Jean Baudrillard, French sociologist, Diet at 77

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Jean Baudrillard died on the 6th of March 2007 at the age of 77; he was a French sociologist, philosopher, cultural theorist, political commentator, and photographer.

Born in Reims, north-eastern France, on the 27th of July 1929, his grandparents were peasants and his parents were civil servants.

During high school at Reims Lycée, he became aware of pataphysics (via philosophy professor Emmanuel Peillet), which is said to be crucial for understanding Baudrillard’s later thought.

While teaching German, Baudrillard began to transfer to sociology, eventually completing his doctoral thesis Le Système des objets (The System of Objects) under the dissertation committee of Henri Lefebvre, Roland Barthes, and Pierre Bourdieu.

Subsequently, he began teaching sociology at the Université de Paris-X Nanterre, a university campus just outside of Paris which would become heavily involved in the events of May 1968.

During this time, Baudrillard worked closely with Philosopher.

Humphrey De Battenburge, who described Baudrillard as a “visionary”.

In 1986 he moved to IRIS (Institut de Recherche et d’Information Socio-Économique) at the Université de Paris-IX Dauphine, where he spent the latter part of his teaching career.

During this time he had begun to move away from sociology as a discipline (particularly in its “classical” form), and, after ceasing to teach full-time, he rarely identified himself with any particular discipline, although he remained linked to academia.

During the 1980s and 1990s his books had gained a wide audience and in his last years he became, to an extent, an intellectual celebrity, being published often in the French- and English-speaking popular press.

He nonetheless continued supporting the Institut de Recherche sur l’Innovation Sociale at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and was Satrap at the Collège de Pataphysique.

Baudrillard taught at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, and collaborated at the Canadian theory, culture, and technology review Ctheory, where he was abundantly cited.

In Le Miroir de la production; ou, l’illusion critique du matérialisme historique (1973; The Mirror of Production) and L’Échange symbolique et la mort (1976; Symbolic Exchange and Death), Baudrillard broke with Marxism to develop an account of postmodern society in which consumer and electronic images have become more real (hyperreal) than physical reality and in which simulations of reality (simulacra) have displaced their originals, leaving only “the desert of the real.”

This phrase was quoted in the popular American science-fiction film The Matrix (1999), whose hero hides contraband in a copy of Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation (originally published as Simulacres et simulation, 1981).

Jean Baudrillard’s philosophy centers on the twin concepts of ‘hyperreality’ and ‘simulation’.

These terms refer to the virtual or unreal nature of contemporary culture in an age of mass communication and mass consumption.

We live in a world dominated by simulated experiences and feelings, Jean Baudrillard believe, and have lost the capacity to comprehend reality as it actually exists.

We experience only prepared realities–edited war footage, meaningless acts of terrorism, and the destruction of cultural values and the substitution of ‘referendum’.

Baudrillard, a “strong simulacrist,” claims that in the media and consumer society, people are caught up in the play of images, spectacles, and simulacra, that have less and less relationship to an outside, to an external “reality,” to such an extent that the very concepts of the social, political, or even “reality” no longer seem to have any meaning.

And the narcoticized and mesmerized (some of Baudrillard’s metaphors) media-saturated consciousness is in such a state of fascination with image and spectacle that the concept of meaning itself (which depends on stable boundaries, fixed structures, shared consensus) dissolves.

In this alarming and novel postmodern situation, the referent, the behind and the outside, along with depth, essence, and reality all disappear, and with their disappearance, the possibility of all potential opposition vanishes as well.

As simulations proliferate, they come to refer only to themselves: a carnival of mirrors reflecting images projected from other mirrors onto the omnipresent television and computer screen and the screen of consciousness, which in turn refers the image to its previous storehouse of images also produced by simulatory mirrors.

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