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The Spirit of Terrorism [Paperback]

Jean Baudrillard , Chris Turner
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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The Spirit of Terrorism The Spirit of Terrorism 3.0 out of 5 stars (3)
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Book Description

Oct. 17 2003
Baudrillard sees the power of the terrorists as lying in the symbolism of slaughter – not merely the reality of death, but in a sacrifice that challenges the whole system. Where previously the old revolutionary sought to conduct a struggle between real forces in the context of ideology and politics, the new terrorist mounts a powerful symbolic challenge which, when combined with high-tech resources, constitutes an unprecedented assault on an over-sophisticated and vulnerable West. This new edition is up-dated with the essays ‘Hypotheses on Terrorism’ and ‘Violence of the Global’.

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Review

“What he calls the ‘spirit of terrorism’ is the waking nightmare of fantasy become reality, which means that in the West, we are all, whether of the right or left, now engaged in a murderous game, the rules of which are constantly being changed, not according to the globalized strategies of the western powers, but according to the inscrutable, ultimately unknowable, demands of ‘the enemy’ ... Baudrillard ... offers a sober and hard-headed commentary on the events of September 11 and their aftermath. Significantly, there is no trace of the specious and pretensious nihilism that is so often claimed as the hallmark of his thinking. Rather, he offers a clear analysis of the terrible miscalculations in the West that have brought us to this point, and which seem to offer us no way back from the spectral ‘war on terrorism.’”—New Statesman

“... philosophical perfection. Each book [in the Verso series of 9-11] offers powerful and highly readable commentary that whirlwinds around the specter of the towers, and together the texts raise an indelibly valuable dialogue where many are still afraid to step. Unbreakable, these volumes are filled with extraordinary ideas and ideals that slowly piece together from one poetic line to the next.”—XLR8R Magazine

“First prize for cerebral coldbloodedness goes to French philosopher Jean Baudrillard ... It takes a rare, demonic genius to brush off the slaughter of thousands on the grounds that they were suffering from severe ennui brought about by boring modern architecture.”—New York Times Book Review

About the Author

Jean Baudrillard (1929–2007) began teaching sociology at the Université de Paris-X in 1966. He retired from academia in 1987 to write books and travel until his death in 2007. His many works include Simulations and Simulacra, America, The Perfect Crime, The System of Objects, Passwords, The Transparency of Evil, The Spirit of Terrorism, and Fragments, among others.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars America March 24 2004
By steve
Format:Paperback
Well, this is a very short book. If you are not familiar with Baudrillard's academic social theory and philosophical works, much of the commentary may come across as superficial, cynical or just plain odd. The unreferenced paraphrasal of Clauschwitz's formula (earlier inverted by Foucault), the references to 'symbols' and death as 'sacrifice'; none of this will make any sense unless you have read Symbolic Exchange and Death, or Signs and Simulations, and like those english journos who reviewed 'The Gulf War did not take place' with similar ignorance, if you take it only at that level you will miss the whole point, and look like a stupid arse.
Sacrifice referes to his thesis in symbolic exchange and death that the only resistance to the 'system' is suicide, building on the third volume of Marx's Capital; so that dead labour now outweighs living labour, we all live in a world of death, the only refusal is to stop the system killin us.
As the editor of the edition of 'The Gulf war did not take place' that I read showed; many people criticsed Baudrillard comparing him to a classical 'enlightenment' thinker like Noam Chomsky. But this edition then had a quote by Chomsky in the intro where he said it wasn't a 'war' because that conventionally meant two sides fighting against each other. Similarly, Baudrillard's point that we have all imagined the collapse of american empire; in a couple of different places in his work on US foreign policy Chomsky talks about the war mongers in Vietnam and what they said about the 'VC', hypothesising what they would have done if the VC had launched attacks in downtown New York.
Besides which, why should Baudrillard have to explain himself to you in any case? If we can't see through the oxymoronism of a 'War on Terrorism' we deserve to blown up in densely populated city centres like the sheep we are.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars America March 24 2004
By steve
Format:Paperback
Well, this is a very short book. If you arte not familiar with Baudrillard's academic social theory and philosophical works, much of the commentary may come across as superficial, cynical or just plain odd. The unreferenced paraphrasal of Clauschwitz's formula (earlier inverted by Foucault), the references to 'symbols' and death as 'sacrifice'; none of this will make any sense unless you have read Symbolic Exchange and Death, or Signs and Simulations, and like those english journos who reviewed 'The Gulf War did not take place' with similar ignorance, if you take it only at that level you will miss the whole point, and look like a stupid arse.
Sacrifice referes to his thesis in symbolic exchange and death that the only resistance to the 'system' is suicide, building on the third volume of Marx's Capital; so that dead labour now outweighs living labour, we all live in a world of death, the only refusal is to stop the system killin us.
As the editor of the edition of 'The Gulf war did not take place' that I read showed; many people criticsed Baudrillard comparing him to a classical 'enlightenment' thinker like Noam Chomsky. But this edition then had a quote by Chomsky in the intro where he said it wasn't a 'war' because that conventionally meant two sides fighting against each other. Similarly, Baudrillard's point that we have all imagined the collapse of american empire; in a couple of different places in his work on US foreign policy Chomsky talks about the war mongers in Vietnam and what they said about the 'VC', hypothesising what they would have done if the VC had launched attacks in downtown New York.
Besides which, why should Baudrillard have to explain himself to you in any case? If we can't see through the oxymoronism of a 'War on Terrorism' we deserve to blown up in densly populated city centres like the sheep we are.
Was this review helpful to you?
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars falsely profound and profoundly false Feb. 27 2007
Format:Paperback
About 9/11, B writes, "At a pinch we can say that they did it, but we wished for it. . . . We are far beyond ideology and politics now. . . .

As if the power bearing these towers suddenly lost all energy, all resilience; as though that arrogant power suddenly gave way under too intense an effort: the effort always to be the unique world model."

Despite the silliness of these ideas, here and there B does make an interesting point. But the book exists primarily to exhibit B's cleverness rather than to illuminate terrorism.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "There's an end to all your talk about the virtual-this is something real!" (p.28) Jan. 26 2008
By a.k.a. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The violence of the real, or the reality of violence is the only thing power understands. Confronted with suicides, the system (indeed any system) begins to mimic suicide, ultimately committing itself to its own suicide.
I won't pretend to understand all of this great writer's words. Partly because my understanding of French is limited. Partly because I have only read a translation. And lastly because I have been fed oh so many Americanisms.
This is a good intro into exploring possible interpretations and misunderstandings embedded in our conceptions of the "World". Reading it has helped me to begin to demystify the political concept of Terrorism, especially its connotations within the virtual world of media discourse.
"To the point that the idea of freedom, a new and recent idea, is already fading from minds and mores, and liberal globalization is coming about in precisely the opposite form-a police state globalization, a total control, a terror based on 'law and order' measures. Deregulation ends up in a maximum of constraints and restrictions, akin to those of a fundamentalist society." (p.32 from the unrevised edition)
I would also recommend "The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomenon" (1993) by Jean Baudrillard.
31 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars America March 24 2004
By steve - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Well, this is a very short book. If you arte not familiar with Baudrillard's academic social theory and philosophical works, much of the commentary may come across as superficial, cynical or just plain odd. The unreferenced paraphrasal of Clauschwitz's formula (earlier inverted by Foucault), the references to 'symbols' and death as 'sacrifice'; none of this will make any sense unless you have read Symbolic Exchange and Death, or Signs and Simulations, and like those english journos who reviewed 'The Gulf War did not take place' with similar ignorance, if you take it only at that level you will miss the whole point, and look like a stupid arse.
Sacrifice referes to his thesis in symbolic exchange and death that the only resistance to the 'system' is suicide, building on the third volume of Marx's Capital; so that dead labour now outweighs living labour, we all live in a world of death, the only refusal is to stop the system killin us.
As the editor of the edition of 'The Gulf war did not take place' that I read showed; many people criticsed Baudrillard comparing him to a classical 'enlightenment' thinker like Noam Chomsky. But this edition then had a quote by Chomsky in the intro where he said it wasn't a 'war' because that conventionally meant two sides fighting against each other. Similarly, Baudrillard's point that we have all imagined the collapse of american empire; in a couple of different places in his work on US foreign policy Chomsky talks about the war mongers in Vietnam and what they said about the 'VC', hypothesising what they would have done if the VC had launched attacks in downtown New York.
Besides which, why should Baudrillard have to explain himself to you in any case? If we can't see through the oxymoronism of a 'War on Terrorism' we deserve to blown up in densly populated city centres like the sheep we are.
16 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars America March 24 2004
By steve - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Well, this is a very short book. If you are not familiar with Baudrillard's academic social theory and philosophical works, much of the commentary may come across as superficial, cynical or just plain odd. The unreferenced paraphrasal of Clauschwitz's formula (earlier inverted by Foucault), the references to 'symbols' and death as 'sacrifice'; none of this will make any sense unless you have read Symbolic Exchange and Death, or Signs and Simulations, and like those english journos who reviewed 'The Gulf War did not take place' with similar ignorance, if you take it only at that level you will miss the whole point, and look like a stupid arse.
Sacrifice referes to his thesis in symbolic exchange and death that the only resistance to the 'system' is suicide, building on the third volume of Marx's Capital; so that dead labour now outweighs living labour, we all live in a world of death, the only refusal is to stop the system killin us.
As the editor of the edition of 'The Gulf war did not take place' that I read showed; many people criticsed Baudrillard comparing him to a classical 'enlightenment' thinker like Noam Chomsky. But this edition then had a quote by Chomsky in the intro where he said it wasn't a 'war' because that conventionally meant two sides fighting against each other. Similarly, Baudrillard's point that we have all imagined the collapse of american empire; in a couple of different places in his work on US foreign policy Chomsky talks about the war mongers in Vietnam and what they said about the 'VC', hypothesising what they would have done if the VC had launched attacks in downtown New York.
Besides which, why should Baudrillard have to explain himself to you in any case? If we can't see through the oxymoronism of a 'War on Terrorism' we deserve to blown up in densely populated city centres like the sheep we are.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing analysis of 9/11 Jan. 20 2011
By A. Sophocleous - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Baudrillard speaks both as a Westerner, yet outside of the discourse most Americans would be familiar with (Good vs Evil, Us vs Them, Democracy vs Funamentalism, Christians vs Muslims, "they hate us because we are free", etc). For those who only know these views, his ideas may come as a shock; for those who with to think freely (outside what others say we must think), his ideas are a breath of fresh air. The style of the book is accessible for those unfamiliar with Baudrillardian ideas/concepts, and in fact could be a way in to understanding what he means when he speaks of "simulation". A great read!
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Blame the Victim Sept. 30 2012
By Martin Asiner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In "The Spirit of Terrorism," Jean Baudrillard attempts to define the source not only of the rage of the terrorists who commandeered four jetliners to crash into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon but also the reaction of the West who suffered death and destruction in real time. Although Baudrillard does not come right out to say that he supports the terrorists' claims that America deserved to be attacked, the totality of his rhetoric clearly suggests a sympathetic stance towards those who seek harm to the United States. He equates the destruction of the Twin Towers as a deeply rooted desire of Capitalist America to "suiciding spectacularly." The "violence brewing around the world" would find a natural outlet on 9/11. Baudrillard likes to play armchair psychologist with frequent mention of America's death wish: "It is almost they who did it, but we who wanted it." He sees "complicity" between this death wish of America and a corresponding wish by terrorists to supply the fruition of that wish.

Power as concentrated in the hands of any nation-state must, according to Baudrillard, inevitably lead to its misuse by its brokers and a reactionary response by those who experience an "exacerbating will to destroy" that power. Thus, power "is complicit with its own destruction." As the Twin Towers collapsed, their duo fall resulted from America's hubristic self-vision as God-like which in turn Baudrillard terms America as "declaring war on itself." The uniqueness of the events of 9/11 he further sees as a "game to complete the event."

Baudrillard tries mightily to excuse Islamic religious fervor and ideology as the root cause of 9/11: "No ideology, no cause, not even an Islamic cause, can account for the energy which feeds terror." Further, he notes that Islam "is conversely not the embodiment of terror." Finally his defense of Islam is "if Islam dominated the world, terrorism would fight against it." Where then can an unbiased observer rationally account for the willingness and eagerness of those who wish to kill uncounted numbers of innocent men, women, and children merely to provide an outlet for ideological rage? The answer lies in what he sees as the symbolic nature of violence: "Violence in itself can be perfectly banal and innocuous." It is the symbolic reversal of the traditional unwillingness of killers to die to prove a point. The terrorists of 9/11 engaged in an orgy of this symbolic reversal of violence, an act which he calls "the true victory of terrorism." Yet, nowhere in this brief essay does Baudrillard touch upon the years of brainwashing and mind control needed to bring about this reversal. Nor does Baudrillard hint at other less noble, less self-sacrificing reasons that might have accounted for the attack on the Towers and the Pentagon. In essence, Baudrillard invites the reader to focus his view on the instant the planes crashed into their targets crammed with unsuspecting human beings. Such readers are invited to view the collapse of the Twin Towers as he does: a symbolic and unique event that must be viewed in the context of rage by the poor against the rich. Such a limiting view is of course a familiar one: blame the victim and excuse the perpetrator.
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