Book review: Jean Baudrillard Pataphysics London: Institute of Pataphysics and Atlas Press. By JOSEPH NECHVATAL, AUG. The cultural philosopher. ‘Pataphysics or pataphysics (French: pataphysique) is a difficult to define literary trope invented .. The philosopher Jean Baudrillard is often described as a pataphysician and identified as such for some part of his life. American writer Pablo. JEAN BAUDRILLARD. PATAPHYSICS OF YEAR TRANSLATED BY CHARLES DUDAS. ORIGINALLY, L’ILLUSION DE LA FIN: OU LA GREVE.

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Jean Baudrillard Pataphysics 14pp. Translated by Simon Watson Taylor.

There is for me an evidence in the realm of flesh which has nothing to do with the evidence of reason. I say remarkable in that I still tend to identify Baudrillard with the small, slick black covers in which Semiotext e introduced him to America; covers which implied more of a techno aesthetic than this solemn neo-gothic one.

But lacking the kind of provocative packaging Atlas in association with The London Institute of Pataphysics has given this version, it made a rather minor impact on me at the time. But this new stucco-coated version, with the what one might be tempted to say is rather pretentious outside packaging, has focused my mind sympatheticly by actualizing some of the significant pataphysical concepts raised within the text itself. And for that its idiosyncratic design intelligence must be appreciated.

How better to reinforce his iconic concepts of viral seduction, simulation, and hyperreality than this paradoxical presentation of the blatantly conservative with the imaginative far-out? Indeed this impression is enhanced when reading in the prelude that the publisher pulled out the old rare book ploy here.

There are only numbered copies of this letterpress-printed book and 44 numbered copies signed by the hand of Baudrillard himself. What a rare and valuable commodity – if one dances to that sort of consensus trance.

Undeniably, such a comic example of self-imposed rarity in the age of virtuality can be infuriating – but that would be taking this project way too seriously. Better still to just concentrate on its intangible pleasures. First off, there is the pleasure to be found in examining Baudrillard backwards so to speak in terms of hyperreal nonsense.


These zealots devoted their time to perpetuating and often distorting Jarry’s philosophical pranks. It is a form of conceptual flatulent hot air that hinges on the idea of utter nonsense. A practitioner of Pataphysics is a pataphysician or a pataphysicist. For Jarry, Pataphysics is the anti-scientific realm beyond metaphysics that examines the laws which preside over exceptions – an attempt to elucidate an imaginary cosmos.

So we recognize here some rhizomatic roots that may have nurtured Baudrillard’s baudrillafd and jaded view of an incongruous virtual-reality drenched world. In Jarry we already relish an artificial Baudrillardian simulated world created by an hallucinatory social structure where shimmering objects decree in odd ways what people can and cannot do baudrillzrd the vast void of virtuality. Indeed, pataphysic Jarry, Baudrillard mostly arrives at this social examination without demonstrating any sustained systematic analysis.

But in Pataphysics, every occurrence in the universe is established to be an extraordinary event. Of course this aim of creating an inorganic world ex nihilo and luxuriating in its rarefied artificiality was not unique to Jarry. This reality-rejecting text delivers an airy irrational punch of nonsensical negation by tying together methods of insouciant informality with a visceral camp irony: At times the text simulates the disappearing ephemeral we associate with electronically provided information today on the internet, and the flickering of its translucent form.

Still the reader is expected to work devotedly to solve the absurd flatulent conundrums supplied here, to supply mental transitions between the diverse and massive assortment of irrational elements which supply the text its pataphysical hooks.

And that recitation keeps turning back into one about stinking death, that strange, incurable and deeply irrational affliction. So that the ignobility of death can be ignored and nonsensical dignity restored — for the fleeting moment.

Bricmont “Jean Pataphyaics in Fashionable Nonsense: University of Chicago Press, pp. Baudrillard builds here on Alfred Jarry’s play Ubu Roi, a play that created a famous scandal when it was first performed at the Theatre de lOeuvre in Paris in It is an important precursor of Dada.

Baudrillard makes swift reference to him in Pataphysics on page 7. Like his intellectual predecessors — Nietzsche, Artaud, and Bataille — Jean Baudrillard was that rarity of a cultural philosopher, a thinker whose reflections, refusing to be simply culturally mimetic, actually became a complex sign of the social reality pataphyskcs the postmodern century.

In his thought there was always something simultaneously futuristic and ancient: Neither referent nor signifier, social reality from Baudrillard’s perspective always had about it the hint of a “referential illusion,” a “fatal strategy,” a “mirror of production,” a “spirit of terrorism,” a “desert of the real. Here, the desert of the real would be spun all the more wildly in order to draw out in reverse image the trace of its always hidden qualities of seduction and terror. Neither a skeptic nor an apologist, Baudrillard the theorist, Baudrillard the artist, approached the delirium of contemporary reality with the delirious methods of art, with the always topological language of perspectival illusion.


Which is why Baudrillard’s thought was always fated to tease out the furies of Nietzsche’s “last man. While the last man would always prefer to take his comforts in the solidity of the reality-principle, Baudrillard actually completed Nietzsche by so clearly demonstrating in a life of the mind that thought as a “dancing star” was still possible, that in his practice of Arendt’s “life of the mind” thought could once again rise to a greater fealty, namely to make of the referential illusion at the disappearing centre of everything — sex, consciousness, culture, economy, bodies, terror — a sure and certain sign of the indeterminacy that haunts life itself.

If we now mourn the death of Jean Baudrillard, it is also with the knowledge that his intellectual presence in the world always was in the way of an early announcement that the twenty-first century will surely unwind precisely in the way he envisioned — a political conflagration of mutually antagonistic, equally fascinating, reality-principles. When reality is exposed as simulation, theory as artifice, the sign as terror, and bodies as only apparent perspectives, then we can finally know that Baudrillard’s thought badrillard about it that certain pataphysical quality of always descending to the heights of the void, always, as Virilio would say, “falling upwards” into the desert of the real.

In thought as in life, it is only the slow passage of great historical events which permits the spectacle of fiction baudrillafd is social reality to be fully experienced. An intellectual friend, a pathway, a theorist who made of thought itself a faithful illusion of the sorcery of hyperreality, I mourn his death on this sad day by honoring the spirit of Jean Baudrillard.

The work of Jean Baudrillard will continue to disturb the tranquil waters of modern sociology, says John Armitage. So wrote German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Similarly, one has to be suited to the atmosphere of the writings of Jean Baudrillard, the radical French sociologist and intellectual successor to Nietzsche, who died last week.

If one can “breathe his air”, one can gain remarkable insights in Baudrillard’s work on postmodernity and hyperreality, social and media theories and, indeed, on Nietzsche himself. Or else, as many modern sociologists have discovered when faced with his major works such as Symbolic Exchange and DeathSimulacra and Simulations and, most recently, The Intelligence of Evil Or The Lucidity Pactthere is serious danger of an apoplectic reaction. Baudrillard is notorious for his trenchant political critiques of the writings of Michel Foucault on power and the feminist activities of the late Susan Sontag.

Likewise, his development of the concepts of simulation and hyperreality and his remarks on the mass media world of The Matrix, on technology and postmodern science have been subjected to rigorous analysis and debate.

Pataphysics | Baudrillard | CTheory

Most infamous of all, perhaps, was his observation that the Persian Gulf War did not take place. Yet I would argue that it was his assault on modern sociology that really hits the mark and where, in fact, he had a singular pwtaphysics sometimes terrifying capacity to disturb its supposedly tranquil waters.

For Baudrillard, the outsider, managed to expose everything from Marxist sociology and baudrillwrd near-pointlessness of political engagement to the foundations pataphysicss contemporary social thought.

How liberally one breathes the air when aptaphysics by him to confront the disappointments of the postmodern social system, depends upon how one responds to his sometimes-difficult works. Postmodern sociology, as Baudrillard appreciated and lived it, was a constant deliberation undertaken through the writing of highly provocative and stylised texts that are frequently rejected tout-court by the high priests of modern social theory.

Baudrillard was a seeker after all things extraordinary who questioned the utilitarian foundation of both Adam Smith’s classical and Karl Marx’s radical social and economic thought by concentrating on the life and nature of commodities – the object – in contemporary consumer society. Any consideration of consumption had previously been expelled by contemporary Smithian and Marxist sociology obsessed with production and accumulation.

From the understanding provided by his long, itinerant meanderings in the more or less prohibited social theory of Georges Bataille, Baudrillard learnt to observe the starting point of the economic and the object from a perspective very different from that of modern sociology.

In fact, what Baudrillard revived and expanded on was the covert history of Bataille’s “notion of expenditure”, a radical theory that saw as deficient the writings of Smith and Marx, those sociological grandees associated with the introduction of concepts such as use value and exchange value.

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However, the haudrillard of his insights baudrjllard too much for modern sociology to swallow, particularly when he argued that in the postmodern society people are increasingly exchanging visual signs with naudrillard another. Value is no longer tied to an object’s use value or exchange value, but instead to its sign value.

Baudrillard demonstrated his true strength through his argument that the machinery of conspicuous consumption continues to be affected by symbolic values. These became for him increasingly the real gauge of social values because symbolic values are fundamentally linked to pre-capitalist forms of organisation that contemporary society likes to pretend that it has transcended.

For Baudrillard, the failure baudrkllard modern sociology was not necessarily its faith in pataphyslcs ideal type, the perfect society or even pqtaphysics blindness concerning symbolic exchange.

Rather, its breakdown was and is its powerlessness in the face of the demise of both semiotics and the material world. In other words, each significant move in Baudrillard’s writings, indeed, every stride he made away from semiotics and materialism and towards an understanding of the symbolic order was a kind of resistance to our sign-dominated contemporary society.

Yet he did not automatically contest postmodern social principles. Instead, he was prepared to challenge their symbolic presence and characteristics, to set his analytical sights on the forbidden features of enchantment and seduction, brutality and abrupt reversibility that lie at the core of contemporary consumption and expenditure. In this sense, Baudrillard’s postmodern sociology continues to provide a much-needed critique of semiotic society.

For what had been outlawed more or less in principle up until his arrival on the modern sociological scene was the fact that the age of restricted production and accumulation was over and that the era of limitless consumption and expenditure had begun.

John Armitage teaches media and communication at Northumbria University. I have certainly felt a sadness since I heard Jean had patphysics, but it is not yet a radical sadness. Maybe if Patapjysics work on it I can radicalize it. With Jean dead, an era seems to end.

He showed me what to do when you were no longer a militant. How not to be a bureaucrat of thought. That is another thing. It is the world that has let us down. There are other baidrillard.

The path Jean himself took is not necessarily the one to follow. But perhaps it begins and ends with affect. It is the real itself that failed us. What happens when one of your teachers that most influences your thinking dies? In my Baudrillard, is one of three sources of inspiration paaphysics I encountered simultaneously in and that have stayed with me ever since bbaudrillard other two are Virilio and Theweleit.

We even gave weekly courses for interested members baudrillxrd autonomous movements and produced a small dictionary to explain the unique terminology that comes with this book. I guess it is obvious that Baudrillard played a formative role for an entire generation of media theorists that grew up during the s and early s. The urgency of his work somehow faded, at least for me, in the second part of the s, but then it bounced back with the latest Cool Memories and The Conspiracy of Art.

It was always interesting to see, as you say, how one struggles with the process of identifying with an author who so clearly cannot be turned into an academic school, as happened with Foucault, Derrida and Deleuze.

What is important here, at this moment, is to distinguish between the beauty of ideas and not to treat them as lifestyle guides. Ideas alienate, disrupt, cool down and should not be elevated into a belief system. What we see here is a sabotage of life against death, an element that we find throughout the work of Elias Canetti, who, as we know, strongly influenced Baudrillard.

Radical sadness in this respect is an attempt to pata;hysics the conventions of the everyday. There is the revolt again death and an ironical play with it. Baudrillard did not want to surrender. If we want to talk the language of theory, it is not the task of subject to take over the role of the object and all its passionate indifference. Theory should not end up in the self-help baurrillard.

Death can spread pataphjsics or reinstate illusion to reformulate what he once said. How do read his book The Symbolic Exchange and Death and related remarks on the death revolt at the moment when the author himself passes on?