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Episteme

Abstract

The author shows how Walter Benjamin modified Marx’s core concepts of a capitalist political economy given the 20th century reality of double estrangement. Benjamin takes Marx’s dehumanized being as also the creation of opportunities for the laborer’s capital to work for (not just against) him—they create the architechtonics of his life. Benjamin adjusts the notion of species being by introducing the distinction between individual and mass consciousness, and he argues that the commodity mediates between the two realms, of which the subject is the object of the world of commodities directly determined by a subconscious collective that can be more or less “awake” or “dreaming.” The paper additionally describes how for Benjamin, contemporary life outside of labor, which depends so much on mass consciousness, can be understood through the 20th century form of advertising and increased reproduction technologies. There is also discussion of the flaneur person and discretionary spending.

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