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Baudrillard and Rethinking the Modern Western-Civ Course: the Epistemology of War in an Era of New Media, Neoliberalism, and Virtual Warfare

Philosophical Studies in Education Volume 48, Number 1, ISSN 0160-7561


A university commitment to the liberal arts can take many forms, but more often than not it attempts to ensure that all students, regardless of direction or professed major, become educated in some form about the defining events of Western Civilization. There are many specialized History and Global Studies courses that educate students about countless aspects of the human experience, past and present. In the broader survey-style Western Civilization (Civ) courses that attempt to cover the breadth of history of the modern West, wars tend to be central, though not exclusive, loci in understanding major turning points in the contemporary human experience. This traditionally has been done with good reason; the history of violent human conflict between nation-states has produced winners and losers with enormous outcomes for multitudinous actors. There are also increasing bodies of academic literature dedicated to conflict by and between non-state actors in the more distant past as well as the temporally closer post-Cold War global order. While recognizing that historical cause and effect is subjective and multifaceted, the pedagogy of war is nonetheless critically important to understanding the ideas people fought and died for that have brought us to the world we inhabit today. Michael Bulfin notes in this article that he has become increasingly convinced that the way war is conceptualized and taught to students is becoming incompatible with "war" for our current screenified post-9/11 generation. This article theorizes that the education students receive in human conflict past has gradually become discordant with how they conceptualize human conflict in the present. Bulfin first argues that American military objectives in the 21st century are reflective of 21st century neoliberal capital. He then uses Jean Baudrillard's arguments ("The End of the Millennium or the Countdown," "Theory, Culture, & Society" 15, no. 1 (1998): 3.) on why the First Persian Gulf War was anything but a classical "war". Bulfin analyzes when the simulation of overwhelming military superiority became more powerful than physical military superiority itself, then takes up the idea of virtualized war to explain how new media's ability to simulate overwhelming military superiority ends up changing the way we prepare, conduct, and even understand warfare in the classroom and in a broader societal context.


Bulfin, M. (2017). Baudrillard and Rethinking the Modern Western-Civ Course: the Epistemology of War in an Era of New Media, Neoliberalism, and Virtual Warfare. Philosophical Studies in Education, 48(1), 45-54. Retrieved May 22, 2022 from .

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