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The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomena (Radical Thinkers) Paperback – June 9, 2009


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Product Details

  • Series: Radical Thinkers
  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (June 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844673456
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844673452
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.6 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #471,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“The most important and original French thinker of the past twenty years.”—J. G. Ballard

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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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A. Jewell on October 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is a good introduction to the contemporary Baudrillard, it is the last step as he leaves behind the last vestiges of Marxism and ventures into something original and "fatal". Contrary to the first reviewer, Baudrillard does not assume an "Essentialist" position (namely, providing necessary and sufficient conditions for 'such and such' to be 'such and such'). Instead he operates between wildly poetic description and (implied) moral condemnation.
This means, mostly, that his comments on meaning and media are striking. It also means (unfortunately) that he provides little in the way of concrete or rigorous argumentation. Thankfully, this is not a problem if we consider the book a collection of inter-related aphorisms. In any case, Baudrillard "the poet" instead of Baudrillard "the theorist" allows us to conceptualize the expanding domain of media technologies in a different way. Whether there actually -is- anything to his claims will have to be shown by someone else.
Since this book has had something of an influence on art criticism, I recommend it (albeit, with strong reservations about its basic claims)to anyone interested in cultural theory, the arts or any sort of contemporary "critical theory".
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By John David Ebert on December 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
As anyone knows who has read Baudrillard, by "evil" he does not mean evil in a moral or ethical sense, but rather that principle which is antithetical to the smooth functioning of our hypermodern systems. Thus, AIDS, cancer, terrorism, computer viruses, etc. are examples of "extreme phenomena" which are a form of evil in the sense that they tend to disrupt the flow of systems. AIDS disrupts the flow of sexual promiscuity; cancer disrupts the flow of genetic programming; terrorism disrupts the flow of politcal economy, and so forth. These disruptions, moreover, may be the result on the part of these systems of a sort of homestatic tendency to preserve the system itself from even worse evils. Drugs, for example, prevent the tyranny of rationality; terrorism the tyranny of political consensus; AIDS, the absolute tyranny of sexual promiscuity, etc.

Our society, according to Baudrillard, operates in terms of virulent phenomena: that is to say, phenomena that proliferate with a metastatic or viral meaninglessness. We are saturated with media images that proliferate metastatically, like cancer cells which grow without regard for the context of the system within which they are embedded. Indeed, simulation is a form of this endless repetition of the Hell of the Same, in which ideas, tradition, and discourse have disintegrated and left behind a residue in the form of hollow ghost-like traces which proliferate around us like viruses, intent only upon destroying the system with oversaturation.

Baudrillard, like Nietzsche before him, thus sees our society as a sick one, for he draws his metaphors largely from biology and medicine.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By scarecrow VINE VOICE on October 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
Sometimes a brilliant thinker as Baudrillard lets his own theories and perspectives confuse what is reality. Even though all the so-called revolutions and liberations have played themselves out, sexual,cybernetic,political,artistic, there are still powers in the world in all the above categories that are shaping the world in their own image. What is globalization? than the structure of the world surrounded with capital,shaped by it directing the poverty and foodchains of the world. I think Baudrillard forgets this, that there still is someone who creates and directs,and manipulates,and politicizes,and innoculates the populace to soften them up for consumption,controlled if possibly.
This collection of essays are brilliant in that Baudrillard knows how to probe beneath the surface of art,of culture, like Madonna, Michael Jackson or current Hollywood, and the politics of Europe,of the demise of communism. He does it within a formant structure,with many levels of meaning spewed out in all directions. He is a virtuoso in that respect.
What structures material reality? what directs it is not probed however with any degree of conviction and I think that is where his focus should be.You needn't be a Marxist to harbor these convictions simply ahumanist concerned with the direction of the world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Certain Bibliophile on June 11, 2013
Format: Paperback
Jean Baudrillard was probably one of the contemporary French postmodern philosophers and sociologists whose ideas were most accessible (relatively speaking) and well-received in the United States. This was my first time reading Baudrillard first-hand, and some of the ideas were surprising. This book is from the Verso Radical Thinkers imprint, which always has me expecting politically revolutionary ideas, or overt Marxism, neither of which Baudrillard embraces. In fact, he explicitly identifies himself as a post-Marxist.

I sometimes have a problem with shorter pieces (not just in philosophy), and this book can at times seem to be a mile wide and only an inch deep. In only two-hundred pages, there are twenty-two chapters, although there are a few general ideas that he keeps hammering home: he is infatuated with scientific and especially medical metaphors, and continually uses them in trying to diagnose the postmodern society; AIDS, cancer, and computer viruses pop up over and over again throughout the essays. He argues that instead of destroying organisms, these things just change the way they function - AIDS inhibits sexual behavior, cancer is rooted in regular cellular division except that it has gone radically metastatic, et cetera. He also sees all areas of discourse which have previously been separated from one another as bleeding into one another indiscriminately: the aesthetic is now trans-aesthetic, the economic is now trans-economic, any formerly balkanized category can apply to anything else.

I mentioned Baudrillard's post-Marxism earlier. In fact, he might even describe himself as post-political, since he seems to think that even politics itself has come to an end.
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