The Ecstasy of Communication
Translated by Bernard Schütze and Caroline Schütze
Introduction by Jean-Louis Violeau
“The need to speak, even if one has nothing to say, becomes more pressing when one has nothing to say, just as the will to live becomes more urgent when life has lost its meaning.”
–from The Ecstasy of Communication
First published in France in 1987, The Ecstasy of Communication was Baudrillard’s summarization of his work for a postdoctoral degree at the Sorbonne: a dense, poetically crystalline essay that boiled down two decades of radical, provocative theory into an aphoristically eloquent swan song to twentieth-century alienation. Baudrillard’s quixotic effort to be recognized by the French intellectual establishment may have been doomed to failure, but this text immediately became a pinnacle to his work, a mid-career assessment that looked both forward and back. By carefully distilling the most radical elements of his previous books, Baudrillard constructed the skeleton key to all of the work that was to come in the second half of his career, and set the scene for what he termed the “obscene”: a world in which alienation has been succeeded by ceaseless communication and information. The Ecstasy of Communication is a decisive, compact description of what it means to be “wired” in our braver-than-brave new world, where sexuality has been superseded by pornography, knowledge by information, hysteria by schizophrenia, subject by object, and violence by terror.
The Ecstasy of Communication is an anti-manifesto that confronted and dispensed with such influences as Marshall McLuhan, Guy Debord, and Georges Bataille. It is an essential crib-book, lexicon, and companion piece to any and all of Baudrillard’s books. Twenty-five years after its original publication, it remains not only a prescient portrait of our contemporary condition, but also a dark mirror into which we have not yet dared to look.