Lester D. Stone II, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Fall 2006)

Cyberspace & Critical Theory

Power. Power means control. Everyone wants this control, this power. Power has corrupted people for centuries. Countless movies have been about the chase for power. Men become president to obtain power. Once it is lost, man just wants to get more power. That is why we refer to power hungy individuals as megolomaniacs. With simulation and simulacra becoming more real, power has benen mixed in a more subtle way with deception. Power is covered as a disguise. In video game plots especially, a philanthopist oganization will intend to spread goodwill over a lesser country and at the end of the game, it turns out that the philanthropist wanted more power. As Baudrilard says, everyone craves power and the signs of it. Corporations are just power hungry organizations in disguise that want to rule the world. The media has portrayed this. Power and the loss thereof has led to genoicide and other horrors. The Holocaust was a gigantic quest for power. Every incident and tragedy that deals with a huge group of people usuaaly involves the consumption of power. Greed, hatred and prejudice are often the symptoms of this incredible emotion. Fear is the end result. Baudrillard mentions power as a product of mass concumption sue to supply and demand. Modern society treat power as a product. According to Baudrillard, power has become a matter of simulation.

Power, too, for some time now produces nothing but signs of its resemblance. And at the same time, another figure of power comes into play: that of a collective demand for signs of power - a holy union which forms around the disappearance of power. Everybody belongs to it more or less in fear of the collapse of the political. And in the end the game of power comes down to nothing more than the critical obsession with power: an obsession with its death; an obsession with its survival which becomes greater the more it disappears. When it has totally disappeared, logically we will be under the total spell of power - a haunting memory already foreshadowed everywhere, manifesting at one and the same time the satisfaction of having got rid of it (nobody wants it any more, everybody unloads it on others) and grieving its loss. Melancholy for societies without power: this has already given rise to fascism, that overdose of a powerful referential in a society which cannot terminate its mourning. But we are still in the same boat: none of our societies know how to manage their mourning for the real, for power, for the social itself, which is implicated in this same breakdown. And it is by an art)ficial revitalization of all this that we try to escape it. Undoubtedly this will even end up in socialism. By an unforeseen twist of events and an irony which no longer belongs to history, it is through the death of the social that socialism will emerge - as it is through the death of God that religions emerge. A twisted coming, a perverse event, an unintelligible reversion to the logic of reason. As is the fact that power is no longer present except to conceal that there is none. A simulation which can go on indefinitely, since -unlike "true" power which is, or was, a structure, a strategy, a relation of force, a stake - this is nothing but the object of a social demand, and hence subject to the law of supply and demand, rather than to violence and death. Completely expunged from the political dimension, it is dependent, like any other commodity, on production and mass consumption. Its spark has disappeared; only the fiction of a political universe is saved.


1. Do people obtain real power today?

2. Power is real but then it seems unreal. Can power be both a simulation and simulacra?

3. How does Gibson demonstrate power in the Sprawl Trilogy?

4. Has power reached a state of mass consumption?

5. Baudillard poits out that melancholy for societies without power has already given rise to facism. How has the absence of power given rise to evil?


Baudrillard, Jean. "Simulacra and Simulations" in Selected Writings Ed. Mark Poster. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998. 166-184.

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Last modified 14 March 2005