This essay reads a series of social or capitalist abstractions: the iconic smiley face; Karl Marx's notoriously tricky concept of abstract, value-constituting labor; and the “soldier's body” qua allegory of value in contemporary American poet Rob Halpern's book Music for Porn (2012). It argues that both Marx and Halpern rely on catachresis, a trope of “necessary and forced usage,” to represent the material, synthetic effects of social abstractions while counteracting a tendency, increasingly popular with the rise of the “new materialisms,” to uncover a thingly substance as every abstraction's hidden truth.

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