Virilio, Paul(1932-) French philosopher, urbanist, and cultural theorist whose major influences include HEIDEGGER, DELEUZE, and FOUCAULT. Although Virilio started his career as an artist of stained glass, he soon turned to architecture and design. During the 1960s he worked with the architect Claude Parnet on several projects which explored the way design interacts with the wider socio-political environment, work published as The Function of the Oblique (1996). Expanding on this analysis of space, Virilio's first key text, Bunker Archaeology (1-975), suggested that the governance of space could be related to the progress of the modern war-machine. In this book Virilio looked at the Atlantic Wall (during World War II Germany constructed 1,500 bunkers along the coast of France in order to prevent an allied invasion) to show how economics, politics, and technology impose a particular ideological position on design and architecture. Later in Speed and Politics: An Essay on Dromology (1977), Virilio expanded this theory by arguing that the increasing speed of the modern political-economy has led to the generalization of the war-machine, the disappearance of physical space, and the dominance of real time. Akin to Eric Alliez whose Capital Time (1996) explored the way capitalism re-codes our understanding of distance, Virilio's work shows how new technology has resulted in the collapse of physical distance and a renewed emphasis on the psychological category of time. In recent texts such as The Vision Machine (1994), The Art of the Motor (1995), and Open Sky (1997) Virilio argues that the end of space has led to an assault on time. Recalling the postmodern theories advanced by BAUDRILLARD's Simulations (1983), he suggests that the invention of quasi-instantaneous communication networks has led to the collapse of represented/representation dichotomy and the end of the real/image distinction. Where Virilio differs from Baudrillard's postmodernism is in his attempt to save the category of reality. His latest works, Politics of the Very Worst (1999) and Information Bomb (1999), explore the nature of the technological accident and its effects on the political economy. In such a way, Virilio refers to a level of reality that exists beyond the symbolic matrix addressed by Baudrillard's postmodernism. Also see JAMESON, KROKER, POSTMODERNISM.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000