Massumi: Realer than Real. The Simulacrum According to Deleuze&Guattari

I should probably start by saying I wish I had suggested Deleuze’s ‘Plato and the Simulacrum’ – whereby we would make quite a loop in the course starting and finishing off with Plato. Anyhow, I might have to leave it for myself as my solitary pleasure (or torment) …

Massumi’s main point of critique aimed at Baudrillard’s theory of simulacra is the fact that it establishes the dichotomy of model/copy consequently leaving us with only two possible viewpoints – ‘being a naive realist or being a sponge’ (1). The trajectory Massumi proposes drawing on Deleuze is to apprehend that ‘simulation is all there has ever been’ (3). The language being used is crucial – Massumi abandons ‘simulacrum’ and instead prefers the verb ‘simulation’ thereby emphasising that he is addressing an ongoing process.

The way I read Massumi’s interpretation of Deleuze, if Baudrillard’s theory is the diagnosis of our cultural state, Deleuzian thought is not exactly a cure, but a way out of this condition. What Massumi proposes is to consider ‘positive simulation’ (7) and I believe this is where his trouble with Baudrillard emanates from since simulacra ultimately is viewed as a negative domain due to its juxtaposition with the model aka real.

Deleuzian thought suggests to discard binary thinking as even the real is being constructed in the process of ongoing simulation. Massumi argues that instead of tracing the model in the copy we should distinguish between two modes of simulation – one of them being ‘reality’ as a construction of norms (or as Massumi refers to it ‘a network of surface resemblances’ (5)) and the other one being art – an antithesis ‘against the entire system of resemblance and replication’ (5). As Deleuze points out, ‘destruction of models and copies sets up a creative chaos’ (Deleuze, 1983: 56).

Without immersing ourselves into too much of Deleuze, it might suffice to say that his thought encourages the deterritorialisation, the creation of new territories, the flight (not the destination) and the opening up of potentialities. Massumi mainly resonates Deleuze (along with his accomplice Guattari) and suggests that simulation eventually might be a positivity as it has the potentiality to overthrow categories such as real, human, white, male, female, nation, desire, etc. As Massumi points out, the force and charm of Deleuzian thought is the fact that it deals with the here and now, namely advanced capitalism (did Karin mentioned Marx a while ago?) and situates us in the very heard of it. Its core is simulation and, I guess, we should perform a dance with it?..


Firstly, how do you view Massumi’s stance towards Baudrillard? If you can recall Baudrillard’s text, do you also get the notion of a ‘nostalgia for the old reality’ (8) as Massumi describes it? Secondly, if you could bridge Smith’s text with Massumi’s, what parallels could you draw in respect to the trouble with representation? My ultimate rather personal formulation would be such: do media make you feel nostalgic about ‘the old reality’ or rather open up new territories?


Massumi B. Realer than Real: The Simulacrum According to Deleuze and Guattari, in Copyright, no.1, 1987, pp. 90-97.

Deleuze G. Plato and the Simulacrum, in October, Vol. 27, (Winter, 1983), pp. 45-56


~ by zigelyte on March 22, 2009.

2 Responses to “Massumi: Realer than Real. The Simulacrum According to Deleuze&Guattari”

  1. In hindsight, I do not really know if I agree that Baudrillard is pointing so much to loss of the real that occured sometime in history (with the development of new media). He is rather vague about this loss, and I think now that it is very much possible to explain it in terms of his argumentation. His steps from representation to simulacrum seem to imply a development in time, but they could be explained as well as steps in his argumentation. It is thus more about our understanding of what the simulacrum is and that it is there around us and has always been, also when we did not know it as such. We loose the real when we notice we live in a simulacrum.
    Baudrillard’s theory, however, does seem to lead to dead ends. Rosi Braidotti mentioned this last week in our Technobodies class (she stressed that Baudrillard’s simulacrum theory opens up less fruitful possibilities to work with), and the same can be concluded from Smith’s article and our reactions to this (what to do next, stop researching/writing theories?).
    Massumi does offer a way out, by distinguishing between the simulated real and the simulacrum (art). I am worried however that this distinction is not really helpful as such, because it seems to me that the simulated real with its binaries and dichotomies has to be overthrown, leaving us with only simulacrum again, not so much different from Baudrillard. I guess the difference lies in that Massumi’s in Massumi’s view this is an ongoing process (the double becoming will go on forever, changing meaning), whereas Baudrillards realisation of the simulacrum and loss of the real is the end point, once we realise it, that’s it.

  2. It reminds me of Voltaire’s “If there were no God, it would be necessary to invent him.” Hence if there was no hope in a reality, we would never get out of bed.

    I am afraid we are taking Baudrillard too seriously as he is the opposite of the mad cartographer who tried to map all of the territory. Ironically, the threat Baudrillard poses to real by mere theorizing will have us explore all possible arguments in favor of the existence of a (semi) reality.

    Advanced capitalism: I really do wish we had a course on Marxist theory. We always touch on it, but have never gotten “into” it proper. I guess I need to pursue it myself (any reading tips/course tips are welcome)

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