semiotics


semiotics
  ---- by Gary Genosko
  The theory of value supporting structural linguistics is criticised by Baudrillard in Symbolic Exchange and Death (1993a [1976]) in an effort to move beyond all logics of value through the principle of symbolic exchange. This does not constitute a critical semiology because it entails that 'signs must burn' and thus is more destructively transgressive than constructive. Baudrillard posits a 'structural revolution of value' that combines convertible elemental relations from political economy and semiology in a political economy of the sign.
  The general political economy of value developed by Baudrillard in For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign (1981 [1972]) is based on a homology between the linguistic sign and commodity form. The domain of value is for Baudrillard homogeneous and consists of a number of mutually convertible relations, at the base of which is the idea that two-sided forms (sign consisting of signifier and signified and commodity consisting of exchange value and use value) express relations of usefulness and equivalence: a thing may be exchanged for something dissimilar (money for a loaf of bread) or may be defined in relation to things of a similar kind (money of different face value in a national currency); likewise, exchange value is based on the expression of equality in abstraction between two similar things, whereas use value is realised by using a thing. Symbolic exchange is heterogeneous to such homogeneity and thus cannot be converted into any logic of value.
  This claim of mutual structural implication between exchange value and signifier and use value and signified, once abolished in their specificities in being generalised, stops abruptly when considered in relation to symbolic exchange. The symbolic exchange of a thing as a use value is impossible for two reasons: Baudrillard claims that consumer society does not produce culturally significant differences through which one's needs may be satisfied; rather, use is metaphysical and meta-functional and always for others, hence produced for exchangeability, already social, and having taken the form of exchange value.
  Symbolic exchange is a critique of use value's incomparability based on false one-to-one identities of paired forms: the signified has meaning not in relation to one signifier but as an effect of meaning generated through signifier relations of negative difference; likewise, needs are effects of industrially and artificially produced differences between objects; needs cannot be pinned down to specific objects that satisfy them since they are system elements.
  Symbolic exchange is not equal to use value because it alone is incommensurable in its singularity, concreteness and ambivalence based on obligatory relations between persons. Symbolic objects are unlike signs and commodities. They embody non-economic relationships and do not acquire value in terms of differential relations in a system. Symbolic exchange realises the false promise of use value. It enters into the domain of value by breaking and entering and sets signification ablaze.
  Why must signs burn? Signs are at the heart of Baudrillard's explanation of how the real is conjured up in a system of objects based on consumption. The manipulation of signs through consumption of differences between coded objects provides shelter from a real that is desperately signified by them. This is the precise meaning of the structural revolution of value: real referentiality is annihilated and simulation of the real wins out. The real is an effect of a structural system of value: 'The systems of reference for production, signification, the affect, substance and history, all this equivalence to a "real" content, loading the sign with the burden of "utility", with gravity - its form of representative equivalence - all this is over with. Now the other stage of value has the upper hand, a total relativity, general commutation, combination and simulation' (SED, 6-7).
  However, at the heart of Baudrillard's theorisation of symbolic exchange is an anti-semiology advancing two claims. The first is that the linguistic sign described by Saussure as a two-sided psychical object encircling a signifier and signified whose necessary union is expressed by the bar mutually implicating them allows no foreign material to enter. Hence, there is no real referent, nothing extra-linguistic or extensional, of this kind of sign. It is 'free, indifferent and totally indeterminate' (SED, 7). This 'structural play' is supported by a second claim. In Saussure, the relation between signifying entities (signs) tends to dominate the relation internal to the sign just described. This is how Baudrillard understands the emphasis on the second principle of linguistic value (things related to similar things in a system): it results in a closed system of relations rather than an exchange against something dissimilar, namely the real. Ultimately, Baudrillard rejects signs altogether and subsumes them under the indeterminacy of the code.
  Passwords
   § code
   § real
   § sign
   § singularity
   § sex ⁄ gender

The Baudrillard dictionary. . 2015.

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