[1994] Simulacra and simulation

  title={Simulacra and Simulation},
  author={Baudrillard, J.},
  series={Body, in theory},
  publisher={University of Michigan Press}

In openlibrary.

My highlights:

To dissimulate is to pretend not to have what one has. To simulate is to feign to have what one doesn’t have. Pretending, or dissimulating, leaves the principle of reality intact: the difference is always clear, it is simply masked, whereas simulation threatens the difference between the “true” and the “false”, the “real” and the “imaginary”.

It is dangerous to unmask images, since they dissimulate the fact that there is nothing behind them.

The successive phases of the image:

  • it is the reflection of a profound reality;
  • it masks and denatures a profound reality;
  • it masks the absence of a profound reality;
  • it has no relation to any reality whatsoever: it is its own pure simulacrum.

In order for ethnology to live, its object must die; buy dying, the object takes its revenge for being “discovered” and with its death defies the science that wants to grasp it. Science never sacrifices itself, it is always murderous.

Savages who are indebted to ethnology for being Savages. These savages are posthumous: frozen, cryogenized, sterilized, protected to death, they have become referential simulacra, and science itself has become pure simulation.

We have all become living specimens in the spectral light of ethnology. It is thus very naive to look for ethnology in the Savages or in some Third World – it is here, everywhere, in metropolises, in the White community, in a world completely cataloged and analyzed, then artificially resurrected under the auspices of the real, in a world of simulation, of the hallucination of truth, of the blackmail of the real, of the murder of every symbolic form and of its hysterical, historical retrospection – a murder of which the Savages […] were the first victims […].

Our entire linear and accumulative culture collapses if we cannot stockpile the past in plain view. We require a visible past, a visible continuum, a visible myth of origin, which reassures us about our end. Because finally we have never believed in them.

Capital, immoral and without scruples, can only function behind a moral superstructure, and whoever revives this public morality (through indignation, denunciation, etc.) works spontaneously for the order of capital.

All that capital asks of us is to receive it as rational or to combat it in the name of rationality, to receive it as moral or to combat it in the name of morality. Because these are the same.

The only weapon of power is to reinject the real and the referential everywhere, to persuade us of the reality of the social, of the gravity of the economy and the finalities of production. It was capital that first fed on the destructuration of every referential, of every human objective, that shattered every ideal distinction between true and false, good and evil, in order to establish a radical law of equivalence and exchange, the iron law of its power. Power itself has for a long time produced nothing but the signs of its resemblance.

Work has become a need, the object of a social “demand”. The scenario of work is there to conceal that the real of work, the real of production, has disappeared.

Three orders of simulacra:

  • Utopia: simulacra that are natural naturalist, founded on the image, on imitation and counterfeit, that are harmonious, optimistic, and that aim for the restitution or the ideal institution of nature made in God’s image.
  • Science fiction: simulacra that are productive, productivist, founded on energy force, its materialization by the machine and in the whole system of production – a Promethean aim of a continuous globalization and expansion, of an indefinite liberation of energy.
  • emerging?: simulacra of simulation, founded on information, the model, the cybernetic game – total operationality, hyperreality, aim of total control.

There is no real, there is no imaginary except at a certain distance. What happens when this distance tends to abolish itself, to be reabsorbed on behalf of the model? [Distance] leaves room for an ideal or critical projection.

This projection is maximized in the utopian. Greatly reduced in science fiction, an unbounded projection of the real world of production, but it is not qualitatively different from it.

This projection is totally absorbed in the implosive era of the models. The models no longer constitute the imaginary in relation to the real, they no longer constitute the imaginary in relation to the real, they are themselves an anticipation of the real. Simulation in the cybernetic sense, then nothing distinguishes this operation from the operation itself and the gestation of the real: there is no more fiction.

When the map covers the whole territory, something like the principle of reality disappears.