---- by Ashley Woodward
  Baudrillard's treatment of the theme of excess varies over the course of his writings, and it appears as both a positively and a negatively valued idea. Baudrillard's early understanding of excess is significantly indebted to Georges Bataille. Excess plays a crucial role in what Bataille terms 'general economy', an economy of natural forces opposed to the restricted economy of capitalism. While capitalist economy is predicated on utilitarian principles of good use and maximum profit, Bataille contends that all systems produce excesses of energy that need to be consumed in useless expenditures, examples of which in human culture are sacrifice, waste, death, luxury and eroticism (Bataille, 1991a, 1991b). What most interests Baudrillard is the way Bataille's general economy suggests a transgression and disruption of capitalism through excess. In For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign (1981 [1972]), symbolic exchange is reminiscent of Bataille's vision of excess: it involves excessive forms of social behaviour (such as gift-giving and the wasteful expenditure of goods), and promises to transgress the order of capitalist political economy. From Symbolic Exchange and Death (1993a [1976]) onward, however, Baudrillard moves away from the theme of transgression and correspondingly alters his understanding of excess. In these later works, excess plays a double role. On the one hand, it continues to name an Other to the system of capitalist political economy; on the other hand, it indicates the extremes of the contemporary capitalist system itself. As the latter, excess is a key idea underlying Baudrillard's analysis of contemporary culture in terms of hyper-reality, the implosion of meaning in the media and so on, as the following passages from The Vital Illusion (2000) well indicate:
  Let us be clear about this: if the Real is disappearing, it is not because of a lack of it - on the contrary, there is too much of it. It is the excess of reality that puts an end to reality, just as the excess of information puts an end to information, or the excess of communication puts an end to communication. (VI, 65-6) . . . Everywhere we see a paradoxical logic: the idea is destroyed by its own realization, by its own excess. (VI, 47)
  As the former, excess indicates all those things which continue to resist incorporation into the systems of reality, information and communication: seduction, the fatal, destiny and so on. Thus in Baudrillard's mature works excess indicates both the tendency of contemporary systems to exceed their proper bounds and attempt to assimilate everything, and the excessive remainder which refuses to be assimilated. In these later works, far from seeing excess as a transgression which would lead to a liberation, Baudrillard stresses the non-distinction of two, oppositely valued, forms of excess:
  In a way there is no difference between the excess that represents the saturation of a system and that leads it to a final baroque death by overgrowth (excroissance) and the excess that stems from the fatal, from destiny. Basically, today, it is impossible to distinguish between good and bad excess . . . that is precisely what makes the present situation original and interesting. (BL, 37)
   § culture
   § destiny
   § fatal
   § gift
   § hyper-reality
   § media
   § seduction

The Baudrillard dictionary. . 2015.

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