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In Latin this word denoted a material representration or image, usually a deity.


The term has been given a new importance by Baudrillard's account of postmodernity.

A discussion of the role of the simulacrum in Greek and Roman theories of representation can be found in the Appendices to Deleuze's Logic of Sense (1969).

Baudrillard's most systematic expositions of his theory of simulacra are to be found in his Symbolic Exchange and Death (1976) and Simulacra and Simulations (1981).

For Baudrillard, a simulacrum is a reproduction of an object or event characteristic of a specific stage in the history of the image or sign.

He traces a series of stages in its emergence.

First Order

Whereas the image was once a reflection of a basic reality, as in the feudal order in which signs were clear indications of hierarchical status, it came to mask or pervert a basic reality when, in the baroque period that privileged artifice and counterfeit over natural signs, arbitrary or artificial signs began to proliferate.

Such signs are described as first order simulacra.

Second Order

With the mass production of industrial objects in Benjamin's 'era of mechanical reproduction', second order simulacra predominated as 'originals' lost their mystic aura.

Such simulacra signal the absence of a basic reality.

Third Order

The third order simulacra of postmodernity have no relation to reality whatsoever, and are their own pure simulacrua or imitations of imitations.

Disneyland Example

The ultimate simulacra is Disneyland.

According to Baudrillard, Disneyland is presented as imaginary - or simulates its own imaginary nature - in order to make us believe that the rest of America is real rather than something belonging to the order of simulation and hyperreality.

See Also