What Makes Jean Baudrillard Important?

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University, Spring 2005

Cyberspace & Critical Theory

At first glance, it certainly seems hard to make a case for the importance of Jean Baudrillard, whose writings have so many obvious weaknesses, because his ideas of simulation and simulacra provide useful ways to discuss the general effects of media, especially digital media, and the theoretical and practical implications of Virtual Reality (VR). His contribution -- intervention fashionable jargon would have it -- takes place within battles over postmodernism and poststructrualism. As John McGowan points out, the literary movement resulted from a rejection of modernist visions of "heroic alienation" within which the writer supposedly resisted contemporary bougeois culture. In contrast to Marxist emphasis on economic issues and older "liberal concern with guaranteed equality," the new gender and racial politics "insisted that cultural practices -- common linguistic usage, media images, educational curricula and techniques, for example -- were crucial sites of oppression and of potentially transformatice struggle" (585). The French poststructuralists and their leftist critics, such as Edward Said, Terry Eagleton, and Frederick Jameson, all agree that "languages, images, and other cultural phenomena are as central, in not more central," to the maintenace of power than politics or economics. Baudrillard's importance appears in his argument that "it is the production of images and information, not the production of material goods, that determines who holds power" (586).

Related Materials


Baudrillard, Jean. Simulation and Simulacra.

McGowan, John. "Postmodernism" in The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism. Ed. Michael Groden and Martin Kreiswirth. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994. 585-87.

Poster, Mark. "Introduction." Jean Baudrillard: Selected Writings. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1988. 1-9.

Website Overview Theory Jean Baudrillard

Last modified 7 March 2005