File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0106, message 83

Date: Mon, 18 Jun 2001 12:52:35 +0100
Subject: Re: tantalising times - arguing for aethism - symbolic


I wasn't thinking in terms of the linguistic question = sign, symbol,
signifier, signified and so on but from the formalist, structuralist and
post-structuralist study of human socieities - anthropology and comparative

Baudriallard begins from the work of Mauss and the idea of 'gift exchange',
Freud and the death drive, using this to re-interpret Marx and the social. The
starting point is that in contemporary societies - which I take to mean all
capitalist and late pre-capitalist societies - perhaps from the early
renaissence onwards - symbolic exchange cannot be considered the organising
principle of our societies. Symbolic exchange as it exists in primative
societies is proposed as the pre-dominant mode of exchange - the exchange of
gifts rather than the economic exchange of value. That is not to say that the
symbolic does not haunt the social for it plainly does, but rather that it is
forever denied the supremacy that it previously occupied by the laws of
capital, most specifically by the law of value (exchange value and use value political economy). Where Baudriallard rejects anthroplogy is in his rejection
of the 'myth of gift-exchange' for he argues that the myth of the gift is the
equivilant to the materialist myth and that in the process of creating such
myths we delude ourselves about both primative societies but also our own.
The primative social knows  does not work in terms of the gratuity of the gift
but rather its knows of the challenge and reversibility of the symbolic
exchange of objects. Symbolic exchange is contrary to political economy - the
exchange of objects is completely reversibile for each object is effectively
equivilant - with political economy (in our social) this is not the case for
the exchange of objects is not based on symbolic eqivilance but the unjust
extraction of surplus-value from the worker.

Symbolic exchange then is conceptualised as being the non-utilitarian other,
the reference point towards a world prior to marxist alienation,
disenchantment (and the arrival of colonialisim). " Amoung the Trobriand
islanders the distinction between  economic function and sign function is
radical: there are two classes of objects  upomn which two parrellel systems
are articulated = the kula, a system of symbolic exchange founded upon the
circulation, the progressive presentation of braclets, collars, finary etc,
about which a social system of values and status is organised - and the
grimwali the commerce of primary goods. In our societies this segregation has

This relates to the use of the symbol and symbolisation in linguistics:  the
sign is opposed to the symbol. Symbolisation is the stable association between
between two units at the same level, the two units consisting of two
signifiers and two signifiers. Hence the test that enables the differentiation
between signs and symbols, is the examination of related elements. The sign's
elements are different in nature whereas in the symbol they are homogenuous.
With the Sign the relation between a signifier  and  sgnified is unmotivated,
the two are different and for example a graphic or spoken sequence does not
resemble a meaning, for they are arbitrary in nature and it is impossible for
a signifier or signified to exist indepently from one another. A symbol
however is different in that its two parts - the symboliser and the symbolised
are arbitary in that they can exist independently of one another.  The
relationship is motivated because something must ensure that the relationship
is established. For example the phrase "you are my friend" signifies that
"you're a friend of mine" but it also symbolises familiarity, knowing etc.

Strictly speaking I am using the post-Saussurian line in linguistics with a
touch of Pierce...



hugh bone wrote:

> Steve and All,
> Steve  wrote:
> >  Baudrillard has always wanted to
> > take, or give precedence to the position of
> > symbolic .exchange :over that
> > of sign exchange and exchange value.
> Discussions of sign and symbol usually leave me confused.  I think of
> symbols as marks and noises, icons, images, and of signs as symbols that
> point to an entity, an idea, etc.
> Regards,
> Hugh
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> > All
> >
> > The symbolic another line we can take in relation to the proliferation
> > of religions is to consider the issue of religion through the work of
> > Baudrillard.
> >
> > Those familiar with Baudrillards work will be familiar with his
> > critique of residual meaning as an anti- or non-symbolic principle. (In
> > terms of latent or hidden meaning).  Baudrillard has always wanted to
> > take, or give precedence to the position of symbolic exchange over that
> > of sign exchange and exchange value. But states, correctly, that
> > Symbolic exchange is not the organising principle of modern society.
> > It is almost a truism to suggest that religion(s) attempt to own and
> > occupy the terrifying symbolic realm of society, in that they, even in
> > our exchange and use bound societies work though a relationship with
> > death and the dead. Baudrillard presents in Symbolic Exchange and Death
> > an argument that is descended from Durkheims classical text The
> > elementary forms of the religious life. But with the significant
> > difference that his argument has a direct relationship with the inhuman
> > materialist core which we recognise as the post-modern. [At least the
> > variety of the PM that I argue has meaning]. The history and origin of
> > religion is proposed as being from some kind of enchanted (ignorant and
> > brutish)  world of traditional societies  not just the societies that
> > acceded and welcomed the invention of the megamachine of the state but
> > also those that struggled against and resisted the state form (see
> > Clastres Society Against the State for example), the world of the
> > traditional societies was formed out of the fatalistic culture of the
> > peasants  (I am conscious that I am conflating the economic and
> > material differences between say Medieval peasantry and primitive tribes
> > but still). What makes Baudrillard especially interesting is his
> > suggestion that the Symbolic order is superior to that of the order of
> > the sign. (There is a deep critique of the Marxist theory of exchange
> > and use value here). What this argues is that - symbolic exchange is
> > over the economic  but with the arrival of capital what Baudrillard
> > describes whilst describing the destruction of the symbolic by exchange.
> > Religion and here we must get rid of the idea of progress in religions,
> > leading from animism to polytheism and then to monotheism, in the course
> > of which the immortal soul emerges becomes in effect one primary
> > aspect of the organisation of the symbolic. In the fatalistic cultures
> > of  the indo-european and indo-iranian mythological lines at a certain
> > point, probably during the first despotic empires, the religions
> > occupying one of the organising poles of the society began inventing the
> > immortality, the godhood to the rulers of the state. Baudrillard
> > phantasies that social movements were rife demanding the right for
> > immortality for all The symbolic in its religious guise offers a
> > resolution for the fatalism that derives from the appalling human
> > condition founded of course in death, economic inequality and despair.
> > What does immortality matter?. Its all imaginary. Yes and it is
> > exciting to see that this is where the basis of the real social
> > discrimination lies, and that nowhere else are power and social
> > transcendence so clearly marked than in the imaginary. The economic
> > power of capital is based in the imaginary just as much as is the power
> > of the Churches: capital is only its fantastic secularisation
> >
> > The increased secularisation of the social derives from the collapse of
> > the symbolic and the increased domination of exchange and (Baudrillards
> > sign). But with the collapse of the dominance of the symbolic we end up
> > with proliferation of religions  they proliferate because they no
> > longer have such a straightforward relationship to the state.
> >
> > As an afterthought its worth stating that the relationship to Lyotard is
> > through the Libidinal Economy work - libidinal intensity, desire,
> > difference and the surrendering of death which is always there to be
> > exploited by capital - 'the abjection of value and and the rule of
> > capital'.
> >
> >
> > Recommend:
> > Baudrillard - Symbolic Exchange and Death
> > Baudrillard  The illusion of the end
> > Baudrillard  The mirror of production
> >
> > Regards
> >
> > sdv
> >
> >


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