19 March, 2007

Jean Baudrillard

You may recall that I was working through the world of International Relations theories. This process is currently in hiatus, but eventually I hope to discuss what post-modernists have to say on the subject. Jean Baudrillard was one of the leading figures in this area, and you may have noticed that he died recently. Or maybe, he has not died but ascended into a realm of pure representation, like that Barry O'Blivion guy in Cronenburg's Videodrome (I am surely not the first person to make the comparison).

Momus comments on the difference between English and French language obituaries of Baudrillard, with the francophone world engaging with his ideas and anglophone obituaries focussing on his largely misunderstood claim that the first Gulf War had not taken place and on his apparently being the inspiration for well-known film The Matrix. The latter point is particularly comedic, suggesting that Baudrillard ran around in leather coats wearing wrap around shades and forgetting the obvious point, made by Baudrillard himself, that the film is a rather facile distillation and adaptation of his views. This is life.

On the first point, about the Gulf War not happening: my recollection is that Baudrillard, like many post-modernists, reckoned that in our hypermediated age events are less significant than their representation. Therefore, the endless rolling news reportage of the war becomes what counts, not the war itself. While I see what he is getting at here, I do not quite remember what he means by saying that the War did not happen (as opposed to it being of less significance than its media portrayal). Maybe the point is intended rhetorically. It does though call to mind a very real problem with the writings of Baudrillard (and of post-modernists generally): they are by and large written in a largely impenetrable manner. Baudrillard does at least have the excuse of foreignness - he cannot answer for the opacity of his translations. Having read other English-language post-modernist writers, however, it does appear that there is a post-modern writing style, one that Baudrillard's translators have captured well.

To see what I mean, check out Baudrillard's 'The Mask Of War', a nice short piece that appeared in some book called 1000 Days of Theory. It is a while since I read it closely, but my recollection is that there is an interesting point in there somewhere, but I cannot see it now.


Hans Morgencow said...

I found that article very easy to read. I read it all by myself.

rabbit said...

I tried to read the article by Baudrillard, but I got very confused. And I found it very hard to turn the pages with my paws.