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Note on Baudrillard by Urs Andreas Wickli

It is late for these remarks; this is to say: I am late – only one day before the beginning of the winter school 2015 am I posting a note on Jean Baudrillard. And it will be a kind of adventure because I am going to write about an author whom I have not studied properly, but who, it seems to me, should not be silenced in a winter school dedicated to capital.

It was in the seventies of the last century already that Baudrillard published L’échange symbolique et la mort. In it, Baudrillard diagnosed a historical change: This consisted, according to him, in an advent of a new era, of a new era of capitalism or maybe better: of a new era post capitalism.

Namely if capitalism could be described by a dialectics of use-value and exchange-value, the new era is characterised by the reign of the exchange-value alone. Therefore, capital is not any more a key term for understanding the contemporary; instead, the term of the code becomes a key to the contemporary. Meanwhile, objects as exchange-values become signs referring to other signs. The signs form a system of their own, independent of use-value. With the system of signs, everything becomes interchangeable. Terms like politics or ideology become outdated. What is necessary, then, is finding a new vocabulary for the changes that have happened and are happening. I stop here.

I am sure that my view of what Baudrillard has said or is supposed to have said (his critics denounce his style as hermetic, impenetrable and dark) is very limited, and I might even be entirely wrong in my rendering of some of Baudrillard’s thoughts. Nevertheless, I would consider it necessary to take into account Baudrillard‘s contributions in our discussions that regard both the utility and the scope of the term of capital.

Personnally I am persuaded that Baudrillard has indeed seen, felt, or experienced „something“ – and this almost 40 years ago. But I doubt that his analysis is very helpful, and I am even more skeptical about the lessons he has drawn from his analysis. By lessons, I mean his insistence on indifference or his teaching of seduction or his strategy of fatality.

For those who are entirely unfamiliar with Baudrillard, I would suggest to them to read the wikipedia-entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Baudrillard


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