The Arcades Project

The lecture examines the work of Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project who saw the Second Empire
as the prototype for the emerging capitalist world. The arcades were not only temples of consumption
filled with an emerging’phantasmagoria’ that seduced the new consumers, Benjamin also believed
that they embodied ‘wish images’ of a world transformed still beyond our reach. Benjamin coined
the phrase ‘the ambiguity of the arcades’ to reflect their dual role as both the birthplace of commodity
fetishism and a radical vision of the world as one of plenty which inspired the likes of Charles Fourier.

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