• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

Jean Baudrillard is one of the most celebrated and most controversial of contemporary social theorists. This major work occupies a central place in the rethinking of the humanities and social sciences around the idea of postmodernism. It leads the reader on an exhilarating tour encompassing the end of Marxism, the enchantment of fashion, symbolism about sex and the body, and the relations between economic exchange and death. Most significantly, the book represents Baudrillard’s fullest elaboration of the concept of the three orders of the simulacra, defining the historical passage from production to reproduction to simulation. A classic in its field, Symbolic Exchange and Death is a key source for the redefinition of contemporary social thought. Baudrillard’s critical gaze appraises social theories as diverse as cybernetics, ethnography, psychoanalysis, feminism, Marxism, communications theory and semiotics. This English translation begins with a new introductory essay.


Symbolic exchange is no longer the organising principle of modern society. Of course, the symbolic haunts modern social institutions in the form of their own death. Indeed, since the symbolic no longer rules these social forms, they experience it only as this haunting, and as a demand forever blocked by the law of value. Even though a certain idea of revolution has, since Marx, attempted to find a way past the law of value, it long since became a revolution in accordance with the Law. Even psychoanalysis gravitates around this haunting, which it fends off while at the same time circumscribing it within an individualised unconscious, thus reducing it, under the Law of the Father, to the obsessional fear of castration and the Signifier. ...

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