Volume 4, Number 3 (October 2007)
Author: Douglas Groothius
A longer version of this obituary appeared on the website The Constructive Curmudgeon in March 2007.
Jean Baudrillard, the often incomprehensible, but sometimes oracular, French sociologist is dead at age 77. I first encountered his work in 1994 when I happened upon The Transparency of Evil, which, at times, was thrilling in its insights into the vicissitudes and perplexities of media culture. This thoughts on hyper-realities are arresting and useful for media analysis. These are roughly images with no concrete references. Think of video game characters. I quoted him a few times in Truth Decay, to good effect, I hope.
As an analytic philosopher, I typically have little patience for such stultifying stunts, but with Baudrillard, the pearls amidst swine were sometimes worth the hunt. I often quote his line from America, “In America, the laugh track is always running” Quite so. We laugh when we should blush or weep or sit silently.
Baudrillard was called (by some) the French McLuhan. Perhaps at times that would fit, but McLuhan, even at his most obscure, was more clear than Baudrillard at his most clear. Nevertheless, reading McLuhan’s Media: The Extensions of Man and Baudrillard’s The Transparency of Evil is recommended for those who desire insight into the culture of electronic media.
About the Author
Douglas Groothius is from the Constructive Curmudgeon Website