Full Text

Simulation and Virtuality

Sean Cubitt


The term simulation and its cognate simulacrum have a venerable history as the Latin translations of the Platonic eidolon . This is a copy of a copy, exemplified in Plato's Republic by a painting of a bed: the carpenter's bed is a copy of the Ideal; the painter's a copy of the carpenter's, and so at a distant remove from the reality of the Idea. The term virtual is almost as ancient, traceable to the Aristotelian distinction between potential and actual: the future is a field of infinite potential until it is realized, at which point it trades its potentiality for actuality. Both terms have double usages in contemporary social science, as theoretical tools and as descriptions of specific methods, both associated with computer modeling. Simulation theory is most closely associated with French sociologist Jean Baudrillard. From his early work on consumerism to his first major books, The Mirror of Production (1973) and Symbolic Exchange and Death (1976), Baudrillard voiced the despair of his generation with the betrayal of the political movements of 1968. Drawing on the situationist Guy Debord's theory of the spectacle and on the renegade surrealist Georges Bataille's notion of symbolic economies, Baudrillard began to query the reality of an increasingly mediated world. Rather than a composite formation of individual or class actors, society was a self-replicating Code, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

Log In

You are not currently logged-in to Blackwell Reference Online

If your institution has a subscription, you can log in here:


     Forgotten your password?

Find out how to subscribe.

Your library does not have access to this title. Please contact your librarian to arrange access.

[ access key 0 : accessibility information including access key list ] [ access key 1 : home page ] [ access key 2 : skip navigation ] [ access key 6 : help ] [ access key 9 : contact us ] [ access key 0 : accessibility statement ]

Blackwell Publishing Home Page

Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology Online ® is a Blackwell Publishing Inc. registered trademark
Technology partner: Semantico Ltd.

Blackwell Publishing and its licensors hold the copyright in all material held in Blackwell Reference Online. No material may be resold or published elsewhere without Blackwell Publishing's written consent, save as authorised by a licence with Blackwell Publishing or to the extent required by the applicable law.

Back to Top