The System of Collecting


Baudrillard, Jean. ‘The System of Collecting’ The Cultures of Collecting (London: Reaktion Books, 1994) 7-24


[…] the objects that occupy our daily lives are in fact the objects of a passion, that of personal possession, whose quotient of invested affect is in no way inferior to that of any other variety of human passion.

[…] the objects in our lives, as distinct from the way we make use of them at a given moment, represent something much more, something profoundly related to subjectivity: for while the object is a resistant material body, it is also, siumltaneously, a mental realm over which I hold sway, a thing whose meaning is governed by myself alone. It is all my own, the object of my passion.

[discusses a freezer as a mechanism not an object]

Possession cannot be said to apply to an implement, since the object I utilize always directs me back to the world. rather it applies to that object once it is divested of it function and made relative to a subject.

In this sense, all objects that are possessed submit to the same abstractive operation and participate in a mutual relationship in so far as they each refer back to the subject. They thereby constitute themselves as a system, on the basis of which the subject seeks to piece together his world, his personal microcosm.


Thus any given object can have two functions: it can be utilized, or it can be possessed. The first function has to do withthe subject’s project of asserting practical control within the real world, the second with an enterprise of mastery whereby the subject seeks to assert himself as an autonomous totality outside the world.

[the possessed object’s] destiny is to be collected.



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