Surrealpolitik: Paroxysm

Author: Jean Baudrillard

London: Verso (1998)

Quick Summary

In the interview format, Baudrillard is clearer because he can't hide away and write himself into incomprehensibility. He must speak off the cuff. One of his limitations is that he speaks of the rift between Islam and the West unquestioningly, as if it were entirely real. Strange, from the main theorist of hyperreality.


There are 9 quotes currently associated with this book.

The true cancels itself in the truer-than-true, the too-true-to-be-true -- the reign of simulation. The false disappears into the too-false-to-be-false -- the end of the aesthetic illusion. And the loss of evil is even more painful than the loss of good, the loss of the false even more painful than the loss of the true. (page 2)
Tags: [Truth & Real]
[Universality is] a system of values which regards itself as attuned to all cultures and their difference but which, paradoxically, does not conceive itself as relative, and aspires, in all ingenuousness, to be the ideal transcendence of all the others. (page 11)
Tags: [Postmodernism, Culture, Universality, Globalization]
PP: What distinction do you draw between the universal and the global?

JB: In the global, all differences fade and de-intensify, giving way to a pure and simple circulation of exchanges. All liberties fade before the mere liberation of exchange. Globalization and universality don't go together; they might be said, rather, to be mutually exclusive. Globalization is the globalization of technologies, the market, tourism, information. Universality is the universality of values, human rights, freedoms, culture, democracy. Globalization seems irreversible; the universal might be said, rather, to be on its way out...

At the end of this process, there's no longer any difference between the global and the universal. The universal itself is globalized: democracy, human rights, circulate precisely like any global product, like oil or capital. (page 11)
Tags: [Community]
PP: ...I can't see why the reconstruction of the Enlightenment ideal would be such an impossible task? After Adorno, there is Habermas...

JB: Every culture worthy of the name meets its ruin in the universal. Every culture which universalizes itself loses its singularity and dies away. This is how it is with those we've destroyed by their enforced assimilation, but it's also how it is with ours in its pretension to universality. The differences is that the others died of their singularity, which is a noble death, whereas we're dying from the loss of all singularity, from the extermination of all our values, which is a senseless death. We believe that the fate of every value is to be elevated to universality, without gauging the mortal danger that promotion represents: far from being an elevation, it is a reduction or, alternatively, an elevation to the degree zero of value...This is how it is with human rights, democracy, etc.: their expansion corresponds to their weakest definition, their maximum entropy. (page 13)
Tags: [Universality]
Globalization is the automatic realization of the world, the automatic writing of the world. (page 28)
Tags: [Surrealism & Politics, Globalization]
PP: You write: 'No one believes in the real any more, nor in the evidence of their own life.' What a verdict! This is good news for Jean Baudrillard, isn't it?

JB: Indeed, from a Stoic viewpoint, it's futile to wish to add belief to the objectality, the radicality, of the event! Belief is a weak value. My hypothesis is that, behind the belief systems by which we fabulate the real and give it a meaning, there is in everyone (and this isn't a question of intelligence or consciousness) a radical empiricism which means that fundamentally no one believes in this idea of reality. Everyone has a radicality threshold which gives them a purchase on the world outside of their ideologies and beliefs. Not to add to desire the pathos of desire. Not to add to belief the pathos of belief. Not to add hope to hope. All these values divert us from thought. The Stoics knew this. The important thing is to find distance and freedom from these overlays. To try to sweep away this subjective or collective ideological proliferation.

PP: That puts me in mind of a remark by Laruelle in Biographie de l'homme ordinaire in which he says that what counts isn't to grasp the world, but to know how to reject it in a kind of Stoic indifference. (page 36)
Tags: [Truth & Real]
There would no doubt be a distinction to be made from a thinking built upon the rational order, a thinking organized in terms of description, limits and definitions. That is looking for a balance, a dialectic. It's trying to give an account of the world. It is, in principle, exchangeable against a dream of transforming the world to which it contributes. That style of thinking seems to me doomed to be caught in its own trap. It always ends in simulation, where the crucial questions remains: 'Does the sign refer to meaning, or is it merely a reference to itself and a promotion of the sign as sign?' Simulation and the virtual...that style of thinking has managed to produce the illusion of an intelligible world. We have to knock that thinking from its pedestal and pay attention to what is ex-centred, eccentric. If we look at it this way, it's no longer we who think the world, but the world which thinks us...Let's say that we manufacture a double of the world which substitutes itself for the world. We generate the confusion between the world and its double. (page 43)
Tags: [Truth & Real]
The whole movement of modernity, its negative destiny, lies in the fact of transcribing all that was of the order of the imaginary, the dream, the ideal and utopia into technical and operational reality. It was a radical disalienation, then, this materialization of all desires, this hyperrealization of all possibilities. Unconditional accomplishment. No otherness, impossibility or transcendence in which to take refuge any more. No more alienated people: an individual who is totally fulfilled -- virtually, of course. It's the virtual dimension which monopolizes all the other worlds today, which totalizes the real by evacuating any imaginary alternative. It's from the point when it no longer has the imaginary to carry it on, and lapses into the virtual, that the real is truly dead. The individual finally becomes identical himself - the promise of the Self (the 'I') has been realized. The prophecy which was that of the whole of modern history, that of Hegel, Marx, Stirner, the Situationists -- the prophecy of the end of the separated subject -- has come to pass. But it has come to pass not for better, but for worse: from the Other to the same, from alienation to identification (just as the Nietzschean prophecy of the transvaluation of values has come to pass for the worse in the movement not beyond, but this side of, good and evil). (page 50)
Tags: [Truth & Real, The Other]
What is the point of setting a purpose for an enlightened dimension of the political and the social spheres, when it's becoming increasingly obvious, most particularly in the economic sphere, that these things are caught up with much stranger purposes, if not indeed with no purpose at all? There's a kind of savage delusion and -- not to put too fine a point on it -- stupidity, in stubbornly pressing on in the right direction when there is no direction, in wishing to change the form of the equation when it's equal to zero. Just look at all the battles everywhere on corrupt fronts: in the electoral system, where people are led to fight for equivalent castes; in the employment field, where everyone has to fight to find a place in a system of exploitation, a relatively favored spot in a labour market which simultaneously serves the government as a blackmailing technique. Everywhere we're trapped in false problems, false alternatives, false issues, in which we lose out come what may. (page 64)
Tags: [Truth & Real]