The sex appeal of the image and the insurrection of desire

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By OLGARIA MATOS*

Considerations on the experience of modern life in the work of Walter Benjamin

The modern spectacle is an epic song, but it does not sing – like the Iliad – men and their weapons, but merchandise and their passions, imbued with animism, totetism and fetishism. It is Karl Marx who marks the passage from religion to the disenchanted ideology of the world. More: the constant creation of new needs, which generate pseudopleasures and, with that, economic ruins, so that the libido is everywhere where there can be consumption, except in sex. Marx even goes so far as to state that “the commodity loves money, which is why it casts loving glances at the consumer”. From there, to do without reality – to break with it, even – is a step. Then, the world of appearance prevails, consummated.

In this, René Descartes, considered the father of Modernity, followed in the opposite direction. Take, for example, the beautiful and famous page in which he describes melting wax. She who still retains something of “the sweet honey of the hive and the scent of flowers”. Otherwise, the spectacular merchandise, devoid of origin, originality, nature, identity, subjectivity, conscience, because, with the technique, what prevails is the profusion of images, whose origin owes to the Byzantine iconophilia of the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries.

It is evident that, in this sense, Modernity is not Cartesian, nor, incidentally, Platonic. After all, such philosophical currents were characterized precisely by combating simulacra. Thus, it is societies in which commodities are covered up, concealed, forgotten, which are called “societies of the spectacle”.

Hence the surrealism of the city already at the beginning of the XNUMXth century, as Walter Benjamin notes about Paris, where “for some time now the ivy with its learned leaves has mixed up with the river quay. “Paris” – in short – “is the great reading room of a library that crosses the Seine. Therefore, the importance of interpreting his psyche, in which eroticism and fetishism are confused.

In this, Benjamin is literal. So much so that he employs Sigmund Freud's method of The Interpretation of Dreams” to fulfill this task, in which the monuments weigh as mnemonic symbols – and “hysterical”, since they expose the city in its past forms that, materialized in the stones, present new gifts. But not so easily, since “old repressions” result from this. Here, then, is the struggle between the substantial myth and the ephemeral, which does not imply, for Benjamin, that Paris is less than an absolute place or a total work of art – in which everything is artifice and unreality, once sustained by capital, which, without a past or a future, sustains itself, in turn, on the backs of social classes whose hours are dead.

In this regard, “it is interesting to note that contemporary Marxist theory often agrees with Fijian economics, who use a single word to refer to both work and ritual,” wrote Marshall Sahlins.

The modern spectacle, wrote Guy Debord, is an epic song, but it does not sing, like the Iliad, men and their weapons, but commodities and their passions.[1] Animism, totemism, fetishism bewitch commodities. Analyzing the migration of the concept, from the history of religion to contemporary ideology, Marx not only compares commodity fetishism to religious fetishism, but also reveals the permanence of the world's enchantment in religious values: men produce and worship them, attributing supernatural powers to material objects. Thus, in so-called primitive societies — such as those in Melanesia — the mana it is an immaterial, supernatural and impersonal force, a kind of “invisible fluid” or aura; it focuses on certain people and things, transmitting itself to objects and, if treated improperly, it can produce negative and disintegrating effects that call for sacrifices. That's why to mana a taboo is associated, and to this, the transgression.

The commodity is the capitalist totem to which the individual sacrifices himself: “Every person speculates on the possibility of creating a new need in the other, in order to oblige him to a new sacrifice, to impose on him a new dependency, to induce a new need. him to a new form of pleasure, thus leading him to economic ruin”.[2]

In the person of the capitalist “pleasure submits to capital, the individual who enjoys it, to the one who capitalizes”.[3] The category of fetishism is the center of Marx's critique of the foundations of capitalist societies.[4]

The “capitalist religion” is part of the growing processes of secularization, demythologization, disenchantment of the world — which, in its radicalization, affects not only religious representations, but also the ideological ones considered its extension. Capitalism is a profane religion, as it has its objects of contemplation and desire — commodities and their images; the libido, which is everywhere except in sexuality, as Barthes had already noticed. This means that the technology of sensuality is at the service of “commodity aesthetics”,[5] aesthetics that should produce fascination, that capture the sensations of the “individuals” thus mobilized.

Manipulation takes place through the aesthetic promise of use value, the usefulness of the commodity, on the one hand, and the added beauty at the service of realizing exchange value, on the other, in order to arouse the desire for possession. The person who buys intends to supply a need, and the object is therefore useful; but, as far as exchange value is concerned, the purpose of this object is achieved when it is transformed into money. The commodity as exchange value represents and realizes the qualitative and quantitative decrease in the utility of commodities, which is compensated for by its embellishment and sensuality: “The commodity”, wrote Marx, “loves money” to which it “beckons”. with its price, throwing “loving glances” at the consumer.[6]

This inversion, in which humans imitate the amorous games of material objects, also causes people to withdraw their aesthetic expression from merchandise. These, from body beautification products to fashion models, through advertising, induce behaviors, as well as being collectively adopted. Through a “transference love”, the mannequin's charm magically migrates to those who imitate her style. Benjamin considers this empathy with the commodity, writing: “If the commodity had that soul that Marx occasionally speaks of in jest, it would be the most empathetic ever found in the realm of souls. Because he would have to see, in all of them, the buyer in whose hand and in whose dwelling he would like to settle down”.[7]

Yearning for money, merchandise is created in the image of the consuming public's anxiety, offering what it expects: the ideology of pleasure through consumption, without which it would not arouse the feeling of happiness through consumption. Therefore, its “reality content” becomes more and more subtle, reaching the point of disregarding reality, and even breaking with it.

The contemporary world is the world of appearance, fully realized, which is attested in the separation between merchandise and advertising, the thing and its image, the pre-pleasure promised by the image is dissociated from real possession. The foundations of the modern world, elaborated by Descartes, whose Meditations constitute the effort to separate truth from error, knowledge from illusion, in the effort to detach oneself from the sensitive and its misleading images, as can be read in second meditation, when the philosopher dedicates himself to analyzing the piece of wax that has just been removed from a beehive: “It has not yet lost the sweetness of the honey it contained, it still retains something of the aroma of the flowers from which it was produced, its color, its shape, its grandeur are patent; it's hard, it's cold, we touch it and, if we hit it, some sound will produce [...]. But behold, we bring it close to fire: what was left of flavor dissolves, the odor dissipates, its color changes, its shape changes, […] we can hardly touch it and, if we hit it, no sound will produce. Does the same wax remain after this modification?”[8]

If the wax maintains its primary identity, it is possible to know it through reason, and not through the senses. Wax can take many guises, multiple sensory forms. Also when one observes through the window a passer-by dressed in his coat and hat: what guarantees us that this is not a simple robot in men's clothes? Descartes seeks to show that only the phenomena of consciousness are certain, any sensitive content can be falsified. The Cartesian intention is to emancipate the world from illusions, which culminates, however, in a perverse separation: domination of nature through science, through algebraic-mathematical thinking, on the one hand, and permanence of illusion, on the other.

This is what happens with merchandise separated from its image. The merchandise attests to the end of the cult of the origin, the original and originality, as it multiplies to infinity by the artifice of technical productivity, the end of the notions of nature and the natural, of the philosophy of identity, of subjectivity, of conscience, replaced by the proliferation of images. In a way, modernity is heir to the quarrel between iconophiles and iconoclasts, which, between the years 726 and 843, dominated the Eastern Roman Empire.

This quarrel took place between the iconoclasts, who rejected images in the name of the purity of the Christian tradition — for them, the representation of Christ was not only inappropriate, but blasphemous —, and the iconophiles, who recognized in the icon a spiritual content that it is not the Other of the original, but the “original itself”. According to this current, the image is evocation and medium whereby God reveals himself in the sensible world, the original being therefore liable to sensible evidence. The image, for its followers, consists of a visual theology in which the visible and the invisible are combined. Since, therefore, the image is an excellent vehicle for faith, it must be integrated into existing rites and objects of worship.

Modernity is neither Platonic nor Cartesian. If, for Platonism, the enemy of the original is the copy, the falsification, the simulacrum only confirms the primary status of the original, underlining its authentic precedence over imitations without ontological or metaphysical value. Likewise, the disputes between specialists to decide whether something is fake or authentic are based on this hierarchy of values, whose origin goes back to Plato. As for the contemporary world, the merchandise is separated from its image, as well as the packaging from its “body”, becoming more important than it. The merchandise is hidden, disguised or forgotten behind the spectacular images. The societies in which this happens were called “societies of the spectacle”,[9] to indicate its hallucinatory nature, as it is not linked to the real, but to “hyper-realism”, whose intention is to be more real than the real, or even to replace it. But, even here, one does not escape the field of metaphysics, as the assumption of an original remains, of a substantial truth, covered up, dissimulated or forgotten behind the images.

The contemporary world does without a substantial truth, which is revealed in advertising or on the packaging of goods: “The packaging is not only thought of as protection against the risks of transport, but it is a true face to be seen by the potential buyer, before his “body”, and it envelops him, visually transforming him, in order to run towards the customer. market and its change of form […]. Once the surface [of the commodity] is freed, becoming a second [skin], often and incomparably more perfect than the first, it is completely detached, disembodied and circulates rapidly throughout the world as if it were the colored spirit. of the merchandise […]. No one else is safe from their loving gazes.”[10]

Walter Benjamin, in turn, considers this modern figure of eroticism, in the expression“sex appeal of the inorganic”. Its primeval history can be found in the universal exhibitions of the 1855th century, in particular that of XNUMX in Paris, a fetish city, where the religious phenomenon of superstition and the erotic intertwine, the desire to possess merchandise and the love of transfer of its supposed qualities and properties to the consumer. In addition, the philosopher recognizes a continuity of religion in the contemporary cult of images and in the adoration of merchandise.

The Universal Exhibitions in London and Paris, which received more than 50 million visitors for one year, manifested a new pilgrimage, different from the one that led people to flock to sacred places. In Paris, capital of the XNUMXth century, Benjamin writes that universal exhibitions are pilgrimage centers for fetish goods.[11]

Leaving the precincts of churches, the sacred is exposed in the immense “palaces of the ephemeral” — the Crystal Palaces built for the glory of the modern gods: merchandise, novelty, machines, progress. But it is in Paris that the city accesses this awareness and the adventure of constituting unprecedented meanings of the world of things. Indeed, there is an ambivalent appeal in the abundantly displayed merchandise: its aesthetic encourages both buying and theft, since the sign of its success is not only measured by the volume of sales, but also thefts: “The urge to grab is strongly elicited by cunningly arranging merchandise in display cases and shelves in such a way that a customer can barely walk past. The merchandise must be so ornate that the customer feels like stealing it”.[12]

Walter Benjamin, like an archaeologist, seeks the unconscious of modernity and the XNUMXth century in an investigation based on his archetypal constructions, the passages or arcades, galleries built in iron and glass, through which the crowd moves. The spectacle of the crowds that move in this way, exposed as in shop windows, is offered for the first time for reading and legibility, since it was the XNUMXth century that produced a literature in which the main character is the city of Paris.

Its modern, surrealist aspect is noted in a 1926 letter to Gershon Scholem, written while he was engaged in translating the second volume of In search of lost time, by Marcel Proust, into German. Benjamin recognizes in the interstices of the “secret language” of his salons, in the “class jargon” unintelligible to outsiders, the pre-surrealist element of the city, where the true surrealist physiognomy of existence is imposed. Surrealism: disassembly of a single whole, of which each piece is an element of another text, new and original. Thus, presenting himself in the character of the bibliomaniac coming to consult on-site visit catalogs and books on Bibliotheque Nationale, from which he collected quotations, Benjamin makes the obsession of the compulsive reader encompass, through the literary irradiation of the city, the knowledge of Paris: “For centuries”, he notes, “the ivy of the learned leaves has mixed up with the river quay. Paris is the great reading room of a library that crosses the Seine”.[13] The legibility of the city is also that of its psyche. Complex modernity, that of Paris, which brings together eroticism and fetishism.

To understand it, Benjamin goes through the literature on Paris, making use of Freud's procedures in his interpretation of dreams, in order to decipher in these writings the experience they contain. dream interpretation, of Freud, anticipates the Benjaminian “method”. Indeed, Rome and Paris are present in both writings. These are cities that the detective of the unconscious ardently wants to know, where reality and desire merge in the dreams in which both manifest themselves – and the realization of the dream of going to Paris appears to Benjamin as the possibility of fulfilling other desires. . It is the city as a space for the coexistence of different epochs and the objectified past that becomes the model of the subjective concomitance of epochs in memory.

If Pompeii is the paradigm of the buried city, set in a now past, Rome is, for Freud, the city under the sign of remembrance, whose present is invaded by the past. Also for Benjamin, the commemorative buildings, the monuments that adorn the city are mnemonic symbols, but also “hysterical” symbols: the city as an overlapping of different eras keeps the past materialized in the stone that makes its past emerge in new presents. Thus, the city is the image of the stratification of consciousness, there the crystallization of the past emerges from oblivion in the consciousness of the present.

But, unlike the mnemonic signs of the city, such strata not only emerge into consciousness but also subdue it. On the other hand, Freud writes that, in Rome, reminiscences of the ruins are part of the present; what today occupies old buildings are ruins, but not ruins of themselves - temples and buildings of those times -, but of renovations made in later times, after fires and destructions. These vestiges of ancient Rome appear scattered and superimposed on the city, and there must still be something hidden underground or under modern constructions. This is how the past has been preserved in places like Rome.[14]

Benjamin's Paris, like Freud's Rome, with its archaeological layers, is a psychic entity, endowed with a past, in which everything that was born still endures. But this coexistence is by no means simple: there is a repression of the old. If, in the city, something else comes to occupy the same place or overlap with the present, psychic repression is dynamic, the present struggles with the past to take its place. The repressed becomes something mythical. To the substantial myth of the Greeks, linked to the solitary and eminent place of a temple, there is opposed, in the big city, the myth of the ephemeral: the present in its everydayness, impermanence and banality; but it is also open to the immemorial.

The very choice of the word “passage”, for Benjamin's narratives about Paris, is not fortuitous: step, pass, past, passerby, passenger (as a noun and adjective); but also pass house, to whose secrets the passage offers discreet, secret access. The city of Paris is an absolute place, it is a total work of art. Nothing of nature remains in it, everything is artifice, spectacle, unreality. In it, the unheimlich is the shock of the return of the repressed or “inhibited” (Hemmung) which constitutes his ghosts. When Marx writes that, due to commodity fetishism, shadows lose their own bodies, given the evanescence of use value, only exchange value remains, a shadow that has lost its own body; only dead work remains, coagulated in an object, like the undead past whose ghosts come to pester the brains of the living.

The repressed but not forgotten past remains submerged. This is how the philosopher who reads Baudelaire tries to understand these verses of the poet: “bustling city, city full of dreams”. There, specters cling to passers-by in broad daylight: it is the place of the acute presence of reality and loss; and its mists give it a ghostly appearance. Apparition, specter or ghost are threatening, as they abruptly break what is familiar and known, causing identities to falter. Categories such as space and time, subject and object, become uncertain, and they no longer benefit from the stability that their concept promised.

the flâneur solitary shipwrecks in hysteria, because the irruption of the phantom and the myth are indistinguishable. Without categorical limits, reality lacks guarantees, it becomes alien to itself, seeking to erase the past city, imperiously erecting its actuality on ruins. O unheimlich é, here, one scenery with respect to the linearity of the past, it is the feeling of the disturbing, coming from the fragments of time. It is also Proustian involuntary memory, an image that sparkles like a flash of lightning, of which Benjamin speaks in the theses About the concept of history.[15] It collides with the fixed idea, the compulsion to be new, to repeat the same thing, against the new era of the market economy and experience in the metropolis. O unheimlich is um shock to indicate that the one surprised by him is facing a danger for which he is not prepared. What on the individual level appears as delirium erupts in society on the level of ideology, as the latter is resistant to logical criticism.

O unheimlich is shock in modern metropolises, reality that turns into a ghostly image, with no defined silhouette, like a landscape in a winter filled with mist. Immersed in them, the houses seem taller and more elongated than they are, and can even deceive the passer-by as if they were the safe pier of a river. Dream and reality cannot be separated: “The submersion of the city space in the mist, which erases contours and spatial categories, is itself the evocative image of the submersion of the interior psychic space: it is up to the I to remain strong, in the effort of a heroic presence of mind on the point of becoming hysterical .[16]

The discovery of catacombs beneath the streets of Paris must also have had an impact on its inhabitants, making them aware that they were moving over the immense cemetery that lay beneath their feet.

It was Nadar, whom Benjamin talks about in the book Little history of photography,[17] who undertook, for the first time, to photograph the catacombs of Paris with artificial light. Thus, alongside its documental vocation, photography was a way of exploring the invisible or fleeting phenomena, as it interrogates an intermediate temporality, an “in-between”,[18] which is a kind of metempsychosis, as the dead occasionally visit the living.

The logic of commodities and their hierarchies also derealize time: the hours dedicated to capital have neither a past nor a future, they are dead hours. To him, Benjamin opposes the flâneur, the hero of modernity: idle, he lets himself be carried away by the crowd and the rhythm of the turtles: “There was (around 1840) the passer-by who gets lost in the crowd, but also the flaeur, who needs free space and doesn't want to lose his privacy. Idle, he walks like a personality, thus protesting the social division of labor […]. At that time, for a time, it was good form to take turtles for a walk through the passages; the flâneur gladly let them prescribe the rhythm of his walk”.[19]

The society of abundance that promises luxury and voluptuousness through consumption can find in the merchandise and its images the possibility of defetishization.[20] Thus, if the prostitute is, for Benjamin, as for Marx and Engels, the apotheosis of the identification between love and merchandise, the possibility of a life “without dead times” refers to the collective imagination that recognizes in the feminine the demand of its realization, in the universe of women, “tout n'est que beauté, luxe, calme et volupté”. Benjamin, a reader of Baudelaire, makes his “flowers” ​​emerge from Evil, from “damnation”, the salvation of modern life. Thus, Sappho of Lesbos brings what love can bring: he is a “counter-religion”, a revolution.

For Benjamin, as for Baudelaire, woman is artifice, beauty is pure illusion; in make-up — and Baudelaire praises it — women find practices to consolidate and deify their “fragile beauty”. For your toilet, they seem magical, as well as the refinement of their make-up, their attitudes, but, above all, the look that gives them a charm due to the aura they evoke: “There is no gaze that does not expect a response from the being for which it is intended. When this waiting is compensated (by a thought, by a voluntary effort of attention), the experience of the aura then knows fullness [...]. The experience of the aura rests, therefore, on the transference [...]. As soon as we are or believe we are looked at, we raise our eyes. To feel the aura of something is to give it the power to raise one's eyes.[21]

Both Benjamin and Baudelaire dissociate beauty from good and base it, so to speak, on evil, on the “artificiality” of the modern, undoing the connotation of falsehood that was attributed to it by the “classic beauty”. The modern beauty does not try to hide his artifices, and women appeal to him to appear magical. And fashion offers them a repertoire of arbitrary signs; fashion is both artificial and supernatural, and it is a fetishistic ritual. Transforms nature into artifice and artifact endowed with enchantments and spell.

At the same time, fashion transforms women into a “statue”, into a “divine and superior being”, marble, bronze or stone. Disturbing and phantasmagorical, invested with magical powers, the woman carries out the critique and emancipation with respect to the world of the spectacle and its “values”. Utopia of the feminine, the universe of the passages recovers in its own way the epic world, Sappho, the Sirens. If Ulysses, Odyssey, renounced his seduction — and the principle of pleasure — which made him the antagonist of an ontologized reality, Benjamin and Baudelaire want, on the contrary, to decipher what they desire with their song.[22]

* Olgaria Matos is a professor of philosophy at Unifesp. Author, among other books, of Philosophical palindromes: between myth and history (Unifesp).

Originally published on the website ArtePensamento-IMS.

 

Notes


[1] See Guy Debord, The society of the spectacle, trans. Estela dos Santos Abreu (Rio de Janeiro: Contraponto, 1997).

[2] Karl Marx, Economic-philosophical manuscripts of 1844.

[3] Ibidem

[4] In the XNUMXth century, England, after carrying out its Industrial Revolution, was followed in this process by France, the United States and Germany. Every national market economy is already part of the world economy from the beginning, thus confronting the phenomenon of competition — which constrains less productive economies to reach the level of highly industrialized nations. Most countries found themselves out of step with the economic, technological and ethical developments of the core states that preceded them, when they later entered world competition. Given this lack of harmony, as soon as a “backward” country tried to implant itself in world capitalism, its economy was shaken by the influx of cheaper goods from high-productivity countries. Thus, the only opportunity to take part in this modernity in a way that was not entirely subordinated, as occurred in Russia, China and other economies of subordinated capitalism, was a “forced autarchy”, in a space protected from all external competition, in order to establish a local capitalism. In this way, the Russia of Lenin, Trotsky and, above all, Stalin, with their “revolution in one country”, carried out a belated modernization in a backward country: “A kind of 'primitive accumulation' was repeated in Russia, which implied the forced transformation of millions of peasants into factory workers and the spread of a mentality adapted to abstract work”, cf. Anselm Jappe, Les aventures de la cartandise: pour une nouvelle critique de la valeur (Paris: Denoêl, 2003), p. 206.

[5] See Wolfgang Fritz Haug, Critique of commodity aesthetics, trans. Erlon José Paschoal (São Paulo: Unesp, 1996).

[6] Karl Marx, “Commodity Fetishism,” in El capital, vol. I (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1986).

[7] Walter Benjamin,“The flâneur”, em Selected works. Baudelaire: a lyricist at the height of capitalism, trans. José Carlos Martins Barbosa & Hemerson Alves Baptista, vol. 3 (São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1989), p. 52.

[8] Cf. Rene Descartes,  metaphysical editions. second meditation, trans. Jaco Guinsburg and Bento Prado Jr., Coleção Os Pensadores (São Paulo: Abril Cultural, 1973), p. 104.

[9] See Guy Debord, The society of the spectacle, cit.

[10] Wolfgang Fritz Haug, Critique of commodity aesthetics, cit., p. 75.

[11] Walter Benjamin, “Paris, capital of the XNUMXth century”, in Walter Benjamin. Sociology, trans. Flávio R. Kothe (São Paulo: Ática, 1985).

[12] Wolfgang Fritz Haug, Critique of commodity aesthetics, cit., pp. 62-63.

[13] See Theodor W Adorno, Gesammelte Schinften, vol. 4 (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, ​​1980), p. 358.

[14] Sigmund Freud, dream interpretation, trans. Ismael de Walderedo (Rio de Janeiro: Imago, 1998).

[15] Walter Benjamin, “On the Concept of History,” in Selected works. Magic and technique, art and politics. Essays on Literature and the History of Culture, vol. 1 (São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1985).

[16] Karlheinz Stierle, La capitale des signs: Paris et son discours (Paris: Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, 2001), p. 510.

[17] Walter Benjamin, “A Short History of Photography,” in Selected works. Magic and technique…, cit.

[18] The idea of ​​an interval, of interruption, of displacement is found, with regard to the theory of knowledge, in the gnoseological premise of Origin of German Baroque drama, in which the philosopher praises the form of a “medieval treaty” and “mosaics”. Cf. also Olgária Matos, “Benjamin and the question of method”, in O visionary enlightenment: Benjamin, reader of Descartes and Kant (São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1993).

[19] See Walter Benjamin,“The flâneur”, em Selected works. Baudelaire: a lyricist at the height of capitalism, cit., pp. 50-51. In the modern world, man dominates nature, but not his social relationships. Society is but an auxiliary of the market so that the economic system can function according to its own laws. Contemporary ultraliberalism refers to the free competition of the XNUMXth century, when the market was understood as an instance of self-regulation. Given the threat to the continuity of social ties of solidarity and trust, which could lead to the destruction of capitalist production itself, European societies throughout the XNUMXth century took measures of self-protection, above all with labor legislation and the introduction of public services. These were understood, until the moment they started to be privatized, as devices that offered most individuals, if not every citizen, essential goods that private interests could not take care of. Fundamental services accessible to all constituted a factor of social cohesion, today in the process of dissolution.

[20] The world of goods and forced labor obscures workers' consciousness, becoming naturalized as the ontological destination of man, diverting workers from the awareness of their own unhappiness. Indeed, anthropology, such as that of Marcel Mauss, Marshall Sahlins and Polanyi, demonstrates, through different aspects, that the exchange of equivalents - production for market purposes and not to supply needs and shortages, and the separation between economy and work — is a relatively recent phenomenon. Thus Mauss, in his Essay on the sun (1924), analyzes the potlatch from Melanesia. In “gift” societies, the conservation and permanence of social relations are more important than material exchanges: “These are only means to an end: gifts do not have a commercial purpose, but must produce a 'sense of friendship ' between individuals and especially between groups. The gift is based on a true cult of generosity and manifests material detachment, which brings it closer to the spirit of nobility, of prodigality, which remained for a long time in the most developed cultures”. As for Sahlins, in Stone Age, Age of Plenty (1972), writes: "It is of interest to note that contemporary Marxist theory often agrees with the economics of the Fijians, who use a single word to mean 'work' and 'ritual'".

[21] Walter Benjamin, “Über einige motive bei Baudelaire”, in Illuminationen (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, ​​1980), p. 223. Ed. Brazilian: On some themes in Baudelaire, Os Pensadores Collection (São Paulo: Abril Cultural, 1975).

[22] Cf. Charles Baudelaire, “My Heart Bare” and “Madame Bovary”, in Charles Baudelaire, poetry and prose (Rio de Janeiro: Nova Aguilar, 1995); Walter Benjamin, "Socrate", in Metaphysics of Gioventú (Torino: Einaudi, 1982); Olgária Matos, “Benjamin and the feminine”, in Márcia Tiburi et al.(eds.), women and philosophy (São Leopoldo: Unisinos, 2001).

 

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