Where’s the Culture, Baudrillard?

Hello all. I’m back, but without a vengeance. And, yes, I am once again here to write about Jean Baudrillard. Such a happy, little Frenchman.

Today I read through his essay entitled “Consumer Society,” and I’m sure you’re all jumping to find out what I think of it. In this Baudrillard talks about the rampant consumerism and what it has done to culture, shopping areas, and production. He seems to believe that, due to consumerism, an organic culture is impossible. Instead, ‘culture is culturalized’ through the implementation of drugstores and shopping malls. He has given culture a process it must now go through in order to become culture itself. Culture is for-profit and sold in an ‘environment…completely climatized, furnished and culturalized.’

While I agree to some extent, I want to know more about what falls outside of his ‘culture.’ What of independent artists and musicians who look to stay away from factory-like systems of culture? Where does the artist painting for their own well-being? Is this culture? To some extent, Baudrillard would likely argue that culture is just a figment of our imaginations created by corporations, which is really what he is stating in this text anyway. But isn’t that a bit of a cop-out? Culture must exist outside of consumerism, correct? Or is it not until we leave a capitalist society that culture can truly be measured by its intrinsic worth? Within capitalist systems that intrinsic value comes down to whatever its value is determined by dollars and cents. Outside of the monetary value, there is nothing. This is where the hyperreal comes in I guess, with that value being a simulation of reality and true aesthetic value.

Or is aesthetic value even a true indicator of culture? Should culture have a value? Should it have an aura? Does it outside of value-based systems? I’m not really sure since I’ve only lived in value-based reality and those questions are hard anyway.

There is something to be said about the values-laden production and sales system we live in. Many social scientists and theorists have gone far enough to say that companies create commercials and advertisements that appeal to our values instead of the actual use-value of the product. Sex for cologne. Sustainability for hybrids. Sex for alcohol. Love for diamonds. Lust for diamonds. And then sex for just about everything else too. However Baudrillard takes it further. Values are brought out in the places we shop and in the production of goods itself. Our shopping malls are clean and have plants and sunlight all over the place. Courtyards are set up to look like parks. They encourage us to support a place that is close to nature and community when purchasing. One must think that large glass windows in the fronts of stores is not only to show off goods to outsiders, but to bring in the outside to insiders, comforting them while buying.

The values of production are much of the same. We demand the most green company practices. Believe me, I really love the green movement and I believe it has already made strong impacts on society. However, that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been taken advantage of. Our values have shifted in the past 30-40 years in that we now care more about how businesses are run with regards to their environmental policies. Is this really putting a value on being green or just an extension of the value of self-preservation?

So now I’m questioning if values even exist. Once again, Baudrillard infers that they are products of capitalism, but what are our values outside of that system? I guess some would be self-preservation and lust since those seem too intrinsic to humans to be torn away from us. But there must be more. Outside of capitalism there is some sort of intersection between culture and values. I guess culture would reflect the values in a way. However, I am really just speaking of artistic culture. I forgot about the other parts that are encapsulated under the term of culture.

Well. I am going to stop now. Baudrillard has once again caused me to require a pause from thought. Thanks for reading. Maybe you all have some answers.

Also, if you are interested, I have tackled one of the new waves of social media, Tumblr. My page is about my journeys into the world of stenciling. So please head over to http://tentaclesstenciling.tumblr.com/ and check out some of my stuff. Thanks again.

Cheers folks.

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