The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."Bush's reign coincided with the Matrix films, bringing the theories of Jean Baudrillard to CGI life. Baudrillard rejected the Matrix's treatment of his concept of the desert of the real, where the crude map crafted by humans becomes the new reality, regardless of the actual arrangement of rocks and plants that the map is supposed to describe: that the map as composed then becomes imposed. The Matrix's interpretation was that the system would incorporate the efforts of anyone who tried to change or break it; Baudrillard's rejoinder is that the Matrix films are a "symptom" of the system, invoking Agent Smith's monologue about humanity as a virus.
The pseudo-Freud who speaks at the film’s conclusion puts it well: at a certain moment, we reprogrammed the matrix in order to integrate anomalies into the equation. And you, the resistors, comprise a part of it. Thus we are, it seems, within a total virtual circuit without an exterior. Here again I am in theoretical disagreement (laughter). The Matrix paints the picture of a monopolistic superpower, like we see today, and then collaborates in its refraction. Basically, its dissemination on a world scale is complicit with the film itself. On this point it is worth recalling Marshall McLuhan: the medium is the message. The message of The Matrix is its own diffusion by an uncontrollable and proliferating contamination.Baudrillard's contention is that the more the system evolves towards perfection, the closer it is to destruction. He would no doubt get along famously with Thomas Piketty, whose theory of r > g (the rate of return on capital is greater than the rate of economic growth) suggests that the endpoint of capitalism is also inevitable (or at least subject to periodic collapse). And of course, a dinner party with these two would also welcome Karl Marx, another whose theory is that capitalism already carries within itself the seeds of own mortality.
The 21st century has been a live Baudrillardian experiment. Is it possible that Rove was correct, and neocons rewriting the map with their post facto justifications caused a quantum smooshing to produce a post-fact cosmos? Are we all Schrodinger's cat in a box, and is Karl the observer who collapses the waveform to decide reality?
Perhaps it is unfair to single out neoliberal capitalism for criticism in this way. From the perspective of environmentalism, any kind of economic creed which does not put sustainability at its core dooms humanity, because sooner or later the earth is going to run out of free lunches. The command economy in China is currently doing a slap up job of polluting its way to disaster. Thus there is room in the RBC for critiques from both left and right of politics, or from the supposedly dispassionate eye of plain old science.
Is it going to be inequality that is the revenant reality that bursts the Dubbya-era bubble universe, or will it be climate change that washes away this egghead post-modern decadence... or another world war between 0.01%er elites fighting over lebensraum that isn't covered in oil slicks? Hopefully, we'll learn a bit about it through the Reality Based Community.