Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation as the Taxation Of Substance Over Form: Does the Contract Trump Actually Economic Hyperreality?

Charles Lincon
5 min readJan 13, 2021


Updated version for January 13, 2021

Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation as the Taxation Of Substance Over Form: Does the Contract Trump Actually Economic Hyperreality?

“Le simulacre n’est jamais ce qui cache la vérité — c’est la vérité qui cache qu’il n’y en a pas. Le simulacre est vrai.”

(Own translation: “The simulacra is never what hides the truth — it is the truth that hides that there is none. The simulacra is true.”

  • Jean Baudrillard, Simulacres et simulation, Galilée, Paris, 1981, p. 9

“[…] le secret des grands politiques fut de savoir que le pouvoir n’existe pas. Qu’il n’est qu’un espace perspectif de simulation, comme le fut celui, pictural, de la Renaissance, et que si le pouvoir séduit, c’est justement […] parce qu’il est simulacre.”

(Own translation: “[…] The secret of grand politicians was to know that power does not exist. That it is only a perspective space of simulation, as was the picture the Renaissance, and that if power seduces, is precisely […] because it is simulacrum.”)

  • Jean Baudrillard, Oublier Foucault, Galilée, Auvers-sur-Oise, 1977

The study of semiotics is the study of signs and the process in which signs interrelate to one another.[i] Semiosis is the study of the process of semiotics in terms of the reproduction of signs, symbols, and images as well as what is implied by the response and recognition of such symbols by others.[ii] These studies can capture the hidden meanings and underlying structures in a system of symbols — especially if the symbols are somewhat interconnected, such as a series of films or art work.[iii] Studying subjects such as media, film, literature, news, and even law through semiotics and structuralism can help focus on the abstract qualities for analyzing the symbols through an analytical framework.[iv]

Jean Baudrillard in his Simulacra and Simulation presents a poetically appealing analysis of the relationship between symbols, reality, society, and share cultural concepts of reality. Specifically, the book examines the concepts of symbols, representations, and other semiotics in relation to contemporaneity. One of Baudrillard’s main contentions is that the concept of “reality” as such has been replaced by a system of symbols and representations that are themselves not the actual reality.

The word simulacrum comes from the Latin “simulacrum” (in nominative grammatical form — the nominative plural form is “simulacra”) meaning image or likeness.[v]

Cover of the first edition

Baudrillard writes that the simulacrum is “[n]ot unreal, but a simulacrum, that is to say never exchanged for the real, but exchanged for itself, in an uninterrupted circuit without reference or circumference.”[vi]

Applying Baudrillard’s theories to law is not a new concept. Indeed, it has been argued that the structure and function of law itself is a simulacrum in that “the system of law is a copy of something that does not exist: it is a simulation of the “natural” groups designated by the system of marks. The system of law is a simulacrum. Law functions as the alibi of a naturalized social hierarchy. A fundament of law is the abstraction of the essential in the system of marks, an abstraction that takes its form in the passive legal subject.”[vii]

“Human-in-the-loop simulation of outer space.” Description and image from Wikipedia. I claim no ownership.

As a contemporary close-to-home example, an individual may post a photograph of a specific event on social media to represent the event. However, such a representation — the photograph — is not the actual event. Moreover, that photograph may, and likely does, misrepresent the actual reality of the event.

“Baudrillard in 2004 at the European Graduate School.” Description and image from Wikipedia. I claim no ownership.

The analogy is that as reality is to hyperreality, the simulacrum, is to economic reality is to shifted liability through contractual relations.

[i] “A representative introductory guide defines semiotics as “a domain of investigation that explores the nature and function of signs as well as the systems and processes underlying signification, expression, representation, and communication.”” Barton Beebe, The Semiotic Analysis of Trademark Law, 51 UCLA L. Rev. 621, 626 (2004).

[ii] “A more advanced guide describes “semiosis ,” the subject matter of semiotics, as “the processes and effects of the production and reproduction, reception and circulation of meaning in all forms, used by all kinds of agent[s] of communication.” Defined in these terms — and they are typical — semiotics would appear to be everything and nothing. Indeed, semiotics has traced its origins at least as far back as Heraclitus and Hippocrates, and extended its reach at least as far out as proxemics, the semiotics of space, and chronemics,15 the semiotics of time.” Barton Beebe, The Semiotic Analysis of Trademark Law, 51 UCLA L. Rev. 621, 626–27 (2004)

[iii] “These methods capture the hidden connections, the underlying structures and conflicts at the core of his films.” Excerpt From: Warren Buckland. “Wes Anderson’s Symbolic Storyworld.”

[iv] Indeed, such studies “carried out via semiotics and structuralism, focuses on abstract qualities, which creates a certain analytical distance from the experience of watching films” Excerpt From: Warren Buckland. “Wes Anderson’s Symbolic Storyworld.”

[v] Andrew Wernick, Simulation, in THE BAUDRILLARD DICTIONARY 199 (Richard G. Smith ed., 2010).

[vi] Jean Baudrillard, The Precession of the Simulacra, in Simulacra and Simulation 1, 6 (Sheila Faria Glaser trans., University of Michigan Press 1997) (1981).

[vii] Maria Grahn-Farley, The Law Room: Hyperrealist Jurisprudence & Postmodern Politics, 36 New Eng. L. Rev. 29, 44 (2001).

“St. Mark’s Square at the Grand Canal Shoppes is surrounded by restaurants and shops. It is also the site of live costumed shows.” The Venetian Las Vegas. Description and image from Wikipedia. I claim no ownership.

© Charles Edward Andrew Lincoln IV



Charles Lincon

Renaissance literature, Shakespeare, Hegelian dialectics, Attic Greek, masters University of Amsterdam.