Is Baudrillard a philosopher?
Answer by Sanja Ivic
Yes, Jean Baudrillard is a philosopher, although he rejects fixed forms of identifications. Jean Baudrillard is often considered as a postmodern philosopher, whose work combines philosophy, social theory and cultural metaphysics. Although Baudrillard was associated with postmodernism, he didn’t identified himself with any particular discipline. The same can be argued for some other postmodern philosophers, who reject all kinds of classifications and sharp distinctions. Baudrillard’s work was influenced by Roland Barthes, Georges Bataille, Marshal McLuhan, Marcel Mauss, Jean-Paul Sartre, Fyodor Mikhaiylovich Dostoyevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche and Karl Marx.
Jean Baudrillard studied for a PhD in sociology and taught sociology at the University of Paris X in Nanterre. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of his work, Baudrillard is often characterized as both philosopher and sociologist. However, his work is closer to philosophy of culture than to sociology. In the later period of his life he was a Professor of philosophy of culture and media criticism at the European Graduate School.
In his earler works The Object System Baudrillard supplements Marxian critique of political economy by semiological theories of sign. In his later works Baudrillard has developed philosophy of the symbolic realm, which has the power to create and recreate the world. He develops this philosophy in his works: The Mirror of Production; For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign; Simulations; America; Symbolic Exchange and Death; The Transparency of Evil; Simulacra and Simulation; Seduction; The Illusion of the End; The Gulf War Did Not Take Place; The Perfect Crime; The Vital Illusion and Impossible Exchange.
“What Baudrillard calls ‘the symbolic’ (…) puts an end to all disjunctions between life and death, soul and body, humans and nature, the real and non-real. ‘The symbolic’ refers to a mode of thought beyond the binary oppositions of the terms of Western metaphysics and rationality, and in symbolic operations. These terms lose their distinctiveness and penetrate each other (…) He claims that all such metaphysical divisions contain the projection of an imaginary by its opposite by the privileged term. Thus, in the partition human/nature, nature (objective, material) is only the imaginary of the human thus conceptualized. (…) Each term of the disjunction excludes the other which becomes its imaginary.”
Jean Baudrillard’s philosophy is based on the two main concepts ‘simulation’ and ‘hiperreality’. He coined the word ‘simulacrum’, which blurs the sharp distinction between the ‘real’ and the ‘unreal’. This distinction cannot be made in postmodern realities.
1. Kellner, Douglas, 1989, From Marxism to Postmodernism and Beyond, Polity Press: Cambridge, p. 105.