Jean Baudrillard was born in Reims, France on July 29th, 1929 and died March 6th 2007 in Paris, France. Being the first in his family to attend university, Baudrillard studied German at the Sorbonne. After completing his studies at the Sorbonne he taught German literature (1956-66), published essays in Les Temps Modernes, and translated german literary and philosophical works. From 1966-1968 Baudrillard both taught in the sociology department, and attended the Paris West University Nanterre La Défense where he finished his thesis in sociology: ‘Le Système des objects (1968). After the student revolts of 1968 he moved the University of Paris at Dauphine, where he retired from in 1987.
Baudrillards early work (‘’’1970-1972 The System of Objects, La Société de consommation (1970; The Consumer Society), and Pour une critique de l’économie politique du signe (1972; For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign)’’’ is influenced by Marxist political economy and ‘semiology’. In these writings he discusses how things have intangible value, as well as an economic value. After these writings he strived away from Marxism and developed an idea of postmodernism where consumers and online images have become hyperreal compared to physical reality.
Influence by Time
Living through World War II and being heavily influenced by the culture of his surroundings, Baudrillard believed that culture formed a personality. but as time went on he found that culture became less and less a deciding factor to what made up a persons personality. in the late 20th century while the idea of consumerism increased, people began to use objects to shape their personality as opposed to retaining their culture and background. As things became more readily available for consumers and it became increasingly easier to purchase goods He believed that consumers began to buy things frivolously because they were marketed to be meaningful, but not useful. As time went on, people continued to consume themselves in materialistic objects. In his later writings Baudrillard says that social structure has completely collapsed, leaving a translucent reality in its wake. People are left without social classes to fit into. After traveling through America while attempting to experience culture with a sociological outlook, he compared it to a desert of culture.
Major Events and How they Influenced Baudrillard
Car radio invented
With the creation of the car radio information became more accessible than before
Great Depression begins
Most likely influencing Baudrillard in the way that he wouldn't have grown up with much disposable income which explains his idea that modern society is too materialistic.
World War II begins
Baudrillard believed that pre World War II society was as a whole fueled by production, and after World War II it was fueled by consumption.
World War II ends
Baudrillard believes that at this point society began to be fueled by consumption
first modern credit card introduced
The introduction of the credit card makes consumption easier
First Color TV Introduced
This begins to make way for commercials which will fuel consumption
Martin Luther King Jr. 'I Have a Dream' speech
Breaking many social boundaries as the African American community begins to attain equality
US sends troops to Vietnam
Baudrillard believed that the Vietnam War coverage was the beginning of media maintaining the illusion of actuality
Computer Floppy Disk Introduced
This would continue the evolution of simulation
creating a push in consumerism and simulation
Apple Computer Founded
creating an even bigger bush in consumerism and simulation by competing with Microsoft
First Woman Appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court
Breaking many social boundaries as the female community begins to attain equality
World Wide Web Created
Increasing the ability of simulation and consumerism
Motivated Baudrillard to write The Gulf War did not take place
Attacks on the World Trade Center
Influenced Baudrillard to write "The Spirit of Terrorism: And Requiem for the Twin Towers"
Jean Baudrillard's Major Writings and Theoretical Works
- 1996c , The System of Objects, London: Verso.
- 1998 , The Consumer Society, Paris: Gallimard.
- 1975 , The Mirror of Production, St. Louis: Telos Press.
- 1981 , For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign, St. Louis: Telos Press.
- 1983a, Simulations, New York: Semiotext(e).
- 1983b, In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities, New York: Semiotext(e).
- 1983c, “The Ecstacy of Communication,” in The Anti-Aesthetic, Hal Foster (ed.), Washington: Bay Press.
- 1987, “When Bataille Attacked the Metaphysical Principle of Economy,” D.J. Miller (trans.), Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory, 11: 57–62.
- 1988, America, London: Verso.
- 1990a, Cool Memories, London: Verso.
- 1990b, Fatal Strategies, New York: Semiotext(e).
- 1993a, Symbolic Exchange and Death, London: Sage.
- 1993b, The Transparency of Evil, London: Verso.
- 1994a, Simulacra and Simulation, Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.
- 1994b, The Illusion of the End, Oxford: Polity Press.
- 1995, The Gulf War Did Not Take Place, P. Patton (trans.), Sydney: Power Publications, and Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
- 1996a, Cool Memories II, Oxford: Polity Press.
- 1996b, The Perfect Crime, London and New York: Verso Books.
- 1997, Fragments: Cool Memories III, 1990-1995, London and New York: Verso Books.
- 2000, The Vital Illusion, New York: Columbia University Press.
- 2001, Impossible Exchange, London: Verso.
- 2002a, The Spirit of Terrorism: And Requiem for the Twin Towers, London: Verso.
- 2002b, Screened Out, London: Verso.
Bauldrillard's theory of hyper-reality tells us that the real and unreal are merged into one. Bauldrillard uses Disneyland as an example, Disneyland being presented to us as unreal, while the city of Los Angels and the rest of American states are reality. However, Disneyland is only presented to us as unreal, to emphasize life outside of it to be 'reality' when in fact Disneyland is reality. Hence, making Disneyland contradictory reality.