Terrorism, Scotland and Systemic Suicide


Posted on 13th September 2014

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Baudrillard’s understanding of terrorism, outlined in The Spirit of Terrorism, is easily the most radical, yet is relatively unknown.

Most of those who have been exposed to it brush it aside as the delusional ramblings of another French madman.

Leap of faith

And it’s true – Baudrillard demands a leap of faith. But so, let’s be frank, does any reality we choose to believe in.

Here are three of Baudrillard’s key observations on terrorism (massively simplified, of course):

  1. Modern-day terrorism reaches way beyond what the media portray as the ‘clash of civilisations’ between Islam and America. What we’re really witnessing is globalisation commit suicide – the liberal capitalist system revolting against its own global hegemony, economic, politico-cultural and moral.
  2. Radical Islam is simply the most extreme ‘moving front’ of the system’s suicide. If Radical Islam itself were to become a dominant narrative, or set of values, it, too, would succumb to terrorism.
  3. We are all terrorists on one level or another, even if our terrorism is merely antagonism towards the system or “malicious desire”. Individual peoples and cultures – ‘singularities’ – crave an authenticity that is incompatible with a universal set of values. They therefore will the system’s collapse and this collective will is systemic suicide.


Let’s look closer to home.

Baudrillard would argue that what we’re witnessing in Scotland is another example of the return to singularity – in this case through independence.

Whatever happens over the course of the next week, Scotland will sooner or later get its independence as the system ‘resets’ and a people reclaims itself.

No Kingdom, for Baudrillard, can be truly United.

Malicious desire

Different singularities operate and resist in different ways.

While Scotland might play the system at its own rules, albeit with “malicious desire”, Radical Islam is undermining it through a level of symbolic violence to which a system built on life – liberal capitalism – cannot respond.

This is potlatch where those who make the biggest sacrifice win the day.

And since the system cannot respond to the ultimate sacrifice of suicide (its own death is the only violence it cannot exert), it is destined to lose.

Return to the tribe

If the phenomenon of terrorism we’re witnessing is what Baudrillard believed it to be (he died in 2007), then everything will change.

In the years ahead, the global system built on liberal capitalist values and economics will slowly fall apart.

We will return to a fragmented order made up of singularities, individual cultures and value systems.

We will return to the tribe.

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