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Humanities Postmodernism

1. In Baudrillard’s essay “In the shadow of the Silent Majorities” he argues that to live in “postmodernity” means to live in the hyperreal. What is the hyperreal? How does it compare to life in the real? Provide a couple of texture examples. The term hyperreality characterizes the inability of consciousness to distinguish reality from fantasy, especially in technologically advanced postmodern cultures. Hyperreality is a means to characterize the way consciousness defines what is actually “real” in a world where a multitude of media can radically shape and filter the original event or experience being depicted.

Baudrillard in particular suggests that the world we live in has been replaced by a copy world, where we seek simulated stimuli and nothing more. An example is a society whose cartographers create a map so detailed that it covers the very things it was designed to represent. When the empire declines, the map fades into the landscape and there is neither the representation nor the real remaining – just the hyperreal. For Baudrillard there is no real behind the appearance, the illusion does not mask the real, the illusion is the real, which is the illusion.

The very notion of “reality” disappears, the images are more real than any other reality, the signs, the simulacra refer solely to themselves – the end of the real. 2. In “In the shadow of the Silent Majorities” Baudrillard argues that the hyperreal presupposes the “implosion on meaning. ” Explain. Baudrillard reworks the concept as a semiotic process, placing it at the heart of the sign’s operation in imploding the bilateral symbolic relationship and absorbing its own referent to produce the real from the play of signifiers.

Baudrillard sees the media’s operation as a “macroscopic” extension of these processes: they do not dissolve away to give us a direct experience of the real but, rather, their simulacra implode with the real “in a sort of nebulous hyperreality” – a mutual dissolution in which “even the definition and distinct action of the medium are no longer distinguishable”. Baudrillard’s In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities traces a variety of implosions and their consequences.

In particular, he describes the implosion of meaning in the media through an excessive production of information in which all sense and use-value collapse; the implosion of “the social” as the media devour the mode of sociality, and even the communication the media itself, produces, simulates and stages, and the implosion of all messages against the black hole of “the masses” – that “opaque, blind stratum”, “bombarded with stimuli, messages and tests”, existing only through their representation and echo, whose silence absorbs and neutralizes all messages.

“Implosion” becomes, therefore, a key trope of the age of simulation, used to describe again the process of the semiotic reduction and absorption of all symbolic meaning and relations. 3. Explain and evaluate the dialectical relationship between implosion and explosion as described by Baudrillard throughout the three essays in In the shadow of the Silent Majorities. How does this produce the technical/postmodern age of the sign/value? (Make sure to note on the difference between a society organized by use-value and/or exchange value compared to a society organized by sign-value.

) Human nature is symbolic and oriented toward meaning. In symbolic exchange, real meaning and social relationships are present. However, capitalism and changes in media have pushed aside symbolic exchange and in postmodernity have substituted sign-value. Moreover, sign-value is based on textual references to other signs, nothing else. The fetish, then, is the human infatuation with consuming sign – vehicles that are devoid of all meaning and reality. Thus, ideology “appears as a sort of cultural surf frothing on the beachhead of the economy.

” Baudrillard characterizes the simulacrum and hyperreality of postmodernity as an implosion. Where in modernity there was an explosion of signs, commodities, and distinctions, postmodernity is an implosion of all that. Postmodernity is fractal and fragmented, with everything seeming political, sexual, or valuable—and if everything is, then nothing is. Baudrillard claims that this implosion of signs, identities, institutions, and all firm boundaries of meaning has led to the end of the social. Technology thus replaces capital and semiurgy replaces production.

Baudrillard’s postmodern turn is thus connected to a form of technological determinism and a rejection of political economy as a useful explanatory principle. For Baudrillard, sign values predominate over use values and exchange values; the materiality of needs and commodity use-values to serve them disappear in Baudrillard’s semiological imaginary, in which signs take precedence over the real and reconstruct human life. For Baudrillard, in contrast to Marx, the catastrophe of modernity and eruption of postmodernity is produced by the unfolding of technological revolution.

Consequently, Baudrillard replaces Marx’s hard economic and social determinism with its emphasis on the economic dimension, class struggle, and human praxis, with a form of semiological idealism and technological determinism where signs and objects come to dominate the subject. 4. In “On the End of the Social” Baudrillard seems to endorse the view that the social used to exist but does not exist anymore. What is the social and what has happen to it? Recount his argument. Baudrillard claims that henceforth the masses seek spectacle and not meaning.

They implode into a “silent majority,” signifying “the end of the social. ” Baudrillard implies that social theory loses its very object as meanings, classes, and difference implode into a “black hole” of non-differentiation. Fixed distinctions between social groupings and ideologies implode and concrete face-to-face social relations recede as individuals disappear in worlds of simulation — media, computers, virtual reality itself. Social theory itself thus loses its object, the social, while radical politics loses its subject and agency. 5.

In “The Implosion of Meaning in the Media” Baudriallard claims that in the technical age information does not produce meaning but something else. What is this something else? Does this production conform to a dialectical logic? Explain. Baudrillard sees that the contemporary is saturated with so much capital that the real (of desire or of suffering) is no match for the insatiable demands of reality whereby ideology is absolute and commodities control the fate of cities and personal identities. He says, “The dialectic stage, the critical stage is empty. There is no more stage.

There is no therapy of meaning or therapy through meaning: therapy itself is part of the generalized process of indifferentiation…. Implosion of meaning in the media. Implosion of the social in the masses. Infinite growth of the masses as a function of the acceleration of the system. ” 6. Based on your reading of the essay in ISSM and America is Baudrillard a technological and cultural determinist? Does he believe there is a way out, a form of resistance to the conformism and consumerism of the mass-age? If so, what is it? If not, why not, In other words, is there a place for authentic individuality in the mass-age? Explain.

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