integral reality

integral reality
  ---- by William Pawlett
  The notion of integral reality appeared relatively late in Baudrillard's career, becoming important thematically in The Perfect Crime (1996c [1995a]) and discussed in detail in his final major work The Intelligence of Evil or The Lucidity Pact (2005a [2004]) and in contemporaneous interviews. To grasp the meaning of this important term it is necessary first to clarify Baudrillard's understanding of the real, the sign and simulation and their 'murder' which paves the way for integral reality.
  Baudrillard is consistently clear that 'the real' is a 'particular case' of simulation (PC, 10) and warns: 'let's never forget that the real is merely a simulation' (P, 69). Reality and simulation then are not binary opposites; 'reality' is simulated through the breaking of symbolic exchange relations and the positing of the discrete and 'disenchanted' universe of the sign. The sign produces the effect of reference or representation, as the signifier produces the effect of the signified (CPS). The effect of the real consists in pairs of binary relations, such as true/false, nature/culture, male/ female, built on the foundation of the sign; 'the effect of the real is only ever therefore the structural effect of the disjunction between two terms' (SED, 133). Further, Baudrillard insists that this real-ity is a relatively short-lived affair; born with the Renaissance 'reality has barely had time to exist and already it is disappearing . . .' (LP, 17). Baudrillard clarifies his position as follows:
  when we say reality has disappeared, the point is not that it has disappeared physically, but that it has disappeared metaphysically. Reality continues to exist; it is its principle that is dead . . . objective reality - reality related to meaning and representation - gives way to 'Integral Reality', a reality without limits in which everything is realised and technically materialised without reference to any principle or final purpose [destination] whatever. (LP, 18)
  Reality without limits or direction, without anything 'not real' against which it could be contrasted, is, for Baudrillard 'obscene', 'unbearable': 'integral reality is the perpetrating on the world of an unlimited operational project whereby everything becomes real, everything becomes visible and transparent, everything is "liberated"' (LP, 17).
  Though there is clearly an overlap or commonality in the terms Baudrillard employs to evoke simulation and integral reality, the two can be distinguished. Integral reality is distinct from simulation because the mechanism of the disenchanted sign, on which simulation depended, is eliminated by the virtual, by information, by the flow of zeros and ones that characterise integral reality. If simulation hyper-realises the real by generating its effect from abstract models and codes (fashion, consumerism, sexuality), integral reality comes about through the elimination of the sign and its capacity for both representation and simulation. The murder of the sign is far more serious than the murder of reality because without the sign the symbolic, poetic, illusionary, anagrammatic and aphoristic dimensions of language are lost: 'without the arbitrary nature of the sign, there is no differential function, no language, no symbolic dimension' (LP, 67-8). The murder of the sign is also the 'murder of illusion' (F, 46) and creates a 'totally deciphered' world where 'everything that exists only as idea, dream, fantasy, utopia will beeradicated,becauseitwillimmediatelyberealised,operationalised. . .real events, will not even have time to take place. Everything will be preceded by its virtual realisation' (VI, 66-7). Without the sign there can be nothing but a virtual copy of the world, what Baudrillard calls 'radical fetishism . . . the sign's becoming pure object once again' (LP, 72). However, the 'pure object' of integral reality is distinct from the object in symbolic exchange or seduction where the object is alive and charged with destiny. In contrast integral reality eclipses the sign's transcendence in the immanence of technology and data flow; meanings are 'de-vitalised' by the expulsion of 'otherness, alterity or negativity' (LP, 67), and 'things are no longer anything but what they are, and, as they are, they are unbearable' (LP, 26).
  Baudrillard develops a number of examples of the 'integral drive': digital technology, the notion of 'real time' and the 'integrist' thrust of neo-liberal globalisation. Music, he argues, is reduced to digital code by computer technology such that all 'impurities', such as feedback and distortion, are removed. These can be reintroduced digitally, at a later date, for greater 'authenticity', but this reduces 'authenticity' to a special effect: 'is this still music?' (LP, 28). The 'quality' of music is, increasingly, measured by its degree of technical fidelity rather than existing in the measureless realm of the imagination; digital coding purges music of negativity as digital image processing purges the image of its negative. Schematically, if linear time replaced the cyclical time of symbolic exchange, it in turn is replaced by so-called 'real time' which is not 'real' at all but virtual because the flow of past, present and future are 'contracted to a single focal point, to a fractal form of time. The differential of time having disappeared, it is the integral function that wins out: the immediate total presence of a thing to itself. All that is absent from itself, all that differs from itself, is not truly real' (LP, 31).
  But, Baudrillard asserts, fortunately the perfect crime of the complete imposition of integral reality is impossible. The world in its radical illusion, along with everything and everyone, is non-identical, enigmatic and radically Other. Destiny and its symbolic or dual forms are 'indestructible' (LP, 21) and it is with globalisation that the backlash against the integral drive can be most clearly felt in 'dissent working away at it from the inside. It is the global violence immanent in the world-system itself which, from within, sets the purest symbolic form of the challenge against it' (LP, 22). There is no way of resolving the antagonism between the 'integral drive' and the 'dual drive' and we have, Baudrillard declares, all already taken sides; we are either for integral reality or against it.
   § anagrams
   § code
   § globalisation
   § hyper-reality
   § music
   § perfect crime
   § real
   § sign
   § simulation
   § virtual

The Baudrillard dictionary. . 2015.

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