This paper is an attempt to explain, apply, and ultimately to point to certain limitations of, Baudrillard's idea that ours is the age of simulations. As the concept has not always been clearly discussed in the literature, early sections of the paper are devoted to describing the notion and providing some specific examples. How Baudrillard can claim that the age of simulations represents a new, qualitatively distinct, stage of society is also examined. Having articulated the basic idea, the paper goes on to try to show its power by utilizing it to analyze a typical contemporary phenomenon, Starbucks. Thus far the paper's main aim has been to argue that simulation is indeed an illuminating concept. However, we next point to a serious dilemma which is certainly not resolved by Baudrillard himself. This problem is the fact that he leaves us, apparently, with no ability to ever see through simulations. In response to this difficulty, the final sections of this article try to show how it is actually possible to accept Baudrillard's basic insight as to the existence and spread of simulations but also possess resources to detect them, thus resisting Baudrillard's pessimistic conclusion that there is no viable alternative to either living in or producing a world of simulated things. In this section of the paper, a major additional focus is Baudrillard's analysis of the first Gulf War.
Sociological Research Online – SAGE
Published: May 1, 2004
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