The Post-Modern Condition

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Both modern and postmodern cultural orders create subjects who recognize to a historically unprecedented extent that language itself does not immediately reflect or mirror the nonlinguistic. This shift in perception can be illustrated by means of the following rather general typology of forms of signification (Baudrillard 1983


By definition, the "Word" cannot be a human artifice.
2. Early modern: Signs modify or screen reality, which is thereby acknowledged to be at least partially artificial or contingent. Observers concede that symbolic forms of mediation do not immediately touch or mirror reality-in-itself. Example: There is a growing recognition among intellectuals that theological disputes are an unavoidable part of deciphering the enigma that is "God."
3. Modern: Signs dissimulate -- that is, they conceal the presence of absence. Example: We begin to understand that God does not exist (absence), that he was always a figment of our too-fertile imaginations. Nevertheless, we concede that religious belief should perhaps be tolerated because it gives people hope and a reason for living.
4. Postmodern: Signs no longer claim to depict, mirror, or even disguise an objective reality. Consequently, symbolic modes of representation become pure "simulacra: copies (or copies of a copy) that have no original (Baudrillard 1983). The simulacrum embodies nothing but a knowingly manufactured and contrived reality. Hence, culture must be faked before it can be recognized. Example: A McDonald's commercial shows a little girl supposedly enjoying a hamburger with her father. ...
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