A Post-Structuralist Analysis of Simulation And Simulacra

In the following analysis, I will examine the Post Marxism of Jean Baudrillard in his book “Simulacra and Simulation.” Specifically, I will discuss his concepts of simulation and simulacra, the four stages of sign-order, and the historical periods of simulation and simulacra. Although the lack of distinctions between reality and simulacra result in various phenomena, Baudrillard says we live in a hyper reality society- an unreal world, essentially, that some say has no basis in reality.

Simulation And Simulacra Concepts

To begin, Baudrillard discusses his concept of simulation. Baudrillard states: “The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth—it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true.” Here, the simulation are copies, which may or may not depict a real thing.

Next, Baudrillard discusses his concept of simulacra. He states: Simulation is the imitation of the operation of a real-world process or system over time.” These are copies throughout time.

Sign Order Four Stages

Baudrillard discusses the sign-order in four stages. First, he talks about the first copy of an image: “The first stage is a faithful image/copy, where we believe, and it may even be correct, that a sign is a ‘reflection of a profound reality’, this is a good appearance, in what Baudrillard called ‘the sacramental order.'”

Second, he discusses how the copy comes to obscure reality: “The second stage is perversion of reality, this is where we come to believe the sign to be an unfaithful copy, which ‘masks and denatures’ reality as an ‘evil appearance—it is of the order of maleficence’. Here, signs and images do not faithfully reveal reality to us, but can hint at the existence of an obscure reality which the sign itself is incapable of encapsulating.”

Third, Baudrillard examines how the copy becomes the reality, which might not exist: “The third stage masks the absence of a profound reality, where the sign pretends to be a faithful copy, but it is a copy with no original. Signs and images claim to represent something real, but no representation is taking place and arbitrary images are merely suggested as things which they have no relationship to. Baudrillard calls this the ‘order of sorcery’, a regime of semantic algebra where all human meaning is conjured artificially to appear as a reference to the (increasingly) hermetic truth.”

Finally, Baudrillard talks how there is no reality for the sign: “The fourth stage is pure simulation, in which the simulacrum has no relationship to any reality whatsoever. Here, signs merely reflect other signs and any claim to reality on the part of images or signs is only of the order of other such claims. This is a regime of total equivalency, where cultural products need no longer even pretend to be real in a naïve sense, because the experiences of consumers’ lives are so predominantly artificial that even claims to reality are expected to be phrased in artificial, ‘hyperreal’ terms. Any naïve pretension to reality as such is perceived as bereft of critical self-awareness, and thus as oversentimental.”

These four stages of the sign-order show the progression of the sign, which leads to a hyper-reality of which may of never had a reality to begin with.

Simulation And Simulacra Historical Periods

Baudrillard discusses the first order of simulation and simulacra. He states: “First order, associated with the premodern period, where representation is clearly an artificial placemarker for the real item. The uniqueness of objects and situations marks them as irreproducibly real and signification obviously gropes towards this reality.” Here, an example of the first order could be a picture of Jesus, which represents Jesus.

Furthermore, Baudrillard talks about the second order simulation and simulacra. Baudrillard writes: “Second order, associated with the modernity of the Industrial Revolution, where distinctions between representation and reality break down due to the proliferation of mass-reproducible copies of items, turning them into commodities. The commodity’s ability to imitate reality threatens to replace the authority of the original version, because the copy is just as “real” as its prototype.” An example of second order are mass produced bibles in the middle ages.

Finally, he introduces the third order of simulation and simulacra: “Third order, associated with the post-modernity of Late Capitalism, where the simulacrum precedes the original and the distinction between reality and representation vanishes. There is only the simulation, and originality becomes a totally meaningless concept.” For example, the mass produced cross or bible lose their original meaning in an advanced capitalist society.

Lack Of Distinctions Between Reality And Simulacra Gives Rise To Phenomena

Baudrillard says lack of distinction between reality and simulacra results in various phenomena. He goes through these phenomena in stages.

First, he discusses phenomena in the media: “Contemporary media including television, film, print, and the Internet, which are responsible for blurring the line between products that are needed (in order to live a life) and products for which a need is created by commercial images.” Baudrillard sees media as obscuring reality.

Second, he sees exchange value as involved in emerging phenomena: “Exchange value, in which the value of goods is based on money (literally denominated fiat currency) rather than usefulness, and moreover usefulness comes to be quantified and defined in monetary terms in order to assist exchange.” Here, Baudrillard borrows the Marxist idea of utility to discuss rising phenomena.

Third, he sees lack of reality and simulacra distinctions as involving multinational capitalism: “Multinational capitalism, which separates produced goods from the plants, minerals and other original materials and the processes (including the people and their cultural context) used to create them. Here, he borrows the Marxist idea of alienation to discuss rising phenomena in the media.

Fourth, Baudrillard sees urbanization as playing a role in this lack of distinction between reality and simulacra. With the rise of urbanization, societies’ division of labor became more complex under capitalism as opposed to hunting and gathering societies with a simple division of labor.


Finally, Baudrillard believes language and ideology are effected: “Language and ideology, in which language increasingly becomes caught up in the production of power relations between social groups, especially when powerful groups institute themselves at least partly in monetary terms.” These phenomena manifest in a post modern era.

In summary, Jean Baudrillard quotes “On Exactitude in Science” by Jorge Luis Borges to discuss simulation and simulacra. However, today, one might think of the lost original bible letters and the proliferation of copies (which some may argue have lost all reference to the real) of those lost bible letters, in regard to the theory of simulation and simulacra.

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