Baudrillard, Hyperreality & Simulacra

For Baudrillard there are three orders of simulation:

First order: There is a representation of the real, and it is obviously artificial (e.g., maps, realist paintings).
Second order: The boundary between reality and representation blurs. The difference between representation and reality is not clear. In some sense, the representation has become as real as the thing it represents.

Third order: There is a reversal. The representation precedes the real, and in fact, produces it. What it produces is "hyperreality". Baudrillard thinks that this has become the dominant way of understanding and experiencing the world.

  • Foucault: prisons hide the fact that society itself is the prison. We think the prisoners are the ones who have lost their freedom; in fact, it is us. The two social realms (in prison, out of prison) are similar).
  • Disneyland: not just a second order simulation (where fake mountains look more real than real), but a third order. "Disneyland is there to conceal the fact that it is the "real" country, all of "real" America, which is Disneyland...Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, when in fact all of Los Angeles and the America surrounding it are no longer real, but of the order of the hyperreal and of simulation."

First order


Second order


Third order













Industrial Revolution



natural laws




binary oppositions

metaphysics of being


metaphysics of energy/determination


metaphysics of indeterminacy/ the code





mass culture






meaning is fixed


logic of equivalence


logic of ambivalence/reversability











sign = referent


sign exchanged for referent


sign exchanged for sign



labour power








More on hyperreality, from Richard Lane, Jean Baudrillard.

Question: If, as Baudrillard suggests, the Gulf War never happened, what do we say about the current war on terrorism?

See: Baudrillard, "Disneyworld Company"

Baudrillard quotations:

Each revolution is total; in the third order none of the discourses of the second order (e.g. Marxism) are relevant. The metaphysics of the code can thus only be challenged by death. "This is why the only strategy is catastrophic , and not in the least bit dialectical. Things have to be pushed to the limit, where everything is naturally inverted and collapses," (123). Signs alone constitute "the purest and most illegible form of domination... It is completely absorbed, without a trace of blood, in the signs that surround us.... A symbolic violence is everywhere inscribed in signs, including in the signs of the revolution," (130). Benjamin and McLuhan "grasped technique not as 'productive force' (where Marxist analysis remains trapped) but as medium, as the form and principle of a whole new generation of meaning. The mere fact that any object can be reproduced, as such, in an exemplary double, is already a revolution ... Simulacra surpass history," (138). The logic of binarism is such that "We live in the mode of referendum, and this is precisely because there are no more referentials. All signs and messages ... present themselves to us in the question/answer format. The social system of communication has evolved from a complex syntactic structure of language to the probing of a binary signaling system," (142).

Communication is wet and sticky, and it holistically organizes concepts according to a structural logic: "The culture of tactile communication is in fact burgeoning in the techno-lumino-kinetic space provided by this total, spatio-dynamic theater. It brings with it a kind of contact Imaginary, a sensorial mimeticism, a tactile mysticism that grafts onto the universe of operational simulation, multistimulation, and multiresponse like an entire system of ecological concepts," (144).

The Hyperreal: "From medium to medium, the real is volatilized, becoming an allegory of death. But it is also, in a sense, reinforced through its own destruction. It becomes reality for its own sake, the fetishism of the lost object: no longer the object of representation, but the ecstasy of denial and of its own ritual extermination: the hyperreal.... The hyperreal ... manages to efface even this contradiction between the real and the imaginary. Unreality no longer resides in the dream or fantasy, or in the beyond, but in the real's hallucinatory resemblance to itself," (145).

The hyperreal is
vertiginous: "the whirlgig of representation goes mad, but with an implosive insanity which, far from being ex-centric, casts longing eyes at the center, towards its own repetition en abime," (146).

Simulations (NY: Semiotext(e), 1981, 1983) trans. Paul Foss, Paul Patton, and Philip Beitchman. [SIM]