Re: [-empyre-] A view from "Baudrillard and the Media"

Sorry, just to say more from my part that of course personally mostly
agreeing the view by Merrin. But may be asking a discussion.


On 14/03/07 17:42, "Aliette" <> probably wrote:

>> From William Merrin, author of:
>     "Baudrillard and the Media: A Critical Introduction"
> @ Polity Press, UK (Nov 2005)
> As abstract here an extract from the interactive review of the book at
> " Baudrillard is a much mis-represented figure in cultural theory. He's
> consistently misunderstood by otherwise intelligent people who are either a)
> annoyed by his Gallic provocations or b) have a vested interest in wishing
> to safeguard their much more conformist assessments of contemporary life.
> Merrin does a great job setting the record straight. The book is
> comprehensive and stimulating and points out the various ways in which
> Baudrillard's thought adds another dimension to the frequently uncritical
> and culturally populist field of Media Studies.
> If you want to understand in a much more sophisticated fashion than the
> media could ever explain, such issues as the inability of the West to
> understand properly the sensitivities of the Islamic world - this is the
> book for you. "
> ----------
> (with his direct allow to repost it from Idc list to Empyre)
> Facing Ken and Nich I think that may be they can have any interesting and
> different view,
> Aliette 
> /////////////////
> First post: 
> //////////////
> I joined this list because a friend had passed onto me the first two
> emails regarding Jean Baudrillard. I have to say that I'm disappointed
> by the level of knowledge they display. I would immediately fail
> undergraduates who demonstrated such a lack of knowledge of his work and
> filled the space instead with such poorly thought-through invective.
> The first commentator said:
> 'Thus beguiling, but ultimately fairly dubious, totalising and
> empirically unsupportable, or at least highly reductive notions about
> 'simulacra' and 'simulation' were not only taken far too seriously, but
> helped to produce and support cultural phenomena which were then taken
> as evidence of the rightness of Baudrillard's ideas'
> The simulacrum is actually a historical concept, found explicitly and
> implicitly in the theological, anthropological and philosophical
> literature. The western tradition repeatedly founds its primary
> theologies and philosophies on the attempt to reduce the efficacy of the
> image (whether the man-made image, the world as image of the divine, or
> the images that constitute our interior knowledge) and to demonise its
> power to assert itself as the full reality. This 'simulacrum', however,
> has always challenged every truth system built upon it, whether idealist
> or materialist. To give an example, empiricism serves as the basis for
> science and social science yet its primary philosophers were aware of
> how the images of subjective thought and sensation completely ungrounded
> their attempt to turn subjectivity into objectivity. Read Lucretius on
> simulacra, or Bacon on the 'idols of the mind' ('idol' = 'eidolon',
> which is also translated as 'simulacra'), or Hume's scepticism, which is
> better understood as a sensitivity to the ancient problem posed by the
> simulacrum for the possibility of knowledge...  Empiricism, therefore,
> may well 'work', but philosophically it's a simulation machine for
> producing our modern concept of 'objectivity' (and don't get me started
> on the ludicrousness of 'social science'...). So I'm afraid you're
> trying to shoot down an idea that's pretty well accepted throughout
> western history. Baudrillard, following Deleuze, Derrida, Klossowski and
> Perniola merely takes up and applies this problematic to a contemporary
> imagic world. If his idea of simulation should not have been taken so
> seriously we should also throw out Plato, Tertullian, Descartes, Hume
> etc. As for the simulacrum not being 'empirically supportable', you've
> got it the wrong way round. It's empiricism that isn't empirically
> supportable because of the simulacrum, not that you're likely to care
> about or follow these arguments because there's no evidence here of
> Baudrillard having been read let alone of any attempt to understand the
> concepts he uses and their cultural and historical significance. And
> then we just shoot the messenger ... Baudrillard is responsible for the
> simulacra we experience today? ... Sure, just like Marx was responsible
> for industrial capitalism I suppose? This entire discussion of
> Baudrillard overlooks the fact that he was a critic of simulacra and
> that he spent his entire career developing a radical Durkheimian
> critique based upon the concept of 'symbolic exchange'. Ultimately the
> only reductiveness here is the sub-standard reading of Baudrillard.
> That's because it takes time and thought to work through the 50 odd
> books he wrote and put them into any kind of context. It's far easier to
> watch UK Gold and talk about John Inman.
> And then we get a follow up comment that's worse. I thought this idea
> that Baudrillard denied the physical existence of the Gulf War had
> disappeared over a decade ago when his original essays appeared in
> translation  ... but no. Here it is again.
> To sum up this comment: Baudrillard apparently steamrollers 'over
> material reality, going so far as denying the reality of the Gulf War',
> whereas war 'has real consequences' and his ideas 'deny the dignity of
> war's victims'. Baudrillard has no critique of power and is apolitical
> and you can prove he's wrong because you can 'walk down actual streets
> filled with meaty reality'.
> OK, Baudrillard doesn't deny material reality exists. He repeatedly says
> in fact it's the excess of reality not its loss that is the problem
> today. He is not an idealist and doesn't think 'all is fiction' and that
> we're all floating around in nothingness. This is a moronic reading. He
> is concerned with the way in which our experience of that real is
> organised, programmed and produced as part of a concern with the
> semiotic processes of social control operating through our media and
> through everyday life (following Debord, Marcuse etc.) and he critiques
> this process from the point of view of symbolic exchange, an idea that
> in its radical Durkheimian derivation serves as his critical ground and
> functions as precisely that material, experiential and moral real that
> you accuse him of not believing in...
> As to the Gulf War, the simulation of war was not primarily that of its
> media representation (as a video game experience). It's true that in the
> west we consumed only a mediated simulacrum without any of the
> experiential reality of the war but he critiques this so he can hardly
> be claimed to be promoting it or arguing that that's all that was going
> on. More importantly he offered a critique of the material process of
> war - of a war conducted as a war-game, following its own plan so
> successfully that the enemy were not even allowed to take part (being
> massacred by the overwhelming allied military force - yes he recognises
> this), producing a war that wasn't a war but a massacre; a victory that
> wasn't a victory as it left Saddam in power and a defeat that wasn't a
> defeat as the US military engaged in repeated air-strikes and another
> war over a decade later. That's why a war 'didn't happen'. Interestingly
> this is a more moral position than those who opposed 'the war' as they
> consecrated it historically by accepting its status. Baudrillard refused
> the west this satisfaction, forcing us to question the war dead as
> slaughtered human beings. And Baudrillard does have a theory of power
> (of the western semiotic system and its operation, set out throughout
> his work)and he isn't apolitical (how can you reach such a stupid
> conclusion given how much he has written about politics and political
> events!). In fact he sees three modes of resistance to the west - the
> internal rediscovery of the symbolic mode of relations, the external
> resistance of symbolic cultures (such as Iranian islam) against the west
> and the internal processes of reversion that the western system falls
> victim to. For God's sake, please at least deal with his work before you
> leap in and attack it. I'd recommend my own book 'Baudrillard and the
> media' as a way into the arguments above. I know that smacks of academic
> self-publicity but I do deal with all the errors made here.
> William Merrin
> Dept of Media and Communication Studies
> University of Wales, Swansea
> //////////
> Last post (same day) :
> //////////
> I¹m still stunned by some of this discussion. I honestly thought that with
> the general availability of Baudrillard¹s work in translation these days
> that a better understanding of his work might exist. Again and again the
> same comments keep appearing ­Baudrillard offered no hope, he had no
> programme for change, he saw no possibility of change, he ignored
> power/politics/the poor etc. so what do you expect? All we can do is smile
> at him and shrug ?
> In fact Baudrillard¹s career is best understood as an attempt to develop
> both an escalating analysis of the operation of the western semiotic system
> and the forms of social control that produce and govern us today and a
> similarly escalating analysis of those symbolic forms that he argues shadow
> the system, irrupt within it or through it or arise from external sources ­
> his names for these changed but included the symbolic, symbolic exchange,
> seduction, reversal, the fatal, evil, the singularity etc. Baudrillard never
> gives up hope (in fact that might be a better critique of his work ­ his
> tendency always to find that glimmer?), and he pursued his hope of something
> fighting the semiotic in the form of his work (in his own theoretical
> methodology ­ in his writing and its different strategies), in the content
> of his work (in his analysis of forms such as the masses, processes such as
> terrorism, and events such as the Gulf War or western globalisation etc.) as
> well as in practices he favoured (such as photography). He wasn¹t a Marxist
> and his rejection of the ?gold standard¹, referential real of the
> proletariat and their revolution means that a lot of critics didn¹t see what
> he was doing but he looked for and continually found modes and processes of
> reversal. A lot of the reason why many people miss this in him is because
> they don¹t realise it¹s there because they¹re too busy focusing upon the
> first part of his analysis ­ of simulation. Too few people have paid
> attention to the symbolic, its meaning in his work, its critical function
> and its practical efficacy. Just focusing on simulation means you mistake
> him for an apolitical, nihilistic celebrant. Marx described capitalism but
> it didn't make him a capitalist. Baudrillard may describe simulation ...
> I also saw the earlier post which involved a critique of Baudrillard¹s book
> 'America'. It¹s not that important a book in his oeuvre but I do wonder if
> we¹ve been reading the same book. All that stuff about  ?Baudrillard in
> reality gives vent to the deep hostility he feels towards the common people.
> They simply do not exist in his book¹ etc. is hornswoggle. The entire
> critique advanced in the post is a typical product of its time ­ a petty and
> prett smug assault on what Baudrillard represents to the writer and their
> own feelings about his claimed postmodernism and European and intellectual
> status etc. rather than what he wrote in that book.The book itself bears
> little relation to what's being said about it. Just go to the chapter ?The
> End of US Power?¹ and you¹ll find a major discussion (see especially p.
> 112-13 of the verso translation) of the disenfranchisement of the poor with
> the turn to new right political and economic policies in the early 1980s.
> His critique of this systematic withdrawal of interest from entire sections
> of society is superb (?entire swathes of the population are falling into
> oblivion, being totally abandoned?¹) and his description of the process as
> an ?ex-communication¹ is spot on ­ reworking a religious concept in the
> light of what it means in a communications-based society to develop a
> powerful Durkheimian critique of the desocialisation of the poor and the
> withdrawal of even that simulation of participation he saw consumerism as
> offering when he wrote about it in ?The Mirror of Production¹. Baudrillard
> didn¹t see the common people?? Nah, people don¹t see Baudrillard.
> On the day of his funeral, I'll defend him against all-comers.
> William Merrin
> Dept of Media and Communication Stuides
> University of Wales, Swansea
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum

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