Consumption as Sign in Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis

Seyyede Fateme Mirbabazade, Alireza Jafari


As one of the foremost American postmodern authors, Don DeLillo tends to focus on construction of postmodern subject’s consciousness through media, technology and consumption. Nevertheless, despite many affinities between Baudrillard and DeLillo, many researches which have been done on his works have failed to theoretically analyze them from Baudrillardian perspective. Although there is affinity between Baudrillard and DeLillo, there is dissimilarity as well. While Baudrillard believes that that there is no escape for individual from the ideology of the system, DeLillo claims that there is hope for change and revolution for the individuals by their action in society, particularly by the means of art, to be more  than a cog in the machine of ideology of system. Baudrillard, as one of the most influential postmodern theorists, defines consumption as organized control of sign and one of the many ways any subject is assimilated in any given society. For Baudrillard the logic of consumption is based on social differentiation. By the logic of social differentiation, individuals distinguish themselves and obtain social prestige and standing through the purchase and use of consumer goods. In his theorization about the concept of need and value, Baudrillard finds Marx’s logics of use value (utility and functionality) and exchange value (economic value) inadequate to include the whole function of an object and adds the logic of sign value. Baudrillard asserts that in consumption economic exchange value (money) is transformed into sign exchange value (prestige, etc.); yet this functioning is maintained by the use value. The only way out of this dilemma, Baudrillard claims, is to return to symbolic exchange which is neither a conception nor an agency, but an act of exchange and a social relation and the only approach to real human communication and understanding. Therefore this research attempts to highlights those affinities in DeLillo’s first post-9/11 novel a.k.a. Cosmopolis


Baudrillard, Don DeLillo, Cosmopolis, sign value, exchange value, symbolic exchange

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