French philosopher Jean Baudrillard dies
PARIS: Jean Baudrillard, a French philosopher and social theorist known for his provocative commentaries on consumerism, excess and what he said was the disappearance of reality, died Tuesday, his publishing house said. He was 77.
Baudrillard died at his home in Paris after a long illness, said Michel Delorme, of the Galilee publishing house.
The two men had worked together since 1977, when "Oublier Foucault" (Forget Foucault) was published, one of about 30 books by Baudrillard, Delorme said by telephone.
Among his last published books was "Cool Memories V," in 2005.
Baudrillard, a sociologist by training, is perhaps best known for his concepts of "hyperreality" and "simulation."
Baudrillard advocated the idea that spectacle is crucial in creating our view of events — what he termed "hyperreality." Things do not happen if they are not seen to happen.
He gained fame, and notoriety, in the English-speaking world for his 1991 book "The Gulf War Did Not Take Place." In the first Gulf War, he claimed, nothing was as it appeared.
The public's — and even the military's — view of the conflict came largely through television images; Saddam Hussein was not defeated; the U.S.-led coalition scarcely battled the Iraqi military and did not really win, since little was changed politically in Iraq after all the carnage. All the sound and fury signified little, he argued.
The Sept. 11 attacks, in contrast, were the hyper-real event par excellence — a fusion of history, symbolism and dark fantasy, "the mother of all events."
His views on the attacks sparked controversy. While terrorists had committed the atrocity, he wrote, "It is we who have wanted it. . . . Terrorism is immoral, and it responds to a globalization that is itself immoral."
Although many Americans were puzzled by his views, Baudrillard was a tireless enthusiast for the United States — though he once called it "the only remaining primitive society."
"Santa Barbara is a paradise; Disneyland is a paradise; the U.S. is a paradise," he wrote. "Paradise is just paradise. Mournful, monotonous, and superficial though it may be, it is paradise. There is no other."
French Education Minister Gilles de Robien said "We lose a great creator."
"Jean Baudrillard was one of the great figures of French sociological thought."
Born west of Paris in Reims on June 20, 1929, Baudrillard, the son of civil servants, began a long teaching career instructing high school students in German. After receiving a doctorate in sociology, he taught at the University of Paris in Nanterre.
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