By Michael Lowy, Chris Turner
This illuminating learn of Benjamin’s ultimate essay is helping free up the secret of this nice philosopher
Revolutionary critic of the philosophy of growth, nostalgic of the earlier but dreaming of the long run, romantic partisan of materialism — Walter Benjamin is in each experience of the be aware an “unclassifiable” thinker. His essay “On the concept that of historical past” was once written in a country of urgency, as he tried to flee the Gestapo in 1940, prior to eventually committing suicide.
In this scrupulous, transparent and engaging exam of this essay, Michael Löwy argues that it is still essentially the most vital philosophical and political writings of the 20th century. having a look intimately at Benjamin’s celebrated yet frequently mysterious textual content, and restoring the philosophical, theological and political context, Löwy highlights the advanced courting among redemption and revolution in Benjamin’s philosophy of historical past.
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Extra resources for Fire Alarm: Reading Walter Benjamin’s ’On the Concept of History’
Among the attempts at interpreting his work, there is one that seems to me particularly questionable: the approach that believes he can be placed in the same philosophical camp as Martin Heidegger. ’9 However, Benjamin made crystal clear his feelings of hostility towards the author of Sein und Zeit long before Heidegger revealed his allegiance to the Third Reich. 12 One may, admittedly, compare the two authors’ conceptions of historical time to identify points of affinity: the theme of eschatology, the Heideggerian conception of ‘authentic temporality’, and the openness of the past.
If I take the opposite stance, this is both because of my own interests and philosophical and political options, and on account of the genesis of the 1940 ‘Theses’, which take their main inspiration from other writings. After 1936, this kind of ‘progressive parenthesis’ closes again and Benjamin increasingly reintegrates the Romantic moment into his sui generis Marxist critique of the capitalist forms of alienation. For example, in his 1936–38 writings on Baudelaire, he takes up again the typically Romantic idea – suggested in a 1930 essay on E.
Benjamin was aware that this reading of Marxism had its roots in the Romantic critique of industrial civilization, but he was convinced that Marx too had taken his inspiration from that source. 46 It is clear that Benjamin’s Marxism, particularly after the years 1936–37, had little in common with the Soviet ‘Diamat’ that Stalin was soon (1938) to codify in a chapter of the very official History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks). The choice of Karl Korsch as a philosophical reference – a heterodox Marxist, close to ‘Council Communism’, expelled from the German Communist Party in the 1920s and radically opposed to the theoretical canons of both Social Democracy and Stalinist Communism – is in itself indicative of this dissidence.
Fire Alarm: Reading Walter Benjamin’s ’On the Concept of History’ by Michael Lowy, Chris Turner