The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures

Books

Jean Baudrillard

  • Citations
  • Add to My List
  • Text Size

  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Copyright

    Acknowledgements

    Shower him with all earthly blessings, plunge him so deep into happiness that nothing is visible but the bubbles rising to the surface of his happiness, as if it were water; give him such economic prosperity that he will have nothing left to do but sleep, eat gingerbread, and worry about the continuance of world history.

    Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground

    Foreword

    Jean Baudrillard’s book The Consumer Society is a masterful contribution to contemporary sociology. It certainly has its place in the tradition which includes Durkheim’s The Division of Labour in Society, Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class and David Riesman’s The Lonely Crowd.

    Baudrillard analyses our contemporary Western societies, including that of the United States. This analysis focuses on the phenomenon of the consumption of objects which he has already tackled in The System of Objects (Gallimard, 1968; translation, Verso, 1996). In his conclusion to that volume, he formulates the plan of the present work: ‘It has to be made clear from the outset that consumption is an active form of relationship (not only to objects, but also to society and to the world), a mode of systematic activity and global response which founds our entire cultural system.’

    He shows with great perspicacity how the giant technocratic corporations foster irrepressible desires, creating new social hierarchies which have replaced the old class differences.

    A new mythology has arisen in this way. As Baudrillard writes,

    The washing machine serves as an appliance and acts as an element of prestige, comfort, etc. It is strictly this latter field which is the field of consumption. All kinds of other objects may be substituted here for the washing machine as signifying element. In the logic of signs, as in that of symbols, objects are no longer linked in any sense to a definite function or need. Precisely because they are responding here to something quite different, which is either the social logic or the logic of desire, for which they function as a shifting and unconscious field of signification.

    Consumption, as a new tribal myth, has become the morality of our present world. It is currently destroying the foundations of the human being, that is to say, the balance which European thought has maintained since the Greeks between our mythological roots and the world of the logos. Baudrillard is aware of the risk we are running. Let us quote him once again:

    Just as medieval society was balanced on God and the Devil, so ours is balanced on consumption and its denunciation. Though at least around the Devil heresies and black magic sects could organize. Our magic is white. No heresy is possible any longer in a state of affluence. It is the prophylactic whiteness of a saturated society, a society with no history and no dizzying heights, a society with no myth other than itself.

    The Consumer Society, written in a concise style, should be carefully studied by the younger generation. Perhaps they will take up the mission of breaking up this monstrous, if not indeed obscene, world of the abundance of objects so formidably sustained by the mass media and particularly by television, this world which threatens us all.

    J.P. MayerUniversity of Reading

    Translator’s Acknowledgements

    I would like to thank Marie-Dominique Maison, Leslie Hill, Mike Gane and Glynis Powell for various forms of linguistic assistance with this translation. Thanks are also due to Richard G. Smith for providing some invaluable background information.

    For reasons of style, the author has made some very minor changes to the original text. I have personally taken the liberty of numbering the chapters.

    C.T.

    About the Authors of the Introductions

    Barry Smart is Professor of Sociology at the University of Portsmouth, England. His books in the field of social theory include Sociology, Phenomenology and Marxian Analysis (1976: 2014); Foucault, Marxism and Critique (1983: 2009); Modern Conditions, Postmodern Controversies (1992); Facing Modernity (1999); and Economy, Culture and Society: A Sociological Critique of Neo-liberalism (2003). Other books include The Sport Star: Modern Sport and the Cultural Economy of Sporting Celebrity (2005); and Consumer Society: Critical Issues and Environmental Consequences (2010). He is the editor of Michel Foucault: Critical Assessments I and II (1994: 1995), Resisting McDonaldization (1999), and Post-Industrial Society (2011) and is co-editor of the Handbook of Social Theory (2001 with George Ritzer) and Observation Methods (2013 with Kay Peggs and Joseph Burridge).

    George Ritzer, Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, was named a Distinguished Scholar-Teacher there and received the ASA's Distinguished Contribution to Teaching Award. He holds an Honorary Doctorate from La Trobe University and the Robin William Lectureship from the Eastern Sociological Society. He has chaired four Sections of the ASA: Theoretical Sociology, Organizations and Occupations, Global and Transnational Sociology, and the History of Sociology. Among his books in theory are Sociology: A Multiple Paradigm Science (1975/1980) and Metatheorizing in Sociology (1991). In the application of social theory to the social world, his books include The McDonaldization of Society (8th edn, 2015), Enchanting a Disenchanted World (3rd edn, 2010), and The Globalization of Nothing (2nd edn, 2007). His books have been translated into over twenty languages, with over a dozen translations of The McDonaldization of Society alone. Most of his work over the last decade, and currently, deals with prosumption.

  • Notes

    Chapter 1

    1. K. Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1971, p. 87.

    2. Contrary to a rather odd assertion in Mark Poster’s book Jean Baudrillard: Selected Writings (Polity, 1988, p. 55, note 4), Flaine is not ‘Baudrillard’s parody of suburban communities around Paris’ but a genuine ski resort in Haute-Savoie (Tr.).

    Chapter 2

    1. This situation is almost ideally realized by a city like Berlin. Moreover, almost all science-fiction novels have as their theme the situation of a rational and ‘affluent’ Great City threatened with destruction from without or within by some great hostile force.

    Chapter 3

    1. Tables appearing in the original French have been removed at the author’s request (Tr.).

    2. J.K. Galbraith, The Affluent Society, Penguin in association with Hamish Hamilton, Harmondsworth, 1962, p. 210.

    3. There is in this sense an absolute difference between waste in our ‘affluent societies’, a waste that is a nuisance integrated into the economic system, which is a functional wastage not productive of collective value, and the destructive prodigality engaged in by all the so-called ‘societies of scarcity’ in their festivals and sacrifices, this latter being waste ‘by excess’, in which the destruction of goods was a source of collective symbolic values. Breaking up old cars that have gone out of fashion or burning coffee in locomotives is in no sense festive. It is a deliberate, systematic destruction for strategic ends. So too is military expenditure (perhaps only advertising …). The economic system cannot transcend itself in an act of festive waste, caught up as it is in its own alleged ‘rationality’. It can only devour its excess of wealth as it were shamefully, practising a calculated destructiveness that is complementary to its productivity calculations.

    Chapter 4

    1. The term ‘inequality’ is inappropriate. The equality/inequality opposition, ideologically linked to the system of modern democratic values, only fully covers economic disparities and cannot figure in a structural analysis.

    2. Or the ‘Great Society’, recently imported into France.

    3. On this point, see Chapter 7 in relation to ‘lowest common culture’ and ‘lowest common multiples’.

    4. It is, of course, in its functioning as a system of social differentiation (2 above) that consumption takes on this unlimited dimension. As a system of communication and exchange (1 above), where it may be compared to language, a finite range of goods and services (like the finite material of linguistic signs) can very well suffice, as we see in primitive societies. Language [la langue] does not proliferate because there is no ambivalence of the sign at that level, that ambivalence being grounded in social hierarchy and simultaneous double determination. By contrast, a certain level of parole and style does give rise again to distinctive proliferation.

    5. On this point, see Chapter 5, section ‘Consumption as the Emergence and Control of New Productive Forces’.

    6. This is the ‘reserve army’ of needs.

    7. This growing differentiation does not necessarily signify a growing distance from the top to the bottom of the scale, a ‘greater overall imbalance’, but increasing discrimination, an increase in the quantity of distinctive signs within a hierarchy whose extremes have moved closer together. Relative ‘democratization’ and homogenization are accompanied by a related intensification in status competition.

    8. In this sense, the distinction between ‘real’ and ‘artificial’ needs is also a false problem. ‘Artificial needs’ do, of course, mask the non-satisfaction of ‘essential’ needs (television instead of education). But this is secondary to generalized determination by growth (the expanded reproduction of capital), in respect of which the terms ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ have no meaning. We might even say that this natural-artificial opposition, which implies a theory of human finalities, is itself an ideological product of growth. It is reproduced by growth and is functionally linked to it.

    9.Les Temps modernes, October 1968.

    Chapter 5

    1. Quoted by Galbraith, The New Industrial State, Signet, New York, 1967, epigraph to Chapter 10.

    2. In the survey carried out by Sélection du Reader’s Digest (A. Piatier, ‘Structures et perspectives de la consommation européenne’), the pattern which emerges is not one of an immense middle class, as in the case of the USA, but that of a minority, a consumer elite (the As) serving as a model for a majority which does not yet possess that range of luxury goods (sports car, stereo, second home) which every European worthy of the name must have.

    3. Galbraith, The New Industrial State, p. 215.

    4. Ibid., p. 222.

    5. This is the ‘anti-coagulant’ effect of advertising (Elgozy).

    6. Galbraith, The New Industrial State, p. 281. 6 Ibid., p. 279.

    8. Ibid., p. 280.

    9. On this, see this chapter, section ‘Consumption as the Emergence and Control of New Productive Forces’.

    10. J. Baudrillard, ‘The ideological genesis of needs’, in For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign, Telos, St Louis, 1981, pp. 63–87.

    11. This paragraph has been slightly modified by the author (Tr.).

    12.La Nef, no. 37.

    13. Galbraith, The New Industrial State, p. 49.

    14. On this point, see Chapter 10, ‘The Mystique of Solicitude’.

    Chapter 6

    1. It is the same with relationships. The system is built upon a total liquidation of personal ties, of concrete social relations. It is to this extent that it becomes necessarily and systematically productive of relationship (public relations, human relations, etc.). The production of relationships has become one of the key sectors of production. And because they no longer have anything spontaneous about them, because they are produced, those relationships are necessarily fated, like all that is produced, to be consumed (unlike social relations, which are the unconscious product of social labour and not the result of deliberate, controlled industrial production: these are not ‘consumed’ but are, in fact, the site of social contradictions).

    On the production and consumption of human relations and social relationships, see Chapter 10, ‘The Mystique of Solicitude’.

    2. D. Riesman, Abundance for What? And Other Essays, Chatto and Windus, London, 1964, p. 129.

    3. D. Riesman (with N. Glazer and R. Denney), The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character, Doubleday Anchor, New York, n.d., pp. 98–9.

    4. See Chapter 11, section ‘Violence’.

    Chapter 7

    1. The reference is to the Le Président health clubs. See note 4 to Chapter 8 (Tr.).

    2. If beauty is to be found in the ‘figure’, the career is defined by its ‘profile’. Such connivances of vocabulary are significant.

    3. See this chapter, section ‘Pseudo-Event and Neo-Reality’. The term ‘gadget’ covers a rather different semantic field in French, referring in particular to objects which are not necessarily technical implements, but merely useless objects of a ‘gimmicky’ kind. However, since the French usage will be reasonably clear from the author’s argument here, I have generally retained the term ‘gadget’, which has at least equally pejorative connotations in English (Galbraith writes, ‘The word gadget is itself a pejorative term for durable goods’, The Affluent Society, p. 162) (Tr.).

    4.Tirlipot is the name of a 1960s radio quiz game.

    5.Le Monde, 28 September 1969.

    6. There is, in this sense, a relationship of sorts between kitsch and snobbery. However, snobbery is linked, rather, to the aristocracy/bourgeoisie acculturation process and kitsch essentially to the rise of the ‘middle’ classes in a bourgeois industrial society.

    7. But it is not a toy, as the toy has a symbolic function for the child. However, a ‘new look’ toy, a fashionable toy becomes a gadget once again simply by dint of such modishness.

    8. The pure gadget, defined as something totally useless to anyone at all, would be an absurdity.

    9. An annual French competition for artisans and inventors (Tr.).

    10. See Daniel J. Boorstin, The Image, or What Happened to the American Dream, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1963.

    11. The cubists were still searching for the ‘essence’ of space, seeking to unveil a ‘secret geometry’, etc. In Dada, Duchamp or the surrealists, objects were wrenched from their (bourgeois) functions to be set up in their subversive banality, in a reminder of their lost essence and of an order of authenticity evoked by way of the absurd. In Francis Ponge, the apprehension of the naked, concrete object is still the act of a – poetic – consciousness or source of perception. In short, whether poetic or critical, the whole of art, ‘without which things would merely be what they are’, is fuelled (before pop) by transcendence.

    12. Cf. the Conclusion, section ‘The Consumption of Consumption’.

    13. Mario Amaya, Pop as Art: A Survey of the New Super Realism, Studio Vista, London, 1965.

    14. In this sense, the truth of pop might be said to be wage labour and the advertising hoarding, not the contract and the art gallery.

    15. ‘Popular’ art is concerned not with objects, but always primarily with human beings and their actions. It would not paint cooked meats or the American flag, but a-man-eating or a-man-saluting-the-American-flag.

    16. In fact we often read this ‘terroristic’ humour in it, but we do so out of critical nostalgia on our part.

    17. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, Sphere, London, 1967, p. 27.

    18. It is easy to see how one can, in this sense, ‘consume’ language [du langage]. As soon as it becomes loaded with in-group connotations, and, instead of being a vehicle for meaning, turns into a group lexicon, a class or caste heritage (the style of the ‘smart set’, intellectual jargon; the political jargon of a party or grouping); as soon as it ceases to be a means of exchange and becomes a material of exchange for the internal usage of a group or class – its real function, under cover of conveying a message, being one of collusion and recognition; and as soon as, rather than putting meaning into circulation, it begins itself to circulate as password, as shibboleth, in a process of group tautology (the group speaking itself), then language is an object of consumption, a fetish.

    It is no longer being used as a language [langue], as a system of distinctive denotative signs, but consumed as a system of connotation, as a distinctive code.

    We find the same process in ‘medical consumption’. There has been an extraordinary inflation of the demand for health care, closely linked to the rise in the standard of living. The line between ‘justifiable’ demand (though on what definition of a vital minimum and bio-psychosomatic equilibrium might it be considered justified?) and the consumer compulsion for medical, surgical and dental treatment is becoming blurred. Medical practice is turning into the use of the doctor him/herself and this sumptuary, conspicuous use of the doctor/object, the medicine/object, joins the second home and the car as part of the panoply of social standing. Here again, the medication – and, particularly where the wealthier classes are concerned, the doctor (Balint: ‘The medication most frequently dispensed in general practice is the doctor himself’) – cease to be the means of achieving health, considered as a final goal, and become themselves the focus of the ultimate demand. They are then consumed, on the selfsame pattern of a diverting of the objective practical function into a mental manipulation and a sign-based calculus of a fetishistic type.

    We have, properly speaking, to distinguish between two levels of this ‘consumption’: the ‘neurotic’ demand for the giving of medication, for anxiety-reducing medical care. This demand is just as objective as the demand which arises from an organic ailment, but it leads into ‘consumption’ in so far as the doctor no longer has any specific value at this level: he is substitutable, as anxiety-reducer or care-provider, for any other process of partial regression: alcohol, shopping or collecting (the consumer ‘collects’ the doctor and medicines). The doctor is consumed as one-sign-among-others (just as a washing machine may be consumed as a mark of status and ease – see Chapter 7).

    At a deep level, then, what institutes ‘medical consumption’ is – beyond the neurotic logic of individuals – a social logic of status, which incorporates the doctor as sign (quite apart from any objective performance and on the same basis as any other value attribute) into a generalized system. We can see that it is on the abstraction (the reduction) of the medical function that medical consumption is established. We find this pattern of systematic abduction or rerouting [détournement] everywhere as the very principle of consumption.

    19. Boorstin, The Image, p. 209.

    20. This is why all forms of resistance to the introduction of advertising on TV or elsewhere are merely moralizing or archaic reactions. The problem lies at the level of the system of signification as a whole.

    21. Boorstin, The Image, p. 213.

    22. Ibid., p. 217.

    23. Ibid., p. 219.

    Chapter 8

    1. The reference in the hymn is, however, not to the body, but to the soul (Tr.).

    2. The original cartes du tendre were, of course, actual ‘maps’ or charts depicting the course of love (Tr.).

    3. See also this exemplary text from Vogue:

    A new wind is blowing through the world of beauty, a fresher, freer, healthier, less hypocritical wind of pride in one’s body. Not pretentiousness, which is vulgar. But the honest awareness that our bodies are worth accepting, caring for, loving, if they are to be well used. We are happy that our knees are more supple, we are delighted with the length of our legs, with our lighter feet … (for these we use a mask as we do for the face … we massage our toes with an extraordinary ‘supersonic’ cream, we find ourselves a good chiropodist … see how on page 72). We are all for the new body-spray perfumes, which give a satiny finish right down to our toes. Left, mules in South African ostrich-feathers with embroidery by Lamel (Christian Dior).

    Etc.

    4. In French. le phrynéisme. The reference here is to the Greek courtesan Phryne, who ‘when she saw that in spite of the eloquence of her defender Hyperides she was going to be condemned, … unveiled her bosom, and by this sudden display of her charms so influenced her judges, that she was immediately acquitted’ (Lemprière’s Classical Dictionary, Bracken, London, 1984, p. 526) (Tr.).

    5. The male equivalent of the Elle text is the advert for Le Président entitled ‘No pity for executives?’ This is an admirable text, which encapsulates all the themes we have analysed here (narcissism, the revenge of the neglected body, functional ‘recycling’), except that here the masculine model centres on ‘physical fitness’ and social success, whereas the feminine model focused on ‘beauty’ and ‘seduction’.

    Forty years old. Modern civilization commands him to be young. The paunch which was once a symbol of social success is now synonymous with decline and the scrapheap. His superiors, his subordinates, his wife, his secretary, his mistress, his children and the girl in the microskirt he’s chatting to at his table outside the café (with who knows what in mind) all judge him on the quality and style of his clothes, his choice of tie and aftershave, the suppleness and slenderness of his body.

    He has to keep a watchful eye on everything: the crease in his trousers, his collar, his puns, his feet when he dances, his diet when he eats, his stamina when he is climbing stairs, his back when he makes a violent effort. If, only yesterday, efficiency in his work was enough, today he is required to possess both physical fitness and elegance.

    The myth of the healthy American businessman, part James Bond, part Henry Ford, confident and sure of himself, physically and psychologically well balanced, has taken its place in our civilization. Finding and keeping dynamic co-workers with pep and drive is the major concern of every business manager.

    The forty-year-old falls in with this image. This neo-Narcissus of modern times likes to take care of himself and tries to enjoy himself. He savours his diet, his medication, his physical training, the difficulty he has stopping smoking.

    Aware that his social success depends entirely on the image others have of him, that physical fitness is his trump card, the man of forty is looking for his second wind and his second youth.

    There follows the advert for Le Président. There, it is chiefly fitness that is being: fitness, the magic word, that ‘fairy godmother’s gift’ (after Narcissus, the fairies!), which managing directors, senior executives, journalists and doctors pursue ‘in an air-conditioned, cocooned atmosphere’ and ‘using 37 sets of apparatus with pedals, wheels, weights, vibrations, levers and steel cables’ (as one can see, both athleticism and phryneism, both ‘fitness’ and ‘beauty’, are partial to gadgetry).

    6. In the technical sense of simulations where the conditions of weightlessness are simulated experimentally – or of mathematical models.

    7. The truth of the body is desire. And this, being lack, cannot be shown. The most exhaustive exhibition of that desire merely highlights it as absence, and ultimately, merely censors it. Will we one day see photos in which erections are shown? This would still be done under the heading of fashion. The censors thus ultimately have nothing to fear, except from their own desire.

    8. Norman O. Brown, Life against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History, Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, CT, p. 252.

    9. On this point, see Chapter 6, section ‘The Structural Models’.

    10. Sexuality is no longer a celebration [une fête]. It is an erotic festival, with all that implies in terms of organization. Within the framework of that festival, everything is done also to revive ‘polymorphous, perverse’ sexuality. Cf. the first world fair of pornography in Copenhagen [this chapter, section ‘The Sex-Exchange Standard’].

    11. We find the same process in the ‘consumption’ of Technology. Without wishing to contest the enormous impact of technological progress on social progress, one can see how technology itself falls into the domain of consumption, dividing into a daily practice ‘liberated’ by innumerable ‘functional’ gadgets and a transcendent myth of (capital T) Technology, the combination of the two making it possible to head off all the revolutionary potentialities of a total social practice of technology. See Utopie, no. 2–3, May 1969, ‘La Pratique sociale et la technique’.

    12. The French verb solliciter contains an ambiguity, referring at times to a demand or even manipulation [the expression solliciter des textes implies forcing texts or documents to yield significations which they do not clearly contain (Tr.)], at times to solicitude and gratification. See Chapter 10, ‘The Mystique of Solicitude’.

    13. The Danish parliament (Tr.).

    14. This line does not actually seem to appear in either of Rimbaud’s ‘Villes’ poems (commonly known as ‘Villes I’ and ‘Villes II’) (Tr.).

    15. This phrase occurs with slight variations of emphasis in two letters which Rimbaud wrote in May 1871. The first of these is to Georges Izambard, the second to Paul Demeny. Originals and translations of both letters are to be found in Wallace Fowlie’s Rimbaud: Complete Works, Selected Letters, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1966, pp. 302–11 (Tr.).

    Chapter 9

    1. It might be thought that time is, in this respect, opposed to all other objects, whose ‘use-value’ traditionally lies in being possessed, utilized, employed to advantage. But this is without doubt a profound error. The true use-value of objects is doubtless also to be consumed, to be expended ‘as pure loss’ – a ‘symbolic’ use-value which is everywhere scored out [barrée] and replaced by ‘utilitarian’ use-value.

    2. But the goal of the operation here remains strictly individual. In the archaic festival, time is never expended ‘for oneself’: it is the time of collective prodigality.

    Chapter 10

    1. Twenty per cent of national income for France.

    2. Advertising itself, as an economic process, may be regarded as a ‘free celebration’, financed by social labour but delivered to everyone ‘with nothing apparently given in return’ and presenting itself as collective gratification (see later in this chapter).

    3. Cf. Lagneau in Le Faire-Valoir, ‘Advertising is the wrapping up of an unbearable economic logic in the thousand seductive artifices of «exemption from payment», which negate it the better to allow it to operate.’ G. Lagneau, Le Faire-Valoir, E.M.E., Paris, 1969.

    4. On this problem, see the articles by J. Marcus-Steiff and P. Kende in the Revue française de sociologie, 1969, X, 3.

    5. In German, the word werben, which means to ask for someone’s hand in marriage and hence implies loving concern [sollicitude amoureuse], also means competition, rivalry and advertising (commercial solicitation).

    6. Riesman et al., The Lonely Crowd, p. 41.

    7. Ibid., p. 83.

    8. To take an example, ‘In fact,’ writes a specialist in sales promotion, ‘if, before it was presented to the public, Giscard d’Estaing’s programme had been got into shape by an agency like Publicis, using the methods that were so successful in the Saint-Gobain affair, then French voters would probably have backed him.’ And he adds: ‘When you think of all the trouble you take to win the public’s favour when you launch a new bar of soap, bringing all the modern resources of radio, TV and cinema into play, you are amazed by the antiquated methods the government employ when they want to “sell” an economic and financial programme running into billions of francs to the mass of the French people.’

    9. Riesman et al., The Lonely Crowd, p. 224ff.

    10. Ibid., p. 225.

    Chapter 11

    1. ‘Objectless craving’ has its counterpart in ‘objectless raving’.

    2. Galbraith, The Affluent Society, p. 14.

    3. Erostratus or Eratostratus was an Ephesian who burnt down the temple of Diana solely with the object of achieving eternal fame. The Ephesians subsequently passed a law making it illegal to mention his name (Tr.).

    4. Economists and psychologists base their thinking wholly on equivalence and rationality: they postulate that, in all processes, the subject is always positively orientated, in a state of need, towards the object. If the need is satisfied, that is all there is to it. They forget that there is no ‘satisfied need’; a completed process, where there is only positivity, is something which is never found: there is only desire and desire is ambivalent.

    5. Hence the very logical (American) idea of a motel for the suicidal where, for a reasonable price, a ‘suicide service’, provided like any other social service (though not covered by social security!), ensures that you enjoy optimum conditions for death and undertakes to effect your suicide effortlessly, with a smile.

    6. The original French text here is ‘le malaise de la civilisation’, the title of the standard French translation of Freud’s Das Unbehagen in der Kultur (English: Civilization and its Discontents) (Jr.).

    7. J.S. Mill, On Liberty, ed. H.B. Acton, Dent/Dutton, London/New York, 1972, p. 124 (my italics, JB).

    Conclusion

    1. There have been at least three versions of this film. From what he says, Baudrillard is clearly not referring to the first of these (Stellan Rye, 1913) and it seems most likely that he is familiar with the 1926 film by the Dutch-born writer-director Henrik Galeen (who was also involved in the earlier production). A further German version was made in 1936 by the Chicago-born director Arthur Robison (Tr.).

    2. Like all myths, this one also seeks to ground itself in an original event. In this case, it is the so-called ‘Revolution of Affluence’, a historical revolution of Well-Being, the last revolution of Western man after the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution and the Political Revolutions. Consumption thereby presents itself as the opening of a new era – the final era of achieved Utopia and the end of history.

    3. Boorstin, The Image, p. 240.

    4. Ibid., p. 83.

    5. Ibid., p. 259.


    • Loading...
Back to Top