The Gespenst that Marx calls abstraction is a substitution for nothing, which in constituting the nothing as something that could be substituted for, institutes an originary simulation of exchange between something (common, abstract) and nothing. But the institution is structured like a substitution. It looks like the positing of an improper name (a common noun), say “exchange value,” or just “value,” or “abstract human labor,” or more precisely “human,” for something which has no name at all of its own…. The situation is that described by the rhetoricians as catachresis
― Thomas Keenan, Fables of Responsibility, 129.
As for the linen, it is a figure, and a figure of figure at that…. Thus the commodity is like something that is like something else only as a figure, as something that can be looked at only on paper.
― Thomas Keenan, Fables of Responsibility, 124
Your understanding of allegory assumes proportions hitherto unknown to you; I will note, in passing, that allegory, long an object of our scorn because of maladroit painters, but in reality a most spiritual artform, one of the earliest and most natural forms of poetry, resumes its legitimate dominion in a mind illuminated by intoxication.” Charles Baudelaire, Les Paradis artificiels (Paris, 1917), p. 73. (On the basis of what follows, it cannot be doubted that Baudelaire indeed had allegory and not symbol in mind. The passage is taken from the chapter on hashish.) The collector as allegorist.
― Walter Benjamin,The Arcades Project, H2,1
Possession and having are allied with the tactile, and stand in a certain opposition to the optical. Collectors are beings with tactile instincts. Moreover, with the recent tum away from naturalism, the primacy of the optical that was determinate for the previous century has come to an end. The flâneur optical, the collector tactile.
― Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, H2,5
What is decisive in collecting is that the object is detached from all its original functions in order to enter into the closest conceivable relation to things of the same kind. This relation is the diametric opposite of any utility, and falls into the peculiar category of completeness. What is this “completeness”? It is a grand attempt to overcome the wholly irrational character of the object’s mere presence at hand through its integration into a new, expressly devised historical system: the collection. And for the true collector, every single thing in this system becomes an encyclopedia of all knowledge of the epoch, the landscape, the industry, and the owner from which it comes. It is the deepest enchantment of the collector to enclose the particular item within a magic circle, where, as a last shudder runs through it (the shudder of being acquired), it turns to stone. Every thing remembered, everything thought, everything conscious becomes socle, frame, pedestal, seal of his possession. It must not be assumed that the collector, in particular, would find anything strange in the topos hyperouranios, that place beyond the heavens which, for Plato, shelters the unchangeable archetypes of things. He loses himself, assuredly. But he has the strength to pull himself up again by nothing more than a straw; and from out of the sea of fog that envelops his senses rises the newly acquired piece, like an island. Collecting is a form of practical memory, and of all the profane manifestations of “nearness” it is the most binding. Thus, in a certain sense, the smallest act of political reflection makes for an epoch in the antiques business. We construct here: an alarm clock that rouses the kitsch of the previous century to “assembly.
― The Arcades Project, H1a,2, Walter Benjamin
The world exhibitions were training schools in which the masses, barred from consuming, learned empathy with exchange value. “Look at everything; touch nothing.
― The Arcades Project, G16,6 (Benjamin on Pinterest)