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The Illusion of the End Paperback – 27 Oct 1994


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′In the book Baudrillard weaves his argument as brilliantly as one has come to expect.... Baudrillard provides a voluble account of the withering of history, which is not lost in Turner′s translation.′ Environment and Planning

′The Illusion of the End is quite wonderful. In its relatively few pages, this book contains more insights and provocations than many much weightier tomes.... If you are prepared to let your sociological imagination be engaged, enraged and perhaps even changed, then The Illusion of the End more than repays the time that is spent with it.′ Sociology

From the Back Cover

In this remarkable book, Jean Baudrillard – France′s leading theorist of postmodernity – argues that the notion of the end is part of the fantasy of a linear history. Today we are not approaching the end of history but moving into reverse, into a process of systematic obliteration. We are wiping out the entire twentieth century, effacing all signs of the Cold War one by one, perhaps even the signs of the First and Second World Wars and of the political and ideological revolutions of our time. In short, we are engaged in a gigantic process of historical revisionism, and we seem in a hurry to finish it before the end of the century, secretly hoping perhaps to be able to begin again from scratch.

Baudrillard explores the ′fatal strategies of time′ which shape our ways of thinking about history and its imaginary end. Ranging from the revolutions in Eastern Europe to the Gulf War, from the transformation of nature to the hyper–reality of the media, this postmodern meditation on modernity and its aftermath will be widely read.

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Amazon.com: HASH(0x9712878c) out of 5 stars 6 reviews
62 of 63 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96f7c600) out of 5 stars Brilliant, Provocative, Disturbing . . . 29 April 2002
By Jodi Bowen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Jean Baudrillard's The Illusion of the End is a fantastic read whether one chooses to take the author seriously or whether one simply wishes to loose himself in the author's creative metaphors which sum up the meaning of life and death in our modern (post-modern) society with a few hard-hitting words and phrases. Baudrillard's style is fairly simple, and I would say that his texts are easy to understand in French and in English although finding his texts in the original French can sometimes be problematic. Chris Turner's translation ... , does a great job of capturing Baudrillard's humorous and sometimes shocking ideas about the world and what he considers to be the illusion of time.
The central theme of this book is that time is becoming an illusion, and I would even say that Baudrillard already believes time has disappeared. Humankind, by falsely believing that time is linear and that "ends" exist, has created a reality out of illusions and is now gradually erasing history in an attempt to make itself "feel" better about living a life that is all but certain.
Baudrillard does not spend a great deal of time wading through previous critics' opinions about the nature of time or what physicists may say about the past, present, and future. He jumps right into his own theories which really ask the reader to rethink his notions about our world and where humankind is going, or as Baudrillard would say - re-visiting - in its attempt to revise all of those little unpalatable events from the past such as the Cold War, Persian Gulf War, and the Timisoara massacre.
Baudrillard is refreshing and shocking at the same time. Although his style is simple and stimulating, his ideas verge on the outrageous and the unpredictable. I recommend this book highly.
62 of 68 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96f7c654) out of 5 stars crunch your brain 16 Dec. 1999
By pollack@email.unc.edu - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Jean Baudrillard - I must say that albeit he is a self-proclaimed postmodernist theorist, it is not at all fair to lump together with others (specifically those influenced from poststructuralism). Baudrillard is a materialist. In spite of that, he has other postmodern sensibilities (fragmentation, symbolic-surface function, etc.).
He talks about history and the linear construction of time, and how this has framed our thought processes. Because of this artificial linearizing of time, he pokes fun at "ends." For Baudrillard, time has, more or less, stopped. It is no longer a question of forward or backward.
He argues that we are speeding towards hyperreality, where everything is sterile and eternal. Using the example of the compact disc, he says (roughly) "If objects no longer grow old when you touch them, you must be dead." We need to see and experince death and decay to constitute life. My only concern is this implicit statement that there is a kind of default nature positon when things were right (vinyl records, no email, news travelling via mouth, etc.).
Overall, brilliant and stimulating.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96f7ca8c) out of 5 stars THE FRENCH POSTMODERNIST PHILOSOPHER LOOKS AT “END” EVENTS 14 Mar. 2015
By Steven H Propp - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007) was a French philosopher, cultural theorist, political commentator, and photographer most associated with the “Postmodern” movement.

He wrote in the first chapter of this 1992 book, “one might suppose that the acceleration of modernity, of technology, events and media, of all exchanges---economic, political and sexual---has propelled us to ‘escape velocity,’ with the result that we have flow free of the referential sphere of the real and of history. We are ‘liberated’ in every sense of the term, so liberated that we have taken leave of a certain space-time, passed beyond a certain horizon in which the real is possible because gravitation is still strong enough for things to be reflected and thus in some way to endure and have some consequence.” (Pg. 1)

He continues, “We are still speaking of a point of disappearance, a vanishing point, but this time in music. I shall call this the stereophonic effect. We are all obsessed with high fidelity, with the quality of musical ‘reproduction’. At the consoles of our stereos, armed with out tuners, amplifiers and speakers, we mix, adjust settings, multiply tracks in pursuit of a flawless sound. Is this still music? Where is the high fidelity threshold beyond which music disappears as such? It does not disappear for lack of music, but because it has passed this limit point; it disappears into the perfection of its materiality, into its own special effect. Beyond this point, there is neither judgment nor aesthetic pleasure. It is the ecstasy of musicality, and its end. The disappearance of history is of the same order: here again, we have passed that limit where, by dint of the sophistication of events and information, history ceases to exist as such.” (Pg. 5)

In the chapter ‘The Event Strike,’ he says, “The prodigious event, the event which is measured neither by its causes nor its consequences but creates its own stage and its own dramatic effect, no longer exists. History has gradually narrowed down to the field of its probable causes and effects, and, even more recently, to the field of current events---its effects in ‘real time.’ Events now have no more significance than their anticipated meaning, their programming and their broadcasting. Only THIS EVENT STRIKE constitutes a true historical phenomenon---this refusal to signify anything whatever, or this capacity to signify anything at all. This is the true end of history, the end of historical Reason.” (Pg. 21-22)

He points out, “Instead of the eastern bloc countries accelerating towards modern democracy, perhaps we are going to drift in the other direction, moving back beyond democracy and falling into the hole of the past. It would be the opposite of Orwell’s prediction (strangely, he has not been mentioned of late, though the collapse of Big Brother ought to have been celebrated for the record, if only for the irony of the date Orwell set for the onset of totalitarianism which turned out to be roughly that of its collapse.” (Pg. 43)

He continues, “Something tells us that what we have here is not a historical evolution, but an EPIDEMIC of consensus, an epidemic of democratic values---in other words, this is a viral effect, a triumphant effect of fashion. If democratic values spread so easily, by a capillary or communicating-vessels effect, then they must have liquefied, they must now be worthless. Throughout the modern age they were held dear and dearly bought. Today, they are being sold off at a discount and we are watching a Dutch auction of democratic values which looks very much like uncontrolled speculation. Which makes it highly probable that, as might be the case with financial speculation, these same values may crash.” (Pg. 44)

He suggests, “perhaps man, in the process of losing track of his history, is seized by a nostalgia for societies without history, perhaps obscurely sensing that he is returning to the same point. All these relics which we call upon to bear witness to our origin would then become the involuntary signs of its loss.” (Pg. 74)

He argues in the ‘Immortality’ chapter, “But we want this immortality here and now, this real-time afterlife, without having resolved the problem of the end. For there is no real-time end, no real time of death. This is an absurdity. The end is always experienced after it has actually happened, in its symbolic elaboration. It follows from this that real-time immortality is itself an ABSURDITY… For, at bottom, nothing takes place in real time. Not even history. History in real time is CNN, instant news, which is the exact opposite of history. But this is precisely our fantasy of passing beyond the end, of emancipating ourselves from time.” (Pg. 90)

He goes on, “So long as there is a finalistic conception of life and death, the soul, the afterlife and immortality are given, like the world, and there is no cause to believe in them. Do you believe in reality? No, of course not: it exists but we do not believe in it. It is like God. Do you believe in God? No, of course not: God exists, but I don’t believe in him. To wager that God exists and to believe in him---or that he doesn’t exist and not to believe in him---is of such banality as almost to make us doubt the question, while the two propositions ‘ God exists, but I don’t believe in him’ and ‘God doesn’t exist, but I believe in him’ both, paradoxically, suggest that, if God exists, there is no need to believe in him, but that if he does not exist, there is every need to believe in him. If something does not exist, you have to believe in it. Belief is not the reflection of existence, it is there for existence, just as language is not the reflection of meaning, it is there in place of meaning… In fact, faith is the spiritual impulse which reveals the profoundest uncertainty about the existence of God (but it is the same with all the theological virtues: hope is the spiritual impulse which betrays the deepest despair at the real state of things and charity the spiritual impulse which betrays the deepest contempt for others.” (Pg. 91-92)

This is one of Baudrillard’s most interesting books, and will be of great interest to anyone studying him and his thought.
HASH(0x96f7ce58) out of 5 stars THE FRENCH POSTMODERNIST PHILOSOPHER LOOKS AT “END” EVENTS 14 Mar. 2015
By Steven H Propp - Published on Amazon.com
Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007) was a French philosopher, cultural theorist, political commentator, and photographer most associated with the “Postmodern” movement.

He wrote in the first chapter of this 1992 book, “one might suppose that the acceleration of modernity, of technology, events and media, of all exchanges---economic, political and sexual---has propelled us to ‘escape velocity,’ with the result that we have flow free of the referential sphere of the real and of history. We are ‘liberated’ in every sense of the term, so liberated that we have taken leave of a certain space-time, passed beyond a certain horizon in which the real is possible because gravitation is still strong enough for things to be reflected and thus in some way to endure and have some consequence.” (Pg. 1)

He continues, “We are still speaking of a point of disappearance, a vanishing point, but this time in music. I shall call this the stereophonic effect. We are all obsessed with high fidelity, with the quality of musical ‘reproduction’. At the consoles of our stereos, armed with out tuners, amplifiers and speakers, we mix, adjust settings, multiply tracks in pursuit of a flawless sound. Is this still music? Where is the high fidelity threshold beyond which music disappears as such? It does not disappear for lack of music, but because it has passed this limit point; it disappears into the perfection of its materiality, into its own special effect. Beyond this point, there is neither judgment nor aesthetic pleasure. It is the ecstasy of musicality, and its end. The disappearance of history is of the same order: here again, we have passed that limit where, by dint of the sophistication of events and information, history ceases to exist as such.” (Pg. 5)

In the chapter ‘The Event Strike,’ he says, “The prodigious event, the event which is measured neither by its causes nor its consequences but creates its own stage and its own dramatic effect, no longer exists. History has gradually narrowed down to the field of its probable causes and effects, and, even more recently, to the field of current events---its effects in ‘real time.’ Events now have no more significance than their anticipated meaning, their programming and their broadcasting. Only THIS EVENT STRIKE constitutes a true historical phenomenon---this refusal to signify anything whatever, or this capacity to signify anything at all. This is the true end of history, the end of historical Reason.” (Pg. 21-22)

He points out, “Instead of the eastern bloc countries accelerating towards modern democracy, perhaps we are going to drift in the other direction, moving back beyond democracy and falling into the hole of the past. It would be the opposite of Orwell’s prediction (strangely, he has not been mentioned of late, though the collapse of Big Brother ought to have been celebrated for the record, if only for the irony of the date Orwell set for the onset of totalitarianism which turned out to be roughly that of its collapse.” (Pg. 43)

He continues, “Something tells us that what we have here is not a historical evolution, but an EPIDEMIC of consensus, an epidemic of democratic values---in other words, this is a viral effect, a triumphant effect of fashion. If democratic values spread so easily, by a capillary or communicating-vessels effect, then they must have liquefied, they must now be worthless. Throughout the modern age they were held dear and dearly bought. Today, they are being sold off at a discount and we are watching a Dutch auction of democratic values which looks very much like uncontrolled speculation. Which makes it highly probable that, as might be the case with financial speculation, these same values may crash.” (Pg. 44)

He suggests, “perhaps man, in the process of losing track of his history, is seized by a nostalgia for societies without history, perhaps obscurely sensing that he is returning to the same point. All these relics which we call upon to bear witness to our origin would then become the involuntary signs of its loss.” (Pg. 74)

He argues in the ‘Immortality’ chapter, “But we want this immortality here and now, this real-time afterlife, without having resolved the problem of the end. For there is no real-time end, no real time of death. This is an absurdity. The end is always experienced after it has actually happened, in its symbolic elaboration. It follows from this that real-time immortality is itself an ABSURDITY… For, at bottom, nothing takes place in real time. Not even history. History in real time is CNN, instant news, which is the exact opposite of history. But this is precisely our fantasy of passing beyond the end, of emancipating ourselves from time.” (Pg. 90)

He goes on, “So long as there is a finalistic conception of life and death, the soul, the afterlife and immortality are given, like the world, and there is no cause to believe in them. Do you believe in reality? No, of course not: it exists but we do not believe in it. It is like God. Do you believe in God? No, of course not: God exists, but I don’t believe in him. To wager that God exists and to believe in him---or that he doesn’t exist and not to believe in him---is of such banality as almost to make us doubt the question, while the two propositions ‘ God exists, but I don’t believe in him’ and ‘God doesn’t exist, but I believe in him’ both, paradoxically, suggest that, if God exists, there is no need to believe in him, but that if he does not exist, there is every need to believe in him. If something does not exist, you have to believe in it. Belief is not the reflection of existence, it is there for existence, just as language is not the reflection of meaning, it is there in place of meaning… In fact, faith is the spiritual impulse which reveals the profoundest uncertainty about the existence of God (but it is the same with all the theological virtues: hope is the spiritual impulse which betrays the deepest despair at the real state of things and charity the spiritual impulse which betrays the deepest contempt for others.” (Pg. 91-92)

This is one of Baudrillard’s most interesting books, and will be of great interest to anyone studying him and his thought.
HASH(0x96f7ca08) out of 5 stars THE FRENCH POSTMODERNIST PHILOSOPHER LOOKS AT “END” EVENTS 14 Mar. 2015
By Steven H Propp - Published on Amazon.com
Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007) was a French philosopher, cultural theorist, political commentator, and photographer most associated with the “Postmodern” movement.

He wrote in the first chapter of this 1992 book, “one might suppose that the acceleration of modernity, of technology, events and media, of all exchanges---economic, political and sexual---has propelled us to ‘escape velocity,’ with the result that we have flow free of the referential sphere of the real and of history. We are ‘liberated’ in every sense of the term, so liberated that we have taken leave of a certain space-time, passed beyond a certain horizon in which the real is possible because gravitation is still strong enough for things to be reflected and thus in some way to endure and have some consequence.” (Pg. 1)

He continues, “We are still speaking of a point of disappearance, a vanishing point, but this time in music. I shall call this the stereophonic effect. We are all obsessed with high fidelity, with the quality of musical ‘reproduction’. At the consoles of our stereos, armed with out tuners, amplifiers and speakers, we mix, adjust settings, multiply tracks in pursuit of a flawless sound. Is this still music? Where is the high fidelity threshold beyond which music disappears as such? It does not disappear for lack of music, but because it has passed this limit point; it disappears into the perfection of its materiality, into its own special effect. Beyond this point, there is neither judgment nor aesthetic pleasure. It is the ecstasy of musicality, and its end. The disappearance of history is of the same order: here again, we have passed that limit where, by dint of the sophistication of events and information, history ceases to exist as such.” (Pg. 5)

In the chapter ‘The Event Strike,’ he says, “The prodigious event, the event which is measured neither by its causes nor its consequences but creates its own stage and its own dramatic effect, no longer exists. History has gradually narrowed down to the field of its probable causes and effects, and, even more recently, to the field of current events---its effects in ‘real time.’ Events now have no more significance than their anticipated meaning, their programming and their broadcasting. Only THIS EVENT STRIKE constitutes a true historical phenomenon---this refusal to signify anything whatever, or this capacity to signify anything at all. This is the true end of history, the end of historical Reason.” (Pg. 21-22)

He points out, “Instead of the eastern bloc countries accelerating towards modern democracy, perhaps we are going to drift in the other direction, moving back beyond democracy and falling into the hole of the past. It would be the opposite of Orwell’s prediction (strangely, he has not been mentioned of late, though the collapse of Big Brother ought to have been celebrated for the record, if only for the irony of the date Orwell set for the onset of totalitarianism which turned out to be roughly that of its collapse.” (Pg. 43)

He continues, “Something tells us that what we have here is not a historical evolution, but an EPIDEMIC of consensus, an epidemic of democratic values---in other words, this is a viral effect, a triumphant effect of fashion. If democratic values spread so easily, by a capillary or communicating-vessels effect, then they must have liquefied, they must now be worthless. Throughout the modern age they were held dear and dearly bought. Today, they are being sold off at a discount and we are watching a Dutch auction of democratic values which looks very much like uncontrolled speculation. Which makes it highly probable that, as might be the case with financial speculation, these same values may crash.” (Pg. 44)

He suggests, “perhaps man, in the process of losing track of his history, is seized by a nostalgia for societies without history, perhaps obscurely sensing that he is returning to the same point. All these relics which we call upon to bear witness to our origin would then become the involuntary signs of its loss.” (Pg. 74)

He argues in the ‘Immortality’ chapter, “But we want this immortality here and now, this real-time afterlife, without having resolved the problem of the end. For there is no real-time end, no real time of death. This is an absurdity. The end is always experienced after it has actually happened, in its symbolic elaboration. It follows from this that real-time immortality is itself an ABSURDITY… For, at bottom, nothing takes place in real time. Not even history. History in real time is CNN, instant news, which is the exact opposite of history. But this is precisely our fantasy of passing beyond the end, of emancipating ourselves from time.” (Pg. 90)

He goes on, “So long as there is a finalistic conception of life and death, the soul, the afterlife and immortality are given, like the world, and there is no cause to believe in them. Do you believe in reality? No, of course not: it exists but we do not believe in it. It is like God. Do you believe in God? No, of course not: God exists, but I don’t believe in him. To wager that God exists and to believe in him---or that he doesn’t exist and not to believe in him---is of such banality as almost to make us doubt the question, while the two propositions ‘ God exists, but I don’t believe in him’ and ‘God doesn’t exist, but I believe in him’ both, paradoxically, suggest that, if God exists, there is no need to believe in him, but that if he does not exist, there is every need to believe in him. If something does not exist, you have to believe in it. Belief is not the reflection of existence, it is there for existence, just as language is not the reflection of meaning, it is there in place of meaning… In fact, faith is the spiritual impulse which reveals the profoundest uncertainty about the existence of God (but it is the same with all the theological virtues: hope is the spiritual impulse which betrays the deepest despair at the real state of things and charity the spiritual impulse which betrays the deepest contempt for others.” (Pg. 91-92)

This is one of Baudrillard’s most interesting books, and will be of great interest to anyone studying him and his thought.
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