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188 of 205 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Metafictional Mystery Novel
This is by no means an easy text to read. For those unfamiliar with postmodern tropes-and especially those who have never read Baudrillard before-this text may seem especially daunting. I recommend that these people start with the essay entitled 'Simulacra and Science Fiction'. In this essay, Baudrillard details the three orders of simulacra: the first, natural simulacra,...
Published on December 4, 2003 by Scott J. Bogucki

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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Worst translation ever!
This is quite a nice book, with an horrible translation. The translator made no big efforts to find the correct names of places, books and movies. And she also does not help at all if you don't know France and Paris: many places are cited, and you will not know that Beaubourg is an modern art museum if you were not there (luckily, I was over there while reading it)...
Published on November 21, 2007 by Paulo E. A. Silveira


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188 of 205 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Metafictional Mystery Novel, December 4, 2003
By 
Scott J. Bogucki (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Simulacra and Simulation (The Body, In Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism) (Paperback)
This is by no means an easy text to read. For those unfamiliar with postmodern tropes-and especially those who have never read Baudrillard before-this text may seem especially daunting. I recommend that these people start with the essay entitled 'Simulacra and Science Fiction'. In this essay, Baudrillard details the three orders of simulacra: the first, natural simulacra, are operatic, founded on images, and aim at the restoration of "the ideal institution of nature made in God's image"; the second order are both productive and operative, based on energy, and work toward "a continuous globalization and expansion [and] an indefinite liberation of energy"; the third order, the simulacra of simulation, are "founded on information [and] total operationality, hyperreality, [and the] aim of total control" (121). The differences between the various simulacra exist in the distance between the real and the imaginary exhibited by each order. This illuminating interstice provides the locus for projecting critical activity and idealism. The first order maximizes the projection, allowing the utopia to stand in direct opposition to the real. The second order reduces this projection. Baudrillard describes it as a hyper-productive universe in which "science fiction adds the multiplication of its own possibilities" (122). As all previous models implode, the third order of simulacra witnesses the complete disappearance of the projection between reality and the imaginary as it becomes reabsorbed in simulation. To Baudrillard, this is the world in which we live: no more real, no more imaginary, no more fiction, just an endless regression of lost meaning with no foundation, or rather an endless precession of simulacra.
The book could easily be read like an apocalyptic Mythologies or a nihilistic Logic of Late Capitalism. In the first essay alone, 'The Precession of Simulacra', Baudrillard draws on such diverse cultural examples as the Tasaday Indians, the mummy of Ramses II, Watergate, and Disneyland. Bordering on the prophetic, Baudrillard heralds the end of Foucault's panopticon by referring to what was then (in the early seventies) only an experiment in TV verité, or what we now effortlessly refer to as reality TV. This first chapter heralds Baudrillard's "Anti-Copernican revolution": a world in which the universe presents itself as its own simulation, reality dissolves in its relentless self-representation, and Ockham's Razor loses its edge (42). As the book continues, Baudrillard presents history as false nostalgia, numbing fetishism, and desensitizing mythology. War and film find themselves conjoined by technology in 'Apocalypse Now'. 'The China Syndrome' further reveals the "telefission of the real and of the real world" as Baudrillard juxtaposes the images of the movie of the same title alongside those of the nuclear catastrophe of Three Mile Island, the latter occurring shortly after the release of the former. Defying causal logic, these events blur the distinction between symptom and effect (53-54). Baudrillard samples modern architecture ('The Beauborg Effect: Implosion and Deterrence') and current fiction ('Crash'), criticizes the effects of simulacra on historical tragedy ('Holocaust'), and, in 'Clone Story', warns of the dangers in allowing the reproduction of aesthetic forms in political forms. Through observing the media and the marketplace, Baudrillard sees society drifting away from the primary language of fascination as it becomes reinterpreted into a prolixity of discourse in which information far outnumbers meaning and semiology offers no recourse.
Most critics condemn this book for its dense prose, of which there is plenty. To escape this, the text should instead be read as a metafictional mystery novel. The crime Baudrillard reports is the dissolution of the real at the hands of productive operationality. As the precession of simulacra unfurls throughout the course of the book, the reader is provided with Lacanian quilting points, clues which lead forever forward while constantly trying to refer to the past. With every subsequent presentation of ordered simulacra in the hierarchy of simulation, readers find themselves referencing the previous order, only to be propelled farther from reality. One becomes lost in cultural references and almost gives up completely on the notion that reality exists at all. Clues implode upon themselves, losing all referentiality. Perpetrators are lost, or rather dispersed across the universe. We confront ambiguous motives, polyvalent modus operandi, and amorphous crime scenes. The crime itself becomes erased, the victim disappears, and what we are left with is 'The Spiraling Cadaver', "the simulacral side of dying games of knowledge and power" (149). Baudrillard, as the one who reported the original metacrime, offers up his own defense in 'On Nihilism': meaning is mortal while appearances are immortal, the latter remaining forever invulnerable to the nihilistic influences of the former. Referring once more to the beginning of the text, the reader finds renewed meaning in one of Baudrillard's first gestures toward the effects of simulacra. In 'The Precession of Simulacra', he shows that the police will react the same in a holdup regardless of whether it is real or simulated. As such, law and order remain nothing but simulation, therefore effectually nullifying any of our own detective abilities (19-22). Through investigating the crime, we lose all equivalence to the real, leaving the murder unsolvable. In order to fight the fascination we have with the mystery of reality's fate and the crime of its dissolution, we must marshal theoretical violence since truth no longer exists. Seduction, as opposed to fascination, begins through accepting the always already lost referential and the primacy of appearances.
Far from what the Wachowski brothers produce in The Matrix, Simulacra and Simulation is both unforgiving and relentless in its presentation of hyperreality. Unlike the movie, there is no transcendental savior, no neoplatonic allusions to ideals-only the stark unreality of our existence. Welcome to the real desert of the real.
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75 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Look Beyond The Matrix, September 2, 2001
By 
Matt Roberts (Chicago, Illinois) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Simulacra and Simulation (The Body, In Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism) (Paperback)
Many peeple who hear of Baudrillard find themselves fans of the movie The Matrix. There is no doubt that the arguments Baudrillard makes in the first and last chapter do coincide with the movie. However, to accurately interpret the book and get a feel of what Baudrillard is really trying to state, the reader must surpass the framework the media has placed on his philosophy through The Matrix.
This is a book, that if one truly comes to an understanding of, would send shivers down our spines. It questions so many facets of our culture via media, politics, socialogy...and one can use the process and the argument Baudrillard makes to any facet of our lives.
When reading this book, the reader will get overwhelmed by the complexity and awesomeness of the Baudrillard argument and way of thinking. However, this book will question your perception of reality: what is real versus what is hyperreal and how does that process take place. The simulations of events and the process of simulacrum which is now in its fourth stage. Baudrillard then takes that process and argument and applies it to specific events, places and occurences in history and throughout our culture.
While the average Joe may be perplexed and overwhelmed by Baudrillard, I feel this is a must read for anyone who is interested in the subject of what is real, what is hyperreal, and where the simulation comes into place within the simulacrum.
If you do read this book I have a good piece of advice: do not apply the The Matrix to the book, rather the see how Baudrillard's arguments coincide with some of the basic ones in the movie. Then take those arguments and apply them to anything- once that is done you will see and feel the pain of Baudrillard's argument.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MA(t)R(i)X : Not Sci-Fi, Post-Marxist, December 26, 2008
This review is from: Simulacra and Simulation (The Body, In Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism) (Paperback)
I read this little book years ago as part of my grad studies. It is amazing to me how accurate many of Baudrillard's observations have proven to be. It's as if he were some kind of Prophet (LOL!). But, seriously, the loss of Reality is embodied in many different ways. Our use of the Internet is the number one example. Many forms of Virtual reality such as Reality TV, Chatrooms, Avatars, Online dating, even the Fashion industry qualify.

As for Desert of the Real, let me give you this example: Just 2 weeks ago I arranged a flight and never had to make any contact with anyone. I ordered my ticket online, printed it out, took it to a self-check-in machine, punched in my numbers, got a boarding pass, and walked on the plane. I have to admit I missed the human contact. But such is the post-Modern condition. Of course, there were people on the plane, but no individual attention, only contact as a group. Another example: Video games, email, Demographics, credit cards and direct deposit, Hollywood (originator of the Virtual), Celebrity culture (ex: Why is it that when they use certain people in a commercial they include the phrase "Real people, not actors"? Aren't actors real?), Paparrazzi, the Digital revolution. I could go on listing the many Virtual worlds we inhabit, but suffice it to say they are self-generating!

If you plan on reading this book, do yourself a favor and forget the Matrix (great movie, though). This is very real, Hyper-Real. Read Marxist ideology and some Existentialist "Being and Nothingness" Sartre, after reading Plato and Kant, and you wont be so put off by the big ideas. Baudrillard describes a world based on economic relationships only, and as such it is a system of objects, based on nothing but Material gains. To many this describes an impoverished system, morally bankrupt and soulless. Baudrillard is suspicious and critical of Capitalist Democracies and Socialism. He sometimes implies that Anarchy is the only way out of this Technocratic Police State we have so far evolved into.

In this scenario the invisible ruling class controls the masses with its House of Mirrors. Baudrillard seems to be saying we either join the Dance of the Marionettes, revel in our liscentious artificiality or smash the Glass House, being careful enough to move out of the way of the falling shards. Shiva must be allowed his Dance of Destruction before Vishnu can be born again to save the world, sayeth Brahma. But even such an allusion to an Ancient religion crumbles in the face of the Hyper-Real.

It is our physical connections to our bodies that we must not negate, negotiate, or re-imagine (but, we do). And that is the exchange-value for our status within this system of objects. It is also the original site of our Loss. Only a jarring blow to the body can wake us from our complacent complicity in doing violence to the Real. Violence is as real as it gets. Do damage to a physical body and there will be a reaction. Do violence to the State as a body and you partake in the Virtual discourse that is Politics.

If only I could truly understand all the delicious ironies and nuances in the French language. Bad translations are all we deserve. Great writing, forever misread, generates even more writing, cleverly said. I suspect the French don't truly want to be translated by the English, but that is an old war and I've always been the paranoid sort.
Not really as dense as many would have you believe. Blinded by the Light is more like it. Keep reading.
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92 of 107 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mega-intellectual, hard to follow, rambling, and fun, May 22, 1999
This review is from: Simulacra and Simulation (The Body, In Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism) (Paperback)
This book is not about coming up with the truth, or with understanding how things really work, or anything like that. It's about pointing out that the emperor is not only naked but standing on his head and juggling. Baudrillard is eternally fun as long as you don't take him too seriously. Let his insanity wash over you like a flood and turn off your reality filters for a while. Let him ask all the questions P. K. Dick does, only in greater and weirder detail. What is real? What is a commodity? Why are some things valuable? Things have no value outside of their relationship to other things... and sometimes, relationships and ideas are the only real commodity, hollow fronts for a system with no foundation in the real world at all. Could you have science without testing things against what is real? Can you simply study unreal things forever, producing paper after paper, all logically consistent but studying something that ultimately doesn't exist?
All of Baudrillard since he stopped his Marxist tirade has been a wildly funny and insightful parade of wrong ideas. Enjoy it, be altered by it, and then go back to your regularly scheduled Nike shoe purchase.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The end of authenticity, July 21, 2005
This review is from: Simulacra and Simulation (The Body, In Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism) (Paperback)
The whole point of Baudrillard and this boook is that man has lost his autonomy, that the fake, the simulacra, the image (Andre Agassi: Image is everything) the hyper-real product and economy controls us, not the other way around. There is no longer any true value because of the hyper-real and hyper value (fake/fiat) of global capital and thus our lives exchanged and interacting in this valueless vacuum our essentially meaningless, the only meaning found in understanding its meaninglessess. You will never look at politics or advertising in the same way again. He uses Disneyland as the epitome of the fake of modern life: the place where adults go to act like kids to hide the fact they really are children and that modern capital and society offers nothing but childishness and infantility. And he uses Watergate as the epitome of the political scandal that reinjects morality and value into the immoral and valueless reality of modern politics: the scandal satisfies the desire for objective truth, for right and wrong, by the public, but like everything else the modern world offers is nothing but the simulacra of the truth and fake. The Clinton-Monica scandal did the same...Eye opening. Provocative. Titillating stuff. Baudrillard is way more practical, down-to-earth and easy to read than the reviewers make him out to be.
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42 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Revolutionary philosophy. But what's the point?, February 9, 2003
By 
A. Steinhebel (Tacoma, WA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Simulacra and Simulation (The Body, In Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism) (Paperback)
Everything you have heard about this book is true. It is dense, complicated, annoyingly analytical, and fairly pointless. Yet it's also genius. To preface...Continental philosophy, in the past hundred years or so, has not been known for it's practical applications. Existentialism and Postmodernism are mental games for the Ivory Tower intellectual, sure. But that doesn't mean that they do not provide a model for looking at and thinking about the world that the average intellect can relate to and use. And this book is no exception to that. It IS dificult to understand, yes, but no where near as bad as most people in these reviews seem to think. Anyone with a basic understanding of Objectivism v. Subjectism, Platonism, and the empirical philosphers can get plenty out of it. The vocabulary is no worse then most other philosophy, and a lot less complicated then some (this isn't Kant). Baisically, Baudrillard shows us that reality no longer exists, and has been replaced by simulacra via the process of simulation, creatin what he calls the "hyperreal". It is a very enlightening read, and will make you really rethink how you view the world. The major problem with the book, as at least one other person has pointed out, is Baudrillard's cultural references. They are quite dated by this point, and you'll find yourself completely lost as to his point, since you can't relate to his subject. In the end though, it is a book that anyone interested in contemporary philosophy should read.
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82 of 107 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pointless? Sure. But enlightening still., February 1, 2003
By 
A. Steinhebel (Tacoma, WA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Simulacra and Simulation (The Body, In Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism) (Paperback)
Everything you have heard about this book is true. It is dense, complicated, annoyingly analytical, and fairly pointless. Yet it's also genius. To preface...Continental philosophy, in the past hundred years or so, has not been known for it's practical applications. Existentialism and Postmodernism are mental games for the Ivory Tower intellectual, sure. But that doesn't mean that they do not provide a model for looking at and thinking about the world that the average intellect can relate to and use. And this book is no exception to that. It IS dificult to understand, yes, but no where near as bad as most people in these reviews seem to think. Anyone with a basic understanding of Objectivism v. Subjectism, Platonism, and the empirical philosphers can get plenty out of it. The vocabulary is no worse then most other philosophy, and a lot less complicated then some (this isn't Kant). Baisically, Baudrillard shows us that reality no longer exists, and has been replaced by simulacra via the process of simulation, creatin what he calls the "hyperreal". It is a very enlightening read, and will make you really rethink how you view the world. The major problem with the book, as at least one other person has pointed out, is Baudrillard's cultural references. They are quite dated by this point, and you'll find yourself completely lost as to his point, since you can't relate to his subject. In the end though, it is a book that anyone interested in contemporary philosophy should read.
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250 of 335 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read my review its the ONLY one worth reading!!!!, November 11, 2003
By 
Wyatt Watkins (Henderson, NV United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Simulacra and Simulation (The Body, In Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism) (Paperback)
...I came to the conclusion that no one understood the purpose or meaning of this compilation of essays. Most of them rated it highly and read it because Neo (from the Matrix) happened to own a copy.
If you wish to understand this book, first please understand the fundamentals of the Post Modern Condition!! Then you can comprenhend the true meaning of this book.
The book explains the trend of cultural materalism in our current society that has created subcultures and materalistic trends (fashion, music, art, ect.), that are based on nothingness. They are purposeless and have engulfed in many different ways our society and everyone in it.
The seduction of materialism has led to APATHY for the real issues in the world, and has caged each one of us in our own hyper reality!!!
That is the message in this book. My sysnopsis is far too short, because it is very difficult to explain this book an its meaning in such a short paragraph. Once you have read it and understood it, you will see why the Matrix movie alludes to this book, and uses quotes from the book throughout the movie.
The seduction of materialism has led to APATHY for the real issues in the world, and reality itself has faded from sight!!! This is the true meaning of this book, and it explains how through simulation, simulacras become real, and lead to a culture built on nothingness, thus an inevitable self inflicted NIHILISM for our society!!!. Real information is distorted through every median it travels through, from biased opinions to exaggerations, and parasitic materialistic trends from either corporate marketing schemes or cultural insecurities, this distorion turns reality into a hyper reality that each one of us is living in.
This book and the study of the Post Modern Condition have led me to be a better, more moral person, by rejecting the socioeconomic garbage that our society tries to feed you in different forms, everyday of your life.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Worst translation ever!, November 21, 2007
By 
Paulo E. A. Silveira (Sao Paulo, SP Brazil) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Simulacra and Simulation (The Body, In Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism) (Paperback)
This is quite a nice book, with an horrible translation. The translator made no big efforts to find the correct names of places, books and movies. And she also does not help at all if you don't know France and Paris: many places are cited, and you will not know that Beaubourg is an modern art museum if you were not there (luckily, I was over there while reading it).

The same occurs for "Forum de Halles", which is a huge underground mall, and for "Stand on Zanzibar", which was translated back from the French version, resulting in "Everyone to Zanzibar", clearly showing that the translator did not even looked for this book name in the internet (that shows no results).

Quite interesting ideas, easy to read (you do not need a lot of philosophical background) with such poor translations... more footnotes would have helped a lot!
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Baudrillard's Great Science Fiction Novel, April 11, 2007
By 
This review is from: Simulacra and Simulation (The Body, In Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism) (Paperback)
This is Baudrillard's most famous work, and indeed, it is a must-read for those who wish to acquaint themselves with the basics of postmodern thought. It is beautifully written, and comes across like a sort of non-fiction equivalent of William Gibson's Neuromancer with its glittering display of polished, gleaming words patterned into strange, mercurial sentences that are not always easy to follow. But, as with Finnegans Wake, it is not so much the particular thought of the moment that counts, as it is the impression and impact upon the mental sensorium of the total experience. Baudrillard is a dazzling word-smith and it is likely that you will come away from this book with one or two new words to add to your vocabulary.

One of the things, of course, that has made this book so popular is its visual quotation in the science fiction film The Matrix, but I must say that the book does little towards an elucidation of that film. Indeed, Baudrillard himself has stated his dislike of the film (see the book "The Conspiracy of Art" for his comments), and he has stated how it compares less favorably with films built around similar themes such as The Truman Show, Mulholland Drive and others (I think David Cronenberg's Existenz is a much better take on the virtual reality theme. The Matrix seems cliched by comparison, especially since Cronenberg was already there first with his early 80's classic Videodrome). The theme of hyperreality displacing the real is not really what The Matrix is all about (there is too little in it irony for that; and no ambiguity; instead it concerns how technology robs the human soul of its spiritual potentialities) but it is what Simulacra and Simulation is about.

The French philosophers are fond of developing a single metaphysical concept and then exploring its ramifications in numerous books and their sequels: Debord's "Spectacle," for instance, is essentially equivalent to Baudrillard's hyperreality; Foucault's "episteme," though a completely different idea, is nonetheless monolithic in Foucault's thought. And much of Baudrillard's writings are an exploration of his concept of the hyperreal and how it has displaced the real.

The point of the book is that we postmoderns live inside a media-generated dome that seals us off from the "real" world. Indeed, we are so convinced by our own fabrications that we can no longer differentiate reality from its simulacrum. When spending money on gambling in Las Vegas, are we really losing all that money, or is it just a part of the "game"?

The best essay in the book is "The Precession of the Simulacra," and it is also the longest. I saved it for last and began with the shorter essays. Baudrillard's piece on J.G. Ballard's novel Crash is one of the best in the collection, as is his essay on "Hypermarket and Hypercommodity" and "The Beauborg Effect." Each of these pieces feels more like reading a science fiction novel than anything else but, let's face it, we live in a world that is stranger than science fiction. It takes an artist to make the contours of such a world visible to our perception, and Baudrillard does a fine job of this. He is, however, less successful with his pitiful one page ramblings on Apocalypse Now, which is disappointing and sheds almost no light on Coppola's masterpiece. (For this, the reader would do well to consult Ebert's Celluloid Heroes & Mechanical Dragons).

I confess that there are paragraphs I did not understand and words that sound as if they are made up, but this is actually true of most authors who have something profound to say (Lewis Mumford, for instance, or Heidegger). But Simulacra and Simulation is an important work and should be read despite its difficulties. Read it just the way you would a poem by Holderlin or Rilke. That is, don't try too hard to understand it, just let the imagery sink into your consciousness and enjoy the alterations that it produces upon you.
--John David Ebert
author, "The New Media Invasion: Digital Technologies and the World They Unmake"(McFarland Books, 2011)
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