Jean Baudrillard

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Nothing is wholly obvious without becoming enigmatic. Reality itself is too obvious to be true.

Jean Baudrillard (27 July 19296 March 2007) was a French sociologist, philosopher, cultural theorist, political commentator, and photographer. His work is frequently associated with postmodernism and specifically post-structuralism.



  • The real is not only what can be reproduced, but that which is already reproduced, the hyper-real.
    • Simulations (1983), New York: Semiotext, p. 146
  • The Marxist critique is only a critique of capital, a critique coming from the heart of the middle and petit bourgeois classes, for which Marxism has served for a century as a latent ideology…. The Marxist seeks a good use of economy. Marxism is therefore only a limited petit bourgeois critique, one more step in the banalization of life toward the "good use" of the social!
    • Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory 15 (1987) "When Bataille Attacked the Metaphysical Principle of Economy"

America (1986)[edit]

Trans. Chris Turner, 1988, New York: Verso, ISBN 0-860-91978-1
  • Driving is a spectacular form of amnesia. Everything is to be discovered, everything to be obliterated. Admittedly, there is the primal shock of the deserts and the dazzle of California, but when this is gone, the secondary brilliance of the journey begins, that of the excessive, pitiless distance, the infinity of anonymous faces and distances, or of certain miraculous geological formations, which ultimately testify to no human will, while keeping intact an image of upheaval. This form of travel admits of no exceptions: when it runs up against a known face, a familiar landscape, or some decipherable message, the spell is broken: the amnesic, ascetic, asymptotic charm of disappearance succumbs to affect and worldly semiology.
    • Vanishing Point (pp. 9-10)
  • Yet there is a certain solitude like no other - that of the man preparing his meal in public on a wall, or on the hood of his car, or along a fence, alone. You see that all the time here. It is the saddest sight in the world. Sadder than destitution, sadder than the beggar is the man who eats alone in public. Nothing more contradicts the laws of man or beast, for animals always do each other the honour of sharing or disputing each other’s food. He who eats alone is dead (but not he who drinks alone. Why is this?).
    • New York (p. 15)

Cool Memories (1987, trans. 1990)[edit]

  • There are cultures that can only picture their origins and not their ends.
    Some are obsessed by both.
    Two other positions are possible: only picturing one's end - our own culture; picturing neither beginning nor end - the coming culture.
    • Chapter 1
  • Boredom is like a pitiless zooming in on the epidermis of time. Every instant is dilated and magnified like the pores of the face.
    • Chapter 3
  • A series of accidents creates a positively lighthearted state.
    • Chapter 4
  • There is no aphrodisiac like innocence.
    • Chapter 5
  • One day, we shall stand up and our backsides will remain attached to our seats.
  • Dying is nothing. You have to know how to disappear. Dying comes down to a biological chance and that is of no consequence. Disappearing is of a far higher order of necessity. You must not leave it to biology to decide when you will disappear. To disappear is to pass into an enigmatic state which is neither life nor death. Some animals know how to do this, as do savages, who withdraw while still alive, from the sight of their own people.
  • Two bodies side by side, which are not asleep and know it: a strange kind of communication sets in between them, formed of respect for simulated sleep, and yet it needs to betray itself by some furtive sign — a breathing pattern which is not that of real sleep or movements which are not those of a dreaming body, Neither, however, wants to break the spell. It is a conspiracy in the dark, an emotional conspiracy filled with delicious tension.
    There has been much discussion of the uninterpretable answer to the question: 'are you lying?' But ask someone next to you, very softly so as not to wake him: 'are you asleep?' If he replies that he is, then that makes him a liar. But he can reply by pretending to be asleep, which is not actually lying, but pretend-ing to lie. There is a big difference, since this is a lovers' game. The question itself is a lovers' game because it assumes the partner is not asleep while making every effort not to wake him. Besides, these are the same questions: do you love me? are you lying to me? are you asleep? And the reply — yes, I love you, yes, I'm lying, yes, I'm asleep — is equally paradoxical. But it is not untruthful. It simply comes from another world which is not the truth of the first. 'Yes, I'm asleep. Yes, I'm lying. Yes, I love you': all these answers reflect a marvellous somnambulism and, all in all, a very clear grasp of the relations we establish with reality when we are sleeping, lying or in love.
  • Here begins my delirious self-criticism (all self-criticism is delirious, the worst form of the critical spirit being that which claims to be directed against itself). Nonetheless, I accuse myself of:
    • having surreptitiously mixed my phantasies in with reality and, more precisely, with the little amount of reality available at this most mediocre moment in history
    • having systematically opposed the most obvious and well-founded notions, in the hope that they would fall into the trap of this radicalism, which has not occurred
    • having dreamt of a different world which — whether women or concepts — would have been that of a sacred form of prostitution
    • having subtly drawn my energy from the energy of others according to a mental law of derivation
    • having cultivated a twilight zone of thought the more effectively to disguise the difference between night and day
    • never having been tempted to throw everything away, but merely obsessed by a sense of frustration and of having sublimated all cowardice in theoretical radicalism
    • having sinned by omission of references
      • AMEN
    • Of being profoundly carnal and melancholy
    • Of having withdrawn from things to the extent that any judgement I make is merely the word of a phantom
    • But where are the blinding insights of yesteryear? Around me I see nothing but groundless hysteria and unscrupulous vitality
      • AMEN

    • October 1980

The Ecstasy of Communication (1987)[edit]

L'autre par lui-même (Paris: Éditions Galilée, 1987); trans. Bernard and Caroline Schutze, New York:Semiotext(e)
  • The need to speak, even if one has nothing to say, becomes more pressing when one has nothing to say, just as the will to live becomes more urgent when life has lost its meaning. (p. 30)
  • Picturing others and everything which brings you closer to them is futile from the instant that ‘communication’ can make their presence immediate. (p. 42)
  • The close-up of a face is as obscene as a sexual organ seen from up close. It is a sexual organ. The promiscuity of the detail, the zoom-in, takes on a sexual value. (p. 43)
  • Challenge, and not desire, lies at the heart of seduction. (p. 57)
  • Seduction is the world’s elementary dynamic… All this has changed significantly for us, at least in appearance. For what has happened to good and evil? Seduction hurls them against one another, and unites them beyond meaning, in a paroxysm [sudden outbreak of emotion] of intensity and charm. (p. 59)
  • Distinctive signs, full signs, never seduce us. (p. 59)
  • THERE IS NEVER ANYTHING TO PRO-DUCE. In spite of all its materialist efforts, production remains a utopia. We can wear ourselves out in materializing things, in rendering them visible, but we will never cancel the secret. (p. 65)
  • And so one can imagine that in amorous seduction the other is the locus of your secret — the other unknowingly holds that which you will never have the chance to know. (p. 65)
  • Take provocation, for instance, which is the opposite and the caricature of seduction. It says: "I know that you want to be seduced, and I will seduce you." Nothing could be worse than betraying this secret rule. Nothing could be less seductive than a provocative smile or inciteful behaviour, since both presuppose that one cannot be seduced naturally and that one needs to be blackmailed into it, or through a declaration of intent: "Let me seduce you" (p. 67)
  • The discourse of truth is quite simply impossible. It eludes itself. Everything eludes itself, everything scoffs at its own truth, seduction renders everything elusive. The fury to unveil the truth, to get at the naked truth, the one which haunts all discourses of interpretation, the obscene rage to uncover the secret, is proportionate to the impossibility of ever achieving this. …But this rage, this fury, only bears witness to the eternity of seduction and to the impossibility of mastering it. (p. 73)

Simulacra and Simulation (1981)[edit]

It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges persist here and there in the deserts that are no longer those of the Empire, but ours: the desert of the real itself
Forgetting extermination, is part of extermination
  • It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges persist here and there in the deserts that are no longer those of the Empire, but ours: The desert of the real itself.
    • The Precession of Simulcra
  • Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or substance. It is a generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.
    • The Precession of Simulcra
  • If he is this good at acting crazy, it's because he is." Nor is military psychology mistaken in this regard: in this sense, all crazy people simulate, and this lack of distinction is the worst kind of subversion. It is against this lack of distinction that classical reason armed itself in all its categories. But it is what today again outflanks them, submerging the principle of truth.
    • The Precession of Simulcra
  • When the real is no longer what it was, nostalgia assumes its full meaning.
    • The Precession of Simulcra, The Divine Irreference Of Images
  • To dissimulate is to pretend not to have what one has. To simulate is to feign to have what one doesn't have. One implies a presence, the other an absence. But it is more complicated than that because simulating is not pretending: "Whoever fakes an illness can simply stay in bed and make everyone believe he is ill. Whoever simulates an illness produces in himself some of the symptoms" (Littré). Therefore, pretending, or dissimulating, leaves the principle of reality intact: the difference is always clear, it is simply masked, whereas simulation threatens the difference between the "true" and the "false," the "real" and the "imaginary."
    • The Precession of Simulcra, The Divine Irreference Of Images
  • Our entire linear and accumulative culture collapses if we cannot stockpile the past in plain view.
    • The Precession of Simulcra, Ramses, or the Rosy-Colored Resurrection
  • This world wants to be childish in order to make us believe that the adults are elsewhere, in the "real" world, and to conceal the fact that true childishness is everywhere - that it is that of the adults themselves who come here to act the child in order to foster illusions as to their real childishness.
    • The Precession of Simulcra, The Hyperreal and the Imaginary
  • People no longer look at each other, but there are institutes for that. They no longer touch each other, but there is contactotherapy. They no longer walk, but they go jogging, etc. Everywhere one recycles lost faculties, or lost bodies, or lost sociality, or the lost taste for food.
    • The Precession of Simulcra, The Hyperreal and the Imaginary
  • Watergate was thus nothing but a lure held out by the system to catch its adversaries - a simulation of scandal for regenerative ends.
    • "The Precession of Simulcra,MÖBIUS - SPIRALING NEGATIVETY
  • ...we are in a logic of simulation, which no longer has anything to do with a logic of facts and an order of reason. Simulation is characterized by a precession of the model, of all the models based on the merest fact - the models come first, their circulation, orbital like that of the bomb, constitutes the genuine magnetic field of the event. The facts no longer have a specific trajectory, they are born at the intersection of models, a single fact can be engendered by all the models at once.
    • "The Precession of Simulcra,MÖBIUS - SPIRALING NEGATIVETY
  • Forgetting extermination is part of extermination, because it is also the extermination of memory, of history, of the social, etc. This forgetting is as essential as the event in any case unlocatable by us, inaccessible to us in its truth. This forgetting is still too dangerous, it must be effaced by an artificial memory (today, everywhere, it is artificial memories that effect the memory of man, that efface man in his own memory). This artificial memory will be the restaging of extermination - but late, much too late for it to be able to make real waves and profoundly disturb something, and especially, especially through medium that is itself cold, radiating forgetfulness, deterrence, and extermination in a still more systematic way, if that is possible, than the camps themselves.
    • Holocaust
  • The simulacrum is never what hides the truth — it is truth that hides the fact that there is none. The simulacrum is true. — Ecclesiastes
  • For it is with the same imperialism that present-day simulators try to make the real, all the real, coincide with their simulation models.
  • One has never said better how much "humanism", "normality", "quality of life" were nothing but the vicissitudes of profitability.
  • The apocalypse is finished, today it is the precession of the neutral, of forms of the neutral and of indifference. I will leave it to be considered whether there can be a romanticism, an aesthetic of the neutral therein. I don't think so — all that remains, is the fascination for desertlike and indifferent forms, for the very operation of the system that annihilates us. Now, fascination (in contrast to seduction, which was attached to appearances, and to dialectical reason, which was attached to meaning) is a nihilistic passion par excellence, it is the passion proper to the mode of disappearance. We are fascinated by all forms of disappearance, of our disappearance. Melancholic and fascinated, such is our general situation in an era of involuntary transparency.
    I am a nihilist.
    I observe, I accept, I assume the immense process of the destruction of appearances (and of the seduction of appearances) in the service of meaning (representation, history, criticism, etc.) that is the fundamental fact of the nineteenth century.
    • Ch. 18 : On Nihilism, translation by Sheila Faria Glaser.


  • For nothing can be greater than seduction itself, not even the order that destroys it.
    • Seduction (1990)
  • The end of history is, alas, also the end of the dustbins of history. There are no longer any dustbins for disposing of old ideologies, old regimes, old values. Where are we going to throw Marxism, which actually invented the dustbins of history? (Yet there is some justice here since the very people who invented them have fallen in.) Conclusion: if there are no more dustbins of history, this is because History itself has become a dustbin. It has become its own dustbin, just as the planet itself is becoming its own dustbin.
    • The Illusion of the End (1992) (L'Illision de la Fin) Tr. Chris Turner, 1994, Stanford University Press, ISBN 0804725012, p. 26, "The Event Strike"

The Perfect Crime (1993)[edit]

Translated by Ian Michel and William Sarah (1995)
  • Nothing is wholly obvious without becoming enigmatic. Reality itself is too obvious to be true.
  • We will never know if an advertisement or opinion poll has had a real influence on individual or collective wills, but we will never know either what would have happened if there had been no opinion poll or advertisement.

Radical Thought (1994)[edit]

The simulacrum now hides, not the truth, but the fact that there is none.
  • One may dream of a culture where everyone bursts into laughter when someone says: this is true, this is real.
  • If the thought enunciates an object as a truth, it is only as a challenge to this object's own self-fulfillment.
  • Not only does reality resist those who still criticize it, but it also abandons those who defend it. Maybe it is a way for reality to get its revenge from those who claim to believe in it for the sole purpose of eventually transforming it: sending back its supporters to their own desires.
  • The simulacrum now hides, not the truth, but the fact that there is none, that is to say, the continuation of Nothingness.

New millennium[edit]

  • Today's terrorism is not the product of a traditional history of anarchism, nihilism, or fanaticism. It is instead the contemporary partner of globalization.
    • The Spirit of Terrorism (2003) "The Violence of the Global"
  • Particularly in the case of all professional of press-images which testify of the real events. In making reality, even the most violent, emerge to the visible, it makes the real substance disappear. It is like the Myth of Eurydice : when Orpheus turns around to look at her, she vanishes and returns to hell. That is why, the more exponential the marketing of images is growing the more fantastically grows the indifference towards the real world. Finally, the real world becomes a useless function, a collection of phantom shapes and ghost events. We are not far from the silhouettes on the walls of the cave of Plato.
  • This realistic image, however, does not catch at all what really is, but what should not be - death and misery - what should not exist, from our moral and humanistic point of view. And at the same time making an aesthetic and commercial, perfectly immoral use and abuse of this misery. Images that actually testify, behind their pretended "objectivity", of a deep denial of the real, and of an equal denial of the image - assigned to present what does not even want to be represented, assigned to the rape of the real by burglary.
  • The Violence of the Image European Graduate School.
  • To challenge and to cope with this paradoxical state of things, we need a paradoxical way of thinking; since the world drifts into delirium, we must adopt a delirious point of view. We must no longer assume any principle of truth, of causality, or any discursive norm. Instead, we must grant both the poetic singularity of events and the radical uncertainty of events. It is not easy. We usually think that holding to the protocols of experimentation and verification is the most difficult thing. But in fact the most difficult thing is to renounce the truth and the possibility of verification, to remain as long as possible on the enigmatic, ambivalent, and reversible side of thought.
    • The Vital Illusion (2000) "The Murder of the Real". Wellek Library Lectures given May 1999 at the University of California, Irvine

Photography, or the Writing of Light, (2000)[edit]

Photography, or the Writing of Light European Graduate School
  • There are only a few images that are not forced to provide meaning, or have to go through the filter of a specific idea.
  • So-called "realist" photography does not capture the "what is." Instead, it is preoccupied with what should not be, like the reality of suffering for example.
  • It is perhaps not a surprise that photography developed as a technological medium in the industrial age, when reality started to disappear. It is even perhaps the disappearance of reality that triggered this technical form. Reality found a way to mutate into an image.

See also[edit]

Social and political philosophers
Classic AristotleAureliusAverroesChanakyaCiceroConfuciusLaoziMenciusMoziPlatoPlutarchPolybiusSocratesSun TzuThucydidesXenophonXun Zi
Conservative BolingbrokeBonaldBossuetBurkeBurnhamCarlyleColeridgeComteCortésDmowskiDurkheimEvolaFichteFilmerGentileHamannHegelHerderHobbesHoppeHumeHuntingtonJüngerKirkLe BonLeibnizKuehnelt-LeddihnMaistreMansfieldMoreMoscaOakeshottParetoPetersonRenanSantayanaSchmittScrutonSowellSpenglerStraussTaineTocqueville • Vico
Liberal ArendtAronBastiatBeccariaBenthamBerlinBoétieCamusCondorcetConstantDworkinEmersonErasmusFranklinFukuyamaHayekJeffersonKantLockeMachiavelliMadisonMillMiltonMisesMontaigneMontesquieuNietzscheNozickOrtegaPopperRandRawlsRothbardRousseauSadeSchillerSimmelSmithSpencerSpinozade StaëlStirnerThoreauTocquevilleTuckerVoltaireWeberWollstonecraft
Religious al-GhazaliAmbedkarAquinasAugustineAurobindoCalvinDanteGandhiGirardGregoryGuénonJesusJohn of SalisburyJungKierkegaardKołakowskiLewisLutherMaimonidesMalebrancheMaritainMuhammadMüntzerNiebuhrOckhamOrigenPhiloPizanQutbRadhakrishnanShariatiSolzhenitsynTaylorTertullianVivekanandaWeil
Socialist AdornoAgambenBadiouBakuninBaudrillardBaumanBernsteinButlerChomskyde BeauvoirDebordDeleuzeDeweyDu BoisEngelsFanonFoucaultFourierFrommGodwinGoldmanGramsciHabermasKropotkinLeninLuxemburgMaoMarcuseMarxMazziniNegriOwenPaineRousseauRussellSaint-SimonSartreSkinnerSorelTrotskyWalzerŽižek

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