is a book on theories
of cultural materialism
by the noted French
thinker, Jean Baudrillard
. It was written in 1981
, and reflects a distinctly postmodern
school of thought.
Perhaps one of the more interesting things about this book is that it does not speak of theories of culture in terms of economic notions like production, but instead in terms of expenditure.
Some helpful notes on getting a grip on what this work, which is severely mind-bending is about, are taken from the inside front flap:
The publication in France of Simulacra et Simulation in 1981 marked Jean Baudrillard's first important step towards theorizing the postmodern. Moving away from the Marxist/Freudian approaches that had concerned him earlier, Baudrillard developed in this book a theory of contemporary culture that relies on displacing economic notions of cultural production with notions of cultural expenditure.
Baudrillard uses the concepts of the Simulacrum - the copy without an original and the Simulation, crucial to an understanding of the postmodern, to address the problem of mass reproduction and reproducibility that characterizes our electronic media culture...
The book sums it up better than I can, but there are some interesting concepts brought forth that I will share, as well as an interesting quote:
"The simulacrum is never what hides the truth - it is the truth that hides that there is none. The simulacrum is true." -- Ecclesiastes
The first interesting idea I got out of this book was that of simulation. What is the difference between faking illness, and simulating illness? To fake illness, we mean to pretend to exhibit some symptoms of disease. To simulate illness, we mean to really generate those symptoms. Where do we draw the line between simulation and reality?
A good example of this is Maxwell Klinger from M*A*S*H - trying to escape from the army on the ground of being crazy. Ask yourself this - where do we draw the line between someone who simulates craziness, and one who is crazy? We might say that if he is able to simulate so well, it is becuase he really is crazy.
The Second idea is the notion, briefly, of simulacrum. We can examine the Borges fable of the empire's cartographers, who become obsessed with mapping the empire. Eventually, they draw a map so detailed, it totally covers the empire at a 1:1 scale. which is reality?
Thirdly, what of the hyperreal? To use the map metaphor, what of the map, where there is no land?
If you think about it, these simple ideas can be applied to many areas of metaphysics in culture, and your lives, especially now in this digital age. The entirety of the internet, that nebulous "reality", falls into this provence, I believe.
If you had not guessed already, I highly recommend this book.