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The System of Objects (Radical Thinkers) Paperback – January 17, 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (January 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844670538
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844670536
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #87,876 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“A sharp-shooting Lone Ranger of the post-Marxist left.”—New York Times

“The most notorious intellectual celebrity to emerge from Paris since Roland Barthes and the most influential prophet of the media since Marshall McLuhan.”—i-D magazine

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Alejandro Teruel on July 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
Some contemporary French philosophy is a fascinating and invigorating mix of psychology, sociology, semiotics and, dare one say it, poetry. In the English speaking world, Marshall McLuhan is probably the philosopher whose style is most similar to this first, 1968, book by the now well known Jean Baudrillard.
What is the book about? In a sense it is about the meaning of low tech everyday objects, and thus it is also about the psycho-sociology of our technology. Take mirrors, for example, which were frankly disappearing as an element of interior decoration when Baudrillard wrote his book. Yet for years, mirrors were an important fixture of well-to-do bourgeois interiors; they were opulent, expensive objects which in Baudrillard's words permitted "...the self-indulgent bourgeois
individual to exercise his privilege --reproduce his own image and revel in his possessions". Family portraits and photographs represent diachronic mirrors of the family, and thus played a similar narcissistic role in decoration. Baudrillard analyses clocks, lighting, glass, seating, antiques and the drive to automate and miniaturize gadgets and tools, and always comes up with provocative, sometimes maddening, insights into modern society and one's place in it --and after all what is philosophy
for but to make you think?
There is a brilliant and probably timeless exploration of the passion of collecting and leads up nicely to what the bulk of the book is devoted to: the study of systems of objects (one of the main chapters is aptly titled "The Socio-Ideological System of Objects and Their Consumption"). What do we yearn to express through technology? What is it it that fascinates us about robots?
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34 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Ken Miller on September 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
Baudrillard's SYSTEM OF OBJECTS stands as a landmark... the first book by one of France's leading men of letters, an astute social critic (and deconstructionist?! critical theorist?!). The author discusses the roles objects play in our lives, from mirrors to automobiles to furniture. He dissects the role and purpose of credit (in the late 1960's; his ideas about the expansion of credit purchasing are humorous in hindsight). Author devotes sections to gadgets, gizmos, and robots.

Some of OBJECTS' highlights: a discussion of why the rich and other status seekers acquire old things, a critique of collectors and their motivations ("everything that cannot be invested in human relationships is invested in objects."), and a commendable exegesis of the personalization of cars (since the 1970s this critique could be expanded to houses). In addition the section on credit is juicy: "the credit system is the acme of man's irresponsibility to himself."

Should I credit the translator with handling a difficult text well? I can't say. I don't read French (at least not on Baudrillard's level). However, the reader is left with some of the most pompous and opaque prose. Nothing is stated simply. Example: "In the love relationship the tendency to break the object down into discrete details in accordance with a perverse autoerotic system is slowed by the living unity of the other person." Another: "We may thus trace functional mythologies, born of technics itself, all the way to a sort of fatality in which the world-mastering technology seems to crystallize in the form of an inverse and threatening purpose.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Martin Asiner on September 25, 2012
Format: Paperback
In 1968, Jean Baudrillard had spent more than a decade teaching sociology and translating German texts before he found his true vocation: using his vast store of erudition to critique what he saw of a society that could not be adequately accounted for by orthodox production oriented Marxist tenets. Where Marx saw a product built by human needs, he saw that product only in terms of the interaction between worker and capital used to roll that thing off the conveyer belt. Where Baudrillard would see that same thing, he would see not the mechanics of manufacturing that thing but the utility it had and how the consumer would react emotionally and viscerally to possessing it.

The term "consumer" had a special resonance for Baudrillard. Most contemporary theorists used it mostly to designate one who purchases a product and pretty much uses it as the manufacturer intended. Along came Baudrillard to expand the definition to include the "why" and the "how" one consumes the object. What needs does consuming that thing satisfy in the user? What lengths will a user go to horde multiple copies? And most important, what is the interaction between designer and manufacturer to produce a product that will subtly shift the consumer from viewing that product from its traditional orthodox use to an unorthodox use that imparts to the consumer a driving sense to view, use, and ultimately horde it so as to ensure a continuing profit for all concerned in the manufacturing process? In The System of Objects, Baudrillard combined theories from Saussure, Barthes, Bataille, and other counter-culture critics to account for the then burgeoning discipline of consumer science modification.
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