Baudrillard’s Key Concepts

Simulacra and Simulation

“To dissimulate is to pretend not to have what one has” (3)

“To simulate is to feign to have what one doesn’t have” (3) – “Simulation…stems from the utopia of the principle of equivalence, from the radical negation  of the sign as value, from the sign as the reversion and death sentence of every reference” (6) –> simulation begins with “implosion–an absorption of the radiation mode of causality, of the differential mode of determination, with its positive and negative charge–an implosion of meaning” (31)

Representation stems from the principle of the equivalence of the sign and of the real (even if this equivalence is utopian, it is a fundamental axiom)” (6)

Simulacrum – According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), simulacrum is “A material image, made as a representation of some deity, person, or thing.” – Baudrillard mentions that, “Whereas the representation attempts to absorb simulation by interpreting it as a false representation, simulation envelops the whole edifice of representation itself as a simulacrum“ (6)

“Every universal form is a simulacrum, since it is the simultaneous equivalent of all the others — something it is impossible for any real being to be” (64)

Hyperreal –  “exaggerated in comparison to reality” (Oxford Dictionaries) –> We see this elaborated when Baudrillard talks about “material production: “It retains all the features, the whole discourse of traditional production, but it is no longer anything but its scaled-down refraction (thus hyperrealists fix a real from which all meaning and charm, all depth and energy of representation have vanished in a hallucinatory resemblance)” (23)

“Neofiguration is an invocation of resemblance, but at the same time the flagrant proof of disappearance of objects in their very representation: hyperreal. Therein objects shine in a sort of hyperresemblance (like history in contemporary cinema) that makes it so that fundamentally they no longer resemble anything, except the empty figure of resemblance, the empty form of representation” (45)


The Illusion of the End

Pataphysics – “the science of imaginary solutions and the laws governing exceptions” (Hugill)

Deterrence – “is a very peculiar form of action: it is what causes something not to take place…War, history, reality and passion — deterrence plays its part in al these. It causes strange events to take place(!), events which do not in any way advance history, but rather run it backwards, back along the opposite slope, unintelligible to our historical sense (only things which move in the direction of history [le sens de l’histoire] have historical meaning [sens histoire], events which no longer have a negative (progressive, critical or revolutionary) potency since their only negativity is in the fact of their not taking place” (17)

Event Strike – “Events now have no more significance than their anticipated meaning, their programming and their broadcasting. Only this event strike constitutes a true historical phenomenon — this refusal to signify anything whatever, or this capacity to signify anything at all” (22)

Ressentiment – According to a Wikipedia article, drawing upon Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, ressentiment is defined as, “Ressentiment is a sense of hostility directed at that which one identifies as the cause of one’s frustration, that is, an assignment of blame for one’s frustration. The sense of weakness or inferiority and perhaps jealousy in the face of the “cause” generates a rejecting/justifying value system, or morality, which attacks or denies the perceived source of one’s frustration. The ego creates an enemy in order to insulate itself from culpability.”

In Baudrillard’s text, he links ressentiment to “an active age of ressentiment and repentance” —> “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…This is the work of the heirs, whose ressentiment towards the deceased is boundless. Museums, jubilees, festivals, complete works, the publication of the tiniest of unpublished fragments” (22)

Repentance – “the recycling of past forms, the exalting of residues, rehabilitation by  bricolage, eclectic sentients” (35). Baudrillard sees repentance as “The whole of history is repenting the ‘excesses’ of modernity” (34). To understand this better, he gives the example of the pentito, who were former criminals and terrorists in Italy during the 1980s who repented” “The pentito suddenly went back on all their beliefs and thus came to serve liberal society as a vaccine against all radical tempation” (34).

Revisionism – Baudrillard saw this as “not an ideological revisionism but a revisionism of history itself, and [that] we seem[ed] in a hurry to finish it before the end of the century, secretly hoping perhaps to be able to start again from scratch in the new millenium” (33). This revisionism he saw taking place was tied into our “moving in reverse [from seeking an end of history] and into systematic obliteration. We are in the process of wiping out the entire twentieth century, effacing all the signs of the Cold War one by one, perhaps even all traces of the Second World War and of all the political or ideological revolutions of the twentieth century” (32)

“The fact is that, in a sort of enthusiastic work of mourning, we are in the process of retracting all the significant events of this century, of whitewashing it, as if everything that had taken place (revolutions, the division of the world, exterminations, the violent transnationality of states, nuclear cliffhanging) — in short, history in its modern phase — were merely a hopeless imbroglio [embarrassing situation], and everyone had set about undoing that history with the same enthusiasm that had gone into making it” (32)


While these words are not all of the key concepts in the two books, these are the ones I have found to be the most important to my understanding of Baudrillard’s work.

Image hosted on Deviant Art.

Image hosted on Deviant Art.


Baudrillard, Jean. The Illusion of the End. Trans. Chris Turner. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994. Print.

Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Trans. Sheila Faria Glaser. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2006. Print.

Hugill, Andrew. “Pataphysics: A Useless Guide.” The MIT Press Online. MIT, 2014. Web. 06 Oct. 2014.

“Hyperreal.” Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press, n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2014.

“Ressentiment.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 07 Oct. 2014. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.

A little anime to lead you towards Virtual Reality

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