---- by Paul Hegarty
  In the story by Jorge-Luis Borges, mapmakers make a map so perfect it covers the whole territory, but it is not solid, and it falls apart, with scraps floating around in the winds. Baudrillard reverses the story, somewhat approximately, so that the map displaces the territory, and it is the real that tears, only surviving in small, displaced fragments. This is the world of simulation, and simulation is the world - or, rather, what we have instead of the real world: a total system that is ultra- or hyper-real. Globalisation and simulation do not have a relationship of neat causal priority: simulation brings about globalisation, through the mass media, but is itself brought about by the totalisation of the financial system since the Crash of 1929. The 'more real than the real', or a real world that knows only copies without originals, cannot but be total. Unlike others deemed postmodernist, Baudrillard is not only interested in a turn to the image (we have always had images, and they have always defined the ontological reality of the world), but in synaesthetic reality such as the one McLuhan conceived: 'ours is a brand of allatonceness. "Time" has ceased, "space" has vanished. We now live in a global village . . . a simultaneous happening' (McLuhan and Fiore, 1967: 63). This is the world of the Gulf wars - where viewers from all round the world engage with image-driven simulation, but where the simulation goes deeper: all events within the simulated war are simulated, with only deaths at specific locations momentarily acquiring the sense of a less-simulated reality. From the 1990s on, Baudrillard's implicit claim for a global totality of simulation is moderated, notably in The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (1995 [1991]) and The Illusion of the End (1994b [1992]), and he concedes that some areas of the world are less simulated than others - that is, they are in a system of earlier forms of simulatedness.
  Nonetheless, the predominant drive is toward totalisation of every phenomenon in one bland and only apparently meaningful simulation. So, for example, he talks of the transpolitical (TE) - politics is everywhere, and in attaining that state, loses its meaning. The key moment in this is the ending of 'Communism' in Eastern Europe and Russia, and for Baudrillard, this is no 'end of history' where capitalist democracy triumphs - rather it is the end of the West having a mirror, and so its unreflective democracy spreads by contagion. The transeconomic (TE) is, similarly, the death knell for actual economics. The economic becomes viral - that is, it infiltrates everything, but is no longer a tool for either self-enhancement (as liberals would have it) or oppression (as Leftists would have it) - it creates its own structures of value and becomes increasingly arbitrary. Like fractal objects in what we think of as the real world, this type of economics creates clusters of wealth and poverty, but agency has disappeared, replaced by its illusion.
  This possibility of not quite belonging to the fully simulated and increasingly total world can be used as a weapon, as it was in the attack on the World Trade Center of 2001. Baudrillard had long noted the centrality of this building in standing for the global economy (SED, SA), and in The Spirit of Terrorism (2003c [2002]) and Power Inferno (Baudrillard, 2002), it becomes a focal point for the possible reversibility of the hyper-real world: that is, briefly, the system glimpses its own death, the possibility of its not existing. Baudrillard had long been aware of the radical potential of Islamist rejection of western values (TE), which he equates with a resistance to the creeping simulation of democracy, technology and consensual reality (RA). In his book on the Gulf War (GW), he hints at agency in globalisation when speaking of the 'New World Order', which America would run, and the imposition of democracy, but this agency seems to be a product, not cause, of globalised simulation. Globalisation itself is also designated as the thing that has something like agency (he writes that the West did not win the war against Communism, globalisation did (P)), and so it is globalisation itself that meets resistance, not the imposition of economic models by corporations or the IMF, or democracy by American-led forces, and it effectively finds its other by making it, continually creating resistance as it spreads (IEx, LP).
  Baudrillard's model of globalisation is complex and, for many, politically unsatisfying, but it offers a complete ontological critique of the phenomenon rather than what is often a superficial reading based on unquestioned agency on the part of powerful nations or companies. This is perhaps at its clearest when he deals with ecology. Globalisation is itself a form of total ecology, where our micro-climates are brought together into one overarching system. Critics of globalisation blame 'it' for the threat to the Earth's climate, arguing that the spread of technology, its overuse by certain countries, and the prevalence of capitalist economics have created the looming cataclysm. Baudrillard sees it differently - in fact the coming catastrophe is a driver of globalisation, a way of imagining all humans as part of one system. Further, it also gives us the perversely reassuring thought that global warming is our fault, which implies we are in charge of all that happens, and we can fix it: 'because it is unable to escape it, humanity will pretend to be the author of its destiny' (IE, 71). Global warming merely strengthens the alibi of a system that wishes to close down freedoms in the name of appropriate social behaviours. The West feasts on its own agency of destruction, consuming poverty, famine and hardship as visual and moral commodities (IE, 67).
  Finally, globalisation is the death of even the good it seems to spread - 'the universal perishes in globalisation' (SC, 156). Baudrillard's take on 'the global' is very bleak - brought about by simulation and in turn feeding it, it can only destroy what remnants of meaning and value still exist. Its reach is limitless (we are all individually brought into 'the global' through IT screens). The only hope is slender, and not one we might like to cherish as hope: the prospect of viral attacks, terrorism and uncontrollable catastrophes. Just as it is not clear in Baudrillard who might be driving the 'system' of globalisation, neither is it clear who or what would be doing the hoping.
   § geopolitics
   § Gulf War
   § hyper-reality
   § postmodernism / postmodernity
   § reversibility
   § simulation
   § terrorism
   § transpolitics
   § universality

The Baudrillard dictionary. . 2015.

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