Novelty is a quality independent of the intrinsic value of the commodity. . . . It is the quintessence of false consciousness, whose indefatigable agent is fashion. The illusion of novelty is reflected, like one mirror in another, in the illusion of perpetual sameness. The product of this reflection is the phantasmagoria of “cultural history,” in which the bourgeoisie savors its false consciousness to the last. The art that begins to doubt its task and ceases to be “inseparable from utility” (Baudelaire) must make novelty its highest value. The snob becomes its arbiter novarum rerum. He is to art what the dandy is to fashion.
Walter Benjamin, “Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century,” 1939