Volume 4, Number 3 (October 2007)
The obituary was posted on the BBC website on March 7, 2007: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6425389.stm
The French sociologist and philosopher Jean Baudrillard has died aged 77 at his home in Paris following a long illness. Baudrillard, a leading post-modernist thinker, is perhaps best known for his concept of hyper-reality. He argued that spectacle is crucial in creating our view of events – things do not happen if they are not seen.
He gained notoriety for his 1991 book The Gulf War Did Not Take Place and again a decade later for describing the 9/11 attacks as a “dark fantasy”. Baudrillard focused his work on how our consciousness interacts with reality and fantasy, creating from them a copy world he called hyper-reality. He said that mass media led to hyper-reality becoming a dominant force in today’s world – an argument taken to a provocative extreme in his statement that the 1991 Gulf War primarily took place on a symbolic level. Since little was changed politically in Iraq after the conflict, all the sound and fury signified little, he argued.
In his essay The Spirit of Terrorism: Requiem for the Twin Towers, he caused controversy again by describing the 9/11 attacks as a fusion of history, symbolism and dark fantasy, “the mother of all events”. While terrorists had committed the atrocity, he wrote: “It is we who have wanted it. Terrorism is immoral, and it responds to a globalization that is itself immoral.”
Born in Rheims into a peasant family, he studied German at the Sorbonne, later working as a teacher and translator. He taught sociology throughout the 1960s. He was a prolific writer, penning more than 50 works including: Simulacra and Simulation (1981), America (1986), and The Spirit of Terrorism and Requiem for the Twin Towers (2002).