Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007) was a controversial social and cultural theorist known for his trenchant analyses of media and technological communication. Belonging to the generation of French thinkers that included Gilles Deleuze, Jean-François Lyotard, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Lacan, Baudrillard has at times been vilified by his detractors, but the influence of his work on critical thought and pop culture is impossible to deny (many might recognize his name from The Matrix movies, which claimed to be based on the French theorist's ideas).
Steve Redhead takes a fresh look at Baudrillard in relation to the intellectual and political climates in which he wrote. Baudrillard sought to produce a theory of modernity, but the modern world of the 1950s was radically different from the reality of the early twenty-first century. Beginning with Baudrillard's initial publications in the 1960s and concluding with his writings on 9/11 and Abu Ghraib, Redhead guides the reader through Baudrillard's difficult texts and unorthodox views on current issues. He also proposes an original theory of Baudrillard's relation to postmodernism, presenting the theorist's work as "non-postmodernist," after Bruno Latour's concept of "non-modernity." Each section of the Reader includes an extract from one of Baudrillard's writings, prefaced by a short bibliographical introduction that places the piece in context and puts the debate surrounding the theorist into sharp perspective. The conflict over Baudrillard's legacy stems largely from the fact that a comprehensive selection of his writings has yet to be translated and collected into one volume. The Jean Baudrillard Reader provides an expansive and much-needed portrait of the critic's resonant work.