America by Jean Baudrillard

By Jean Baudrillard

“The choice of wild, frequently hilarious postcards from his journey to the United States includes a number of the year’s most unique and lovely writing.”—New Statesman and Society

In this, his such a lot obtainable and evocative booklet, France’s major thinker of postmodernism takes to the freeways in a suite of traveler’s stories from the land of hyperreality.

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Low calories. Low sex. Low speed - anorexic society. Curiously, in this world where everything is available in profusion, everything has to be saved and economized. The obsession of a young society, concerned to protect its future? The impression given is rather that of a sense of threat, all the more insidious for being groundless. It is profusion which creates an hallucination of a sort of backfiring into shortage and penury, which has to be averted by homeopathic discipline. There are no other reasons for these starvation rations - collective dieting, ecological control, this mortification of bodies and pleasures.

The bay that bends round towards Long Beach is as vast as the Bay of Ipanema in Rio, the only one of comparable size. But, unlike Rio with its proud, luxurious, and pretentious (though none the less beautiful) sea front, here the town ends almost in a piece of wasteground at the ocean, like a seaside suburb. And it has indeed the hazy charm of just such a suburb. Here at dawn, it is one of the most insignificant shorelines in the world, just a place to go fishing. The Western World ends on a shore devoid of all signification, like a journey that loses all meaning when it reaches its end.

Merely reading the signs that are essential to your survival gives you an extraordinary feeling of instant lucidity, of reflex ‘participation’, immediate and smooth. Of a functional participation that is reflected in certain precise gestures. The lines of traffic diverging towards Ventura Freeway and San Diego Freeway do not leave one another, they just separate out. At every hour of the day approximately the same number split off towards Hollywood or towards Santa Monica. Pure, statistical energy, a ritual being acted out - the regularity of the flows cancels out individual destinations.

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