Baudrillard & Fatal Strategies

This video is 8th in the 8-part video lecture series, The Self Under Siege: Philosophy in the Twentieth Century (1993).

I. The task of creating a life with the “self under siege” to the degree I have argued may seem impossible. At the very least, it calls for what Baudrillard calls “fatal strategies”. So I begin this lecture with the work of Baudrillard, perhaps the last philosopher?

II. Baudrillard builds on the work Guy Debord, the situationist author of “The Society of the Spectacle”. Baudrillard traces the symptoms and tendencies of the trajectory of the postmodern; a set of concepts appropriate for a new world of technologies of images and communication developing in the late 20th Century.

III. The first of these is the Hyperreal. This is the image, the reproduction that is more real than real, reality is whatever can be mechanically and technologically reproduced. This is made possible by the shift from hard to soft technologies.

IV. The second of these is Simulations. Reality is that which can be simulated, xeroxed, virtual reality, images, data flows, information at rapid speed.

V. The third of these is Utopia Realized as the End of Man and World, with all their references to the regulation and control and obvious political meanings. Baudrillard ironically argues that America is Utopia realized in “the shadow of the silent majorities” and with all the banality that belongs to all Utopias.

VI. For Baudrillard, we are, or are becoming, fractal selves; split, reproducible, basic life-style changes as fads, the disappearance of experience and the desire for a vanishing reality.

VII. Beyond Baudrillard, Afrocentrism appears as an answer to reconnecting ourselves with “reality”. But this too is becoming commodified in rap and “black” films.

VIII. The Ecstasy of communication, the vertigo of information overload, the banality of a Transparent society; can any of these postmodern symptoms show us the way out of the 20th Century and toward a new construction of the human? Can we find meaning in the “world” that is already upon us? It is our task to try.

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7 responses to “Baudrillard & Fatal Strategies

    • I really enjoyed this bit:

      “The old technics of sovereignty and political subjectivity have invariably and irrevocably shifted, but nonetheless they, too, make up an obdurate refrain, that which rules and holds sovereignty: monarch, state or algorithm. Mbembe (2017) asks, what forms of detachment from such technics are possible through different ways of speaking, writing, and sensing? What is in the very materiality of speaking, writing and sensing that offers different forms for the enactment of human life? The challenge is how to detach from a loop where narrowly drawn political and religious sentiment as a desire for old fashion sovereignty and definitive belonging are valorized as resistance to the calculation of every facet of life and the commodification of feeling. It means detaching from diffuse notions of interdependency and mutual responsibility as a way out of resurgent populisms.”

      • ” What is in the very materiality of speaking, writing and sensing that offers different forms for the enactment of human life? ”
        yes this is a good old fashioned pragmatist question, what are differences that make an actual (off the page/screen) difference to how one lives, one I used to ask on the blogosphere ad nauseum and to no useful effect, kind of like a lion roaring at the enraging desert.

        • Do you feel you never received an answer to the pragmatic question? The answer is, of course, to enact ways of relating and doing (in body and speech) that are aligned with our best known ecologically sustainable solutions.

          I started an in-person Deep Adaptation circle here in my community where people share day to day acts of change, and strategies for becoming otherwise in the capitaloscene. I’m finding there are constant subtle shifts in how people speak and the choices they make. We are weaving new stories about ourselves and life that lead to concrete changes. These new storeis/ontologies/values/desires are mutations from what we once were.

          When facilitating these community ‘crucibles’ we make sure they are pragmatic and embodied encounters.

          • I’m all for (and aware of and a part of) local efforts at being more humane, broadly (if not intentionally) along lines of hospice care, but they literally don’t/can’t add up to anything like the scales/impacts needed to be ecologically sustainable, that seems to be the rub generally speaking that most folks are in reality/test-proof denial of.
            No small irony that many of the most vociferous activists in the name of ecology can’t grasp their relative impotence in the face of truly environmental factors, but that’s the sort of blinkered critters we be.
            As I’ve shared here somewhere (if memory serves, less and less I fear) folks like Jodie Dean & Yanis Varoufakis have made this point about the need for truly mass organizing/governance to have anything approaching eco-sustainability but of course they have no new way of doing politics/economics that actually works so these issues remain merely academic even if they escapes the bounds of overpriced texts.
            Such is all too human life (and death) I suppose, reminds me to go back and see if I’ve remembered correctly about Levinas’ account of our animal-drive to live no matter how inhumane that life is, the post-Holocaust nightmare version of
            Santayana’ s animal-faith, can we learn to instead to meditate on these mass graves, can we stop trying to be fix-it gods and truly mourn, the odds are slim but I’m still giving it a go. cheers, d.

  1. lots of good stuff here but if folks could only absorb/enact the distinction Evan makes at around 1:03/4 about the difference (and the need Not to con-fuse) axiological/normative statements and empiricalish descriptions that would be a welcome miracle.

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