History, War, and Control

Baudrillard notes a historical trajectory of the following nature:

fascism --> nostalgia --> irreferentiality

These are three historical periods. We are currently somewhere in between the nostalgic stage and the irreferential era. According to Baudrillard, we are nostalgic for the fascist epoch (for instance, Nazi Germany or Mussolini's Italy). We are nostalgic for fascism, not for its racial stereotypes and scapegoating, but for its intensity and power. Political power is defunct, yet we still believe strongly in it. So the possibility for fascist uprising is very real now.

Although this sounds like a very bleak situation, the irreferential period is even more upsetting. At least with nostalgia, we have historical references, which are real. The problem as Baudrillard sees it is that we are careening into an era without references.


As Orwell declared, "war is peace." Here is a perfect example of two opposites imploding into each other. In Baudrillard's vision, there is no risk of a real war, because we are in an age of simulation and controls. War only exists in media simulations, and any actual fighting is nothing but a simulacrum.

The force that prevents us from engaging in real war is deterrence, or control. One of the key characteristics of the postmodern world is that everything can be predicted, known, and mapped out. Baudrillard notes that our control is increasing faster than our actual power.

Why Mobius? | Postmodernity | Simulation versus Reality | Three Stages of Simulation | Information and Meaning | Role of Technology | History, War, and Control | Links | Sources

Erica J. Seidel