Volume 5, Number 1 (January 2008)
Author: René Capovin1
This paper discusses two related ideas: 1) that Niklas Luhmann’s version of systems theory serves as the best approach to simulation and, 2) that Baudrillard’s strategy can be evaluated properly only if we consider the often neglected relationship between the text and the reader. Before exploring these two ideas, I want to clarify how they combine to constitute my argument. We might say that they are placed on different levels of reflection.
The Luhmannian framework is one of the most powerful and comprehensive account of modernity we have. I understand it to also be a logical structure of the order that Baudrillard (the “parasite”)2 radicalizes. Even if this link to a theory which is highly technical (even esoteric) may appear an academic conceit – I consider it consistent with other “instruments” of a process played out in the act of reading. As a rule of the simulational game, every reader has to recognize this Luhmannesque world, or something very similar, as his/her (lost) world.
This situation, confronted with different degrees of ambition and coherence by the informal and the professional reader alike, has another side – its systematic failure. Every reader has to be a “failed reader” too, and that is because he/she reads books written, so to speak, against his/her search for a meaningful coherence. In other words, for the reader, the systemic model is the most layered and sophisticated way to fail. This is the simulational game, performed along the axis “text-reader” – and it is the driving force behind Baudrillard’s fatal strategy.
II. Systemic Collapse
The range of available theoretical inspirations is finite, and in the case of Baudrillard it seems already exhausted: Frankfurt’s School, neo-Marxism, critical semiotics à la Barthes, sociology of the sacred, formal sociology à la Simmel3 (and perhaps even a platonic space of representation, hidden under the label of “internal reading”4 ). Did we forget anything? Of course. Despite this systematic occupation of the theoretical space, it seems that few5 have pointed out the strong analogies between simulation and systems theory, especially in the sociological form elaborated by Niklas Luhmann.
The “devil’s advocate”6 and the “theoretical terrorist” seem to speak the same language: “system”, “communication”, “code”, “symbol”, “evil demon”… The world of simulation could be seen as a deformation of systemic principles. Obviously, this does not mean that Baudrillard is a Luhmannian theorist: on the contrary, his work operates as an evil parasite that aims towards the system’s implosion. Following a brief summary of some of the key terms of the Luhmannian systemic paradigm I will move into the Baudrillardian domain.
Luhmann’s systems theory can be seen as a loop of forms to be conceived as two-sided: a form is the unity of the distinction we draw every time we want to indicate something. A distinction cannot take place without the indication of one side, and for that reason a form is not only a binary, but an asymmetrical construct, with a marked place (the indicated side), and an unmarked space (the other side). Note that the marked side can become the unmarked one, but only in a different moment: if both sides are marked simultaneously, the distinction is cancelled out7 .
The distinction “system-environment” is the point of departure of this theory. There is no system independent from its environment: “Systems constitute themselves by distinguishing what they do from what occurs in their environment. For systems to exist, the system itself must determine what is system and what is environment […]”8 . The environment always counts as the environment of its own particular system and, conversely, the system is always a system only in relation to some particular environment. System and environment are bound in a specific paradoxical relationship: “System exists to expand, to ensure that it encodes as much as it can. The environment both provides the sustenance, so to speak, for the system to continue functioning, and acts as the boundary which the system is constantly trying to exceed”.9
Forms are not metaphysical entities which are to be found “out there”, or transcendental models that we impose on reality. Luhmann substitutes the classical, epistemological opposition between the subject and the object with the distinction “operation/observation”. We can talk about a “system” only if a specific operation exists which reproduces the system’s elements: in this autopoietical view, what a system is has to be brought about by recurrent, internal operations.
An operation is something that, in itself, is not reflexive; it simply … operates: talking about it, in fact, we are observing it, that is, we are using distinctions to obtain and transform information about these processes of reproduction (i.e. its operation). As Gershon says: “Observation is how a system regulates the distinction it is continuously making to determine what is system and what is environment”.10
Luhmann distinguishes two levels of observation: first-order observation is the act of making a distinction (system/environment, beautiful/ugly, legal/illegal, true/false etc.); second-order observation is the observation of these distinctions. This clarifies an important point: every observation11 can observe only what its own distinction permits to observe. Cybernetics uses the metaphor of “blind spot”: an observer can see only what the form of his observation lets him see, but these limits cannot be seen from the observer himself. Only a second-order observer is able to observe the blind spot of the first-order observer, while the second-order observer himself can not see his own blind spot, “his a priori, his latent structures”.12
Social and psychic systems differ from biological systems in one fundamental respect: they are autopoietical systems creating themselves through meaning, not through life. Meaning is the unity of the distinction actuality/potentiality: in a phenomenological fashion, actualization happens in relation to a horizon of other possible actualizations (that is, potentiality)13 . As Andersen says: “There is always a predefined core surrounded by references to other possibilities that cannot be used at the same time”14 . Potentiality is not a structure that precedes actualization, but a horizon that lines up with it: “Meaning is the link between the actual and the possible: it is not one or the other”.15
A particular understanding of negation is what opens to the co-origin of actuality and possibility. When a system selects an object, all the rest is negated – but not cancelled: negation, maintaining what is not indicated as actualizable for the next selection, is the operator of potentialization in every selection of social systems. Negation is the fundamental strategy used by meaning-oriented systems to maintain a flexible and stable relationship with their environment.
Communication is the specific operation of social systems. Luhmann’s systems theory could be viewed as a theory about society as communication: “Society is the comprehensive system of meaningful communication as a selection from the possibilities of meaningful communication projected by society itself. One could say that society “possibilizes” its world in order to be able to comprehend and rationalize whatever occurs”.16
Communication is distinguished from mere perception: “communication” happens only if the information we have processed is assigned to an intention, and language therefore has the ability to make the understanding of a communication as communication more probable (there can be communication with gestures, even with silence, but it’s not always simple to decide if that gesture or that silence carries intentional information or not).
Every communication generates a bifurcation: understanding does not mean acceptance, for any communication can also be rejected. Why do I have to obey this order? Why do I have to believe this theory? Why do I have to lend my car? Why do I have to hear a person’s long and idiosyncratic reflections? If every communicative act were linked with another communication, we would have chaos.17 Symbolic media generalized (power, scientific truth, money, love, to refer back to our examples) motivate the acceptance of a communication. They are sym-bolic because they connect, they create agreement between different instances; at the same time, they are dia-bolic because they distinguish – the one who can pay from the one who can not, the one who issue orders from the one who should obey, etc.
e) Functional differentiation
Every society – as the sum of each and every communication – is organized around a core form of differentiation. In modernity, the predominant form is a functional one: the political system, the economic system, the scientific system. Every system is differentiated according to a function and is structured around a specific binary code. For example, the scientific system distinguishes itself from its environment through processes that evaluate communication in terms of what is true or false. Consequently, every system has its own blind spot: it uses a distinction (for the scientific system, true/false), but it cannot at the same time observe it (to do that, it has to observe the conditions of its own observing, but this is what only a second-order observer can do). By default, every system includes everybody: nobody is excluded a priori from the economy, or politics, or science – only their own internal organization makes the distinctions. The code is modernity, coding is socializing – this is Baudrillard.
III. The silence of the masses
“One sees the social expanding throughout history as a ‘rational’ control of residues and a ‘rational’ production of residues”.18 The social system lives on the inclusion of all “others” – women, madmen, criminals etc.: “It is on these remainders that the social machine starts up again and finds support for a new extension”.19 Every “outside” of the social system is related to its operations and only leads to its further development. In this sense, total inclusion is the disappearance of the distinction itself. This is the radical hypothesis announced by Baudrillard: when everybody is socialized, the dynamics of inclusion is reversed, and “it is the whole social system which becomes residue”.20
With the idea of a “silent mass”, Baudrillard does not propose an act of collective and frontal opposition to social techniques, or an actual silence (“Society can also include silence within communication – for example, in the sense of attentive silence, in the sense of an eloquent silence”.21 In fact, “mass” cannot be anything actual; mass is the “non acceptance and not rejection” of a message oriented by the drive to inclusion. The silence of the masses is a “paradoxical silence that refuses to be spoken in its name”,22 while, on the contrary, the social system needs representative answers that may function as “empirical bedrocks”23 orienting its operations. Every “outside” of the social system leads to its further development, but this can happen only if the system as communication gets answers – acceptance or rejection. Hyper-conformity is the tertium that, in this perspective, should never be given.
So, the social system must assume that there are answers by means of which the masses express their opinions – but this is only an axiom, the axiom of credibility. Baudrillard writes:
[…] This meteoric ritual of statistics and surveys has no real subject, especially not the masses whom it is thought to express. It simply simulates an elusive object, but one whose absence is nevertheless intolerable. It ‘produces’ it in the form of anticipated responses, of circular signals, which seem to circumscribe its existence and to bear witness to its will.24
The opinions of the masses are pre-determined from these technologies because the social system always has to get a meaningful answer. Luhmann confirms: “The other possibility is silence – a silence that no longer wants to be understood as communication (but is forever understood, is understandable only in this way)”.25 The impossible hypothesis of a mass as a not-answering instance has to be put in a non-theoretical context: we have to maintain the cool violence that breaks (and not just names the limits of) communication.
IV. On the Impossibility of the Perfect Crime
A community of Tibetan monks has devoted itself for centuries to transcribing [the] nine billion names of God, and once they have accomplished this the purpose of the world will be achieved, and it will come to an end.26
The distinction actual/potential that we found at the centre of Luhmann’s conceptual framework is the same one we find deformed27 in another recurrent theme of Baudrillard’s books, i. e. (the impossibility of) virtual reality. The distinction between actual and potential is maybe the ur-form, if we recall Baudrillard’s phase of utopian guerrilla warfare against sign-value. In Symbolic Change and Death, we are able to note the transition from a semiological conception of the code, related to different levels of reference (objects, economics, fashion, art, everyday life etc.), to an information model based on cybernetics.28 The determination of meaning in an oppositional form, as a substitute for the symbolic rule (in which there’s no opposition between the two sides), is presented as the founding act of modernity. The purest version of this cultural dynamics is the binary code: 1/0, yes/no, to be intended as the violent rupture of a fluctuating order.29 This is the law of modern, “Baudrillardian” systems, but a systemic principle too: “A communication does not communicate the world, it divides it. Like any operation of living or thinking, communication produces a caesura. It says what it says; it does not say what it does not say”.30
The paradoxical path of Baudrillard’s discourse moves from the assumption that the general aim of systems “is […] to drive right to the end, to exhaust all the possibilities”,31 and that the idea of virtual reality as the “unconditional realization of the world”32 is the extreme stage of a progression of apparatuses designed to actualize “in real-time the entire set of the world’s possibilities”.33 We may say that Baudrillard deepens the blind spot of the modern order: the “real” exists only in opposition to the “illusory”, the “actual” only in opposition to the “possible” – so, a total reality, a total actuality is an impossible situation that breaks the balanced universe of meaning. This is what, according to the laws of meaningful communication, can never be asserted, insofar as it would be an unreal, unactualizable proposition.
The same thing happens, for example, in the case of stereophony: perfect reproduction would correspond to the disappearance of the reproduced object, and of reproduction itself; but (and this is Baudrillard’s fundamental challenge) if that point is surpassed, we may observe reproduction as an operation condemned to simulate the conditions of its own reproduction. The persistence of a two-side-form can be assured only by producing doses of some simulated “other”, no longer available in its “natural” form: “Whilst the very existence of the boundaries [modernity] erected established the conditions of possibility for their straddling, and thus the subsequent proliferation of undecidability, indeterminacy, and indiscernibility”.34 The problem then becomes: what is the status of this challenge?
V. The Act of Reading
Un livre est fini lorsqu’on peut penser l’avoir porté le plus loin possible, c’est à dire avec la conscience d’une limite infranchissable, que seul le livre lui-même peut franchir, ou plutôt quelques lecteurs, qui le porteront à sa fin et au-delà de sa fin.35
Once we read Baudrillard’s writings, everything is gone, everything is finished: here lies what “being experienced” means according to his point of view. Here we can touch the limits of the systemic model, and maybe of every model we may use to approach his writing: at some point, we face a move beyond the rules of the simulational game, as we have learned from Baudrillard. That is, Baudrillard is a parasite36 to systems: he is not an element, even unwittingly, of any systemic machinery, but a function of implosion. The systemic model is just one form of retrospective arrangement, useful to clarify the profile of the world in which we find ourselves. We can try to obtain a similar outcome using different vocabularies, but I think that these procedures are equally reactive in relation to the essence of the Baudrillardian strategy. The point becomes clearer if we travel through the density of writing along the text-reader axis.37 Assuming this perspective, we can outline the path of the reader. He/she is faced with a textual movement that aims at destabilizing the oppositional logic surpassing the point in which these distinctions become indistinguishable. My goal is not to propose a precise definition of the textual content, but to decline Baudrillard’s texts as fatal objects that are an “event” in the experience of the reader.
In my reconstruction, both the common sense of the informal reader and the formal categories of the professional reader must be lowered to accept a systemic-fashioned reconstruction of modernity. More than the specific model used, though, it’s important to grasp the textual necessity of this order: the reader has to enter into this fictional world by suspending any critical thinking. The seminal notes of Mike Gane are valid here: these texts, in some way, require a cooperative reader, willing to match his/her pre-comprehension to the narrative – what is demanded is the subduing of one’s critical instinct.38 In this sense, the opposition between “external” and “internal” readings is misleading: we have to subordinate our different frameworks to the “dogmatism” of the text. Thus, the pertinent distinction opposes this kind of reading to the application of a normative standard, which tries to validate (more often, to invalidate, sometimes even with generous doses of sarcasm) what is misunderstood as a scientific description.
Simulation is presented as process, active in the different spheres of modernity, which go beyond their own structuring codes: “We move now in the ‘time’ of the hypertelic, beyond any end […]. What happens past the end is, for Baudrillard, like an immense speeding-up of slowing-down, an accelerating inertia where nothing ever happens despite, or rather because of, the in-your-face intensity of contemporary events”.39 Be this as it may, I think that the inverse relation text-reader has its turning point in the radicalization of modern logic (as already internalized by the reader!). The necessary convergence between the textual world and the reader’s world means that pushing modern forms beyond their constitutive limits also implies destabilizing the reader’s categories.
In this way, the reader becomes the spectator of a performance that pulls him/her into a vertigo. I proposed the systemic perspective as a model which may help to explain the causes of this vertigo: in systems theory’s vocabulary, Baudrillard points out the code on which a system is founded and postulates the conditions of its disappearance. Still, the vertigo’s experience is placed on another level, and it can be felt when Baudrillard’s “maximalist”40 hypothesis attacks, at the same time, the systemic order and the reader’s hermeneutical order themselves. We cannot distinguish the textual effect from any “internal” logic: playing with the rules of the simulational game, Baudrillard’s works “touch” the reader through a sort of estrangement without illumination. I mean: we are “changed”, we are “disoriented”, but we do not learn “what lies behind the simulation”, we do not learn anything at all.
Aware of the enigmatic status of transparence, Baudrillard both acts above board and speaks in riddles when he says:
It’s not so much a discursive critique using negativity. Rather, it is an irony. It is a process of pushing a system or a concept or an argument to the extreme points where one pushes it over, where its tumbles over its own logic. […] When you push the system to the extreme you see that there is nothing more to say. So there is destabilization. I don’t have any doctrine to defend. I have one strategy, that’s all.41
I agree: that’s all. The analogy with the pataphysical attitude is quite pertinent: Baudrillard’s theory is a “mis-en-scène”, a strategy that “enacts what it describes”,42 where what is enacted is the infraction of “system-creating” distinctions and where the spectator is the reader.
In my opinion, this should warn us against any temptation to transform Baudrillard’s works into an ultra-theoretical, hyper-reflexive act: if we make any kind of doctrine out of this radicalization, we translate a sovereign performance into the discovery of a new theoretical principle.43 The operation that enlightens Baudrillard as a sort of unconscious transcendental thinker,44 requiring an explication of his conditions of possibility,45 is internally valid, but misses the point. In my opinion, Baudrillard remains a smooth iconoclast, and we have to resist recomposing what he breaks. In this sense, the idea of Luhmann’s model as a logical matrix, the object of Baudrillard’s radicalization, does not aim to solve the enigmatic effect of his texts – it deepens it: if we come back to face his strategy, we can perceive his parasitical action again and again, perhaps strengthened.
I used the first part of this paper as a reconstruction of that modern logic that is driven to implosion. Subordinating this operation to its estranging consequences on the reader, I tried to defend what I consider the singularity of Baudrillard’s work: it doesn’t transgress the limits, or affirm a different philosophical conception of the virtual,46 or even enunciate the internal paradoxes of communication as bearers of an ethical instance. It just finds the system’s blind spot – that is, it creates blind spots in the reader, displacing him/her from the simulational order.
About the Author
René Capovin is a freelance researcher living in Italy. He is a member of the Editorial board of Ágalma: rivista di studi culturali e di estetica (http://www.agalmaweb.or), directed by Mario Perniola. He has written about autobiography from an anthropological perspective, asylum seekers, global law, and Jean Baudrillard.
1 – An earlier draft of this paper was presented at the International Multi-Disciplinary Conference Engaging Baudrillard, Swansea, 4-6th September 2006. I would like to thank the organizers and Simone Brito, Rex Butler, Kuo-Kuei “Pascal” Kao, Francesco Proto, Erfan “De Crescenzo” Sabeti, Jeff Vass and Alex “Stella” Wade for their challenging discussions and fruitful comments. Special thanks to Matteo Bortolini, Silvia Drago and Alan N. Shapiro. “Amici,un detto greco dice: non ci sono amici. Ma che mi importa, dei greci?” (M. Sgalambro).
2 – My use of the term is opposite to what M. Serres proposes, when he talks of the parasite as the operator that re-opens communication (see M. Serres. Le parasite, Paris: Grasset, 1980.
3 – This position, in many regards very similar to my reconstruction, is outlined in Gary Genosko. “The Spirit of Symbolic Exchange: Jean Baudrillard’s 9/11”, International Journal of Baudrillard Studies, Volume 3, Number 1.
4 – If I am correct, Butler seems to endorse the idea that what Baudrillard does, doubling the simulational processes, is expressing the paradox of representation inherent to any relationship between the original and its copy. See, in particular, Butler 1999.
5 – For important exceptions, see P. Bellasi. “Dimenticare il 1968 ovvero giocare Baudrillard contro Baudrillard”, Introduction to J. Baudrillard, Dimenticare Foucault. Bologna: Cappelli, 1977:7-61 and F. Di Paola “Noialtri barocchi e Baudrillard”. In Jean Baudrillard, Simulacri e impostura, Bologna: Cappelli, 1980:114-185.
6 – According Peter Sloterdijk in Nicht gerettet. Versuche nach Heidegger. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2001this is the peculiar theoretical position of Niklas Luhmann.
7 – “What seems to be a gesture of self-delimitation is necessarily a boundary-drawing act. To erect an identity, one must draw a limit between what is inside and what is outside. In this way, the manifold is folded in two, giving rise to the material illusion of a ‘this’ and a ‘that’”. D. B. Clarke and M.A. Doel. “Virtual Worlds: Simulation, Suppletion, S(ed)uction and Simulacra”, in M. Crang et. al., Virtual Geographies. London: Routledge, 1999: 204. Note that Clarke and Doel write this sentence trying to clarify Baudrillard’s position.
8 – I. Gershorn. “Seeing like a system: Luhmann for anthropologist”, in Anthropological Theory, Volume 5, Number 2, 2005:100.
9 – Ibid.:102.
10 – Ibid.:101.
11 – Every observation has to be an operation, since everything that exists is the outcome of some autopoietical systemic process.
12 – N. Luhmann. “Speaking and Silence”, in New German Critique, Number 61, 1994:28.
13 – See Baraldi, Corsi, and Esposito (Editors). Luhmann in glossario. I concetti fondamentali della teoria dei sistemi, Milan: F. Angeli.1995:204-205. The boundaries of meaning of a system coincide with the totality of the possibilities of that system, such that it is not always an all-inclusive horizon.
14 – N. A. Andersen. Discursive Analytical Strategies. Understanding Foucault, Koselleck, Laclau, Luhmann, Bristol: Polity Press, 2003:73.
15 – N. Luhmann. “Complexity and meaning”, in I. Prigogine, M. Zeleny and E. Morin (Editors). The science and praxis of complexity: Contributions to the symposium held at Montpellier, France, May 9-11, 1984. Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 1985:102.
16 – N. Luhmann. “Speaking and Silence”, in New German Critique, Number 61, 1994:33.
17 – N. Addario (Editor). Teoria dei sistemi e modernità, Roma: Carocci, 2003:63.
18 – Jean Baudrillard. A l’ombre des majorités silencieuses ou la fin du social, Fontenay-sous-Bois: Cahiers d’Utopie, 1978:73; In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities, New York : Semiotexte, 1983.
19 – Ibid.:75.
20 – Ibid.:60.
21 – N. Luhmann. “Speaking and Silence”, in New German Critique, Number 61, 1994:34.
22 – Jean Baudrillard. A l’ombre des majorités silencieuses ou la fin du social, Fontenay-sous-Bois: Cahiers d’Utopie, 1978:22.
23 – Rex Butler. Jean Baudrillard. The Defence of the Real, London: SAGE, 1999:131.
24 – Jean Baudrillard. A l’ombre des majorités silencieuses ou la fin du social, Fontenay-sous-Bois: Cahiers d’Utopie, 1978:32-33.
25 – N. Luhmann. “Speaking and Silence”, in New German Critique, Number 61, 1994:27.
26 – Jean Baudrillard. Le crime parfait, Paris: Galilée, 1995 :43. The Perfect Crime, London: Verso, 1996.
27 – This image is used in Gary Genosko. “The Spirit of Symbolic Exchange: Jean Baudrillard’s 9/11”, International Journal of Baudrillard Studies, Volume 3, Number 1.
28 – On this, see the punctual observations in K. Sawchuk. “Semiotics, Cybernetics, and the Ecstasy of Marketing Communications” in D. Kellner (Editor), Jean Baudrillard. A Critical Reader. Cambridge: Blackwell, 1994:89-118. 1994.
29 – “The illusory rests on the non-opposition of the real and the illusory, on their reversibility and indiscernibility, and on their duality/duality and irreconcilable antagonism”. D. B. Clarke and M.A. Doel. “Virtual Worlds: Simulation, Suppletion, S(ed)uction and Simulacra”, in M. Crang et. al., Virtual Geographies. London: Routledge, 1999: 205.
30 – N. Luhmann. “Speaking and Silence”, in New German Critique, Number 61, 1994:25.
31 – Jean Baudrillard. Le crime parfait, Paris: Galilée, 1995:48. The Perfect Crime, London: Verso, 1996.
32 – Ibid.:25.
33 – D. B. Clarke and M.A. Doel. “Virtual Worlds: Simulation, Suppletion, S(ed)uction and Simulacra”, in M. Crang et. al., Virtual Geographies. London: Routledge, 1999:202.
34 – Ibid.
35 – Jean Baudrillard. Cool Memories IV, Paris: Galilée, 2000:216.
36 – See endnote 2.
37 – For an informed outline of this dimension, analysed from a semio-phenomenological point of view, see W. Iser. The Act of Reading. A Theory of Aesthetic Response, Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1978.
38 – See Mike Gane. Baudrillard: Critical and Fatal Theory, London: Routledge, 1991.
39 – W. Bogard. “Baudrillard, Time, and the End”, in Douglas Kellner (Editor). Jean Baudrillard. A Critical Reader. Cambridge: Blackwell, 1994:323-324.
40 – For this term, here used with a slight different meaning, see Rex Butler. “Towards a Principle of Maximalism”, in International Journal of Baudrillard Studies, Volume 1, Number 1, (January 2004):
41 – Jean Baudrillard in Mike Gane (Editor). Baudrillard live. Selected interviews. London and New York: Routledge.1993:92.
42 – David Teh. “Baudrillard, Pataphysician”, in International Journal of Baudrillard Studies, Volume 3, Number 1 (January, 2006).
43 – This is what Rex Butler does when he trascendentalizes the radicalization, transforming a meaningless act of inversion in an implicit definition of the conditions of possibility (and impossibility) of systems. He is perfectly aware of the risk of this kind of reading: “On the other hand, we can take an internal perspective onto it, reading it only in its own terms, completing it as it were and risking giving it a wholeness and coherence it might not have had before us. Rex Butler. Jean Baudrillard. The Defence of the Real, London: SAGE, 1999:16.
44 – This is the position of Lyotard (see, in particular), J.F. Lyotard Le Différend, Paris: Grasset, 1983.
45 – This passage appears paradigmatic: “It is language that is the limit to the real, that is able to propose a limit to systems that have no limit in the real and that are even the very definition of what is real (today, it is stereo which defines the reality, the fidelity, of music). It is language, which has no image, no way of being represented, that is at once the limit to all systems of representation and what ensures that everything can be represented” (Rex Butler. “Towards a Principle of Maximalism”, in International Journal of Baudrillard Studies, Volume 1, Number 1, (January 2004). This is a brilliant, challenging reading, just placed one step beyond Baudrillard’s texts. Perhaps this is precisely what Butler wants, in his search of a politics or ethics of the unrepresentable (in this respect, David Teh works along the same lines). In my view, the singularity of Baudrillard lies in his hyper-conformism, in his silence, in his absolute “insularity” (David Teh. “Baudrillard, Pataphysician”, in International Journal of Baudrillard Studies, Volume 3, Number 1 (January, 2006). For this reason, our approach had to be indirect and content with what it can do (not too much, in fact).
46 – Clarke and Doel use the reflexions of Baudrillard as symptoms of the necessary involution that affects a false conception of the “virtual”, which they replace with a radical conception of the virtual and the actual found in Deleuze (see, in particular, Gilles Deleuze. Différence et répétition, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1968.