- nature + animals
- ---- by Laurence SimmonsBaudrillard's views on nature (and by consequence the animals that inhabit it) are shaped by his account of the precession of simulacra, the practice of 'substituting the signs of the real for the real' (SS, 2). Traditionally that which is constructed by organic processes without the help of human devices is considered to be natural as opposed to that which is constructed by humans, which is a simulation or simulacrum. But for Baudrillard, 'nature' is a simulacrum: it exists because it is completely artificial. Both in the sense of a 'reality' shaped over many thousands of years by human activity, and as an empty signifier whose referent is constituted by its relationship to other free-ﬂoating signs. There is no 'original' nature, it is not an 'other' to culture, and, as Baudrillard declares elsewhere, 'You cannot trust nature' (PC, 119). So our ecological awareness that nature is good is just that, an illusion. Nature is malevolent and contains Evil (IE). Nature may take its revenge: cows with BSE take their retribution for 'being turned into butcher's meat' (SC, 172). Indeed, Baudrillard believes that the ecology movement fundamentally misunderstands our relation to nature.Furthermore, we have lost touch with any sense of the natural world. Even natural spaces (national parks and wilderness regions) are now understood as 'protected', which is to say that they are defined in contradistinction to an urban 'reality', often with signs to point out just how 'real' they are. Baudrillard would argue this constructed and thoroughly mediated artifice nevertheless constitutes our experience of nature, and that experience is no less 'authentic' in and of itself. We can elaborate this concept of nature as simulacrum using four examples from Baudrillard.In an early attack on classical Marxism (MP) Baudrillard argued that the model of production inherited and enforced by Enlightenment thought depends on the belief in a constant Nature (with a capital N), which, in turn, imposes unceasing restraints. Marx hoped to overcome the restraints by 'denaturalising' (understanding to be socially determined and mutable) certain ideological concepts and thereby unchaining the productive power of labour. But, suggests Baudrillard, Marx's desire for a totalising model, which would protect use value from critique, simply reinvoked Nature and made Marx complicit with the very natural order he wished to deconstruct. Secondly, in For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign (1981 ) Baudrillard asserts the displacement of nature by 'environment' which belongs to the sphere of design. As a real referent nature is dead and is survived by the environment: a designed semio-aesthetic form for the circulation of signifiers disconnected from their referents. 'Man no longer even confronts his environment: he himself is virtually part of the environment to be protected' (CPS, 203). Here it is clear that nature ceased to exist from the moment of its naming with the contradictory move that designates a cultural idea (nature) as natural. Thirdly, for Baudrillard the traveller, who finds himself in the midst of 'natural' landscapes, among the most seductive parts of America are its natural deserts. Indeed, he asserts, America 'is' the desert (A). But his references to the deserts of the American west are, he notes wryly, always mediated by cinematic experiences. For Baudrillard, the desert assumes the status of a primal scene in America and even the large cities have, he says, the desert at their hearts and have become places of the 'extermination of man' (BL, 162). Lastly, in his discussion of cloning (SS) Baudrillard understands the equivalence of cloned animals that share exactly the same genes as a biological expression of the idea of the loss of the original, the simulacrum. When Dolly the cloned sheep shares the exact same genetic code with another sheep, it is impossible to say that one is real and one a copy, or even that one was 'created' after the other. 'The clones are already there; the virtual beings are already there. We are all replicants!' (SC, 199).Interestingly, Baudrillard's short discussion of the animal in Simulacra and Simulation (1994a ) prefigures some of the concerns expressed by Jacques Derrida and Giorgio Agamben in the early twenty-first century. Baudrillard notes the parallels between the laboratory experimentation and industrial harvesting of animals and 'men on an assembly line' or incarcerated in prisons and concentration camps (SS, 131). 'All the aspects of the modern treatment of animals retrace the vicissitudes of the manipulation of humans' (SS, 130). The fundamental fact about animals, the fact that finally accounts for our boundless cruelty towards them, is the fact that they do not speak. Through the disappearance and speechlessness of the animal in the context of consumer capitalism, animals become our beasts of burden, demand, consumption and somatisation (SS). Baudrillard's crucial insight is that the silence of animals dooms them paradoxically to a vociferous fate; since they do not/will not speak they are ceaselessly spoken (for), sentimentalised, anthropomorphised, endlessly troped and cast into a variety of discursive registers. But Baudrillard also cautions that our 'sentimentality toward animals is a sure sign of the disdain in which we hold them' (SS, 134).Passwords§ America§ evil
The Baudrillard dictionary. Richard G. Smith. 2015.