Someone suggested to me (not an academic) Baudrillard is saying:

the means of communication and meaning become increasing self centred, i.e. communication about communication, simulation, hyper reality, all... become so saturated with images and meaning they become meaningless... his phrase 'an ecstasy of communication'.

Is he saying that communication is meaningless, and if so how is he able to communicate that?

Is he able to communicate because every communication is only potentially an ecstasy, that with the commodity form there is no message, only a universal equivalence, but we can still talk about the substance of the object? If so, is he able to communicate because his discourse is not a system ("there is no longer any system of objects").

But then how does he characterize his own meaningful communication, and others like it? If it is not "cold" and aleatoric, ecstatic, as what he critiques, what is it? If it is a critique of the subject via the unreality of the object, and is, like anything, potentially "cold", what is it if it is not read as "pornographic"?

Two possibilities from the SEP article are 'aristocratic critique' and 'symbolic exchange'. How are these linked?

  • You might read the piece, it is short criticaltheoryindex.org/assets/… – sand1 May 3 '19 at 21:58
  • thanks @sand1 can't get my head around the guy at all – user38026 May 4 '19 at 12:53
  • "his classification of games (it's as good as any other)" haha @sand1 – user38026 May 4 '19 at 13:01

It's not a critique that original to Baudrillard. EM Forster said as much in his short story The Machine Stops which he published in 1906 where he described the constant circulation of third-hand and fifth-hand news, stories, articles and which short-circuited the representation of reality.

Baudrillard isn't saying that communication is meaningless, - far from it. But he is describing a kind of communication that he claims will be more and more prevalent in the present and that by its very ubiquity shields us from reality and so becomes meaningless in that it represents something other than what its original intent was: a news-clip of a far-away war no longer represents to us the real tragedy of violence but becomes merely another talking point for all of ten seconds or just another piece of disposable newstainment. Its only when war then comes knocking on our own doors do we then really know what war is ...


Impossible Exchange (2001). In three parts containing a series of short essays, Baudrillard first develops his concept of an “impossible exchange” between concepts and the world, theory and reality, and subject and object. He attacks philosophical attempts to capture reality, arguing for an incommensurability between concepts and their objects, systems of thought and the world. For Baudrillard, the latter always elude capture by the former, thus philosophy is an “impossible exchange” in which it is impossible to grasp the truth of the world, to attain certainty, to establish a foundation for philosophy, and/or produce a defensible philosophical system.

In place of "impossible exchange" (philosophical systems) this article tries to characterize 'symbolic exchange'

Despite its group-defining function, symbolic exchange is also defined in terms of the overcoming of separations, segmentations and boundaries. Symbolic exchange is a regulated play of signs and appearances, including ceremonies of metamorphosis. It doesn’t accumulate profits or meanings. It doesn’t alienate people from each other or the world. For Baudrillard, the symbolic also puts an end to all the other bars and splits. It puts an end to the ‘effect of the real’, the experience of real disjunctions based on categories.

They claim it grounds the meaningfulness of "experience", without making any particular meaningful claim about objects, perhaps because

the world is without meaning and that affirming meaninglessness is liberating: “If we could accept this meaninglessness of the world, then we could play with forms, appearances and our impulses, without worrying about their ultimate destination… As Cioran says, we are not failures until we believe life has a meaning – and from that point on we are failures, because it hasn’t” (2001: 128)

So it seems that 'symbolic exchange', like his own discourse on the unreality of objects, is meaningless, but experienced as meaningful, via a critique of subjectvity.

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