- ---- by Andrew WernickThe notion of fatal strategies is most associated with Baudrillard's book of that title (FS). But the idea, interwoven with what he called 'the turn to the object', can be traced in his work from the mid-1970s onwards, a journey reﬂected on in The Ecstasy of Communication (1988c [1987b]). Though he drops the language of 'the fatal' it also provides a key for understanding much of his subsequent oeuvre.In its guerrilla-like provocativeness, pataphysical extremism and aspiration for a form of theorising that would be performative rather than descriptive, analytic or (in its various senses) critical, Baudrillard's espousal of 'fatal theory' remains distantly marked by his earlier sympathies for Situationism (of the kind that ﬂowered at Nanterre in 1968). But it also marks his exit from leftism, as well as from Frankfurtian negative dialectics, towards a kind of irony in which he swims in, mirrors and exaggerates the excesses he describes, provocatively drawing them to their limit. All takes places after the 'dead point' at which 'things have found a way of avoiding a dialectics of meaning' (FS, 25). He had already moved from situationist contestation (minority action to unconceal the contradictions and provoke a 'situation') to its reinterpretation in terms of the gift, the counter-gift and the move to 'the symbolic' (SED). He now abandons the terrain of oppositional/emancipatory politics altogether in favour of perversely embracing the vertiginous movement of what he continues to call 'the system'. As with Nietzsche, he will push the nihilism actually in train to the limit. However, this 'theoretical terrorism' - fatal theory - is not thought of as wilful or unlitateral but, on the model of gift giving, as a duel. It is a duel, moreover, between unequal contestants, in which the aim of the weaker is to throw judo moves in which the object's power turns against itself.Fatal, it should be noted, carries a double sense. Like the moment of death in his story about the 'soldier at Samarkand' (FS) the fatal is that which is both mortally destructive and pertaining to fate. Fate or destiny is counterposed both to the order of causation (Newtonian or dialectical) and to that of probability and chance, and it works amorally against both. The fate and fatality in question are those of the system, as one of general exchange, simulation and metastatic proliferation in every direction, and of the system considered as 'object': an object that has wholly vanquished (its) subjects, and incorporated them as relays and as agent-supports.Fatal as opposed to banal strategy (any strategy of the subject; politics as project or calculus) takes the side of the object. In doing so, such a strategy presupposes that the object can always outwit the subject, but that it can also outwit itself. That is the game that fatal strategies enter into. In the first instance, indeed, the agents of such strategies are not human subjects, individually or collectively, at all. They are strategies, if that is the right word, deployed blindly and ironically by the system/object itself. They result from the system's excrescent growth, in combination with the rule that a challenge must be answered by a challenge, by an overbidding, or suffer defeat. As Baudrillard puts it: 'This is no longer the irony of the subject faced with an objective order, but the objective irony of things caught in their own devices - no longer the historical workings of the negative, but the workings of reduplication and the rising stakes' (EC, 83-4).Just as the more real than real, the hyper-real, makes the real disappear, the obscene (the more visible than visible) puts an end to the scene - and so puts an end also to illusion which, following Nietzsche, Baudrillard takes to be vital for life. Likewise, sex, individualised and normatised as the right and duty of liberated desire, is eclipsed by the more sexual than sexual. Whence porno - a half step which neutralises desire by removing all prohibitions except that of its code - and the transsexual which volatilises sex as signs, but restores a form of seduction in the play and challenge of appearances. In similar terms, politics disappears behind the transpolitical, and the social is sucked into the black hole of the mass, polled incessantly for yes/no opinions on rigged questions, yet evincing an abstentionism and 'refusal of meaning' that challenges the whole electoral game by rendering it weightless.Altogether, after general exchange has suppressed symbolic exchange, the fractal multiplication of simulacra exterminates the real in all its forms - all of them essentialist illusions and projections of the code - and reinstates reversibility.At the catastrophe point implosive growth is checked by redundancy - the abundant becomes the obese - and entropy sets in. Baudrillard's wager is that even so, the symbolic, reversibility and a kind of cosmic uncertainty principle precipitated by these same developments offer the possibility of a metamorphic challenge. In an initial formulation (SED) self-death is offered to the system as a way to get it to suicide. Notoriously, what fascinated Baudrillard here were 'terrorism' and hostage taking. But he also highlights passive and abject forms of fatal counter-gifts, such as over-obedience, and political apathy as the defiance of meaning. After the turn to the object such examples fall away, leaving fatal theory itself - of the kind Baudrillard was pursuing - as the only clear instance of a fatal strategy from the side of the subject.Passwords§ gift§ may 1968§ nihilism
The Baudrillard dictionary. Richard G. Smith. 2015.