Baudrillard Quotes (long)

Clyde Davenport (clyde@BUS.HIROSHIMA-PU.AC.JP)
Fri, 29 Mar 1996 13:53:47 +0900

On Tue, 19 Mar 1996 Jane W. Gibson asked for further information
on Baudrillard's notion of nostalgia. Although I am no Baudrillard
scholar (if, indeed, there can, or should, be such a thing), I do have
a few books of his and so thought I could provide some relevant

"Three orders of simulation, parallel to mutations in the law of
value, have succeeded one another since the Renaissance:

1 The *counterfeit is the dominant scheme of the 'classical'
epoch, from the Renaissance to the industrial revolution.
2 *Production* is the dominant scheme of the industrial era.
3 *Simulation* is the dominant scheme of the present phase
of history, governed by the code.

"Simulacra of the first order play on the natural law of value;
those of the second order play on the commodity law of value; and
those of the third order play on the structural law of value.

The stucco angel

"The problem of the counterfeit (and of fashion) was born with
the Renaissance, with the destructuration of the feudal order and
the emergence of open competition at the level of distinctive signs.
There is no fashion in societies of caste and rank; where social
assignation is total, social mobility nil. In these societies, signs
are shielded by a prohibition that assures their absolute clarity:
each sign refers unequivocally to a (particular) situation and a
level of status. Ceremony and counterfeit do not mix--unless we
intend black magic and sacrilege; but it is precisely these
categories that brand the crime of mingling signs as a breach of
the order of things. If we start yearning nostalgically, especially
these days, for a revitalized 'symbolic order,' we should have no
illusions. Such an order once existed, but it was composed of
ferocious hierarchies; the transparency of signs goes hand in hand
with their cruelty.
"Caste societies, feudal or archaic, were *cruel* societies,
where signs were restricted in number and limited in scope. Each
possessed its full interdictory value, and each was a reciprocal
obligation between castes, or persons; hence they were not
arbitrary. The arbitrary nature of the sign arises when, instead of
linking two people in unbreachable reciprocity, the sign begins, in
signifying, to refer to the disenchanted universe of the signified--
the common denominator of the real world, to which nobody really
has any further obligation.
"With the end of the *bound* sign, the reign of the emancipated
sign begins, in which all classes eventually acquire the power to
participate. Competitive democracy succeeds the endogamy of the
sign proper to the order of status. With the transition of the sign
values of prestige from one class to another, we enter the world
of the counterfeit in a stroke, passing from a limited order of signs,
where taboos inhibit 'free' production, to a proliferation of signs
according to demand. But this multiplication of signs no longer
bears any connection with the bound sign of restricted circulation.
It is a counterfeit of it, not by virtue of having denatured some
'original,' but through the extension of a material whose clarity
depends on the restrictions that stamped it. . . . . The modern sign
dreams of the sign anterior to it and fervently desires, in its
reference to the real, to rediscover some binding obligation. But
it finds only a *reason*: a referential reason, the real--the
'natural' on which it will feed. This lifeline of designation,
however, is no more than a simulacrum of symbolic obligation.
It produces only neutral values, those that exchange each other
in an objective world. . . .
"It is thus in a kind of simulacrum of a 'nature' that the modern
sign discovers its value. The problematic of the 'natural,' the
metaphysics of appearance and reality, becomes the characteristic
theme of the bourgeoisie since the Renaissance, the mirror of the
bourgeois sign, the mirror of the classical sign. Even today,
nostalgia for natural reference survives, in spite of numerous
revolutions aimed at smashing this configuration, such as the
revolution of production, in which signs ceased to refer to nature,
but only to the law of exchange, under the commodity law of value.
. . ."
"It was thus with the Renaissance that the false was born with
the natural . . . ' [ellipsis points are Baudrillard's here] (taken
from "Symbolic Exchange and Death," 1976, in _Jean Baudrillard
Selected Writings_, Mark Poster, ed., Stanford University Press,
1988, pp. 135-137)

"Rather than pressing forward and taking flight into the future,
we prefer the retrospective apocalypse, and a blanket revisionism.
Our societies have all become revisionistic: they are quietly
rethinking everything, laundering their political crimes, their
scandals, licking their wounds, fuelling their ends. Celebration
and commemoration are themselves merely a form of necrophagous cannibalism,
the homeopathic form of murder by easy stages. This
is the work of heirs, whose *ressentiment* toward the deceased is
boundless. Museums, jubilees, festivals, complete works, the
publication of the tiniest of unpublished fragments--all this shows
that we are entering an active age of *ressentiment* and repentance.
"Acts of glorification and commemoration clearly form part of
this collective flagellation. We are particularly well served in
France: our public life has been overtaken by a veritable ritual of
mourning and condolence. And all our monuments are mausoleums. . . .
There are two forms of forgetting: on the one hand, the slow or
violent extermination of memory, on the other, the spectacular
promotion of a phenomenon, shifting it from historical space into
the sphere of advertising, the media becoming the site of a temporal
strategy of prestige . . . [ellipsis points JB's] This is how we have
manufactured for ourselves, with great swathes of promotional
images, a synthetic memory which serves as our primal reference,
our founding myth, and which, most importantly, absolves us of the
real event of the [French] Revolution." (_The Illusion of the End_,
Chris Turner, trans., Stanford University Press, original 1992,
English ed. 1994, pp. 22-23)

"What is happening with history is the foreshadowing of this
dilemma: we can either perish under the weight of the
non-degradable waste of the great empires, the grand narratives, the
great systems made obsolete by their own gigantism, or else recycle
all this waste in the synthetic form of a heteroclite history, as we
are doing today in the name of Democracy and Human Rights, which
are never anything but the confused end-product of the reprocessing
of all the residues of history--crusher residues in which all the
ethnic, linguistic, feudal and ideological phantoms of earlier
societies float. Amnesia, anamnesis, the anachronistic revival of
all the figures of the past--royalty, feudalism. Though did they ever
really disappear? Democracy itself (a proliferating form, the lowest
common denominator of all our liberal societies), this planetary
democracy of the Rights of Man, is to real freedom what Disneyland
is to the imaginary. In relation to the modern demand for freedom, it
offers the same characteristics as recycled paper.
"There is in fact no insoluble waste problem. The problem is
solved by the postmodern invention of recycling and the incinerator. . . .
We have come to terms with the idea that everything that was not
degradable or exterminable is today recyclable, and hence there is no
final solution. We shall not be spared the worst--that is, *History
will not come to an end*--since the leftovers, all the leftovers--
the Church, communism, ethnic groups, conflicts, ideologies--are
indefinitely recyclable. What is stupendous is that nothing one
thought superseded by history has really disappeared." (p. 27)

"We are in the process of wiping out the entire twentieth century,
effacing all signs of the Cold War one by one, perhaps even all
trace of the Second World War and of all the political and
ideological revolutions of the twentieth century. The
reunification of Germany is inevitable, as are many other things,
not in the sense that they represent a leap forward in history, but
as a topsy-turvy rewriting of the whole of the twentieth century,
a rewriting which is going to take up a large part of the last ten
years of the century. At the rate we are going we shall soon be
back at the Holy Roman Empire. . . .How far can this reabsorption,
this retraction take us? The fact is that it can move very, very
quickly (as the events in Eastern Europe show), precisely because
it is not a work of construction but a massive deconstruction of
history, and one assuming an almost viral, epidemic form." (pp.

"The most amusing feature of this history, the ironic thing about
the end, is that communism should have collapsed exactly as Marx
had foreseen for capitalism, with the same suddenness, and,
ultimately, with such ease that it did not even strike the
imagination. The fact that he got the victor wrong in no way
detracts from the exactness of Marx's analysis; it merely adds
the objective irony which was lacking. Fate took care of that. It
is as though some evil genie had substituted the one for the
other--communism for capitalism--at the last moment. As if, since
Western society had, in its own way, brought to fruition the
prophecies of a future society (the withering away of the State, of
the political, of work, the administration of things and generalized
leisure--even if all of these are simulated) in communism's stead,
the latter could simply disappear." (pp. 51-52)

"If modernity, in its day, gave rise to anthropological exploration,
post-modernity, for its part, has spawned a positive craze for the
neolithic and paleolithic. The extraction of relics has become an
industrial undertaking. And it is, indeed, the great modern
construction projects (high-speed trains, motorways, city
development) which keep these archaeological finds coming.
Paleontology is advancing at the same pace as the latest
technology. Sites, relics, tools, and bones: a whole stratum of
signs, many thousands of years old, wrested back from oblivion.
Thus, technology can pride itself on enriching the cultural
heritage at the same time as it is destroying the territory."
"Ironically, we might say that we are watching the liberation
of fossils, just like everything else." (p. 73)

"Not only does this archaeological fetishism condemn its objects
to become museological waste, a phenomenon contemporaneous
with industrial waste, it also betrays a suspect nostalgia. It is
because we are moving further and further away from our history
that we are avid for signs of the past, not, by any means, in order
to resuscitate them, but to fill up the empty spaces of our
memories. Or perhaps man [people], in the process of losing track
of his history, is seized by a nostalgia for societies without
history, perhaps obscurely sensing that he is returning to the same
point. All these relics which we call upon to bear witness of our
origin would then become the involuntary sign of its loss." (p. 74)

"Apart from the doubt automatically attaching to anything which
turns up so wonderfully on cue (be it relics, scientific discoveries,
or historical events), and to anything which is, to some extent,
invented by our own gaze, another anxiety arises where this
enterprise of resurrecting all traces is concerned. Are we trapped
in an exhaustive, obsessional recollection of all the moments the
species has lived through? In a revival of all previous phases? In
the detailed reconstruction of what then would seem like a crime
(the appearance of life and the human race on earth), since it is
only with crimes that such a relentless reconstitution is mounted?
Is the whole of the future going to exhaust itself in the artificial
synthesizing of the past? Who knows where this gigantic backward movement
is leading?" (p. 76)

"When our past has been exhumed, when all that had disappeared
has reappeared, the dead will outnumber the living and there
will be the same imbalance as will come about when there is
more computing matter [*substance informatique*] and
artificial intelligence on earth than natural intelligence. Then
we shall be cast into sidereal space, the space of networks, or
into fossil space, the space of the kingdom of the dead . . ."
[ellipsis points JB's] (pp. 76-77)

"In his ["man's," people's] blind desire to know more, he is
programming his own destruction with the same ease and ferocity
as the destruction of the others [other species]. He cannot be
accused of a superior egoism. He is sacrificing himself, as a
species, to *an unknown experimental fate*, unknown at least as
of yet to other species, who have experienced only natural fates.
And, whereas it seemed that, linked to that natural fate, there was
something of an instinct of self-preservation--long the mainstay of
a natural philosophy of individuals and groups--this experimental
fate to which the human species is condemning itself by
unprecedented, artificial means, this scientific prefiguring of its
own disappearance, sweeps away all ideas of a self-preservation
instinct. The idea is, indeed, no longer discussed in the human
sciences (where the focus of attention would seem, rather, to be on
the death drive) and this disappearance from the field of thought
signals that, beneath a frenzy for ecological conservation which is
really more to do with nostalgia and loss, a wholly different
tendency has won out, the sacrificing of the species to boundless
experimentation." (pp. 83-84).

"Nostalgia for the lost object? Not even that. Nostalgia had
beauty because it retained within it the presentiment of what had
taken place and could take place again. It was as beautiful as
utopia, of which it is the inverted mirror. It was beautiful for
never being satisfied, as was utopia for never being achieved. The
sublime reference to the origin in nostalgia is as beautiful as the
reference to the end in utopia. It is something else again to be
confronted with *the literal manifestness of the end* (of which we
can no longer dream as end), and the literal manifestness of the
origin (of which we can no longer dream of as the origin). Now we
have the means today to put into play both our origins and our end.
We exhume our origins in archaeology, reshape our original capital
through genetics, and operationalize our dreams and the wildest
utopias by means of science and technology. We appease our
nostalgia and our utopian desires *in situ* and *in vitro*."
(p. 120)

"Nostalgia born of the immensity of the Texan hills and sierras of
New Mexico: gliding down the freeway, smash hits on the Chrysler
stereo, heat wave. Snapshots aren't enough. We'd need the whole
film of the trip in real time, including the unbearable heat and
the music." (_America_, Chris Turner, trans., Verso, original
1986, Eng. version, 1988, p. 1)

"Driving like this produces a kind of invisibility, transparency, or
transversality in things, simply by emptying them out. . . . Speed is
simply the rite that initiates us into emptiness: a nostalgic desire
for forms to revert to immobility, concealed beneath the very
intensification of their mobility. Akin to the nostalgia for living
forms that haunts geometry." (p. 7)

"A paradisiac and inward-looking illusion. We might understand
what Lyotard calls the 'Pacific Wall' as the wall of crystal that
imprisons California in its own beatitude. But whereas the
demand for happiness used to be something oceanic and
emancipatory, here it comes wrapped in a fetal tranquility. Are
there still passions, murders and acts of violence in this strange,
padded, wooded, pacified, convivial republic? Yes, but the violence
is autistic and reactional. There are no crimes of passion, but there
are rapes, and a case where a dozen women were murdered in two
years before the killer was discovered. This is fetal violence, as
gratuitous as 'automatic writing'. It seems an expression not so
much of real aggression as of nostalgia for the old prohibitions
(why does the number of rapes increase with the degree of sexual
liberation?). (p. 45)

"We [Europeans] do not have either the spirit or the audacity for
what might be called the zero degree of culture, the power of
unculture. It is no good our trying more or less to adapt, their
[Americans'] vision of the world will always be beyond our grasp,
just as the transcendental, historical *Weltanschauung* of Europe
will always be beyond the Americans. Just as the countries of the
third world will never internalize the values of democracy and
technological progress. There are some gaps that are definitive
and cannot be bridged.
"We shall remain nostalgic utopians, agonizing over our ideals,
but balking, ultimately, at their realization, professing that
everything is possible, but never that everything has been achieved.
Yet that is what America asserts." (pp. 78-79)

"When I see Americans, particularly American intellectuals,
casting a nostalgic eye towards Europe, its history, its
metaphysics, its cuisine, and its past, I tell myself that this is
just a case of unhappy transference. History and Marxism are like
fine wines and haute cuisine: they do not really cross the ocean, in
spite of the many impressive attempts that have been made to adapt
them to the new surroundings. This is a just revenge for the fact
that we Europeans have never really been able to domesticate
modernity, which also refuses to cross the ocean, though in the
other direction." (p. 79)

"The fifties were the real high spot for the U.S. ('when things were
going on'), and you can still feel nostalgia for those years, for the
ecstasy of power, when power was power. In the seventies power
was still there, but the spell was broken. That was orgy time
(war, sex, Manson, Woodstock). Today the orgy is over. The U.S.,
like everyone else, now has to face up to a soft world order, a soft
situation. Power has become impotent.
"But if America is now no longer the monopolistic centre of world
power, this is not because it has lost power, but simply because
there is no centre any more. It has rather become the orbit of an
imaginary power to which everyone now refers. . . . America has
retained power, both political and cultural, but it is now power as
a special effect." (p. 107)