Re: Baudrillard Quotes (long)

Vance Geiger (geiger@PEGASUS.CC.UCF.EDU)
Sat, 30 Mar 1996 07:08:29 -0500

I wanted to thank Clyde Davenport for his quotes from Baudrillard
on the notion of nostalgia. They have proven to me to be most
enlightening. Especially interesting interesting to me is the
realization that Baudrillard is a Cultural Materialst.

Post-Modern Materialism

Baudrillard quoted by Davenport:

"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.


"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.

Comment: The above could have been written by Marvin Harris.
The Superstructure is here clearly determined by Social
Structure. This was surprising to me, but should not have been.
Baudrillard argues throughout the quotes supplied by Davenport
for nostalgia as an exhumatio of the past in the search for order
in social relations, thus the necessary anchoring of the origins
of this search in a mythic time - pre-Renaissance- when order was
clear (but cruel).

Baudrillard quoted by Davenport:

"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)

Comment: The more things "change" the more they stay the same.
What is the difference in this kind of ancestor worship and that
of say, the Trobrianders? Papua New Guineans? and "straightening
the custom" (Keesing - Elota's Story), the concept of Ly for
Vietnamese, and the assertion that the ancestors established a
knowable natural order that can be discovered through trial and

Question: Does anyone know of a good overall comparative survey
of ancestor worship? Is is a cultural universal?

Baudrillard quoted by Davenport:

"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).

Comment: Buadrillard might read some Evolutionary Psychology, or
Sociobiology, for a contrary view. This is also sounds like a
discussion a while back on thislist, though short lived, on the
possibility that the complexity of industrial societies may be
such as to make the connection between action and consequence
difficult for people, and thus the Culturl Materialist feedback
between Super- and Infrastructure, for a period of time before
things get back into alignment (not unlike Harris on contemporary

Baudrillard quoted by Davenport:

"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.

Comment: Baudrillard sounds here like Etzioni and the
Communitarians. Appealing to the "imagined" 1950s as a mythical
time when everything worked before the breakdown in the 1960s and
1970s. Is it possible that nostalgia for the 1950s is a
demographic artifact? An aging population, a lot of elderly
politicians who came of age during WW II? How can power be

vance geiger