Notes for Jean Baudrillard Symbolic Exchange and Death

(180) It is not so worrying that the dead man is made beautiful and given the appearance of a representation. Every society has always done this. They have always staved off the abjection of natural death, the social abjection of decomposition which voids the corpse of its signs and its social force of signification, leaving it as nothing more than a substance, and by the same token, precipitating the group into the terror of its own symbolic decomposition. It is necessary to ward off death, to smother it in artificiality in order to evade the unbearable moment when flesh becomes nothing but flesh, and ceases to be a sign. The skeleton, with its stripped bones, already seals the possible reconciliation of the group, for it regains the force of the mask and the sign. But between the two, there is the abject passage through nature and the biological that must be warded off at all costs by sarcophagic practices (the devouring of flesh), which are in fact semiurguic practices. Therefore, every thanatopraxis, even in contemporary societies, is analysed as the will toward off this sudden loss of signs that befalls the dead, to prevent there remaining, the the asocial flesh of the dead, something which signifies nothing.

Later (in fn#42) Baudrillard contrasts the initiatory function of disease in the Dangaleat to our own practice of distance, non-relation, between doctor and patient (deconstruct these two words and you will understand more!), but I think that at least in psychology, therapy in particular, the most skilled healers are those who have suffered the very diseases (been initiated) of their analysands. Experienced desire Lacan calls it, and erects his entire theory around the necessity and practice of the training analysis. Why? surely because he knows (is not fooled) that everyone passes through life under the sign of death, repression, and desire: when medical degrees are conferred, which certainly has its symbolic significance, the 'new' analysts are not being created ex nihilo!

Cynical commenting on contemporary knowledge practices can be overcome by considering participatory sense of tradition (Janz).

(185) The cryogenic freezing of all knowledge so that it can be resurrected; knowledge passes into immortality as sign value. Against our dream of losing and forgetting everything, we set up an opposing great wall of relations, connections and information, a dense and inextricable artificial memory, and we bury ourselves alive in the fossilized hope of one day being rediscovered.