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Jean Baudrillard (1929–2007)

A French theorist, Jean Baudrillard is associated with postmodern and poststructuralist theory. His work combines philosophy, social theory, and an idiosyncratic cultural metaphysics that reflects on key events of phenomena of the epoch.

He was an extremely prolific author who published over 50 books and commented on cultural and sociological phenomena of the contemporary era, including

Distinctions of gender, race, and class that structured modern societies in a new postmodern consumer, media, and high-tech society;

The roles of art and aesthetics;

Fundamental changes in politics, culture, and human beings; and The impact of new media, information, and cybernetic technologies on the creation of a qualitatively different social order, providing fundamental mutations of human and social life. Baudrillard worked in the fields of social theory, semiology, and psychoanalysis in the 1960s and published his first book, The System of Objects, in 1968 (1996), followed by a book on The Consumer Society in 1970 (1998), and For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign in 1972 (1981).

Combining semiological studies, Marxian political economy, and sociology of the consumer society, Baudrillard began the task of exploring the system of objects and signs which forms our everyday life.

He described the meanings invested in the objects of everyday life and the structural system through which objects were organized into a new, modern society.

Commodities are bought and displayed, as much for their sign-value as their use-value, and that the phenomenon of sign-value has become an essential constituent of the commodity and consumption in the consumer society.

The discourse of ''the end'' signifies a postmodern break or rupture in history. We are now in a new era of simulation in which social reproduction replaces production as the organizing form of society. For him modern societies are organized around the production and consumption of commodities, while postmodern societies are organized around simulation and the play of images and signs, denoting a situation in which codes, models, and signs are the organizing forms of a new social order where simulation rules.

His postmodern universe is one of hyper reality in which entertainment, information, and communication technologies provide experiences more intense and involving than the scenes of banal everyday life, as well as the codes and models that structure everyday life. The realm of the hyper- real (i.e., media simulations of reality, Disneyland and amusement parks, malls and consumer fantasy- lands, TV sports, and other excursions into ideal worlds) is more real than real, whereby the models, images, and codes of the hyper real come to control thought and behavior.

Baudrillard, J. (1983a) Simulations. Semiotext(e), New York.
Baudrillard, J. (1993) [1976] Symbolic Exchange and Death. Sage, London.
Baudrillard, J. (2002) The Spirit of Terrorism: And Requiem for the Twin Towers. Verso, London.