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Jean Baudrillard Prophesies the Twin Towers
posted by Autonomedia on Tuesday November 06, @11:21AM
from the hallucinatory-resemblance-of-theory dept.
Theory jim writes: "Writing some twenty years ago on the theme of “simulation of opposition” in too-late capitalism, and the “law of equivalence” in the “advanced democratic” political systems, radical French theorist Jean Baudrillard picked Manhattan’s World Trade Towers to illustrate his point.

An excerpt from Jean Baudrillard, Simulations, translated by Paul Foss, Paul Patton and Phil Beitchman (New York: Semiotext[e], 1983):

“Why are there two towers at New York’s World Trade Center? All of Manhattan’s great buildings were always happy enough to confront each other in a competitive verticality, the result of which is an architectural panorama in the image of the capitalist system: as pyramidal jungle, all of the buildings attacking each other. The system profiled itself in a celebrated image that you had of New York when you arrived there by boat. This image has completely changed in the last few years. The effigy of the capitalist system has passed from the pyramid to the perforated card. Buildings are no longer suspicious one of the other, like columns in a statistical graph. This new architecture incarnates a system that is no longer competitive, but compatible, and where competition has disappeared for the benefit of the correlations. (New York is the world’s only city therefore that retraces all along it’s history, and with a prodigious fidelity and in all its scope, the actual form of the capitalistic system—it changes instantly in function of the latter. No European city does so.) This architectural graphism is that of the monopoly; the two W.T.C. towers, perfect parallelepideds a quarter-mile high on a square base, perfectly balanced and blind communicating vessels. The fact that there are two of them signifies the end of all competition, the end of all original reference. Paradoxically, if there were only one, the monopoly would not be incarnated because we have seen how it stabilizes on a dual form. For the sign to be pure, it has to duplicate itself: it is the duplication of the sign that destroys its meaning. This is what Andy Warhol demonstrates also: the multiple replicas of Marilyn’s face are there to show at the same time the death of the original and the end of representation. The two towers of the W.T.C.are the visible sign of the closure of the system in a vertigo of duplication while the other skyscrapers are each of the them the original moment of a system constantly transcending itself in a perpetual crisis and self-challenge.

There is a particular fascination in this reduplication. As high as they are, higher than all the others, the two towers signify nevertheless the end of verticality. they ignore the other buildings, they are not of the same race, they no longer challenge them, nor compare themselves to them,they look one into the other as into a mirror and culminate in this prestige of similitude. What they project is the idea of the model that they are one for the other, and their twin altitude presents no longer any value of transcendence.They signify only that the strategy of models and commutations wins out in the very heart of the system itself—and New York is really the heart of it—over the traditional strategy of competition. The buildings of Rockefeller Center still direct their gaze one at the other into their glass or steel facades, in the city’s infinite spectacularity. The Towers, on the other hand, are blind, and no longer have a facade. All referential of habitat, of the facade as face, of interior and exterior, that you still find in the Chase Manhattan or in the boldest mirror-buildings of the’60s, is erased. At the same time as the rhetoric of verticality, the rhetoric of the mirror has disappeared. There remains only a series closed on the number two, just as if architecture, in the image of the system, proceeded only from an unchangeable genetic code, a definitive model."

Strolling with Baudrillard in New York's Central Park one day soon after this book was published, I asked him if he believed any force present anywhere in the world had the ability to disturb this binary regulation, the tactical doubling of monopoly in duopoly, this coupling of simultaneous and spectacular opposition that looked like "the end of history." His reply? "Islam.""

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