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Virtuality and Events: The Hell of Power. Jean Baudrillard (French) From The Intelligence of Evil or the Lucidity Pact (2006). Jean Baudrillard. Hyperreality. Jean Baudrillard 1929 - present. Professor Emeritus, University of Paris

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virtuality and events the hell of power

Virtuality and Events: The Hell of Power

Jean Baudrillard (French)

From The Intelligence of Evil or the Lucidity Pact (2006)

jean baudrillard

Jean Baudrillard


jean baudrillard 1929 present
Jean Baudrillard1929 - present
  • Professor Emeritus, University of Paris
  • Currently teaches at the European Graduate School in Switzerland
  • A social theorist best known for his theories about technology completely permeating the way we think and see.
  • He also writes about consumerism, gender relations, social understanding of history (journalistic commentaries on AIDS, cloning, Gulf War, 9-11.
  • Critical of Foucault’s philosophies--instead of being interested in power and knowledge, he’s interested in notions of seduction, simulation, and what he calls “hyperreality.”
  • Claims that all we know about “reality” is actually a simulation of reality (the hyperreal precedes the real).
what is hyperreality
What is Hyperreality?
  • Baudrillard writes his theories about the Hyperreal in a book called Simulacra and Simulation (1981).
  • His passage on the hyperreal was summarized in The Matrix by Morpheus’ "Welcome to the Desert of the Real."
  • For Baudrillard, the hyperreal precedes the real—kind of like the Matrix precedes the real for Neo, who has never seen anything but the Matrix initially.
  • Baudrillard believes that technological communication such as the Web has not resulted in a global village, but in a complete inability to see reality (as in the Matrix)
  • Baudrillard uses the analogy of Jorge Luis Borges’ story of the map of a great Empire.
  • In Baudrillard's version the conceptual "map" precedes the real.
idea about signification
Idea About Signification
  • Baudrillard’s theories built upon existing ideas that the meaning (signification) of things depends on interrelationships in a system of signs (example: cat).(You’ll see why this is significant in a moment.)
discussion questions
Discussion Questions
  • Beaudrillard begins with two images that he refers to as “allegories.” What is an allegory?
  • What are the two images he begins with?
  • The towers get hit, and in that moment, the work “become realized by the very event that destroys it” (1). What does that mean?
waiting for catastrophe
Waiting for Catastrophe
  • Read p. 1, paragraph 4.Let’s take it apart:
  • “The only event worthy of the name, contrasting starkly with the non-event to which we are condemned by the hegemony of a world order nothing must disturb.”
  • 1) What is “hegemony”?
  • 2) So, what is the “hegemony of a world order nothing must disturb?”
  • So we have a mentality of living in “a perpetual state of non-events.”
  • But this state is only defined by what it is not—i.e., the catastrophe that we fear. (Example: my step-mother’)
  • Now let’s read the quote again, and it makes sense.
  • Apocalypse HorsesScott Lefton 2002
the security system
The Security System
  • Baudrillard says every moment is a state of threat when the only event worth naming is the end of history as we know it.
  • “It is going to be necessary, then, to invent a security system that prevents any event whatsoever from occurring” (2).
minority report
Minority Report
  • How does he compare it to the war in Iraq?
  • “This is the scenario of the Iraq war too: the crime is nipped in the bud on the strength of an act that has not taken place (Saddam’s use of weapons of mass destruction). What we have here, then, is the real repression of a virtual crime” (2).
  • What’s the comparison he makes with Minority Report?
political order
Political Order
  • “Extrapolating beyond this, we can see looming beyond the war a systematic deprogramming not only of all crime, but of anything that might disturb the order of things, the political order of the planet. This is what ‘political power’ comes down to today’” (2).
how does steve kurtz s case relate
How does Steve Kurtz’s case relate?
  • What did you find out about Steve?
erasing events in the past
Erasing Events in the PAST
  • “This strategy is directed not only at the future, but also at past events.” What does he mean by this?
  • Do you agree or disagree that the war is to “erase humiliation,” that it is “bereft of any objective or finality of its own,” that it is merely an “exorcism” (2)?
  • Consider this quote: “There is a fierce irony here: the irony of an anti-terrorist world system that ends up internalizing terror, inflicting it on itself, and emptying itself of any political substance—and going so far as to turn on its own population” (3).
  • How do we “internalize terror”? How does this remind you of Foucault? How is it different? How does it remind you of Debord?
  • “Populations themselves are a terrorist threat to the authorities. . . . We are all potentially hostages to the authorities” (3). Is this true or is this an overreaction?
so what is the hell of power
So what is “the hell of power?”
  • Read the last paragraph. What does it mean? Do you agree or disagree? Explain.But this Integral Reality of power is also its end. A power that is no longer based on anything other than the prevention and policing of events, which no longer has any political will but the will to dispel ghosts, itself becomes ghostly and vulnerable. Its virtual power—its programming power in terms of software and the like—is total, but as a result it can no longer bring itself into play, except against itself, by all kinds of internal failures. At the height of its mastery, it can now only lose face. This is, literally, the “Hell of Power.”