Postmodernism and Jean Baudrillard

How can we define we live in some age? Who can define the age? Most of us who study modern industry and culture, have heard that we live in postmodernism. Why? Because of the modernism age has simply gone, so, now is postmodernism? Postmodernism is still defined unclearly. This has appeared since 1960-70s in which subjects of literature, architecture and art, however, it has been used different meaning of concept in each subject. This essay will explore the general ideas of postmodernism, focusing on the idea of French philosopher, Jean Baudrillard, which is analysed through his book, The Evil Demon of Images (1987) and defined his thoughts from other philosophers.

Jean Baudrillard
Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007) had been known as a French philosopher, sociologist and cultural theorist, was famous through his theories, such as public and mass communication, and mass media and consumption, which are associated with postmodernism.

Baudrillard claimed that people, who have lived in modern age, have consumed their likings rather than functionally use of objects (The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures, 1970), and advocated theories; simulation – reproduction images alternate the real (Simulacra and Simulation, 1981 and hyperreality – if there is no more objects that can be reproduced, then hyperrealty that seems to more real rather than real objects, instead of the real (The Perfect Crime, 1995).

Though theories about public, mass communication, mass media and consumption society, Baudrillard stated that modern society is consumption culture and the people, who live in its culture, have bought the products without its usefulness, because the meaning of buying conveys getting power and authority. They have thus consumed their tastes or likings. In addition, the real, we have believed in, is no longer real because of reproduction images by the Simulation theory. In his view, the Gulf War was not exist in 1991, because no one can say they won and the war did not change anything, thus, it was nothing.

The Evil Demon of Images
In Baudrillard’s book, The Evil Demon of Images (1987) at the University of Sydney, he portrays his ideas about methods of media, such as TV, film and photographs that deliver facts to the public.

Through this book, Baudrillard developed his thoughts – simulacra – as the significant illustrations of the simulacra; "images precede the real to the extent that they invert the causal and logical order of the real and its reproduction (Baudrillard 1987, p. 13)". The author (Baudrillard 1987) demonstrated that images, we have been seeing, such as, photographic, movies and on television, deliver the facts to us and we believe it is the happenings in the today's world. However, it is just showing some things "to resemble reality, events and faces" to the public. Moreover, it takes on their appearance to resemble the other and makes them "enter the realm of metamorphosis despite themselves". An illustration of this is an animal's own being; animals do not know how they conform, but if they know about that they become individual being (pp. 14-15).

In addition, the images are not simply reflecting the real. It could reflect reducing and distorting facts from the real or making better than the real. Since that time, the real is not real anymore, it is just thing to be belonged or taken by the just "real" – not the real. For example, many of us did not touch the battle field during the Vietnam War, but we have become an expert about the war: we have known what kind of helicopters were there and weapons were used, and how the feeling in there, etc. – sunset colour, Vietnamese faces and children are crying. How do we know, even though some of us were born after the war? Yes, Apocalypse Now. We have believed it is exactly the same between the movie and the real war, because we have simply seen the movie which is created by real people within real happenings. All right, now, the War at South Vietnam is replaced on your television at the living room. And we would be crying, because it is a sad story of the war. True or fake and cause and effect do not matter at that time and "TV is also an implosive nuclear", because of chain-reactive process (pp. 16-19).

Baudrillard defined the "Simulacrum and reality, it is clear that the real so arranged itself, in the image of the film, as to produce a simulation of catastrophe (p. 20)". It is the logic of simulacra: the images must have its purpose against or related to the real. It also affect memories of people, but after replaying it makes opposite results from people’s memories to people connected memory (pp. 20-23).

The author also defined between TV as media and cold war: "To reheat this cold event via a cold medium, television, for masses who are themselves cold (p. 25), TV, the veritable final solution to the historicity of every event. In a word, we dream of our disappearance and of seeing the world in its inhuman purity (p. 26)".

Baudrillard did not believed in pedagogy of images and dialectic between image and reality, because of respect of images, in pedagogy of message and meaning. He thought it is collusion between images and life. (p. 27). It is just a kind of "primal please, of anthropological joy in images, a kind of brute fascination unencumbered by aesthetic, moral, social or political judgements, because of this it is their fundamental power lies in this immorality" (p. 28).
Therefore, "there is something more than that which is peculiar to our modern media image" and the images are sites of "the production of meaning and representation" - it is on the contrary because they are sites of the disappearance of meaning and representation – which "we are caught quite apart from any judgement of reality", thus sites of a mortal approach of denegation of the real and of the reality principle (p. 29).

Baudrillard pointed out the "Simultaneous with this attempt at absolute coincidence with the real, cinema also approaches an absolute coincidence with itself”. And he also claimed movies plagiarise and resemble it, "remakes its classics, retro activates its original myths, remakes silent films more perfect than the originals, etc.": he emphasised that all this is logical. "Cinema is fascinated by itself as a lost object just as it (and we) is fascinated by the real as a referential in perdition and these things including cool promiscuity, asexual engagement of two cold media which evolve in asymptotic line towards one another (p. 33-34)".

Through this book, Baudrillard conveyed the example of object of simulacra in modern life. That is the media – TV, movies and photographs, we have called and deliver of facts we believed in. It could be defined through his thoughts; we are just seeing the images on those media. It is just images, not more and not less. The real is always there behind them.

The definition of postmodernism is vague, because this movement of age is also not clear. According to Jean-Francois Lyotard (1924-1988), a French philosopher and literary theorist, in his book, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (1979), the postmodern condition is in which a quintessential feature of modernity, such as mental dialectic, a movement for the emancipation of working class, an accumulated capital, demolishing the distinction of classes, does gather any confidence.

Postmodernism, this is a cultural movement and a concept of culture, politics, economy and society in today’s age. This was begun by a student's political activity, women's liberation movement, antisegregation movement in the United States and France in 1960s and then through 1970s, to today. Through the features of postmodernism below, it could be recognised closer. Firstly, postmodernism is indeterminacy meant several features including vagueness, discontinuity, voluntariness, treason and etc. That means accept naturally no regret world's dissolution. Because postmodernism has no absoluteness, it can accept variety and coincidence of life. Secondly, fragmentation, modernist had desire about some rules and units, and then they had used the method based on fragment. Postmodernism, however, have showed its self form the fragment, and that is all. In the modernism, it tried to gather within whole system that can make human life all the same in capitalism. Therefore, the products of art were rejected by the capitalism, but those products have come into the consumption system in postmodernism. Finally, decanonisation. Canonisation means that somebody is stated officially now a saint. It was realisation of universal value, but it is now professed ruling ideology, Western civilisation and an androcentric society. "In a universe where no more explanations are possible, all that remains is to play with the pieces. Playing with the pieces, that is postmodernism (Baudrillard 1987, p. 29)". As a result, decanonisation comes into the world. Postmodernism rejects high social class culture and elitism. It comes together with the public. Thus, in the literature area, new genre stories came such as, a detective story, Sci-Fi fiction, women's literature, and in art area, used bottle of Coca-Cola and the Superman images by Andy Warhol.

"Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives. This incredulity is undoubtedly a product of progress in the sciences: but that progress in turn presupposes it (Lyotard 1970)". Postmodernism that has these features is progressive. It reflects previous sense of value, rejects the art for the one class and aims the art that all classes enjoy, so it uses materials and topics that the public touch friendly. Moreover, postmodernism is very reality. It shows directly what world we live in. However, the meaning of "showing directly" is not the same, "realism". Its self of realism could not be real; it is following new method up and against pleasure of good method. These features state that postmodernism is non political and historical movement, but it does not matter of postmodernist who has no interested in politics and realise the history is discontinuity being.


This essay explored the concept and features of postmodernism so far. Postmodernism is not a clearly defined subject. Postmodernism is progress movement and tries to get over the limits of the previous literature level. Also, it denies the art for only one class and makes the public join together. However, the most important is postmodernism is the concept which is formed and indeterminate. It is not the social responsibility. Therefore, it is unnecessary that "postmodernism is like that".

Baudrillard, J. 1981, Simulacra and Simulation, trans. S.F. Glaser, University of Michigan Press, 1995, Ann Arbor.

Baudrillard, J. 1970, The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures, 1st edn, Sage Publications Ltd, 1998, London.

Baudrillard, J. 1987, The Evil Demon of Images, Power Institute, Sydney, pp. 13-34.

Baudrillard, J. 1995, The Perfect Crime, Verso Books, 1996, London.

Lyotard, J.F. 1979, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, Manchester University Press, 1984, Manchester.


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