Nihilism and Cultural Cohesion: (Re)considerations of Jean Baudrillard
Harden, B. Garrick
Sociology Texas A&M University College Station, United States of America
Jean Baudrillard writes what could be considered requiems for modernism and authenticity in culture. Baudrillard illustrates postmodern culture through both the form and content of his writings. The evolution of his writings from Marxist and Structuralist critiques of consumer society (2004) up to his uneasy acceptance of the death of the enlightenment in his later works demonstrates a mourning for the loss of meaning in social interaction, language, technology and, more generally, the creation of cultural "forms" (Baudrillard, 2004; 2003; 2006; 2007; 1999; 2002; 1993). It is important to distinguish between postmodernism as critique and analysis and postmodernism as our current historical and cultural epoch. Breaking with other theorists and cultural critics, Baudrillard paints a nihilistic portrait of post-industrial culture. Baudrillard describes a nihilistic culture but this does not mean that his theory is nihilistic. Stating that
Baudrillard's critique of postmodern culture is nihilistic is overly simplistic. The concept of a nihilistic culture seems oxymoronic at first glance; after all, culture implies patterns and structures and nihilism would connote the absence of such things. The loss of meaning would seem to imply the "death of society"; the implosion of boundaries that once provided organization and structure, however, instead of causing the dissolution of social and cultural forms it provides the "glue" to postmodern culture. In other words, the very aspects of nihilism in postmodern culture' anomie, ennui, alienation?denotes a loss of meaning that ironically provides a kind of anti-structure (in the same sense of anti-aesthetics in art [Foster, 1998]).