The death of Derrida last year raised, among others, the question of who would take the position of the ‘First Man of French Philosophy’ – a position that in recent years had passed from Sartre to Foucault, who in turn passed it to Derrida. Among the contenders were Bernard Henri-Levy and Jean Baudrillard.
Baudrillard is one of the key ‘post-structuralist’ thinkers, his argument at one point being that society (in the contemporary West) had collapsed in on itself from the structures that had once supported it, and become the mass of ‘mass culture’. A parallel to this collapse was the decline of meaning, which has seen actual events transcended by simulations and simulacra, to a point where even the conflict of war had been replaced by its simulation (a position Baudrillard appears to have revised since September 2001). The style that he employs to convey this ideas is unusually idiosyncratic, and his prose can border on the obtuse.
The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy has just published its entry on Baudrillard. Hopefully the extensive entry – twenty-two pages, the usual SEP length yet seemingly long for someone like Baudrillard who has a habit of writing rather short works – will go some way toward making Baudrillard’s volumous corpus opera somewhat more accessable.
Post Script - There is a link to an ammount of Baudrillard’s work on the links page and I intend to post a few notes on the entry in the next couple of days.