America

America

by Jean Baudrillard

In this, his most accessible and evocative book, Frances leading philosopher of postmodernism takes to the freeways in a collection of travelers tales from the land of hyperreality.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Philosophy
  • Rating: 3.90
  • Pages: 200
  • Publish Date: September 17th 1989 by Verso
  • Isbn10: 0860919781
  • Isbn13: 9780860919780

Read the Book "America" Online

There is no human reason to be here, except for the sheer ecstasy of being crowded together." of breakdancing: "You might say that in curling up and spiralling around on the ground like this, they seem to be digging a hole for themselves within their own bodies, from which to stare out in the ironic, indolent pose of the dead." "For me there is no truth in America. If you'd like my copy of this book, come and get it.

For sure, Baudrillard is one of the rock stars of postmodernism, probably as much for his tentative connection with The Matrix as for his pronouncement that the first Gulf War didn't happen. Ultimately, I find myself in a love/hate relationship with this work, a binary opposition that seems appropriate when postmodernism is involved, though I'm not sure which term I privilege more. The text is comprised of a lot of empty pronouncements and one-liners one can use to impress (or conversely frighten) a date, but at times this work is, if one can manage to find and follow a salient theme, a trenchant critique of American and consequently, consumer, culture. In many of these instances, he reads like a hack sociologist poet, infusing, (translating?) the aforementioned cultural elements with entirely new meaning and implications (something I actually really enjoyed. He wrote America in 1986, in the waning years of the Regan presidency, before the internet and social networking had taken hold, before the terror attacks on New York City, before reality televison, but somehow he seems to predict them all with his proclamation, perhaps warning, that "it is Disneyland that is authentic here! ...:Its voltage protects it, like a galvanic dome, from all external threats ...:" Today, of course, there is irony in these lines, and New York, specifically the Twin Towers, were chosen precisely for the symbolism Baudrillard alludes to.

Baudrillard spouts what sounds a lot like nonsense for quite a while, then provides a lucid explanation of how America is a succesful revolution, a utopia without great dreams or hopes. The great resort of mystics, of people who don't actually understand or explain something. De Tocqueville has a great interest in the people of America, in how they think and act, and what they say. In fact, Baudrillard pretty much says he's not interested in what Americans have to say, that he 'doesn't ask them to understand'. He doesn't stop to consider that the perspective of someone from France who was first introduced to America through movies might be different to someone who was born there. In America, like Simulations, the high points usually make you go "I'm not entirely convinced that is true but it is a very interesting way of looking at things, and worth thinking about some more." Little in America is obviously correct or incorrect.

What most surprises about this is how earnest Baudrillard seams about his own attraction and admiration for America, especially compared to what he views as the feckless intellectual cynicism of European high culture.

His views in America are something of a reformulation of the Old World-New World split, that America is a purposefully naive lived out artifice, like the still continuing ideal of American exceptionalism. Baudrillard isn't apt to dismiss American exceptionalism as mythology because as he sees it America is built on the execution of these fictional ideas, hence hyperreality. Baudrillard isn't terrified by the mass conformity, obsession with appearances and ideology, the violent underpinnings, and so on because it's a new and fascinating culture, almost analogous to Nietzsche's newborn, which is entirely divorced from the burdens of European history. Baudrillard wrote this in 80s Reagan America, more or less the perfect time to have these sorts of ideas.

Having read and enjoyed "Simulacra and Simulation" and "The Spirit of Terrorism," I had high hopes for a more informal snapshot of Baudrillard's philosophy; what it turned out to be was the recurring themes of "America is the desert" and "America lacks history." Essentially, it read like DeLillo, but without any form of plot progression or denouement. (Though even this is obviously wrong, yet Baudrillard simply disregards this.) Perhaps his point that America is endless like the desert was simply form mirroring function, as he repeats his theories for 138 pages while somehow failing to produce substantive, factual examples to develop his ideas before he finally cuts himself off. If you're considering reading this book, I'd recommend one of DeLillo's shorter novels instead (Point Omega, perhaps), as it spends a proportional amount of time talking about time in the desert, and is a much more interesting read.

If you're a fan of his theories, you'll love this book. I wrote entire sections of this book to save (it's very quotable) I'll post a few quotes here, "As soon as you set foot in America, you feel the presence of an entire continent- space there is the very form of thought 16 Why do people live in New York? This is what makes it a self-attracting universe, which there is no reason to leave.

We live in a world dominated by simulated experiences and feelings, Jean Baudrillard believes, and have lost the capacity to comprehend reality as it actually exists.