: Photo from Wikimedia Commons / Author of Photo: Europeangraduateschool

Jean Baudrillard

  • Marxist sociologist
  • “America is a world completely rotten with wealth, power, senility, indifference…”
  • Died on March 6, 2007  

Born in 1929, Jean Baudrillard was a French sociologist, cultural theorist, and philosopher heavily influenced by the writings of Karl Marx. Ranked among the leading intellectual figures of his time, Baudrillard was a longtime college professor beginning in 1958. In 2001, he was hired to teach Philosophy Of Culture and Media Criticism at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. His influence in leftist academic circles in America was significant. Among the books he wrote were: America; The Consumer Society; The Illusion of the End; The Spirit of Terrorism; and The Gulf War Did Not Take Place.

Baudrillard’s work is frequently associated with postmodernism and post-structuralism. Postmodernism rejects the concept of universal truth and reality, encouraging multiple relativistic and personalized perspectives instead. Post-structuralism seeks to dissect, or deconstruct, the world into a multitude of parts and systems, none of which is held to be objectively superior or inferior to the others. Post-structuralists tend to be politically oriented, viewing the world largely as a social construct wherein different ideologies battle for supremacy and where power relations determine the outcome.

Shortly before the 1991 Gulf War, Baudrillard predicted that the war would not take place. A few weeks later, when the relatively brief conflict was over, Baudrillard congratulated himself for having been correct, claiming that the media had presented Americans with a fabricated “copy war,” an illusion much like that of a video game.

Baudrillard’s hatred for the United States bordered on the pathological. “We [Europeans] are a desperately long way behind the stupidity and the mutational character, the naïve extravagance and the social, racial, moral, morphological, and architectural eccentricity of their [American] society,” he said. “… America is a world completely rotten with wealth, power, senility, indifference, Puritanism and mental hygiene, poverty and waste, technological futility and aimless violence.”

Baudrillard died on March 6, 2007 in Paris.