Jean Baudrillard

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Jean Baudrillard giving a lecture in June 2004

Jean Baudrillard (born July 27, 1929 in Reims , † March 6, 2007 in Paris ) was a French media theorist , philosopher and sociologist who taught as a professor at the Université de Paris-IX Dauphine . He was an influential but also controversial proponent of post-structuralist thought.


Coming from a humble background, Baudrillard initially studied German at the Sorbonne in Paris. From 1958 to 1966 he was a German teacher at a French high school. At the same time he worked as a literary critic and translator ( Friedrich Hölderlin , Friedrich Engels , Bertolt Brecht , Peter Weiss ) and studied philosophy and sociology at the University of Paris-Nanterre . In 1968 he received his doctorate there with the work of Henri Lefebvre , Le Système des Objets ( The System of Things ). In the same year he took a chair in sociology at the University of Paris-Nanterre. From 1966 to 1970 Baudrillard taught as Maître Assistant and from 1970 to 1972 as Maître de Conférences en Sociologie in Paris and experienced May 1968 in Nanterre .

Baudrillard did not see himself as a typical sociologist or philosopher: “I became a professional sociologist out of opportunism , around 1968. Sociology was very much in vogue back then, and it opened up the possibility of an academic career for me: I earned better with it. But I don't feel like a sociologist or a philosophizing philosopher. At most as a theorist. As a metaphysician , why not. "

In 1976 his main work, The Symbolic Exchange and Death , was published, which, among other things, referred to the thoughts of Georges Bataille . He developed the 'simulation theory' drafted there in numerous smaller writings - including the text collection Simulacres et Simulation (1981), which was influential in the Anglo-American region .

In 1987 he completed his habilitation with L'Autre par lui-même ( The Other Itself ), which once again succinctly summarized his previous thinking. From 1986 to 1990 he was Directeur Scientifique (Scientific Director) at the IRIS (Institut de Recherche et d'Information Socio-Économique) at the Université de Paris-IX Dauphine . In 1995 he was awarded the Siemens Media Prize (together with Peter Greenaway ) . In 2003 he was a fellow of the Friedrich Nietzsche College .

In addition to his work in the field of philosophy, he also devoted himself to photography . Jean Baudrillard died on March 6, 2007 after a long illness in Paris.


Early work

In his early years, Baudrillard was a comparatively typical 'left French intellectual' who worked in Jean-Paul Sartre's magazine Les temps modern and was influenced by thinkers such as his Marxist doctoral supervisor Henri Lefebvre and the left-wing radical situationist , but also by structuralists such as Roland Barthes and ethnologically influenced sociologists such as Marcel Mauss and Georges Bataille .

Even his first books deal with cultural theory, economics and language criticism, often with references to the current social situation and provocative or pointed theses as thematic points of contact. He moved in the context of socialist theories, but expanded them through extensive analyzes of the cultural sphere and consumer society, as well as through the attempt to link materialism and structuralism, in the course of which he interpreted Marx's critique of political economy in terms of sign theory.

Around 1975, influenced by the ethnological studies of Marcel Mauss on the exchange of gifts and of Bataille on waste and potlatch , he turned to the topic of the "symbolic exchange". From then on, the symbolic exchange for Baudrillard played the double role of a counter-principle both to the political economy of capitalism and to the Marxist paradigm of production, whose attachment to capitalist thought he vehemently criticized in Le miroir de la production (1975).

In Der symbolische Tausch und der Tod (1976), Baudrillard continues this ethnologically influenced approach by comparing the death rites of non-European cultures with the “repression of death” in Western culture and thereby noting the disappearance of the symbolic exchange with death.

Simulation theory

The symbolic exchange and death also contains a first systematic version of his simulation theory. Baudrillard distinguishes three ages of the sign or "three orders of the simulacrum ": After the age of " imitation " and that of "production", we now live in the age of "simulation" - a social condition in which sign and reality are increasingly indistinguishable . According to Baudrillard, the signs have broken away from what they signify and have become "without reference". The character codes of modern cities, advertising and the media would only pretend to be decipherable messages. In truth, however, they are purely an end in themselves with which the entire system of society is maintained so that “everyone stays in his place”. The signs “simulate” an artificial reality as hyperreality instead of depicting a real world.

Baudrillard had already formulated pre-forms and hints of this idea in his previous writings: In the System of Things , he examined the symbolic function of everyday objects, which had long since become more important than their technical function. Consumer goods did not exist primarily as objects of use, but were consumed in their ideal dimension as a sign of a certain lifestyle. Consumption, so Baudrillard concluded at the time, is an absolutely idealistic practice . Its purpose is substitution, which could be used as a practiced hedonism and alternative to giving up individual desires. But only since The Symbolic Exchange and Death , as well as in numerous subsequent smaller writings, e.g. B. The precession of simulacra (1978) or transparency of evil (1990), the concept of simulation becomes central.

The development towards simulation, which he also describes as the “structural revolution of value”, is also taking place parallel to the signs of the mass media in the field of economics. There it corresponds to making consumption independent at the expense of production, or making exchange value independent at the expense of use value. Baudrillard thus developed, also with reference to Ferdinand de Saussure and with a historical-critical analysis of various cultural levels, a critique of Marx's economic theories from outside the economy .

Media theory

The media-theoretical thrust of simulation theory, which is primarily aimed at mass media such as television , was also suggested by Baudrillard in an earlier work, Requiem for the Media (1972). In it he turns against the contemporary criticism of the media as an instrument of manipulation. Instead, he developed his concept of "simulation" as an alternative to the classic manipulation models. In Requiem for the Media , Baudrillard paints a critical picture of the mass media, the apparatus of which served to unify communication processes hierarchically instead of promoting them: “... the media are the ones that fail to answer forever, that which make any exchange process impossible unless in the form of a simulation of a response that is itself integrated into the sending process. "

Following on from Marshall McLuhan's work The Medium is the Massage , Baudrillard emphasizes against Hans Magnus Enzensberger and his essay Baukasten zu einer theory der Medien (1970) that it is impossible to use mass media critically . In this context, Baudrillard speaks of a media “speech without an answer”, which would hinder the consumer's own activities.


In the 1980s and 1990s, reflections on the apparent “end of history” and the disappearance of the event behind the simulation dominated Baudrillard's thinking ( The year 2000 does not take place , 1984; The Illusion of the End or The Strike of Events , 1992). Even the war - as an event and a confrontational challenge - "disappeared", as Baudrillard concluded in his controversial analysis of the Gulf War in 1991.

However, he sees a reaction to the indifference of simulation in terrorism , which he had already investigated in the 1970s on the occasion of the Stammheim suicides . In the attacks of September 11, 2001 , he finally sees a reference to the event as such, an attempt to break through the cycle of simulation through the "pure event" by rewarding the system for the "symbolic gift of death" and thereby rewarding it force itself - following the logic of the exchange of gifts - to a kind of suicide: "The terrorist hypothesis means that the system kills itself in response to the multiple challenges of death and suicide."

In his analyzes of the terrorist attacks, Baudrillard also emphasizes that terrorism is “not a contemporary form of revolution against oppression and capitalism” and cannot be justified. In an interview with Der Spiegel , he also analyzes terrorism as a fatal, inevitable reaction to the power imbalance of globalization . He describes the resulting conflict as the “Fourth World War” - a war “of the species man with himself”, which, in contrast to the “ Third World War ”, the Cold War , is an unbounded, asymmetrical and uncontrollable war that is no longer clearly won can be.


Baudrillard's life was strongly shaped by his relationship with the United States , which could be described as critical distance. In America he reflects on the experiences of his travel experiences in the country. On the one hand, he was attracted to society there, on the other hand, he criticized it as “a perfectly primitive original version of a modernity”. At the same time, however, he described the same America as "Paradise", of which he said: "Even if it is deplorable, monotonous and superficial, there is no other."


The American economist Jeremy Rifkin refers to Baudrillard and interprets his statements as follows: People who see themselves as autonomous individuals are slowly becoming an anachronism . The new person sees himself more as a knot of different relationships. Baudrillard writes: “We no longer exist as subjects, but rather as a terminal in which numerous networks converge”.

The Swiss composer Alfons Karl Zwicker composed a Hommage à Jean Baudrillard (2010) for ensemble.


Baudrillard's thesis of the end of history in the simulation gave rise to numerous contradictions. In particular, his interpretations of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington as the "mother of all media events" covered him with strong criticism, as did his provocative assertion a few years earlier that "the Gulf War did not take place".

His often associative and unclean style also brought Baudrillard the charge of a lack of scientific knowledge . He often used mathematical-physical terms such as space-time , parallel universe , Möbius strip, etc. in a way that does not correspond to the understanding of mathematics or physics. The natural scientists Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont called his work, like that of a number of other postmodern and poststructuralist philosophers, as "elegant nonsense" (see also Sokal affair ). Even in the late seventies, Baudrillard's thinking was sometimes compared with science fiction , also because of his sometimes daring theses .


Baudrillard was the winner of the Siemens Media Art Prize 1995, endowed with DM 100,000 , which was awarded in cooperation with the ZKM .

Fonts (selection)

Essais, speeches
  • Agony of the Real (International Marxist Discussion; Volume 81). Merve Verlag, Berlin 1978, ISBN 3-920986-99-7 .
  • Heidrun Hesse (Red.): The death of modernity. A discussion . Konkursbuchverlag, Tübingen 1983, ISBN 3-88769-015-X .
  • Do not be seduced (Merve; Volume 112). Merve Verlag, Berlin 1983, ISBN 3-88396-032-2 .
  • The divine left. Chronicle of the years 1977–1984 (Debate; Volume 18). Matthes & Seitz, Munich 1986, ISBN 3-88221-362-0 .
  • Paradoxical communication. Lecture at the Kunstmuseum Bern , February 5, 1989 . Benteli, Bern 1989, ISBN 3-7165-0660-5 .
  • Video world and fractal subject. In: Ars Electronica (Ed.): Philosophies of New Technology (International Merve Discourse; Volume 146). Merve Verlag, Berlin 1989, ISBN 3-88396-066-7 .
  • La transparence you times. Essai sur les phenomena extremes . Édition Galilée, Paris 1991, ISBN 2-7186-0363-1 .
    • German: Transparency of Evil .. An essay on extreme phenomena (Internationales Merve Discourse; Volume 169). Merve Verlag, Berlin 1992, ISBN 3-88396-098-5 .
  • Freedom as a victim of information or Temesvar Syndrome. In: Dieter W Portmann (Ed.): Signs of Freedom. Lectures at the Kunstmuseum Bern 1991 . Venteli, Bern 1992, ISBN 3-7165-0864-0 .
  • The pure terror. A conversation with Eckhard Hammel . In: The pure terror. Violence from the right. (Passages booklet; Volume 9). Passagen-Verlag, Vienna 1993, ISBN 3-85165-083-2 .
  • De la marchandise absolue .
  • L'esprit du terrorisme . Édition Galilée, Paris 2002, ISBN 2-7186-0585-5 .
    • German: The spirit of terrorism. 2nd Edition. Passagen Verlag, Vienna 2003, ISBN 3-85165-610-5 .
  • Le système des objets . Gallimard, Paris 1991, ISBN 2-07-028386-0 (EA Paris 1968)
    • German: The system of things. About our relationship to everyday objects. 3. Edition. Campus-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2007, ISBN 978-3-593-38470-2 (former title: Das Ding und das Ich ).
  • La société de consommation. Ses mythes, ses structures . Gallimard, Paris 2009, ISBN 978-2-07-032349-4 (EA Paris 1970).
    • German: The consumer society. Their myths, their structures. (Consumer sociology and mass culture). Springer, Wiesbaden 2014, ISBN 978-3-658-00540-5 .
  • Pour une critique de l'économie politique du signe (Collection Tel; Volume 12). Gallimard, Paris 1986, ISBN 2-07-029614-8 (EA Paris 1972).
  • Le miroir de la production ou l'illusion critique du matérialisme historique . Éditions Galilée, Paris 1985, ISBN 2-7186-0287-2 (EA Paris 1973).
  • L'échange symbolique et la mort . Gallimard, Paris 1976, ISBN 2-07-029347-5 .
    • German: The symbolic exchange and death . Matthes & Seitz, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-88221-665-3 (EA Munich 1976).
  • Oublier Foucault (Léspace critique). Éditions Galilée, Paris 1977.
    • German: Oublier Foucault. 2nd Edition. Raben-Verlag, Munich 1983, ISBN 3-922696-42-2 (EA Munich 1977).
  • Kool Killer ou l'insurrection par les signes .
    • German: Kool Killer or Der Aufstand derzeichen (International Marxist Discussion; BD. 79). Merve Verlag, Berlin 1978, ISBN 3-920986-98-9 .
  • Simulacres et Simulation . Éditions Galilée, Paris 1981, ISBN 2-7186-0210-4 .
    • English: Simulacra & Simulation . University of Michigan Press, Michigan 1994, ISBN 0-472-09521-8 .
  • The stratégies fatales . Grasset & Fasquelle, Paris 1983, ISBN 2-246-28601-8 .
  • L'autre par lui même . Éditions Galilée, Paris 1987, ISBN 2-7186-0307-0 .
    • German: The other itself (Edition Passagen; Volume 15). Passagen-Verlag, Vienna 1994, ISBN 3-85165-120-0 (plus habilitation thesis 1987).
  • America . Grasset, Paris 1984, ISBN 2-246-34381-X .
  • America . Matthes & Seitz, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-88221-371-X (EA Munich 1987).
  • Cool memories .
    • German: Cool memories . Matthes & Seitz, Munich 1989 ff. (5 vols.)
  1. 1980-1985 . 1989, ISBN 3-88221-248-9 .
  2. 1985-1990 . 1990,
  3. 1990-1995 . 1995,
  4. 1995-2000 . 2003,
  5. 2000-2004 . 2007
  • L'an 2000 ne passera pas .
    • German: The year 2000 does not take place (International Merve Discourse; Volume 156). Merve Verlag, Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-88396-076-4 .
  • De la séduction . Denoël, Paris 1989, ISBN 2-07-032465-6 .
    • German: From seduction (batteries / NF; Volume 12). Matthes & Seitz, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-88221-659-2 (EA Munich 1992).
  • L'illusion de la fin . Édition Galilée, Paris 1992, ISBN 2-7186-0411-5 .
    • German: The illusion of the end or the strike of events . Merve Verlag, Berlin 1994, ISBN 3-88396-116-7 .
  • Le crime parfait . Édition Galilée, Paris 1995, ISBN 2-7186-0448-4 .
  • with Boris Groys : The Illusion of the End, The End of Illusion . Supposé, Cologne 1997, ISBN 3-932513-01-0 (audio CD).
  • L'échange impossible . Édition Galilée, Paris 1999, ISBN 2-7186-0521-9 .
  • Mots de passe . Pauvert, Paris 2000, ISBN 2-7202-1398-5 .
    • German: Passwords (International Merve Discourse; Volume 246). Merve Verlag, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-88396-179-5 .
  • Le paroxyste indifférent . Grasset, Paris 1997, ISBN 2-246-53071-7 .
    • German: Paroxysmus . Passagen Verlag, Vienna 2002, ISBN 3-85165-521-4 (translated by Jonas Maatsch).
  • with Jean Nouvel : Les objets singuliers. Architecture et philosophy . Arléa, Paris 2013, ISBN 978-2-36308-010-3 (EA Paris 2001).
    • German: Unique objects. Architecture and philosophy . Passagen Verlag, Vienna 2004, ISBN 3-85165-589-3 (translated by Eva Werth).
  • Le Pacte de lucidité ou l'intelligence du Mal . édition Galilée, Paris 2004, ISBN 2-7186-0649-5 .
    • German: The intelligence of evil . Passagen Verlag, Vienna 2006, ISBN 3-85165-745-4 (translated by Christian Winterhalter).
  • with Enrique Valiente Noailles: Les Exilés du dialogue . Édition Galilée, Paris 2005, ISBN 2-7186-0655-X .
    • German: Conversation refugees . Passagen Verlag, Vienna 2007, ISBN 978-3-85165-780-7 (translated by Richard Steurer).
  • Pourquoi tout n'a-t-il pas déjà disparu? L'Herne, Paris 2007, ISBN 978-2-85197-679-6 .
    • German: Why hasn't everything already disappeared? Matthes & Seitz, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-88221-720-9 (translated by Markus Sedlaczek).
  • A l'ombre des majorités silencieuses ou la fin du social . Denoël Gonthier, Paris 1982, ISBN 2-282-30226-5 .
    • German: In the shadow of the silent majorities or the end of the social . Matthes & Seitz, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-88221-693-6 .



  • Falko Blask: Jean Baudrillard for an introduction. 4th edition. Junius, Hamburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-88506-067-3 .
  • Samuel Strehle: On the topicality of Jean Baudrillard. Introduction to his work. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2012, ISBN 978-3-531-16429-8 .
  • Jochen Venus: Referenceless Simulation? Structures of argumentation in postmodern media theory using the example of Jean Baudrillard. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 1997.


  • Ralf Bohn, Dieter Fuder (ed.): Baudrillard - simulation and seduction. Wilhelm Fink, Munich 1994.
  • Peter Gente , Barbara Könches, Peter Weibel (eds.): Philosophy and Art - Jean Baudrillard. A tribute to his 75th birthday. Merve Verlag, Berlin 2005
  • Richard G. Smith (Ed.): The Baudrillard Dictionary. Edinburgh University Press 2010. ISBN 978-0-7486-3921-2 .


  • Rene Derveaux: Jean Baudrillard: Truth, Reality, Simulation, Hyperreality. In: ders .: Melancholy in the context of postmodernism. WVB, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-932089-98-7 .
  • Wilhelm Hofmann: Jean Baudrillard. In: Gisela Riescher (Ed.): Political Theory of the Present in Individual Representations. From Adorno to Young (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 343). Kröner, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-520-34301-0 , pp. 32-35.
  • Stephan Moebius , Lothar Peter : French sociology of the present. UTB 2004
  • Georg Kneer : Jean Baudrillard. In: Dirk Kaesler (ed.): Current theories of sociology. From Shmuel N. Eisenstadt to postmodernism. CH Beck, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-406-52822-8 , pp. 147-167.
  • Michael Schetsche, Christian Vähling: Jean Baudrillard. In: Stephan Moebius, Dirk Quadflieg (Ed.): Culture. Present theories. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften , Wiesbaden 2006, ISBN 3-531-14519-3 .
  • Leander Scholz: Jean Baudrillard. In: Kathrin Busch / Iris Därmann (eds.): Image theories from France. A manual , Munich: Fink 2011, pp. 49–56.

Interviews with Jean Baudrillard


Web links

Commons : Jean Baudrillard  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikibooks: Jean Baudrillard  - learning and teaching materials

Individual evidence

  1. Some sources also give the 20th or 29th July as the date of birth.
  2. ^ Jean Baudrillard, quoted from: Jürgen Altwegg, Baudrillard In: Frankfurter Allgemeine. October 13, 1989, FAZ Magazin, p. 18.
  4. See Samuel Strehle: On the topicality of Jean Baudrillard. Introduction to his work. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2012, pp. 15–18, 29–43, 56–59.
  5. See Karsten Kumoll: Culture, History and the Indigenization of Modernity . Bielefeld, transcript, 2007, p. 165; Samuel Strehle: On the topicality of Jean Baudrillard. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2012, pp. 53–59.
  6. See Samuel Strehle: On the topicality of Jean Baudrillard. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2012, pp. 56–62.
  7. Jürgen Ritte: The appearance of reality and the thicket of signs , NZZ, March 7, 2007.
  8. See Wolfgang Kramer: Technocracy as dematerialization of the world. On the topicality of the philosophies of Günther Anders and Jean Baudrillard. Waxmann, 1998, pp. 112-120; Samuel Strehle: On the topicality of Jean Baudrillard. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2012, pp. 65–67.
  9. See Wolfgang Kramer: Technocracy as dematerialization of the world. On the topicality of the philosophies of Günther Anders and Jean Baudrillard. Waxmann, 1998, pp. 112-120.
  10. Kersten Reich, Lucia Sehnbruch, Rüdiger Wild: Media and Constructivism. An introduction to simulation as communication. Waxmann, 2005, p. 126.
  11. ^ Carsten Stark, Christian Lahusen: Theories of society. Oldenbourg, 2002, p. 272.
  12. ^ Jean Baudrillard: Requiem for the media. In: Jean Baudrillard: Kool Killer or the uprising of characters . Berlin, Merve Verlag, 1978, p. 91.
  13. Jean Baudrillard: The Spirit of Terrorism. 2001, pp. 11-35.
  14. Jean Baudrillard: The Spirit of Terrorism. 2001, p. 60.
  15. a b This is the fourth world war . In: Der Spiegel . No. 3 , 2002 ( online - January 14, 2002 , interview with Romain Leick).
  16. ^ Rifkin: Access, pp. 273 and 283
  17. Jean Baudrillard: The Other Self. Vienna 1987, p. 14, quoted from Rifkin: Access, p. 283
  18. ^ For example Charles Descamps, quoted in after: Baudrillard: Jean Baudrillard: Requiem for the media. In: Jean Baudrillard: Kool Killer or the uprising of characters. Merve Verlag, Berlin 1978, book cover, inside.
  19. ^ Siemens Media Art Prize 1995: Jean Baudrillard ZKM , accessed on January 30, 2017.
  20. To this: The power of seduction . Supposé, Cologne 2006, ISBN 3-932513-67-3 (1 audio CD, original recording in German).
  21. Formerly in: Kool Killer or The Revolt of the Signs. 1978.
  22. With an essai The Lost Balance. About love . by László F. Földényi .