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Abstract

In this article I claim that Walter Benjamin's essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" merits renewed critical attention. Just as Dada had confronted art with anti-art, so Benjamin hoped his essay would confront aesthetics with an anti-aesthetic. I examine Benjamin's capsule history of the aura and show it to be misleading, criticize the essay's underdeveloped ontology of painting and sketch an alternative, and draw attention to the surprising proximity of Benjamin's notion of value to that of neoliberal thought. I conclude with a critique of Benjamin's cultural politics.

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