- ---- by David B. Clarke'The universal', Baudrillard declares, is 'on its way out' (P, 11) - a fast-fading hope, long past its sell-by date, and in any case a chimera, modernity's founding myth. In its place, globalisation has taken hold, its ascendancy intimately related to the demise of the modern ambition crystallised in universality.Globalisation and universality are not equivalent terms; in fact they could be considered mutually exclusive. Globalisation pertains to technologies, the market, tourism and information. Universality pertains to values, human rights, freedoms, culture and democracy. Globalisation seems to be irreversible; the universal on the other hand seems to be disappearing, at least in so far as it constitutes a system of values for Western modernity with no counterpart in any other culture. (Baudrillard, in Grace et al., 2003: 23)'Other cultures . . . have never laid claim to universality. Nor did they ever claim to be different - until difference was [foisted upon] them' (TE, 132). Today, however, 'triumphant globalisation is levelling out every difference and every value, ushering in a perfectly indifferent (non)culture' (Baudrillard, in Grace et al., 2003: 26). Where universality instituted difference in place of singularity, globalisation instates indifference.As Lyotard (1992: 30) insightfully argued, 'the project of modernity (the realisation of universality) has not been forsaken or forgotten, but destroyed, "liquidated".' It is not simply the 'legitimacy' of universality that has been put in question, but its very possibility; not merely the wilful abandonment of modernity's hopes and dreams (the realisation of the universality of values, rights, liberty, democracy), but the dissolution of modernity's ambition from within. Modernity was founded on 'an idea (of freedom, of wisdom, of justice, of equality, or whatever) which is universal but whose universality lies in the future' (Bauman, 1992: 40-1). But this teleological myth contained its own undoing. 'There is a kind of reversible fatality for systems', says Baudrillard, 'because the more they go towards universality, towards their total limits, there is a kind of reversal which they themselves produce, and which destroys their own objective' (BL, 91). Modernity's dogged pursuit of universality inevitably induced such a reversal: 'By crossing into a space whose curvature is no longer that of the real . . . the era of simulation is inaugurated by a liquidation of all referentials' (SS, 2). It is necessarily the case that 'Every universal form is a simulacrum, since it is the simultaneous equivalent of all the others - something it is impossible for any real being to be' (IE, 64). By virtue of the same process, a universality infinitely postponed until the end of history has witnessed its dissolution, along with that of the end of history. Accordingly, one should not expect an end to the discourse of universality - to claims registered in the name of freedom, justice and democracy. Given that 'in a non-linear, non-Euclidean space of history the end cannot be located' (IE, 110), one may expect an ever-increasing clamour of claims to universal rights, which are progressively hollowed out by the self-same process. Today, the 'universal itself is globalized; democracy and human rights circulate just like any other global product - like oil or capital' (ST, 90).As the forces unleashed by globalisation proliferate at the expense of a rapidly diminishing universality, the outcome remains uncertain. Unlike universality, globalisation 'is not really a concept . . . it is a fact, a state of things, an apparently irresistible one, but one that, precisely because no-one has a monopoly on it, runs the risk of becoming a fact at everyone's expense' (Baudrillard, in Grace et al., 2003: 28). Whereas universality was a statement of intent, globalisation is a catalogue of consequences. But, fortunately: the die has not yet been cast, even if, for universal values, all bets are definitely off.The stakes have risen and globalisation is by no means a sure winner. In the face of globalisation's dissolving and homogenising power, everywhere heterogeneous forces are arising that are not only different but antagonistic and irreducible. (Baudrillard, in Grace et al., 2003: 26)'What must be opposed to globalisation is not an effective universal instance but a radical singularity', Baudrillard proposes, offering the following apposite image of thought:We . . . have spoken of the violence done to the singular by the universal and the violence done by the global to the universal. We must think of the game of Paper, Scissors, Stone. The scissors break on the stone, but the paper covers the stone and the scissors cut the paper. There are three terms. Each overtakes the other in a ceaseless cycle and it is the same with the global, the universal and the singular. But I will leave you to guess which is which. (Baudrillard, in Grace et al., 2003: 35)Passwords
The Baudrillard dictionary. Richard G. Smith. 2015.