Jean Baudrillard

Jean Bauldrillard was born in July of 1929 in northeastern France. Jean did not come a family of privileged, his parents were civil servants and his grandparents were peasants. He became the first person in his family to attend college when he moved to Paris to attend Sorbonne University. Upon graduation he began teaching secondary schooling in the German language but also began reviews of Marxist literature. He soon moved on to teaching at the University of Paris, at a campus just outside the city, and began to work on his doctoral thesis.

Bauldrillard’s success relied on the theories of others. He took other established theories and build upon them, allowing him to develop his ideas about the post-modern period. His foundation is found in the teaching of Marx and other leftist writings but he believed that consumption was the main drive behind a capitalist society, not production. He developed the Object Value System which gave four main steps in determining an object value. First is its functional value (or purpose), secondly, its exchange value(or price), third, its symbolic value and then its sign value or what it means within a system of other objects. His early reasoning behind objects comes not from the object itself, but its relation to objects around it.

Evolving from the value of objects, he began to explore how these ideas were based around the interactions with mass media and how technology effects our progress. The rapid advances in advertising and media made every consumable object comparable to not only similar objects, but it now subject to media manipulation.

Bauldrillard’s philosophy became defined around center around two main ideas; Hyperreality and Simulation.

These two ideas go together in forming how our thoughts have developed over time, with the help of technology.

Baudrillard’s philosophical background helps do define how we understand things. We know that a dog is a dog not just by understand that he is a dog. We know a dog is a dog because he is not a cat, nor is he a goat or a fish. We take in our surroundings and compare objects with each other to comprehend their existence.

Simulation is the process in which representations of things come to replace the things being represented. No longer would we understand that a dog is a dog because he is not a cat. We are told that this is not a cat, but yet we do not understand that it is a dog. Signs that mask the absence of reality can be seen in the creation of Disney world or the iconic view of LosAngelas with their organic food and new age sciences. Other things like video games of real events like war serve a purpose to simulate a simulation. These things exist in the media, and we believe them to be real because of how we see them, but in reality they may not be real at all or have no base for existence since they are entirely man made ideas.

Hyperreality feeds off of simulation to create a world void of reality. Because of what is being fed to us by the media, we have construed visions of the world. He uses examples of edited war material or the Jerry Springer Show as ways the media creates a world which is not entirely true. Hyperreality is also used to represent the way consumer society has shaped our opinions to buy things we don’t necessarily need. Examples he uses for this hyperreality would be the stockpiling of nuclear weapons for military defense in the Cold War. We never plan on using these weapons, nor would they actually defend us in the events of a nuclear holocaust. These weapons are representations of human anxiety, serve no purpose and expose the hyperreal state.

 
Discussion Questions:

 

In what ways do we see hyperreality being portrayed today, how do we embrace it or how do we try and reject it?

 

Given the advances in media communications and this “hyperreality” that Baudrillard discusses, is there any way to tell what is real? Is there anyway to fix this problem.

 

If we adapt this view of hyperreality, then how differenty do you think we would view our lives.

 

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