A blind test was conducted where participants blind tasted different cola's. People showed no real preference between each brand. However, when participants were showed the label 'Coca-Cola' and sampled the drink they preferred this drink regardless of which cola was actually being given to them. This shows that people are tasting the brand; we care more about the logo and not the actual product.
Jean Baudrillard (1929 - 2007) - A French philosopher, critic, social cultural theorist, photographer. He was a pioneering theorist in the domains of semiotics, political economy, postmodernism, popular culture and media theory. He was one of the generation of French thinkers associated with 'poststructuralism'.
Other key precursors:
Author of Society of the Spectacle (1976)
He was a marxist theorist who revised Marx's main concepts to analyse commodity-relations in the age of consumer culture.
He maintained that commodity society had become an 'immense accumulation of spectacles'.
Consumer culture hereby operates on the basis of images and signs.
Ferdinand de Saussure
Linguist and pioneer of semiotics.
He maintained that language functions and theory of value.
Pioneering philosopher and political and economic theorist. He developed the 'critique of political economy'. He also maintained that capitalist society in an industrial age functions on the basis of the 'labour theory of value' and the exchange of commodities. Capital constitutes are one kind of 'mode of production' and that it would be eventually replaced by other ones (socialist, communist)? He also famously claimed, along with Fredrich Engels, that in capitalist society 'all that is solid mets into air; all that is holy is profaned' (a quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet).
Anthropologist and ethnographer.
He was renowned for his analysis of the 'economy of the gift' in different societies. He explored the idea that gifts are only given as part of an exchange and that the gift always has to be reciprocated in some form.
Philosopher, novelist and poet.
He was renowned for his writings on transgression, death and 'general economy' (gift economies, economies based on 'expenditure without return, e.g. the 'Potlatch').
He developed the distinction between 'hot' and 'cool' media and argued that the 'medium is the message'.
In Baudrillard's book Simulacra and Simulation he famously elaborated his theory of simulacra. He wrote that simulacra are copies either of the thing that are intended to represent. This was a controversial subject for a long time, but has now become a key term in postmodernism theory and culture.
Here are three extracts from the book:
The Holy Sacrament - 'reflection of a profound reality'
Gargoyle as an example of 'maleficence' - 'masks and denatures a profound reality'
H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulu Mythos - 'masks the absence of a profound reality'
Malficent from Sleeping Beauty - 'has no relation to any reality whatsoever, it is its own pure simulacrum'.
Why 'reality TV' is not really, real...
Symbolic Exchange and Death (1976) by Baudrillard.
The three orders of simulacra:
The counterfeit - dominant scheme of the 'classical period'
Production - dominant scheme in the industrial era
Simulation - dominant scheme in the current code-governed phase.
According to Marx the 'dialectic' of capitalism is between Labour and Capital.
According to Baudrillard, Marx's distinction is subject to a more fundamental one - The exchange of images and signs to which all other relations, e.g. between labour and capital are subject.
Baudrillard uses Saussure's theory of 'signification' to elaborate his 'three orders of simulacra'.
However signifying echange is not the same as symbolic exchange.
Given the predominance of simulacra it is very difficult if not impossible to conceive what such 'symbolic exchange' might amount to.
What is apparent is that the symbolic is in excess of the signifying economy and therefore cannot be expressed as part of this economy without becoming a simulacrum.
Baudrillard describes DNA and Computer Codes as examples of simulacra.
The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (1991) - Baudrillard was not trying suggest that the war was made up, but rather to make a point about how war becomes simulacral in an age of global mass media.