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Jean Baudrillard (Routledge Critical Thinkers) [Paperback]

Richard J. Lane
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

12 Aug 2008 0415474485 978-0415474481 2

Jean Baudrillard is one of the most controversial theorists of our time, famous for his claim that the Gulf War never happened and for his provocative writing on terrorism, specifically 9/11. This new and fully updated second edition includes:

  • an introduction to Baudrillard’s key works and theories such as simulation and hyperreality
  • coverage of Baudrillard’s later work on the question of postmodernism
  • a new chapter on Baudrillard and terrorism
  • engagement with architecture and urbanism through the Utopie group
  • a look at the most recent applications of Baudrillard’s ideas.

Richard J. Lane offers a comprehensive introduction to this complex and fascinating theorist, also examining the impact that Baudrillard has had on literary studies, media and cultural studies, sociology, philosophy and postmodernism.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (12 Aug 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415474485
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415474481
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 696,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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From the Back Cover

'An uncommonly successful introduction to Jean Baudrillard.' Charles Actland, Concordia University, Canada.

'Perfectly judged for a student readership. The coverage of such a diversity of complex material is exemplary.' Nigel Wheale, Anglia Polytechnic University, UK --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Richard J. Lane is a professor in the English department, at Vancouver Island University, Canada, where he also directs the Literary Theory Research Group and Seminar for Advanced Studies in the Humanities. He is the author or editor of eight books, including Fifty Key Literary Theorists (Routledge).


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not as clear as it should have been 31 Aug 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The importance of Baudrillard is without question and any book about his work is going to be worth reading. But I have read other books in this series and come away with much clearer pictures of the ideas involved. Any overview of this type needs to be very clearly delineated and outlined, almost to the point of repetition if necessary. Baudrillards ideas are complicated and this book doesn't to my mind do enough to elucidate them.
Having said that, because of the richness of the subject matter, it is worth reading if you can't find anything better.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Postmodern embodiment... 30 Dec 2005
By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME
Format:Paperback
Richard J. Lane's text on Jean Baudrillard is part of a recent series put out by the Routledge Press, designed under the general editorial direction of Robert Eaglestone (Royal Holloway, University of London), to explore the most recent and exciting ideas in intellectual development during the past century or so. To this end, figures such as Paul Ricouer, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault and other influential thinkers in critical thought are highlighted in the series, planned to include more than 21 volumes in all.
Lane's text, following the pattern of the others, includes background information on Baudrillard and its significance, the key ideas and sources, and Baudrillard's continuing impact on other thinkers. As the series preface indicates, no critical thinker arises in a vacuum, so the context, influences and broader cultural environment are all important as a part of the study, something with which Baudrillard might agree,
Why is Baudrillard included in this series? This series is primary for critical thinking in a literary sense, but also develops the cultural criticism aspect of which literary theory cannot help but be a part. Baudrillard, as Lane suggests, is not only one of the more famous names in postmodernism, but practically embodies postmodernism in his own work. Key ideas and catch-phrases of Baudrillard include 'simulation', 'hyperreal', and 'implosion of meaning'. Baudrillard is very much a product of the French literary/philosophical school of the 1960s, opting eventually toward a radical reworking of both primitive cultures and post-Marxist thought that some critics see as inconsistent and confused, but definitely not to be ignored.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - eerily relevant 11 Nov 2001
By Dr. Matthew Broome VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
I have just finished reading this and felt obliged to write a review. This is a superbly written book on a difficult but increasingly influential thinker. What is most poignant is the prophetic relevance of his writings after the events of September 11th. Postmodernism is no longer an abstract aesthetic and critical preccupation - the grand narratives are gone and Baudrillard is brilliant travel writer in our god-less world.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Concise & Accessible Introduction 7 Aug 2003
By "jestohler" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I'm trying to gain a perspective on key postmodern thinkers, so I can't really contextualize this work within others on or by Baudrillard. What I can say is that this book provides an excellent overview of Baudrillard's theories, his influences and his milieu. Lane also makes it a point to introduce important concepts (like structuralism, deconstruction, modernism) as though they are being encountered for the first time. This is really nice since most of texts on or by people like Baudrillard, Derrida, and their ilk can be difficult to penetrate because of the neologisms and assumptions about the foreknowledge of the reader. In addition to providing an accessible introduction to and broad overview of Baudrillard, the book also features recommendations for further reading which I think is an excellent aspect. It's obviously not the end-all-be-all on Baudrillard or postmodernism, but it's an excellent start in my opinion.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Postmodern embodiment... 18 Mar 2004
By FrKurt Messick - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Richard J. Lane's text on Jean Baudrillard is part of a recent series put out by the Routledge Press, designed under the general editorial direction of Robert Eaglestone (Royal Holloway, University of London), to explore the most recent and exciting ideas in intellectual development during the past century or so. To this end, figures such as Paul Ricouer, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault and other influential thinkers in critical thought are highlighted in the series, planned to include more than 21 volumes in all.
Lane's text, following the pattern of the others, includes background information on Baudrillard and its significance, the key ideas and sources, and Baudrillard's continuing impact on other thinkers. As the series preface indicates, no critical thinker arises in a vacuum, so the context, influences and broader cultural environment are all important as a part of the study, something with which Baudrillard might agree,
Why is Baudrillard included in this series? This series is primary for critical thinking in a literary sense, but also develops the cultural criticism aspect of which literary theory cannot help but be a part. Baudrillard, as Lane suggests, is not only one of the more famous names in postmodernism, but practically embodies postmodernism in his own work. Key ideas and catch-phrases of Baudrillard include 'simulation', 'hyperreal', and 'implosion of meaning'. Baudrillard is very much a product of the French literary/philosophical school of the 1960s, opting eventually toward a radical reworking of both primitive cultures and post-Marxist thought that some critics see as inconsistent and confused, but definitely not to be ignored.
One of the useful features of the text is the side-bar boxes inserted at various points. For example, during the discussion on Baudrillard's development of writing strategies for postmodernism, there is brief discussion, set apart from the primary strand of the text, on Nihilism, developing further these ideas should the reader not be familiar with them, or at least not in the way with which Baudrillard would be working with ideas derived from them. Each section on a key idea spans fifteen to twenty pages, with a one-page summary concluding each, which gives a recap of the ideas (and provides a handy reference).
One of the more useful pieces in this text is also the 'two worlds' listing, which develops some of contrasting ideas in the shift from modernity to postmodernity. These include hierarchy versus anarchy, selection versus participation, signified versus signifier, and more interesting, sometimes surprising pieces. In discussing the development of culture in all its various aspects in an American context, Baudrillard shows the difference in 'city' culture as one goes from East to West - one of the paradoxes of the postmodern situation in America is that there are two primary city paradigms, New York City and Los Angeles, each of which is a perfect example of the city structure, one built up and close-knit architecturally, and the other spread out and low-rising. The cultures of the two cities are quite different, yet both are quintessentially American and both undoubtedly urban. That two different cities occupy the centre at the same time is the paradox of postmodernity.
Baudrillard has a fascination with America, which can be seen in his development and application of ideas such as the hyperreal and of simulation. The levels of simulation and hyperreality in America extend from the 'real' town square to the simulation of the town square in the shopping mall, which becomes a hyper-reality with controlled climates and selected people both as workers and shoppers; another classic example is that of Disneyland, with its carefully constructed and controlled environments, which is 'real' because it stands in contrast to the 'really real'. Media portrayals of events is also highlighted as examples of this kind of shift in thinking - the media distorts both the rhythm and the nature of the event, through selectivity and varying emphasis on actors and actions involved, and the kinds of manipulation to which media is always subject. News of real events becomes entertainment; entertainment programming becomes more fully developed and thus more real. We have more information, without more understanding, and the experience becomes more complex and involved, yet empty at the same time.
Part of Baudrillard's fascination with America is an interest in the development of technology, and the growth of the production/consumer kind of culture, where everything becomes part of a system of commodities, including language and knowledge. Indeed, Western identity is constructed of these kinds of objects, which the system also requires to be destroyed (think of the built-in redundancy or ever-increasing development of 'new and improved' products) - a dialectical performance writ large over the culture.
The concluding chapter, After Baudrillard, highlights some key areas of development in relation to other thinkers, as well as points of possible exploration for the reader. Baudrillard's ideas impact the development of aesthetic theory (from art to mere performance and entertainment). History and geography are also at issue, for the landscape of the past and of the present shifts with emphasis in different categories. Perhaps the most important development of significance to a postmodern fragmentation of the sort Baudrillard writes about is the internet, and the growth of theory from his influence is only beginning here.
As do the other volumes in this series, Clark concludes with an annotated bibliography of works by Baudrillard in English (or English translation), works on Baudrillard, and a good index.
While this series focuses intentionally upon literary theory, in fact this is only the starting point. For Baudrillard (as for others in this series) the expanse is far too broad to be drawn into such narrow guidelines, and the important and impact of the ideas extends out into the whole range of intellectual development. As intellectual endeavours of every sort depend upon language, understanding, and cultural interpretation, the thorough comprehension of how and why we know what we know is crucial.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent companion volume 10 Nov 2009
By Z. M. Ridgway - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This volume is a very good introduction to Baudrillard for those unacquainted with his writings, and a useful companion volume to a thorough study of his texts. Unlike the "[Philosopher] in 90 minutes" series, the "Introducing" series, etc., this book is intended as a supplement to the primary texts, not as a simplified condensation of the original texts for the casual inquirer who wishes to appear well-read.

Cultural influences on Baudrillard are discussed at length (the Monnet projects in post-WWII France; the student revolt in Paris in May '68); etc. Also, many of the key concepts that Baudrillard appropriated from other thinkers are situated in context by reference to their origins with Foucault (the panopticon as a model for contemporary culture), Bataille (excess, expenditure - the escape from Hegel), Mauss ("potlatch"), Debord (spectacle), and others.

Some of the scandals associated with Baudrillard's writings - the fights with various feminists over his notorious remarks about women, his misconstrued analysis of the United States in "America," and of course the bru-ha-ha over his wildly misunderstood claim that "the Gulf War did not happen" - are rather neatly side-stepped in this volume with a paradigm in which Baudrillard's later writing (after "Symbolic Exchange and Death") is understood as performative, with an emphasis on hyperbole, exaggeration, fictionalization and, above all, humor.

A few disadvantages of this volume are largely caused by the date of its publication: completed in 1999, it does not address Baudrillard's final works, particularly his analyses of 9-11; nor does it include any commentary on the most important pop-cultural manifestation of Baudrillard's work, namely the Matrix trilogy.

I would suggest this book before, after, or along with Mark Poster's excellent selection of Baudrillard's texts in Jean Baudrillard: Selected Writings: Second Edition and, of course, the now-classic text Simulacra and Simulation (The Body, In Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism).
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A wealth of information, but so dense and obtuse that it only benefits grad students in Philosophy. 23 Feb 2012
By John V. Karavitis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I came across this book and wanted to read it to get an overview of Baudrillard and his ideas. (I had read an essay in Open Court's "Sherlock Holmes and Philosophy" that dealt with Baudrillard's "Simulacra and Simulations", and the idea of the hyperreal, and I wanted to learn more.) The author knows his material, unfortunately, when he communicates Baudrillard's ideas, he seems to be quoting almost directly from Baudrillard. I didn't feel as though someone who knew the material was communicating it to me clearly, simply and effectively. THAT IS, WHEN YOU KNOW SOMETHING, WHEN YOU REALLY KNOW SOMETHING, THAT MEANS THAT YOU CAN TEACH THE MATERIAL TO SOMEONE WHO KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT IT, AND HAVE THEM QUICKLY UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. Indeed, I felt overwhelmed throughout most of this book. That is, the PRODUCTION of this book did not meet the needs of my CONSUMPTION, that is, the USE-VALUE was non-existent, as was the EXCHANGE-VALUE. (If you know Baudrillard, or read this book, you'll get the joke.)

This book is more geared toward graduate students in Philosophy. If there is any saving grace to this book, at the end there is a section where Baudrillard's works are listed and critiqued as to whether they would be easy for the non-philosopher to read. For that reason alone, I recommend this book. But for the lay-person, the curious, and the dilettante, this is NOT the book for you. Three stars. John V. Karavitis
5.0 out of 5 stars Sympathetic and scholarly 29 Nov 2012
By Robert M. Koretsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I found Richard Lane's explanations of Baudrillard's key ideas to be not only clearly and very articulately done, but found it very helpful and interesting that Mr. Lane included many essential references to other thinkers and supporting scholarly work within his text. Unlike some other authors who have critiqued Baudrillard, Mr. Lane is very sympathetic and supportive of Baudrillard, and his acceptance shines through in his own excellent scholarship. I recommend this book as well as Douglas Kellner's "Baudrillard: from Marxism to Postmodernism and beyond'.
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