- time + history
- ---- by Richard G. SmithA voluble account of the w(h)ithering of history, The Illusion of the End or Events on Strike (1994b ) is Baudrillard's major meditation on the shape and trajectory of time and history under conditions of hyper-reality. The essence of Baudrillard's argument is that, as a simulacrum, history cannot end with a final destination and purpose (telos). The time of hyperreality, the 'end of history', is one of eternal return - not of no return as modernity supposes with its belief in linear and continuous time - and consequently has no 'end' precisely because its topology and logic is one that is curved and cyclical (and therefore endless):The whole problem of speaking about the end (particularly the end of history) is that you have to speak of what lies beyond the end and also, at the same time, of the impossibility of ending. This paradox is produced by the fact that in a nonlinear, non-Euclidean space of history the end cannot be located. The end is, in fact, only conceivable in a logical order of causality and continuity. (IE, 110)Thus it is not that history has ended as such, but rather that, because the march of history has broken from its forward path, 'we have to get used to the idea that there is no end any longer, there will no longer be any end, that history itself has become interminable' (IE, 116). That is to say that history 'will continue to unfold slowly, tediously, recurrently, in that hysteresis of everything which, like nails and hair, continue to grow after death' (IE, 116). History is still moving - just like the grande machine in Alfred Jarry's novel Le Surmâle (1945) which was only granted motion through the cadaveric rigour of its cyclists - but it only does so as a simulacrum.The 'end of history' for Baudrillard is not, then, Fukuyama's (1992) dream, but is rather a recognition of 'the radical failure of the whole Hegelian perspective which was the idea of the realisation of the Idea' (Baudrillard, 1992a: 236). That is to say that 'the Idea of history has vanished' and, therefore, to speak of the 'end of history' is an illusion, a mirage, because that end (qua goal) has already been lost in the endlessness of simulation - that is why Baudrillard could say in 1985 that 'The Year 2000 has already happened'.History remains a journey that never ends because, as a simulation model, it is cyclical, caught in a loop so that it is always retracing its steps and raking over the past so that 'things are being replayed ad infinitum' (Baudrillard, 1987: 69). A movement that is evidenced by the way in which history, both before the fin de millénium and nowadays, is reduced to countless commemorations to the disappearance of the Idea of history as 'progress': 'The great ideological, historical or political events are on the wane. They are on their way to oblivion deep in memory and they re-emerge under another form - as commemoration' (Baudrillard, 1992a: 233). Thus history is never gone for good precisely because it is recycled and emptied of its substance to become nothing more than a play of images:None of the 'retro' scenarios [commemorations] that are being got up has any historical significance: they are occurring wholly on the surface of our age, as though all images were being superimposed one upon another, but with no change to the actual course of the film. (IE, 117)The 'end of history' is not its negation as Hegel supposed, but rather its recycling as a perpetual 'contemporaneity'. However, that said, just because the train of history has been derailed does not mean that nothing is happening, or will happen. Indeed, now history has no project, goal or end, anything can happen, be it good or bad: 'We can't live with the past, but neither do we have a project. Every day is rich with unpredictable happenings: terrorism, AIDS, electronic viruses . . . The course is uncharted' (Baudrillard, 1997: 220).Passwords§ the end
The Baudrillard dictionary. Richard G. Smith. 2015.