Baudrillard’s “The Violence of the Global” Revisited: Comments and New Perspectives

Baudrillard’s “The Violence of the Global” Revisited: Comments and New Perspectives

by Dr. François Debrix

In 2002, one year after the 9/11 attacks, Jean Baudrillard wrote and published the essay “The Violence of the Global” in a short book titled Power Inferno.[1] Along with two other essays dedicated to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and their aftermath, “The Violence of the Global” addresses the 1990s and early 2000s phenomenon of globalization (or “mondialisation,” in the original French text) and offers a few reflections on the relationship between terrorism and the global (global politics, global culture, global exchanges, etc.). Baudrillard’s “Violence of the Global” (heretofore referred to as VoG) presents four main related themes, each of which in turn extends some of the insights provided by Baudrillard in Power Inferno’s other essays and in some of his other texts written around the same time (for example, Impossible Exchange and Paroxysm[2]). These four themes are: globalization versus the universalization of values; virtual global culture and indifference; globalization as a new form of violence; and the global versus new singularities and terrorism. While all four themes are tightly connected, the question of the violence of globalization is the central concern around which the other topics gravitate. Moreover, the violence of globalization is an issue that remains relevant today, over 20 years after the publication of Baudrillard’s essay, particularly among theorists who recently have written about neoliberalism and the neoliberal subject.

With regards to the relationship between globalization and universalization, Baudrillard affirms that “globalization appears to be irreversible whereas universalization is likely to be on its way out” (VoG). Universalization, or the Enlightenment’s dream of a universal spread of western values such as democracy, liberty, and human rights centered around the figure of an omniscient and omnipotent moral and rational subject, is disappearing just as globalization is taking over social, cultural, and economic life (mostly, as Baudrillard claims, via “technology, the market, tourism, and information”) (VoG). The simultaneous disappearance of one (universal values) and the predominance of the other (global exchanges and culture) is no coincidence since, as Baudrillard adds, “universalization is vanishing because of globalization” (VoG) Or, put slightly differently, “uniform thought” has defeated “universal thought” (VoG) So-called universal values now only exist as commodities, products, and objects/things meant to freely and openly circulate, be exchanged, bought, sold, speculated upon, and invested in (like any other “global product” such as “oil,” or even “capital,” says Baudrillard) (VoG), and consumed or desired by customers the world over (human rights and democracy matter for their sign value just like a pair of Nike shoes, a BigMac, or the latest Taylor Swift album).

This opening reflection leads Baudrillard directly to his second point about global culture, which Baudrillard describes as a “perfectly indifferent culture” (VoG) Global culture is not only uniform (the same everywhere), but it is also virtual. “Screens, networks, immanence, and numbers” (VoG) define it and further eliminate concepts and the need to carve out a time and space for thought. Crucially, virtual global culture is indifferent. This means that, for Baudrillard, globalization gets rid of difference or otherness (or what elsewhere he calls “radical alterity”[3]) by way of sameness or uniformity of visual/virtual appearances, enhanced by technology, and made to stand for reality or real experience. But global culture also erases difference as a matter of spacing, distance, delay, non-equivalence, or distinction between object and subject, or between sign and concept. Whereas universal values relied upon concepts (and upon a necessary referential or representational distance between ideas/ideals and social, political, and cultural reality), the indifference of global cultural forms and products leaves us with a “space-time continuum without depth” (VoG). A total equivalence of signs and objects replacing values and concepts, an “equivalence of all exchanges” (VoG), makes possible “the supremacy of technical efficiency and positivity, total organization, [and] integral circulation” (VoG), all of which are for Baudrillard the main operations by way of which global culture takes over the social.

This system of total equivalence and indifference that is global culture is also the precondition for a new form of violence—Baudrillard’s third and arguably main theme in VoG—that seems to have no internal limits (external limits are beyond the point since globalization has erased otherness, the outside, and difference, or so it appears) and no checks and balances. The violence of globalization is a violence of positivity (VoG). In global culture, everything must be positive and optimal. Globalization operates seamlessly, with maximum productive efficiency, by way of unfettered circulation through circuits and networks that ensure the high achievement of exchanges and the self-realization of human subjects as agents and products of the global system. While Baudrillard does not use the term, it is what many have called neoliberalism that he is targeting here.[4] Global culture is what other thinkers may understand to be neoliberal culture.[5] The human subject, who “no longer has any finality” (as Baudrillard writes) (VoG) and becomes a reflection/mirror image (with no depth, no distance) of this global system, is what some may today theorize as a neoliberal subject.[6] And globalization’s violence, in other contexts, may be translated as neoliberal violence.[7]

Similar to neoliberal violence, Baudrillard’s global violence is without external enemies, at least in the classical sense of a friend versus enemy distinction (which historically, per Carl Schmitt,[8] among others, helped to draw clear boundaries around, but also limits to, social life, the political domain, and the use of violence). As we saw above, globalization has eliminated Enlightenment’s belief in universal values and ideals. Furthermore, globalization (like neoliberalism) no longer has any competing economic, political, cultural, or even moral model of organization of life to deal with (not even socialism or communism anymore, which western enlightened ideas and policies defeated in the name of a now defunct push towards universalization). As a violence of positivity and efficiency that has done away with the notions of enmity and otherness, global violence turns inward but is also boundless. As Baudrillard bluntly puts it: “Free from its former enemies, humanity now has to create enemies from within” (VoG). Indifferent, freed from the other, and in the name of positive, efficient, and uniform human subjects across the globe (globalization has seemingly removed geopolitical boundaries when it did away with enmity, although western Enlightenment’s universal values already chipped away at political and territorial differences), global culture “tracks down any form of negativity” within itself (VoG). Within globalized humanity, violence is on the lookout for the singular (not the different or the other, since it is convinced that it has eliminated it), for that which does not appear to adhere to uniformity (and thus could reduce the efficiency of global exchanges), and for that which threatens global life. Here, perhaps unwittingly, Baudrillard is tapping into a biopolitical or even necropolitical logic.[9] In the name of positivity, to constantly seek to optimize global life, “conflict is forbidden” and even “death is not allowed” (VoG). Conflict as a negative use of violence, death as the negation of life (perhaps even as its other, as different from life/living) must be subjected to positive violence, to a violence or “virulence” that works by way of expansion, propagation, and contagion, not by opposition or antagonism, and thus, to quote Baudrillard again, seeks to “put an end to violence itself” (VoG).

Byung-Chul Han Photo: ActuaLitté (CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)
Byung-Chul Han (Photo: ActuaLitté (CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

The theme of globalization’s violence is, once again, central to the essay. What in part makes Baudrillard’s take on violence so important is that, indirectly or directly, it has influenced how other theorists have started to understand neoliberalism’s violence (as I suggested above). One such theorist is Korean-German philosopher Byung-Chul Han who, over the past two decades, has written quite a bit about neoliberalism and the neoliberal subject (the subject caught in globalization or global culture, which Han calls “hyperculture”[10]). In the introduction to his 2011 book Topologie der Gewalt (translated as Topology of Violence when it was published in English in 2018),[11] Han, without crediting Baudrillard, embraces the notion of a “violence of positivity” that, he argues, characterizes contemporary neoliberal societies and globalization. Han writes: “Today’s society increasingly divests itself of the negativity of the other or the foreign. The process of globalization accelerates the dissolution of borders and distinctions” (Han, Topology, p. viii). Han adds: “Yet the depletion of negativity should not be equated with the disappearance of violence, since… there is a violence of positivity, which is wielded without enemy or domination” (Han, Topology, p. viii). In a manner that recalls Baudrillard’s point in VoG, Han then asserts the following: “Violence isn’t merely an excess of negativity; it can also be an excess of positivity, the accumulation of the positive [Han’s emphasis], which manifests as overachievement, overproduction, overcommunication, hyper-attention, and hyperactivity” (Han, Topology, p. viii). Thus, for Han, “the violence of positivity is possibly even more disastrous than that of negativity because it is neither visible nor evident, and it evades immunological defense because of its positivity” (Han, Topology, p. viii).

What Han calls the late-modern or neoliberal “achievement subject” (as opposed to what Han takes to be the “obedience subject” of disciplinary violence and control that emerges out of Michel Foucault’s work, in particular) (Han, Topology, p. ix) is a human subject that has been shaped by this violence of positivity which, both for Baudrillard and Han, seems to define globalization and global culture. In globalization, the neoliberal achievement subject is and must be free, and it cannot be subordinated or subjected to anything “external to itself” (Han, Topology, p. viii). Thus, total internalization of the principles of global exchange and of the forms and signs of global culture are key. The achievement subject, in its actions, thoughts (or what passes for thoughts), occupations, and desires, merely replicates what, once again, Baudrillard calls the “technical efficiency and positivity” (VoG) of the global system, or better yet, of neoliberalism. In this way, for the achievement subject, as Han and Baudrillard intimate, complete self-referentiality is realized. But so is violence, which has now become self-referential too.

Interestingly, in Topology of Violence, Han meaningfully expands upon and updates Baudrillard’s point about globalization’s violence. At the same time, however, he misreads Baudrillard or, at the very least, he exaggerates the discrepancy between his own theorization of contemporary violence and Baudrillard’s analysis. On the side of expanding Baudrillard’s argument, Han explains that the self-referential violence of the (achievement) subject of global or hyper culture needs to be understood as a matter of self-exploitation. Baudrillard seems to be on his way to reaching the same conclusion with regards to self-exploitation when he notes that the violence of the global calls for a humanity that looks for enemies within itself, within the limits of human life (where death itself is no longer allowed), and that does violence to any attempt at singularity or uniqueness (taken to be signs of a new internal “enmity”), even to the point where, paradoxically perhaps, it may end up producing inhumanity, or in Baudrillard’s language, “a wide variety of inhuman metastases” (VoG). In a way that reminds us of Baudrillard’s initial point about globalization’s eradication of universal values and concepts (democracy, human rights, freedom, etc.), Han adds that global (neoliberal) culture revives some of these values as signs, now deprived of conceptual depth or referential distinction, for the sake of an internal mode of violence that takes the form of the neoliberal (achievement) subject’s self-exploitation. In particular, globalization/neoliberalism re-mobilizes freedom as a matter of compulsion and compulsive self-violence. Han writes that the neoliberal achievement subject, the subject that is meant to thrive in a context of positive and efficient globalized humanity, now “must be its own master [since] its existence is not governed by commands and prohibitions, but rather by freedom and initiative” (Han, Topology, p. 89). Yet, this seeming revalorization of freedom (a freedom which, once again, is now completely detached from any concept or ideal) is in fact a pathway towards the new violence, that is to say, the violence of the human subject onto itself, without any need for enmity or otherness. This is how Han puts it: “The imperative for performance transforms freedom into compulsion… [and thus] self-exploitation replaces exploitation of the other” (Topology, p. 89). Global violence invades the neoliberal subject as “the achievement subject exploits itself until it collapses completely” (Topology, p. 89). “Violence and freedom coincide,” Han adds, thus “making violence self-targeting. The exploiter is the exploited” (Topology, p. 89).

Han further suggests that the self-exploiting and self-destructive violence of globalization/neoliberalism may seem to operate by way of contagion or virulence, thus slowly but surely destroying human subjects’ “immune systems” and their “capacities to resist,” as Baudrillard indicates (VoG). But Han, once again updating or embellishing Baudrillard’s argument, does not believe that contagion or virality are key anymore. Han notes that, today, “Baudrillard’s theory of virulence has lost its argumentative stringency” (Topology, p. 92).[12] This is because, as Han helpfully explains, “our era,” unlike what Baudrillard appeared to think at the turn of the century, “is not a viral one” (Topology, p. 92), or at least it no longer is predominantly the case some 10 to 15 years after the publication of Baudrillard’s essay (when Han wrote Topology of Violence). Instead, today’s era of neoliberal/globalized violence has seen a replacement of global virulence with a generalized sense of what Han calls burnout. Contemporary “exemplary illnesses are not viral… but rather psychic ailments, such as burnout, hyperactivity, and depression, which are caused not by viral negativity but rather by excess positivity and the violence of positivity” (Han, Topology, p. 92).

While Han’s update about the positive violence of neoliberalism and globalization is useful (since today’s neoliberal achievement subject, in the name of maximum positivity and efficiency, is asked to “exploit itself until it burns out”[13]), Han’s critique of Baudrillard’s notion of the viral or virulence misreads or misunderstands Baudrillard too. Unfortunately, this is not an unusual occurrence as, in much of his work, Han is often drawn to Baudrillard’s thought and style (including what one might call the challenge or more accurately the défi—a French word that connotes the notions of challenge, but also of dare and defiance—that is characteristic of Baudrillard’s writing[14]). And yet Han often appears as if he must up the ante vis-à-vis Baudrillard, perhaps upstage him by coming across as more daring or defiant than Baudrillard himself. This compulsion leads Han to some careless moments,[15] one of which is on display in the above quotation where Han reads Baudrillard’s reference to the viral as an exemplification of negative violence when, in fact, in VoG as well as in other texts,[16] Baudrillard is clear that viral violence or virulence is about a violence of positivity. Han repeats the misreading of Baudrillard elsewhere when, quoting an interview that Baudrillard gave to journalists of the German news magazine Der Spiegel in 2002 in which Baudrillard was asked about contemporary wars and the seeming disappearance of war fronts, lines of demarcation, and battle lines, Han claims that Baudrillard does not grasp the fact that wars today take place without enemies (in the classical sense of the friend versus enemy discussion mentioned above). Mischaracterizing Baudrillard’s point, Han writes: “Baudrillard does not recognize that the new world war [global war, neoliberalism’s war on and by the human subject itself] takes place without an enemy… one is at war with oneself [today].” Han continues: “Owing to the lack of negativity, enmity becomes self-referential… [and such a] war without enmity wouldn’t be ended by the victory of one party over the other, but only by global collapse, global burnout” (Topology, p. 93). Han concludes his (mis)reading of Baudrillard: “The entire system would overheat until it imploded. Implosive violence is at work here” (Topology, p. 93; all emphases in the above quotations are from Han).

What Han describes in the above quotations about Baudrillard’s analysis of war and violence in the era of globalization is actually the opposite of what Baudrillard states in VoG and in other essays, as was mentioned above. A war or violence without enmity is what Baudrillard discusses in VoG, a global war or violence which, again, is not about negativity anymore (since it has been purged by global culture), but about positive efficiency, optimization of exchange and forms (and of human subjects too), virulent contagion of effects, and, as Han rightly notes, more and more about burnout today. Interestingly too, Han’s point above about the system possibly collapsing, not as a result of negativity, enmity, or antagonistic forces, but rather through overheating or implosion is in line with Baudrillard’s thinking on the matter. In fact, the last theme explored by Baudrillard in VoG, that of the possible emergence of a “singularity of terrorism” (VoG) as a (no longer negative, no longer dialectical) challenge to globalization and its violence, speaks directly to Han’s concern with positive violence.

In a typically provocative or defiant manner, Baudrillard writes that globalization’s victory is not an absolute guarantee, no matter if it has vanquished universal values or if it is the only modality of production (and domination) of social life today. While “globalization has not completely won” (VoG,), any negation of global culture, any external enmity, or any antagonistic force vis-à-vis globalization is, once again, not a possible option anymore. There are, Baudrillard claims, rather vaguely, rising “heterogeneous” forces of reaction, revisionism, or even rejection that seemingly have given up on globalization, or on the “global techno-structure” (VoG). These revisions, reactions, or rejections can even be “perceived as violent, abnormal, or irrational” (VoG). Yet, they do not amount to any sort of traditional antagonism, to an external opposition, or indeed to an “anti-globalization movement” (for Baudrillard, so-called anti-globalization movements are part of the global system as they merely seek to “slow down global deregulation”) (VoG). Rather, these reactions or rejections to global culture spring from globalization itself. They are the products of it, are internal to it, and, in a way, can be seen as violent abreactions to the system’s own violence.

These abreactions to globalization and its violence are what Baudrillard calls “singularities.” Singularities “are not alternatives,” Baudrillard affirms (VoG). In fact, singularities are “neither positive nor negative” (VoG). While they react to and reject the positivity of the system, and the positivity of violence too, they do not come from outside the system. Nor do they offer an alternate model of social life or reality (or different positivities that, in a dialectical manner perhaps, would arise from a great initial negation). As abreactions to or even “excesses” (as Baudrillard calls them) or outgrowths of the global system, singularities seek to undo the system and its techniques and networks from the inside. Their purpose is to contribute to “the collapse of the entire system,” as Han usefully clarifies (Topology, p. 94). Put differently, singularities operate by way of what Han calls “implosive violence,” and their objective is to lead globalization (or neoliberalism, for Han) to a point of implosion where and when the system will eventually crumble onto itself. Han uses the term “destructive tensions” (Topology, p. 94) to try to capture these self-generated, internal challenges to globalization or neoliberalism. Baudrillard, as noted above, prefers to label them singularities. Yet, on the question of how the global neoliberal system and its violence may be defeated, Baudrillard and Han are not far apart.

Han sees the rise of “destructive tensions” as a result of burnout, hyperactivity, and overheating, or what Han considers to be “psychic” (Han, Topology, p. 92) or even “psychopolitical”[17] characteristics of the global or neoliberal achievement subject, which Han generalizes to the operations of the system itself. At the level of the system, destructive burnout as a mode of positive or perhaps implosive global violence takes various forms. In passing, Han mentions the “climate and environmental catastrophes” (Topology, p. 94) which, Han explains, are the outcomes of the hyperactivity or overheating of the global neoliberal system, its culture, and its violence. For Baudrillard, in VoG, the implosion of globalization is (or rather will be) the result of terrorism, its singularities, and the destructive tensions terrorism unleashes. This is how Baudrillard reads the 9/11 terrorist attacks.[18] Arising out of the “excess of reality” of global culture (or, put somewhat differently, out of the way the West has managed to transcend—but also defeat—its universal ideals and values with globalization), terrorism is “the curse of our culture” (VoG), a curse that will ultimately lead to “our” global culture’s implosion. Here, to explain the “evil” or “cursed” dimension of terrorism and its implosive violence, Baudrillard has recourse to the notion of the “symbolic order” (VoG), something he has mentioned several times before (for example, in Symbolic Exchange and Death, originally published in French in 1976[19]). Even before globalization took hold, when the enlightened West sought to conquer the real (of/in social and political life) by way of its so-called superior values, ideas, and ideals, the West had to cast away the symbolic realm (or the “traditional order” where and when it “was always possible to give back to God, to nature, or to any superior entity by means of sacrifice,” as Baudrillard puts it in VoG).[20] Yet, the symbolic order, Baudrillard claims, was never completely buried, and it also never was placed outside of or external to western universal values either. Baudrillard locates contemporary terrorism in the realm of the symbolic. And Baudrillard understands contemporary instances of terrorism as both an outgrowth or excess of the west (including the west’s previous ideas and policies) and as a resurgence or revenge of the symbolic domain as that realm of exchange, life, and violence that both universalization and globalization sought to repress, but never fully managed to. Thus, the symbolic in the form of terrorism returns as the “accursed share”[21] of western culture (now turned into global culture) or as an abreaction to the global system at the very moment when this system is getting into overdrive and perhaps is increasingly running out of control (as Han suggests).

Notwithstanding Han’s attempt at distancing his theorizations from Baudrillard’s reflections,[22] Baudrillard’s thought on the violence of the global and on the return (via terrorism) of a no longer repressed implosive or symbolic violence is key to Han’s take on neoliberal violence. Baudrillard’s analysis in VoG helps us to understand Han’s argument, which Han has repeated in much of his writing over the last 10 to 15 years, about what he calls (or, like Baudrillard, what he incants as) “the imminent implosion of the [global/neoliberal] system” (Topology, p. 94) As noted above, neoliberalism is often the term that is used these days to name a series of social, political, economic, and cultural processes and transactions that, similar to the way Baudrillard understands globalization, seek to achieve and maintain a form of power or a hegemony that relies on uniformity, optimized productivity, maximal efficiency, positivity, and often violence. Like Han, many scholars who today write about neoliberalism, the neoliberal subject, and neoliberal violence would do well to read (or re-read) Baudrillard, starting with his VoG essay. After all, when Baudrillard mentions “the despair of those whom globalization has privileged” (VoG) and diagnoses “our own submission to an omnipotent technology, to a crushing virtual reality, [and] to an empire of networks and programs that are probably in the process of redrawing the regressive contours of the entire human species” (VoG), is he not previewing the language of several contemporary critics of neoliberalism?[23] Baudrillard’s examples, his choice of terminology at times, and his insistence on conjuring up the specter of the symbolic may seem a bit dated or off-the-mark to some theorists today (starting with Han, perhaps). Yet, to others, Baudrillard’s reflections on the global and its violence may well be prophetic, offering a vision of perhaps even more “absurd” or “non-sensical” (VoG) outcomes of globalization.


[1] Jean Baudrillard, Power Inferno (Paris: Galilée, 2002), pp. 63-83. See also Jean Baudrillard, “The Violence of the Global,” trans. François Debrix, C-Theory: Theory, Technology and Culture, Vol. 26 (2003), available at

[2] These are the English titles of these two volumes. See Jean Baudrillard, L’Échange Impossible (Paris: Galilée, 1999), and Jean Baudrillard, Le Paroxyste Indifferent (Paris: Grasset, 1997).

[3] See, for example, Jean Baudrillard, “Plastic Surgery for the Other,” trans. François Debrix, C-Theory: Theory, Technology and Culture, Vol. 19, No. 1-2, Article 33 (1995), available at,matter%20of%20producing%20the%20Other. See also Jean Baudrillard and Marc Guillaume, Radical Alterity (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2008).

[4] See, for example, Byung-Chul Han, Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power (London: Verso, 2017). See also David Harvey, The Enigma of Capital and the Crisis of Capitalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

[5] See, for example, Shoshana Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (New York: Public Affairs, 2019).

[6] See Wendy Brown, Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution (New York: Zone Books, 2015).

[7] See, in particular, Byung-Chul Han, Topology of Violence (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2018).

[8] Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, trans. George Schwab (Chicago: University pf Chicago Press, 1996).

[9] See Michel Foucault, “Society Must Be Defended”: Lectures at the College de France, 1975-1976 (New York: Picador, 2003). On biopolitics as necropolitics, see Caroline Alphin and François Debrix, eds., Necrogeopolitics: On Death and Death-Making in International Relations (London: Routledge, 2020).

[10] See Byung-Chul Han, Hyperculture: Culture and Globalization (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2022).

[11] Byung-Chul Han, Topologie der Gewalt (Berlin: Matthes & Seitz, 2011).

[12] Han bases this critique of Baudrillard’s “theory of virulence” on Baudrillard’s text, The Spirit of Terrorism, which, both in its English and German (Der Geist des Terrorismus) versions, contains the three essays found in Power Inferno, including “The Violence of the Global.” See Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism, trans. Chris Turner (London: Verso, 2003). Han also targets portions of Baudrillard’s book The Transparency of Evil. See Jean Baudrillard, The Transparency of Evil, trans. James Benedict (London: Verso, 1993).

[13] As Han adds in another essay. See Byung-Chul Han, The Burnout Society (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015), p. 47.

[14] On this point, see François Debrix, “Jean Baudrillard,” in Jenny Edkins and Nick Vaughan-Williams, eds., Critical Theorists and International Relations (London, Routledge, 2009), p. 54.

[15] One of these misreadings takes place when Han brings up Baudrillard’s point on the “disappearance of history” in Baudrillard’s essay “The Millennium or the Suspense of the Year 2000.” Han wants to argue that today’s proliferation of information has led history to be transformed into something Han calls “atomized time,” a time when “events… whizz around without direction.” See Byung-Chul Han, The Scent of Time (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2017), p. 17). Instead of building his view of “atomized time” on Baudrillard’s insights from the “Millennium” essay that Han references, or from some of Baudrillard’s reflections in, for example, The Illusion of the End (where Baudrillard writes that “every political, historical, and cultural fact possesses a kinetic energy which wrenches it from its own space and propels it into a hyperspace where… it loses all meaning”) (Jean Baudrillard, The Illusion of the End, trans. Chris Turner [Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994], p. 2), Han argues that Baudrillard’s reading of history or of the historical event as “an ever more perfect simulation [of] the original” eradicates history and prevents Baudrillard from grasping the point that history today returns as a proliferation of “atomized” bits (or indeed events) that proliferate in all directions. See Han, The Scent of Time, p. 17. But this last point is in fact very much what Baudrillard suggests is happening to history (or the simulated return of historical events) today. On this specific point, there is in fact very little disagreement between Han and Baudrillard. Either Han is unable to capture the irony present in much of Baudrillard’s writing and phrasing, or he is eager to embellish or even insert some analytical discrepancies vis-à-vis Baudrillard, perhaps to ensure that he is not read as a theorist who merely reprises or paraphrases Baudrillard’s insights (which clearly Han is not, but his repeated insistence on distancing his thought from Baudrillard’s on several issues where they in fact converge often comes across as an odd compulsion). Han displays a similar tendency to wish to exaggerate theoretical disagreements when he engages Michel Foucault’s notions of biopower and the biopolitical subject. On this topic, see Caroline Alphin and François Debrix, “Biopolitics in the ‘Psychic Realm’: Han, Foucault, and Neoliberal Psychopolitics,” Philosophy and Social Criticism, Vol. 49, No. 4 (2023), pp. 477-491.

[16] See, for example, several of Baudrillard’s essays and interviews with Sylvère Lotringer in Jean Baudrillard, The Agony of Power (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2010).

[17] Han, Psychopolitics, p. 21.

[18] Here and in the other essays in Power Inferno, Baudrillard reprises an often-made argument that the terrorist challenges to and against the United States on and after 9/11 were led or supported by terror/terrorist groups and movements that previously had been used and even recruited by the west (and the United States) in its wars and other antagonisms against the USSR, communism, etc. (for example, the Taliban in Afghanistan who, in previous decades, were taken by the West and the USA to be “freedom fighters”).

[19] See Jean Baudrillard, L’Échange Symbolique et La Mort (Paris: Gallimard, 1976).

[20] This point by Baudrillard is somewhat reminiscent of Horkheimer and Adorno’s understanding of the dialectical work and violence of Enlightenment thought (which cast itself, although never fully or successfully, in opposition to myth or magic) as they argue in Dialectic of Enlightenment’s first essay. See Max Horkheimer and Thedor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002), pp. 1-34.

[21] The “accursed share” is Georges Bataille’s concept, which Baudrillard periodically borrows throughout his work, for example, in Symbolic Exchange and Death. See Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share: An Essay on General Economy, Vol. 1 (New York: Zone Books, 1991).

[22] One should note though that, contrary to Baudrillard, Han does not bring up terrorism as a violent excess or outgrowth of global culture, neoliberalism, or even the West. Nor does he feel the need to invoke the notion of the symbolic.

[23] It is the case whether these critics describe neoliberal globalization as the implementation of a “pervasive atmosphere” of “capitalist realism” on a global scale (Fisher), as the dawn of a “cognitive capitalism” designed for the “globalized world economy” (Moulier-Boutang), or as a the setting up of a smart and “global technical system” that “hegemonically serves a hyper-entropic functioning that accelerates the rhythm of the consumerist destruction of the world while installing a structural and unsustainable insolvency, based on a generalized stupefaction and a functional stupidity” (Stiegler). See Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? (Winchester, UK: Zero Books, 2009), p. 16; Yann Moulier-Boutang, Cognitive Capitalism (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2011), p. 47; and Bernard Stiegler, Automatic Society, Volume 1: The Future of Work (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2016), p. 15).

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