Jean Baudrillard
Verso, New York, 2005, 1996, English; originally published 1968 in French
Design, General
ISBN: 9781844670536

From the Publisher (Verso). Pressing Freudian and Saussurean categories into the service of a basically Marxist perspective, The System of Objects offers a cultural critique of the commodity in consumer society. Baudrillard classifies the everyday objects of the “new technical order” as functional, nonfunctional and metafunctional. He contrasts “modern” and “traditional” functional objects, subjecting home furnishing and interior design to a celebrated semiological analysis. His treatment of nonfunctional or “marginal” objects focuses on antiques and the psychology of collecting, while the metafunctional category extends to the useless, the aberrant and even the “schizofunctional.” Finally, Baudrillard deals at length with the implications of credit and advertising for the commodification of everyday life.

The System of Objects is a tour de force of the materialist semiotics of the early Baudrillard, who emerges in retrospect as something of a lightning rod for all the live ideas of the day: Bataille's political economy of “expenditure” and Mauss's theory of the gift; Reisman's lonely crowd and the “technological society” of Jacques Ellul; the structuralism of Roland Barthes in The System of Fashion; Henri Lefebvre's work on the social construction of space; and last, but not least, Guy Debord's Situationist critique of the spectacle.

Also see Le système des objets.

On 2 book lists
Neil Denari

Design and politics colliding at a moment when everything else did too. Baudrillard’s Marxist teeth were quite sharp. I like the mood the James Rosenquist piece on this cover puts me in when I read the book.

Stefano Giovannoni

This is one of the first books written by one of the most important theorists of our times, the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard. Despite the fact that this book is not as mature as the ones Baudrillard wrote subsequently, it gives us an early clear vision of society in the near future, projected into the new millennium.

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