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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The symbolic gift of death, 16 Feb 2010
This review is from: The Spirit of Terrorism (Paperback)
The four essays in this slim book constitute Baudrillard's take on 9/11. He sees the events of that day as an example of terror vs terror with no ideological underpinning. The prevailing US-dominated world order 'by seizing all the cards for itself, forced the Other to change the rules.' He observes that the impulse to reject the system grows the more the system nears omnipotence. He also maintains that we all have dreamt of something like this happening - it is impossible to avoid doing so when a power becomes so hegemonic - and this reflects our western moral conscience at work. 'They did it, but we wished for it.'

Baudrillard sees globalisation as viral and that its cells revolt in the form of antibodies. This is what constitutes World War 4 (following WW1, WW2 and the Cold War) rather than the much vaunted 'clash of civilisations' (the US vs Islam). Terrorism is the radical antagonism at the heart of globalisation. It is not part of a tradition but a contemporary response to globalisation and its worldwide imposition of the values of the market and their accompanying culture. Globalisation involves homogenisation and fragmentation - the central gives way not to the local but to a dislocation and we are left with just an all-powerful global technostructure.

The spirit of terrorism is sacrificial death. The motive of the terrorists is to challenge the system by the symbolic gift of death; terrorism itself has no ultimate meaning or objective beyond this. As such it is a pathetic last stirring of a dying reality which has no effect on the global system at all. Except for one thing: the stunning impact of the events, leading to loss of image and credibility, the sight of the toppling twin towers. Only singularities such as this can thwart the system; only a humiliation in return for humiliation.

I found this work readable, interesting and not as difficult to grasp as, say, Baudrillard's book on the Gulf War of 1991. He struts his stuff as a philosopher, treating us to typically startling observations, and this assists us in thinking about an unforgettable event in ways that are somewhat different from those of the mass of studies that have been published since it happened.
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