Volume 1, Number 1 (January 2004)
Author: Dr. Rex Butler
Review of: Jean Baudrillard. The Perfect Crime. London: Verso, 1996. & Jean Baudrillard. Paroxysm: Interviews with Philippe Petit. London: Verso, 1998.1
French theorist Jean Baudrillard’s project rolls inexorably on with these, by our calculation, his 22nd and 24th books. By this stage, of course, his discourse has thoroughly entered its third and final period. It is a writing that is self-consciously after the “end” of things, not only the social, historical and critical, but also the personal — an “end” announced as long ago as 1987 in his diary confessions Cool Memories. Baudrillard no longer writes the lengthy academic treatises of his first period: the masterpieces of sociological observation, The System of Objects (1968) and The Society of Consumption (1970); the dense and forbidding reply to Foucault, Symbolic Exchange and Death (1976). Nor even the crystalline, poetically charged essays that first made his name in the English-speaking world: In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities (1976); Of Seduction (1979); and ‘The Precession of Simulacra’, from Simulacra and Simulations (1981). Rather, for the past fifteen years or so Baudrillard’s work has been composed in fragments of ever decreasing scale, published in a variety of forms: the diary entries of the Cool Memories series (1987-95); the journalism of The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (1991); the slim feuilletons of The Transparency of Evil (1990) and The Illusion of the End (1992).
Indeed, it is perhaps not even true to say that Baudrillard writes any more in fragments, although the brief chapters that make up The Perfect Crime are broken up into still smaller sections. This is too “modernist”, too reminiscent of the energetics of Nietzschean aphorism or the shock of Eisensteinian montage. Rather, to use the word Baudrillard applies to Andy Warhol — one of his abiding artistic enthusiasms from the time of The Society of Consumption on — we would say his work is like a “hologram.”2 By this, we mean, as with Warhol, that “there is no difference between the detail and the whole;”3 that Baudrillard does not essentially develop an argument or extrapolate from examples but says the same thing throughout all of his work. His argument, like that “end” he speaks of, is complete from the beginning, and the rest is just its logical — although this is not quite the right word — playing out or elaboration. It is this that accounts for the oddly weightless or frictionless tone of Baudrillard’s writing, like one of those “perpetual motion machines” or “Möbius strips”4 he is so fascinated by. This is also why, as Baudrillard notes of Warhol’s paintings, we “cannot get greater depth from a detail”5 of his work; there is no point in reading or analyzing him “closely”. It is all absolutely there from the beginning; and we are able to enter his discourse at any point, just as his books today are not so much discrete entities as excerpts from an unspooling tape that can be broken off at any point…
So what then are The Perfect Crime and Paroxysm about? As is perhaps clear from what we have already said, they are essentially recapitulations, in a twilight mode, of a number of Baudrillard’s favourite preoccupations. In the chapter ‘The Spectre of the Will’ of The Perfect Crime, he speaks of the way our acts of will are always turned back on themselves by the “objective” order of the world. In the chapter ‘The Irony of Technology’, he speaks of the way technology might be leading us towards another, entirely unexpected, destiny. In the chapter ‘The Surgical Removal of Otherness’, he speaks of the way we are trying to do away with “otherness” in our present-day relations between the sexes. The back cover of Paroxysm bills Baudrillard as speaking with interlocutor Philippe Petit about subjects as the Gulf War, Rwanda, the rise of ethnic nationalisms and the denial of the Holocaust, in both an “accessible introduction to his ideas for the unfamiliar and a fascinating clarification of positions for the connoisseur”. On the one hand, these topics are all astutely chosen. They are all moments where, as Baudrillard puts it, the nothingness “shines through.”6 They reflect the fine polemical sense Baudrillard has always possessed, the eye for the telling detail that gives us the impression, almost unique amongst contemporary theorists, that he is speaking of the world around us.(The savagely unsentimental essay, ‘No Pity for Sarajevo’, attacking such “humanitarian” efforts as Susan Sontag’s staging of Waiting for Godot in Sarajevo at the height of the Balkans conflict, is an excellent example of this. “What next?” Baudrillard snorts. “Why not Bouvard et Pécuchet in Somalia or Afghanistan?”7 ) On the other hand, it is not a matter of any particular insight, acuity or any other critical value on Baudrillard’s part that allows him to find these instances. The whole of society is already at this crisis point, after the “end”. He could have begun anywhere. And this is to say that, if Baudrillard does write about such things, it is only to follow the hyperbolic demands of his own system, to provide a pretext for what he was already going to say. Baudrillard speaks late in Paroxysm of wanting to find that “irreducible point” that would give him an “unimpeded view of the world”8 — and, in truth, empirical evidence plays very little part in his work.
The Perfect Crime begins with the conceit — one of Baudrillard’s finest for some time — of a “crime” at the origin of the world: the “murder of reality”, the “extermination of an illusion, the radical illusion of the world.”9 By this, Baudrillard means to speak of the way that, from the beginning, the materialisation of the world, the taking of it as real, as subject to human laws and desires, involves the exclusion of a fundamental limit, the difference between a thing and its copy that makes their resemblance possible. It is arbitrarily to distinguish between a system and its opposite, as though one is possible without the other. It is this Baudrillard compares — he provides us in The Perfect Crime not only with a metaphysics but also a cosmology — with the splitting of matter from anti-matter at the beginning of the universe. At the origin, the two were joined; but with the breaking of “symmetry,” anti-matter, which is nothing and can “transform itself into everything that is,”10 is liquidated, banished to the furthest reaches of space. Through a kind of inexplicable missing cause — to which we shall return — the two are sundered from each other and the world is born.
Of course, put this way, what Baudrillard says here cannot but remind readers of his long-running argument concerning simulation — and simulation’s relationship to seduction. That project of “realising” the world would be what Baudrillard means by simulation; and its countervailing illusion would be what he means by seduction. And just as simulation fails in its efforts to be all-inclusive, all that the world is, so this “crime” of the murder of reality is never “perfect”. Like most crimes, it leaves evidence. But this leaving of evidence is paradoxical because it is just this that constitutes it as a crime. In other words, if a crime always aims at perfection in leaving no traces, it is a crime, recognised as such, only in its failure. The crime — or its criminal — always wants to be caught. And this is true of simulation too. Although its “perfection” might reside in the fact that it is not meant for us, lies outside of human history, is complete from the beginning, it exists only insofar as it is witnessed by us, insofar as we are able to speak of it. There is a limit to simulation in that it can never become total, never completely win the game. Precisely for it to become all-inclusive, there must be somewhere outside of it from where this can be seen. As Baudrillard writes:
But the fact is that the crime is never perfect, for the world betrays itself by appearances, which are the clues to its non-existence, the traces of the continuity of the nothing. For the nothing itself — the continuity of the nothing — leaves traces. And that is the way the world betrays its secret. That is the way it allows itself to be sensed, while at the same time hiding away behind appearances.11
This, for those who have followed Baudrillard’s work over the years, is a new step to his argument — or at least a new way of conceiving what was always at stake in it. For what is suggested here is that, in an impossible equation, that “illusion” Baudrillard posits as the limit to these systems of simulation is nothing other than the most ordinary requirements of empirical verification. Systems of simulation meet their end through strange processes of reversibility, the bugs, parasites and viruses that begin to afflict them when they become too powerful;12 but these are the same as the very obvious limit that for them to have any effect at all the human observer and history need to remain. Thus, the profound truth of what Baudrillard proposes as the “most radical equivalence” of all: the fact that “subject and object are one.”13 This is not simply to say that objective truths need to be subjectively confirmed, but that those “objective” destinies Baudrillard speaks of in such books as Fatal Strategies (1983) are already contained in the subject. Baudrillard, against the usual readings of him as allowing no place for the human, here maintains a role for the subject within his thought. The human is a kind of irreducible “stain” that prevents systems of simulation from attaining an overwhelming dominance (while also allowing this).14 The most conventional requirements of empirical observation — just that which is thought to be surpassed by simulation — arrive at the end, as that which must remain for it to have its effect. A sort of common “reality” — exactly what sort we shall come back to at the end — returns as what these systems of simulation cannot get rid of.<15
But if this is the surprising insight The Perfect Crime offers us, it is also a very difficult one for the analyst to keep in mind. Despite Baudrillard making clear the inseparability of the system and its other, the way simulation can never entirely succeed because it always needs its compensating illusion, on occasions he can speak of this illusion itself as though it could be grasped outside of the real.16 Likewise, given Baudrillard’s remarks about how the “perfect” crime accomplished outside of history needs history, it is strange that at times he can speak of reality as only a passing phase.17 For the correct point here — as Baudrillard makes clear in an essay like ‘The Year 2000 Will Not Take Place’ — is that history and the “end of history” are inseparable; that each moment in history takes the place of the end of history, and this “end of history” is at once what begins and is always deferred by history. Finally, Baudrillard at moments forgets the necessary “double game”18 of his critical strategy, the way he must speak from two positions at once. That is, in an “objective” following out of the world’s own fatal strategy, he can say that criticism of whatever kind is unable to intervene in the world. In Paroxysm, in response to Petit’s constant urgings to adopt a more “committed” position, to admit that things have improved, he responds: “The question is one of determining whether misery isn’t accompanied by an ethics of concern which would merely double the misery — as is the case with every moral value in the Nietzschean age of suspicion.”19 Or, in a more abstract vein, he writes in The Perfect Crime: “We cannot project more order or disorder into the world than there is. We cannot transform it more than it transforms itself.”20 At the same time — but it is the fact that the two are not thought together that is important — in a more subjective, “activist” mood he is able to say: “One has to do violence to the facts and the evidence. The real is what one must not consent to.”21 And in the chapter ‘Radical Thought’ of The Perfect Crime, he can even claim: “We must break with [the real] as critical thought once broke (in the name of the real!) with religious superstition. Thinkers, one more effort!”22 Here, as Lacan noted of that Sade whom Baudrillard paraphrases here, these thinkers’ efforts would always be endless, always have to be repeated. Always have to be repeated because they would be taken away from themselves by the “objective” destiny that lies beyond them; because within the logic of the systems in which they operate it is always possible that they will produce the opposite effects from those intended.
Perhaps, however, the most consistent symptom of this kind of forgetting is the rhetorical alternative that structures Baudrillard’s text, which takes the form: “The question whether the technical project of virtuality is a step in humanity’s upward progression or a moment in its vertiginous disappearance still remains.”23 Or: “But is it the virtual technologies which propagate undecidability, or our undecidable universe which manufactures technologies of the virtual?”24 For Baudrillard should know that, for all the undeniable narrative tension it creates, the alternative he puts here is strictly speaking undecidable — or, to put it another way, both alternatives are true at once. Neither the system, nor its analyst, is able to determine which one will come about: this is Baudrillard’s point. And it is this undecidability — that of the world before its fundamental symmetry is broken — that Baudrillard is trying to recall us to. (It is the undecidability between the perfect crime and its impossibility.) It is not actually a matter of wanting to go back to that originary moment — every attempt to do so would miss it — but of seeing how every system of simulation is forever haunted by it. More precisely, it is trying to think that inaugural event which nothing can explain (because cause and effect themselves arise out of it): the splitting of matter from anti-matter at the origin of the universe. It is to think why there should be something rather than nothing, which, as Baudrillard notes (or should), is the same as thinking why there is nothing rather than something.25 It is to think that at each advance of the system it takes the place of a certain nothing (a nothing that is not simply nothing — for nothing too is only an effect of this split — but rather a mixture of something and nothing), or produces a certain nothing. It is to think, finally, that it is not so much a matter of a fall from perfection to imperfection as that these too are inseparable: that before the materialisation of the world there is neither perfection nor imperfection; that this materialisation produces a kind of perfection as its after-image at the same time as it does away with it.26
But perhaps if we were to give just one “example” of what Baudrillard means here, we might turn to the beautiful chapter ‘Trompe-l’œil Genesis’ of The Perfect Crime, one of the few extended analyses of the book and one of its undoubted highlights. In this chapter, Baudrillard, alerted he says by biologist Stephen Jay Gould’s The Flamingo’s Smile — though we would also say by Jorge Luis Borges’ essay on the same topic27 — takes up 19th century naturalist P.H. Gosse’s extraordinary tract Omphalos. In Omphalos, Gosse attempts to resolve the following logical difficulty for the creationist account of the world. Given the indisputable evidence of fossil remains, how to hold to the belief that the world was created ex nihilo by God? Gosse’s brilliant solution is that not just the living world, but also all of its geological and fossil traces, is the outcome not of evolution but of God putting it there some 5,000 years ago, consistent with the Biblical account in ‘Genesis’. This He did in His “infinite kindness to bestow an origin and a history upon our world, to create the illusion of an elapsed time in order to soften the unbearable confrontation with an act of force on the part of a higher will.”28 Now, for all the apparent absurdity of Gosse’s explanation here, Baudrillard finds it strangely compelling, a kind of equivalent to our current state of simulation, in which the system does not evolve over time but apparently brings itself about outside of any external agency. As Baudrillard reasons: “What is there to guarantee that our world is not as false as the simulacrum of an earlier world? If God is capable of conjuring up a perfect illusion of the pre-Genesis era, then our current reality is eternally unverifiable.”29 We might even think of Baudrillard’s so-called third stage of simulation, in which signs of origin or otherness are artificially produced, as Gosse’s fossils are, or as visual artists give Adam a navel — a navel which Adam, not being born of a woman, does not need, but which is bestowed upon him so that the arbitrariness of the divine act by which he was created can be covered over or erased. It is a navel that we will perhaps soon not need ourselves, not only because one day we will all be the product of an “in vitro fertilisation,”30 but more generally “insofar as there is no longer any trace, within us, of any umbilical cord which might connect us to the real world.”<31
But this belly button is interesting here insofar as it is a figure — in that it forms a kind of “circle” or “hole” — of what Baudrillard is speaking about. Let us go back to what Baudrillard says about Gosse’s efforts to account for those fossil traces, and why he finds them exemplary but ultimately unsatisfactory. Darwinian evolutionists, of course, point to these traces as evidence of another order outside or beyond this world. They make sense of the world, but they also render it imperfect insofar as it now needs to be explained for another reason outside of it: the seeming contingency of natural developments is henceforth only part of an underlying teleological order. Gosse does not deny the existence of these traces, as many creationists do. Rather, he accepts them, but only for an entirely different reason. They do not point to any higher order of evolution, but instead to the manifest presence of God. Here it is evolution itself that is rendered imperfect, having to be explained by another principle. But it is at just this point that we might put the same objection to Gosse’s God Himself. At the very moment that through these traces He renders Himself manifest, completing and perfecting the world, He also renders the world imperfect, for now this world and the God within it have to be explained in turn for another reason. They themselves become merely the traces of a “higher” order. That is, we can ask Gosse, as he does of the Darwinians: who put God here? What is the principle that explains the presence of God? The paradox, as we have seen before, is that the very principle that completes the world, renders it perfect, also means that it is less than perfect, has to be explained for another reason. Precisely insofar as we fill in the “gap” or “hole” in a previously lacking reality, another opens up. As Baudrillard asks, in finally rejecting Gosse’s hypothesis (not by empirical refutation — there is obviously none — but by pushing its logical consequences to their furthest extent): “For Gosse, matters are simple: reality exists on God’s authority. But what can we do if that same God is capable of simultaneously creating the true and the false? In this case, what is there to guarantee that our world is not as false as the simulacrum of another world?… Fortunately, all this is false, dictated by a blind and illogical faith.”32
To conclude here, this is Baudrillard’s method throughout The Perfect Crime, and indeed the rest of his work. His approach, like Gosse’s, is not evolutionary, historical, reasoned. Rather it grasps things “blindly”33 at once, in their completion, at their end, which is also the very “event” of their beginning. The mystery of all things — a mystery which is never entirely dissipated — is how they ever begin. They are not to be explained through cause or history because, as we say, these are the effect of those very systems of simulation that are themselves sought to be analysed. And likewise we cannot explain how things end; we cannot argue against simulation rationally, dialectically, for these too are things that die with simulation itself. Rather, we want to show how, if things have always already begun — are “perfectum”34 — they also never really begin, never progress, never make the slightest impression against that nothingness that surrounds them. Or, to put this more accurately, accompanying any such gain would always be an equal and opposite “nothingness”. This, in a sense, is the end of the system, which is also its beginning. It is why the system does not properly begin, but also why it never completely ends (because there is always more for it to do). And it defines history not as a linear progression or even decline but as a kind of cycle (or, what is the same thing, as an endless series of shocks or events). History unwinds as the incessant attempt to take the place of this lost cause; everything revolves around, is exchanged across, this “missing link”, which occurs not only at the beginning but at every moment throughout the materialisation of the cosmos. Baudrillard makes a very insightful comparison at this point to Lévi-Strauss’ theory of language, where every signifying element takes its meaning from another, “is” only its difference from it; but where we cannot explain how this synchronic, self-referring system arises diachronically, in history. It cannot come about in time, but must just suddenly be: “For the other [order of thinking], which is highly improbable (with no hope of proof), the biomass appeared at a stroke — the Big Bang of living matter — and is present in its entirety from the beginning (even if the history of complex forms was then to follow). Exactly like language in Lévi-Strauss: the logomass, the mass of signifier, emerges at a stroke, in its entirety.”35
If we were of a mind to make comparisons here — and what would induce us to do so apart from a kind of intellectual pride? — we would want to think this in relation to Slavoj Zizek’s remarks in For They Know Not What They Do: Enjoyment as a Political Factor concerning Lévi-Strauss’ theory of the “spontaneous” emergence of a signifying system. Here too Zizek speaks of a constant “requilting” of a forever lost origin, an incessant attempt to reconstitute causes, an attempt testifying to a certain irreducible kernel that cannot be restored to any narrative, which he calls, after Lacan, the Real: a Real (like Baudrillard’s illusion or anti-matter) that is at once before all systems (nothing) and only a retrospective effect of the very attempt to narrate it (a mixture of something and nothing). It is this Real, we might say, to adopt for a moment a Lacanian formula, that is excluded to produce “reality”; it is a kind of Vorstelllungsrepräsentanz, a signifier without signified, that is excluded to allow everything to take its place and that is excluded by this taking of place. As Zizek writes:
What characterises the symbolic order is its specific mode of causality, namely retrospective causality: positive, ‘substantial’ causality runs in a linear-progressive way, the cause precedes its effect; whereas in the symbolic order ‘time runs backwards’; the ‘symbolic efficiency’ (to borrow this phrase from Claude Lévi-Strauss) consists in a continuous ‘rewriting of its own past’… It is precisely because the chain of linear causality is always broken, because language as a synchronous order is caught in a vicious circle, that it attempts to restore the ‘missing link’ by retroactively organising its past, by reconstituting its origins backwards. In other words, the very fact of the incessant ‘rewriting of the past’ attests to the presence of a certain gap, to the efficacy of a certain traumatic, foreign kernel that the system is trying to reintegrate ‘after the fact’.36
Baudrillard’s intellectual system — to take up another metaphor from astrophysics — is a kind of far-flung asteroid or comet in the current intellectual cosmos, hoving round into view every couple of years or so and then disappearing again into the darkness. For the possibility of any sustained intellectual consumption or commodification, there are obviously too few references to other thinkers and systems of thought; there is his perceived wilfulness and self-sufficiency. But it is this self-sufficiency that is the very problem he addresses in his work. His fundamental problem is: how to think the “other” to systems that “lack nothing,”37 or in which this “other” is produced by them? How to confront a real without any transcendental values, that is not regulated by any dialectic or underlying law? In seeking somehow to attach himself to these systems — as he admits, our only desire is for the person or system “who does not lack us”38 — Baudrillard’s own system necessarily mimics the same abstraction and self-referentiality. And if we are truly to question it, pose difficult objections to it, it would not be in terms of its relationship to some supposed “reality”. Rather, just as Baudrillard demonstrates that those systems he analyses are not complete until that “gap” he introduces into them, so at once his system can only be questioned in its own terms and is not complete until that “gap” we introduce into it. And, as we tried to show at the beginning here, in a paradoxical way this most abstract “nothing” would be “reality” in its most prosaic and lowly sense. But it is this equivalence — this Hegelian “infinite judgement”, as it were — that must actually be worked through in Baudrillard’s text. Put simply, all the usual attempts to hold Baudrillard against the commonly accepted critical standards — how well does he account for contemporary reality? how useful is his work for progressive politics? — employing all the standard critical methods — Marxism, feminism, discourse analysis — fail because they do not see this. This is ultimately the disappointment of the interviews with the aptly-named Petit in Paroxysm. In seeking to make Baudrillard’s views “accessible”, “understandable”, “reproducible”, they lose what is specific about his work, what marks its uniqueness in the theory scene: the way it questions the “bien-pensant” exhibited by even the most radical of critics, their belief that what they are saying is true, useful, will ultimately (with a few inevitable detours) achieve its end. As Baudrillard reminds us, this is always — as with any system of rationality — undecidable.
About the author:
Dr. Rex Butler is from the University of Queensland, Brisbane.
1 – This review originally appeared in Journal of the Australasian Universities Language and Literature Association (AUMLA) 93, Faculty of Arts, University of Queensland, May 2000. Rex Butler teaches in the Department of Art History, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. AUMLA’s URL is: http://www.emsah.uq.edu.au/journals/aumla/
2 – The Perfect Crime, 78.
3 – Ibid., 78.
4 – The Perfect Crime, 17; Paroxysm, 55.
5 – The Perfect Crime, 78.
6 – Ibid., 15.
7 – Ibid., 133.
8 – Paroxysm, 113.
9 – The Perfect Crime, 1.
10 – Ibid., 61.
11 – Ibid., 1.
12 – The Perfect Crime, 40, 73; Paroxysm, 33.
13 – The Perfect Crime, 1.
14 – Ibid., 40, 61.
15 – See on this difficult equivalence between illusion and a kind of “reality”, the highest and the lowest, Baudrillard’s remark that: “The illusion is the world-effect itself” (The Perfect Crime, 58) and his notion of the “idiotie transcendentale” (Paroxysm, 69).
16 – The Perfect Crime, 14, 38; Paroxysm, 5.
17 – The Perfect Crime, 45, 62.
18 – The Perfect Crime, 4; Paroxysm, 37, 70.
19 – Paroxysm, 27.
20 – The Perfect Crime, 10.
21 – Paroxysm, 69.
22 – The Perfect Crime, 97.
23 – Ibid., 37.
24 – Paroxysm, 33.
25 – The Perfect Crime, 2, 14; Paroxysm, 5, 34, 38.
26 – In fact, it is more complicated than this because in those two passages just cited (The Perfect Crime, 37; Paroxysm, 33), Baudrillard does end up acknowledging that the alternative he poses is undecidable. But elsewhere it is posed as an alternative between which we can decide (The Perfect Crime, 4-5, 49, 72; Paroxysm, 48). The question remains as to what extent Baudrillard grasps the full implications of that “double game” of criticism he sets out. What we can say is that it is an issue in Baudrillard’s work (very rarely, if ever, discussed by his critics) and that in later works like The Perfect Crime and Paroxysm he is more aware than before of the exigencies it imposes. And on this whole question of decidability/undecidability, see Baudrillard’s remarks on the theme of “agnosticism” (The Perfect Crime, 81-2; Paroxysm, 73).
27 – Jorge Luis Borges, “The Creation and P.H. Gosse” in Other Inquisitions. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964: 22-5. Baudrillard is notoriously parsimonious with his references.
28 – The Perfect Crime, 20.
29 –Ibid., 24.
30 – Ibid., 23.
31 – Ibid., 22.
32 – Ibid., 24, 21. Baudrillard’s point here is that, once God manifests Himself in the world, He too is now subject to the same process of doubt. Both the world and the God in it have to be completed by another. God, to paraphrase Baudrillard, is “betrayed by appearances”. Of course, whatever could explain God in this way would have to be imagined as something like a God — and this is to involve ourselves again in the “double game” of criticism, the way God is simultaneously true and false, complete and having to be explained by another. And the same might be said of the world as well (The Perfect Crime, 8, 74; Paroxysm, 8). Both God and the world are ideas that are split from themselves, no sooner thought than rendered imperfect by their realisation (but they do not exist, have no effect, outside of this realisation). It is in this sense that we might understand Baudrillard’s enigmatic statement: “It is the very concept of illusion, and that concept alone, which is an illusion” (The Perfect Crime, 51).
33 – Paroxysm, 115.
34 – The Perfect Crime, 1.
35 – Ibid., 57.
36 – Slavoj Zizek. For They Know Not What They Do: Enjoyment as a Political Factor. London: Verso, 1991: 201-2, 203. We might compare all this — insofar, of course, as this retrospective causality reminds us of the Freudian concept of the Nachträglichkeit or “deferred action”, discovered during the Wolfman case — to Baudrillard’s remarks concerning the “primal scene” (The Perfect Crime, 2) and the “most radical metaphysical desire”, which is to “watch the world in our absence” (Ibid., 38). This idea that we cannot explain a system both synchronously and diachronically relates to Baudrillard’s notion that we cannot grasp both the “genesis and singularity of the event” (Paroxysm, 114); and in general all this might be thought of in terms of Baudrillard’s idea that the world arises from an “excess of signifier” (The Perfect Crime, 87), the world as a kind of “absolute surplus value” brought about by the “subtraction of causes or by the distortion of effects and causes” (Ibid., 58). This missing link or missing cause would be precisely that “delay, space, suspense” (Ibid., 31), “distance” (Ibid., 52), “immeasurable difference” (Ibid., 94) or “tiniest gap in things” (Paroxysm, 71) that Baudrillard claims is necessary for the world’s appearance and that he seeks to restore.
37 – The Perfect Crime, 65, 126.
38 – Ibid., 87.