R.I.P. Jean Baudrillard

Jean Baudrillard has died. For all his warts (e.g., his ideas inspired tons of unwatchable drek such as The Matrix, as well as his light-headed book Passwords, among other disappointing late writings), he was one of the most influential public intellectuals of the 20th Century (right up there with Chomsky, Foucault, Heidegger, Sartre and the bunch). He gave us (or at minimum elaborated on it best) the simulacrum, and along with Debord and others, punk’d up social theory during the golden age of mass media and advertising (which are fading along with him, hopefully…)

Some might say he was anyways always already dead, or never really alive. Baudrillard himself remarked in 2000 that “Well, let’s see, at 70, I would say that I am … transfini” (meaning “beyond the end”) (source). Maybe TV never existed, either?

I had a fun discussion on a conference backchannel last week (over Skype – interestingly, a full two weeks later, that backchannel is still going on…) about how real life doesn’t exist, the real conference doesn’t exist, only the backchannel. Only Skype. Only the Internets. That it seems so perfectly everyday (and not merely everyday to academics) to adopt such positions is a concise testament to the importance of Baudrillard’s legacy for Western thought.

What a guy.

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