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The Transparency of Evil: Essays in Extreme Phenomena Paperback – May 17 1993


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 174 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (May 17 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0860915883
  • ISBN-13: 978-0860915881
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 19.8 x 1.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #594,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

“Such quality and accuracy of insight indicate both the power of Baudrillard’s initial position and the value of the French tradition of the grand philosophical analyst moving freely through the culture.”—Brian Appleyard, The Spectator

“We may not like Baudrillard’s merciless honesty about the modern age, but we need his voice: the crow on the shoulder.”—Pat Kane, The Scotsman

From the Back Cover

Jean Baudrillard was born in Rheims in 1929 and now lives in Paris. From 1966 to 1987 he taught sociology at the University of Nanterre. Among his works translated into English are In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities, Simulations and Simulacra, Fatal Strategies, Seduction and (from Verso) America, Cool Memories, The Perfect Crime, The Cool Provacateur, The System of Objects, and Fragments: Cool Memories III.

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By A. Jewell on Oct. 21 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is a good introduction to the contemporary Baudrillard, it is the last step as he leaves behind the last vestiges of Marxism and ventures into something original and "fatal". Contrary to the first reviewer, Baudrillard does not assume an "Essentialist" position (namely, providing necessary and sufficient conditions for 'such and such' to be 'such and such'). Instead he operates between wildly poetic description and (implied) moral condemnation.
This means, mostly, that his comments on meaning and media are striking. It also means (unfortunately) that he provides little in the way of concrete or rigorous argumentation. Thankfully, this is not a problem if we consider the book a collection of inter-related aphorisms. In any case, Baudrillard "the poet" instead of Baudrillard "the theorist" allows us to conceptualize the expanding domain of media technologies in a different way. Whether there actually -is- anything to his claims will have to be shown by someone else.
Since this book has had something of an influence on art criticism, I recommend it (albeit, with strong reservations about its basic claims)to anyone interested in cultural theory, the arts or any sort of contemporary "critical theory".
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Sometimes a brilliant thinker as Baudrillard lets his own theories and perspectives confuse what is reality. Even though all the so-called revolutions and liberations have played themselves out, sexual,cybernetic,political,artistic, there are still powers in the world in all the above categories that are shaping the world in their own image. What is globalization? than the structure of the world surrounded with capital,shaped by it directing the poverty and foodchains of the world. I think Baudrillard forgets this, that there still is someone who creates and directs,and manipulates,and politicizes,and innoculates the populace to soften them up for consumption,controlled if possibly.
This collection of essays are brilliant in that Baudrillard knows how to probe beneath the surface of art,of culture, like Madonna, Michael Jackson or current Hollywood, and the politics of Europe,of the demise of communism. He does it within a formant structure,with many levels of meaning spewed out in all directions. He is a virtuoso in that respect.
What structures material reality? what directs it is not probed however with any degree of conviction and I think that is where his focus should be.You needn't be a Marxist to harbor these convictions simply ahumanist concerned with the direction of the world.
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Format: Paperback
Break out your dictionary; here is Baudrillard in all his ontogenetic glory. A wildly entertaining if ultimately depressing journey through the end of the millenia; what could be more shocking than to see J.B. bewail the lost hippy ideals of the sixties? Less a postmodernist than an essentialist critic of postmodernism, Baudrilard bwetrays a startling lack of imagination when it comes to technology and apparently views the computer screen as the fourth horseman of a Marxian apocalypse. Imagine if your kvetching grandfather had attended Yale in the '80s.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 8 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Baudrillard's Best Book? Dec 8 2009
By John David Ebert - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As anyone knows who has read Baudrillard, by "evil" he does not mean evil in a moral or ethical sense, but rather that principle which is antithetical to the smooth functioning of our hypermodern systems. Thus, AIDS, cancer, terrorism, computer viruses, etc. are examples of "extreme phenomena" which are a form of evil in the sense that they tend to disrupt the flow of systems. AIDS disrupts the flow of sexual promiscuity; cancer disrupts the flow of genetic programming; terrorism disrupts the flow of politcal economy, and so forth. These disruptions, moreover, may be the result on the part of these systems of a sort of homestatic tendency to preserve the system itself from even worse evils. Drugs, for example, prevent the tyranny of rationality; terrorism the tyranny of political consensus; AIDS, the absolute tyranny of sexual promiscuity, etc.

Our society, according to Baudrillard, operates in terms of virulent phenomena: that is to say, phenomena that proliferate with a metastatic or viral meaninglessness. We are saturated with media images that proliferate metastatically, like cancer cells which grow without regard for the context of the system within which they are embedded. Indeed, simulation is a form of this endless repetition of the Hell of the Same, in which ideas, tradition, and discourse have disintegrated and left behind a residue in the form of hollow ghost-like traces which proliferate around us like viruses, intent only upon destroying the system with oversaturation.

Baudrillard, like Nietzsche before him, thus sees our society as a sick one, for he draws his metaphors largely from biology and medicine. Art, he says, has become Trans-Aesthetic, producing images in which there is literally nothing to see because they make no effect and leave no trace; sexuality has become Trans-sexual in the sense that there is no longer any fixity of gender. Figures like Michael Jackson or Boy George simply discard their genders and proceed as if there is no such thing. Economics, too, he says, has become Trans-Economic, creating virtual realms of speculation that have little to do with the real world, which is why, he says, the crash of 1987 had little actual effect upon the real economy.

This is, in short, one of Baudrillard's two or three best books. It is clearly written and very readable. Nobody had a better grasp of the essentially phantom nature of postmodernity; its shallowness, and ghostly production of promiscuous forms with no relation to context or tradition of any sort. He is a kind of modern equivalent of Nietzsche, diagnosing our contemporary predicament, the way a physician would analyse a patient.

--John David Ebert, author of "The New Media Invasion" and "Dead Celebrities, Living Icons."
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
easy fellas .... Oct. 21 2001
By A. Jewell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is a good introduction to the contemporary Baudrillard, it is the last step as he leaves behind the last vestiges of Marxism and ventures into something original and "fatal". Contrary to the first reviewer, Baudrillard does not assume an "Essentialist" position (namely, providing necessary and sufficient conditions for 'such and such' to be 'such and such'). Instead he operates between wildly poetic description and (implied) moral condemnation.
This means, mostly, that his comments on meaning and media are striking. It also means (unfortunately) that he provides little in the way of concrete or rigorous argumentation. Thankfully, this is not a problem if we consider the book a collection of inter-related aphorisms. In any case, Baudrillard "the poet" instead of Baudrillard "the theorist" allows us to conceptualize the expanding domain of media technologies in a different way. Whether there actually -is- anything to his claims will have to be shown by someone else.
Since this book has had something of an influence on art criticism, I recommend it (albeit, with strong reservations about its basic claims)to anyone interested in cultural theory, the arts or any sort of contemporary "critical theory".
16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
a virtuoso,yet probes the surface most of the time. . . Oct. 9 2000
By scarecrow - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Sometimes a brilliant thinker as Baudrillard lets his own theories and perspectives confuse what is reality. Even though all the so-called revolutions and liberations have played themselves out, sexual,cybernetic,political,artistic, there are still powers in the world in all the above categories that are shaping the world in their own image. What is globalization? than the structure of the world surrounded with capital,shaped by it directing the poverty and foodchains of the world. I think Baudrillard forgets this, that there still is someone who creates and directs,and manipulates,and politicizes,and innoculates the populace to soften them up for consumption,controlled if possibly.
This collection of essays are brilliant in that Baudrillard knows how to probe beneath the surface of art,of culture, like Madonna, Michael Jackson or current Hollywood, and the politics of Europe,of the demise of communism. He does it within a formant structure,with many levels of meaning spewed out in all directions. He is a virtuoso in that respect.
What structures material reality? what directs it is not probed however with any degree of conviction and I think that is where his focus should be.You needn't be a Marxist to harbor these convictions simply ahumanist concerned with the direction of the world.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Good Introduction Into Sometimes Murky Postmodern Thought June 11 2013
By A Certain Bibliophile - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Jean Baudrillard was probably one of the contemporary French postmodern philosophers and sociologists whose ideas were most accessible (relatively speaking) and well-received in the United States. This was my first time reading Baudrillard first-hand, and some of the ideas were surprising. This book is from the Verso Radical Thinkers imprint, which always has me expecting politically revolutionary ideas, or overt Marxism, neither of which Baudrillard embraces. In fact, he explicitly identifies himself as a post-Marxist.

I sometimes have a problem with shorter pieces (not just in philosophy), and this book can at times seem to be a mile wide and only an inch deep. In only two-hundred pages, there are twenty-two chapters, although there are a few general ideas that he keeps hammering home: he is infatuated with scientific and especially medical metaphors, and continually uses them in trying to diagnose the postmodern society; AIDS, cancer, and computer viruses pop up over and over again throughout the essays. He argues that instead of destroying organisms, these things just change the way they function - AIDS inhibits sexual behavior, cancer is rooted in regular cellular division except that it has gone radically metastatic, et cetera. He also sees all areas of discourse which have previously been separated from one another as bleeding into one another indiscriminately: the aesthetic is now trans-aesthetic, the economic is now trans-economic, any formerly balkanized category can apply to anything else.

I mentioned Baudrillard's post-Marxism earlier. In fact, he might even describe himself as post-political, since he seems to think that even politics itself has come to an end. Applying his idea of simulacra and simulation to the political sphere, he says "But what can we do? This is the state of simulation, a state in which we are obliged to replay all scenarios precisely because they have taken place already, whether actually or potentially. The state of utopia realized, of all utopias realized, wherein paradoxically we must continue to live as though they had not been. But since they have, and since we can no longer, therefore, nourish the hope of realizing them, we can only `hyper-realize' them through interminable simulation" (p. 4). This almost reads like a conservative kind of cynicism or nihilism, which sort of caught me off guard.

Some of the observations struck me as bizarre and wrong-headed, like what he has to say about AIDS. "AIDS is not the reflection not so much of an excess of sex or sexual pleasure as of sex's decompensation through its general spread into all areas of life, its venting through all the trivial variants of sexual incantation. The real loss of immunity concerns sex as a whole, with the disappearance of sexual difference and hence of sexuality per se. It is in this diffraction of the sexual reality principle, at the fractal, micrological and non-human level, that the essential confusion of the epidemic takes hold" (p. 9). I'm sorry, but this is simply false. The virus responsible for causing AIDS knows nothing about the "sexuality reality principle," and even saying something like this sounds silly.

Sweeping statements like the one on AIDS occasionally stud and inevitably mar the power of any critical philosophy Baudrillard has to offer, if he wants to offer one at all. It makes for wonderfully audacious and exciting theory, but shoddy philosophy. Maybe Baudrillard wouldn't draw such a definitive line between the two, but I think with the former, metaphorical or analogical thought can help push theory along into unknown realms and aid in understanding things in different ways. Philosophy, being more closely related to logic, has to be more careful. And Baudrillard is working analogically here: saying that X resembles A in some sense and Y resembles A in another sense, therefore X is Y. This opens up new vistas of understanding, but when presented as philosophy can do just as much to obscure as it can to clarify.

These quibbles aside, this is probably one of the better introductions to Baudrillard's large output. You don't have to be overly familiar with all of his work to walk away from the essays feeling that you've learned something about him. And for those just getting their feet wet, this isn't full of the obfuscatory prose we're familiar with from other continental philosophy "Of Grammatology" or "Difference and Repetition," and for that we can all be grateful.
THE FRENCH POSTMODERNIST PHILOSOPHER COMMENTS ON CURRENT EVENTS March 15 2015
By Steven H Propp - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007) was a French philosopher, cultural theorist, political commentator, and photographer most associated with the “Postmodern” movement.

He begins this 1990 book with the statement, “If I were asked to characterize the present state of affairs, I would describe it as ‘after the orgy.’ The orgy in question was the moment when modernity exploded upon us, the moment of liberation in every sphere. Political liberation, sexual liberation, liberation of the forces of production, liberation of the forces of destruction, women’s liberation, children’s liberation, liberation of unconscious drives, liberation of art… This was total orgy---an orgy of the real, the rational, the sexual, of criticism as of anti-criticism, of development as of the crisis of development. We have pursued every avenue in the production and effective overproduction of objects, signs, messages, ideologies and satisfactions. Now everything has been liberated, the chips are down, and we find ourselves faced collectively with the big question: ‘What do we do now that the orgy is over?’” (Pg. 3)

He states, ”When [Andy] Warhol says: all works are beautiful---I don’t have to choose between them because all contemporary works are equivalent; when he says: art is everywhere, therefore it no longer exists, everyone is a genius, the world as it is, in its very banality, is inhibited by genius---nobody is ready to believe him. Yet his is in fact an accurate description of the shape of the modern aesthetic, an aesthetic of radical agnosticism. We are all agnostics, transvestites of art or of sex. None of us has either aesthetic of sexual convictions any longer---yet we all profess to have them.” (Pg. 22)

He says, “Yet it is precisely now that the rights of man are acquiring a worldwide resonance. They constitute the only ideology that is currently available---which is as much as to say that human rights are the zero point of ideology, the sole outstanding balance of history. Human rights and ecology are the two teats of the consensus. The current world charter is that of the New Political Ecology. Ought we to view this apotheosis of human rights as the irresistible rise of stupidity, as a masterpiece which, though imperiled, is liable to light up the coming fin de siècle in the full glare of the consensus?” (Pg. 87-88)

He observes, “This indifference of memory, this indifference to history, is proportional to our efforts to achieve historical objectivity. One day we shall be asking ourselves whether Heidegger himself ever existed. The paradox of Robert Faurisson’s thesis may seem repugnant---and indeed, it is repugnant in its HISTORICAL claim that the gas chambers never existed---but at the same time it is a perfect reflection of a whole culture: here is the dead end of a fin de siècle so mesmerized by the horror of the century’s origins that forgetting is an impossibility for it, and the only way out is denial. So proof is useless, since there is no longer any historical discourse in which to frame the case for the prosecution, but punishment too is in any case an impossibility.” (Pg. 92)

He suggests, “The utopia of the end of alienation has likewise disappeared. The subject has not succeeded in negating himself as subject, within the framework or a totalization of the world. A determinate negation of the subject no longer exists: all that remains is a lack of determinacy as to the position of the subject and the position of the other. Abandoned by this indeterminacy, the subject is neither the one nor the other---he is merely the Same. Division has been replaced by mere propagation. And whereas the other may always conceal a second other, the Same never conceals anything but itself. This is our clone-ideal today: a subject purged of the other, deprived of its divided character and doomed to self-metastasis, to pure repetition. No longer the hell of other people, but the hell of the Same.” (Pg. 122)

He notes, “If it is true that seduction is founded upon my intuition of something in the other that remains forever secret for him, something that I can never know directly about him but which nevertheless exercises a fascination upon me from behind its veil of secrecy, then today there can be very little leeway left for seduction, for the other retains very little mystery for himself. The fact is that everyone is devilishly self-aware these days, devilishly conscious of the nature of their own desire. Everything is now so clear that the very fact of presenting oneself behind a mask is liable to elicit nothing but mockery. In such a contest, what becomes of the poker game of seduction? Where, for that matter, is the illusion of desire---except, perhaps, in the theoretical illusion of psychoanalysis or the political illusion of revolution?” (Pg. 166)

This book contains Baudrillard’s characteristically acerbic and perceptive comments on a very wide variety of issues; it will be of great interest to anyone who enjoys his other writings.


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