The arty intelligentsia of Auckland recently flocked to a public lecture by infamous self-promoting French ‘philosopher’ Jean Baudrillard. Like many French Professors who have become the darlings of the chattering classes, Baudrillard is an ex-Marxist who now professes a world-view in which social reality has been replaced by ‘hyper reality’. To make the point, ten years ago he claimed that the Gulf War did not happen? By that he meant that peoples’ experience of the war was on TV. This Western professor did not stop to think that the Iraqis killed in this war, or the US and UK troops who suffered from uranium poisoning, were not actors in a Hollywood war movie.

What’s worst about Baudrillard is that this stuff is boring word games. His first mistake was to say that language is more important than economics. Tell that to your bank manager or the judge. In a book called the Mirror of Production written back in 1973 Baudrillard closed his account with Marx. He said that Marxism was obsessed with production which doesn’t happen in reality. There is only the word ‘production’ and no ‘production process’. We only consume words, and if we consume goods this is only to reinforce the words. Why? Because capitalism requires us to believe the words in order to consume. Consume what? Words!

The fallacy in this thinking is that words are never enough to live on unless you are a professor. Think about it. Only professors get paid to produce words (journalists and other writers circulate words but don’t really produce them). Workers get paid to produce commodities which the boss sells to make a profit. This is how capitalism still works. The problem with Baudrillard and the intellectuals who consume his words is that he mistakes an interesting side Marx long ago explained how capitalism falsely presents itself as creating wealth in exchange. Commodities took on a fetishised existence as owners of their own value. Production disappeared up nature’s backside and only the circulation and consumption of commodities showed up as real. What Baudrillard does is take this phony existence to its absurd end point by claiming that not even the things we consume are real, only the signs or words that describe them. When nothing is real except the hype then that is hyper reality. The Gulf War did happen because it happened on TV. So what.

From Class Struggle No 38 April-May 2001

1 comment:

Sigod said...

He did stop to think about the dead in war. He wasn't denying the brutality of war, but the concept of war in an age when America has overwhelming technological and military superiority. The playing field isn't level because the hegemon acts as the world police.

The mirror of production is a critique of Marxism, which seeks 'good use' of the economy and the world of production instead of their destruction and replacement with more radical forms of exchange that existed in the past ie potlatch and symbolic exchange.

Production ceased to exist when the concept of reality died.

Theory is a way to subvert the order of the real.