chapter  3
23 Pages

Symbolic Exchange and Death

Symbolic Exchange and Death (1993a) is widely considered to be Baudrillard’s most important work. It presents a greatly expanded exposition of his notion of symbolic exchange, the scope of which becomes dazzling. It is a difficult yet very rich work but, as Baudrillard himself notes (in Gane, 1993), its arguments never received much serious critical attention. The failure to appraise this work critically has, particularly in the English-speaking world (translation was tardy and controversial), generated a great deal of unnecessary misunderstanding of some central themes in Baudrillard’s work. These include the relationship of symbolic exchange to social power and economic

production, its relationship to death, its role as act of subversion and, above all, its continuing impact upon everyday life here and now.