---- by Marc Schuster
  Ambivalence is a slippery term whose definition and significance has shifted throughout Baudrillard's career. One constant, however, is that ambivalence always calls into question the legitimacy of value. For Baudrillard, value is the principal illusion behind consumer ideology in that it imputes significance to otherwise insignificant objects and, in so doing, motivates consumers to amass vast quantities of the same. From Baudrillard's perspective, the only way to alter social relations for the better is to reveal all forms of value as illusory. Such a revelation, he argues in his early works, will inevitably trigger the collapse of consumer ideology and, in so doing, allow individuals to regard themselves not as objects but as subjects. While this theory may not explain what ambivalence is or what forms it might take, it does demonstrate what ambivalence should do: serve as a catalyst for the destruction of consumer ideology. Ambivalence, then, represents the incessant potential for the destruction of the illusion of value that is at the heart of consumer ideology.
  While Baudrillard's definition of ambivalence gains greater nuance in his later works, he uses the term broadly in The Consumer Society (1998a [1970]) to denote a sense of both fulfilment and non-fulfilment, or gain and loss, in relation to the object of desire. The discrepancy between what consumer culture promises with respect to the object and what the object can actually deliver robs the consumer of ambivalence toward the object. Moreover, this lack of ambivalence leads the consumer into an unhealthy relationship with the object. In plain terms, because consumer ideology tells the consumer (via advertising, media images and the like) that commodities will bring absolute fulfilment, the consumer cannot help but lapse into a state of anxiety when those commodities fail to deliver. Because consumer ideology does not allow for ambivalence and, instead, forces the consumer to view the business of consumption only in terms of gain, the consumer cannot help but feel inadequate in relation to the objects he or she possesses. Hence the anxiety inherent in consumerism: the consumer's natural ambivalence toward objects is repressed insofar as consumer ideology insists that the enjoyment of objects should be unconditional. Under these conditions, the consumer has no alternative but to locate the source of dissatisfaction within, and the only option consumer ideology provides to address the resulting anxiety is for the consumer to acquire more objects.
  In For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign (1981 [1972]), Baudrillard argues that the logic of the sign restricts the subject's ambivalence in relation to objects. Building on Ferdinand de Saussure's groundbreaking work in semiotics, Baudrillard notes that the sign is marked by an arbitrary nature. Baudrillard's definition of arbitrary, however, goes beyond that of Saussure. Where Saussure notes that the sign is arbitrary because there is no causal link between the signifier and signified, Baudrillard argues that arbitrariness is rooted in the fact that consumer ideology would have us believe that the signifier both equals and is discrete from the signified. So while the signifier is not the signified, it nonetheless 'equals', 'means' or even 'is' in the realm of circulation and exchange that which can neither be spoken nor represented except through the signifier: the signified and the signified only. For the sake of economy, the sign reduces, represses and annihilates 'all that which overflows the schema of equivalence and signification' and eliminates ambivalence in the name of 'a fixed and equational structure' that ultimately denotes value and nothing more (CPS, 149). As a result, the subject loses ambivalence toward objects and relates to them only in terms of positive sign value (that is, what the object says to the world at large about the subject's status in relation to all other objects).
  In order to restore humanity's potential for meaningful communication, Baudrillard calls for a mode of exchange that operates independently of the arbitrary code of value that regulates consumer culture. This mode of exchange, which Baudrillard calls symbolic exchange, hinges on the concept of ambivalence. According to Baudrillard, ambivalence and symbolic exchange do not confront the discourse of value with an opposing code but with the rejection of codes altogether. That is, because ambivalence is predicated not on the circulation of information and semantic content (which is to say value) but on the negation of these concepts, it can neither be encoded nor decoded and therefore cannot be mass mediated. From a theoretical perspective, however, Baudrillard argues that ambivalence will draw attention to the fact that the object of consumerism 'is nothing, and that behind it stands the tangled void of human relations, the negative imprint of the immense mobilization of productive and social forces which have become reified in it' (CS, 196). To be sure, sketching a means of effecting symbolic exchange, even on a personal level, is no easy task. Indeed, to reduce ambivalence to a simple formula is to return to the conundrum at the heart of Baudrillard's theory; doing so would more likely serve than cripple consumerism insofar as the formulaic generally lends itself to commodification. Nonetheless, the concept of ambivalence serves as a theoretical alternative to the illusory value-laden logic of consumerism.
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The Baudrillard dictionary. . 2015.

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  • Ambivalence — is a state of having simultaneous, conflicting feelings toward a person or thing.[1] Stated another way, ambivalence is the experience of having thoughts and/or emotions of both positive and negative valence toward someone or something. A common… …   Wikipedia

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  • ambivalence — (n.) simultaneous conflicting feelings, 1924 (1912 as ambivalency), from Ger. Ambivalenz, coined 1910 by Swiss psychologist Eugen Bleuler (1857 1939) on model of Ger. Equivalenz equivalence, etc., from L. ambi both (see AMBI (Cf. ambi )) +… …   Etymology dictionary

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  • ambivalence — The coexistence of antithetical attitudes or emotions toward a given person or thing, or idea, as in the simultaneous feeling and expression of love and hate toward the same person. [ambi + L. valentia, strength] * * * am·biv·a·lence am biv ə… …   Medical dictionary

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