Thursday, October 13, 2005

Baudrillard, Derrida, Eco, Foucault

Pataphysician at twenty – situationist at thirty – utopist at forty –transversal at fifty – viral and metaleptic at sixty – that’s my history. [Cool Memories II, 1990]
Deconstruction is a weak form of thought, the inverse gloss to constructive structuralism. Nothing is more constructive than deconstruction, which exhausts itself in passing the world through the sieve of the text, going over and over the text and the exegesis with so many inverted commas, italics, parentheses and so much etymology that there is no text left. There are only the remnants of a forced organization of meaning, a forced literalism of language. [Cool Memories II, 1996]
Were I not so frequently associated with this adventure of deconstruction, I would risk, with a smile, the following hypothesis: America is deconstruction. [Derrida (Quoted in Mathy), 1993; 257]
As a self-conscious polemicist Baudrillard exaggerates half-truths into something like a dialectical image. Consider, for example, his one-line dismissal of the project of hermeneutics:

The fury to unveil the truth, to get at the naked truth, the one which haunts all discourses of interpretation, the obscene urge to uncover the secret, is proportionate to the impossibility of ever achieving this. (EC;73)

Again we are invited to locate the positive moment of truth in the very one-sidedness and paradoxicality of Baudrillardian thought:

The more one nears truth, the more it retreats towards the omega point, and the greater becomes the rage to get at it. But this fury, only bears witness to the eternity of seduction and to the impossibility of mastering it. (EC;74)

Here the aphoristic style assumes a pseudo-Nietzschean tone. As Nicholas Zurbrugg observes…like Lenny Bruce, Baudrillard commands attention in terms of his rhetorical excess—in terms of the register, rather than the substance, of his patter. An astrophysicist of technological society, Baudrillard explores the bleak and seductive logic of the mediascape from another planet from the optic of the primitive postmodern who sees in the triumphal ascendancy of the culture of signification—viral positivity—the gathering signs of its own violent dispersion in excess, loss and waste. [Arthur Kroker;80]
His only media competitor is the Italian semiologist, Umberto Eco. And like Eco, Baudrillard’s thought centres on the galaxy of semiological problems generated by the great transition from capitalist-industrial society. To a civilization characterized by sign values, the mass production of culture and generalized communication technologies – what Baudrillard calls the modern universe of hyper-communication where signifiers are totallyemancipated from the signified and the referential. Rojec and Turner link Eco’s Travel in Hyperreality (1987) with Baudrillard’s America (1988) as comparable intellectual documents. the Baudrillard phenomenon is thus clearly seductive, if not, perhaps fatal. [Barry Sandywell; 98]
Foucault (Other spaces: the principles of heterotopia, 1986) identifies two spaces (utopias and heterotopias) which he illustrates through example of the mirror. Foucault concentrates on these heterotopic spaces of which he provides a vast number of examples (brothels, cemeteries, colonies, fairs, prisons, psychiatric clinics, rest homes, ships, etc.). However, it is Baudrillard, not Foucault, who has concentrated on utopian spaces through the two main examples of America and Disneyland. For Baudrillard, the utopian spaces he describes are not other spaces as Foucault’s heteropias are, but are panergyric to the actual hyperreal society in which they are located. [170]

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