The Actuality of Walter Benjamin

The Actuality of Walter Benjamin

The Actuality of Walter Benjamin

The Actuality of Walter Benjamin

Synopsis

"This collection shows how extraordinarily substantial were the theoretical footholds which Walter Benjamin supplied. The contributors engage with Benjamin on a number of levels, with essays on historical understanding versus historicism, a look at gender and dialectical images, the space of the city, the sources of Judaism and the aesthetics of conflict. Also analysed are Benjamin's artwork, the novel, the anthropology and philosophy of history, 'fate and character', the baroque and Benjamin the intellectual." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

For Christa Wolf

I pro domo

Let me begin by citing a number of scattered passages from Benjamin’s writings which cast an unflattering light on the event we are celebrating – or should I say perpetrating? – today. ‘There is no document of culture’, said Benjamin, ‘which is not at the same time a document of barbarism’. He was not thereby reducing culture to barbarism, merely – merely! – claiming that culture is implicated in a web of inescapable guilt (Schuldzusammenbang). There is no way round this implication. Will there ever be a way through it?

1. [Brecht] was the first to pose to intellectuals the far-reaching require
ment that they should not supply the apparatus of production without
also transforming it, as far as possible [nach Massgabe des Möglichen],
in the socialist interest […]. To supply the apparatus of production
without also transforming it, as far as possible, [is] a highly suspect
procedure even if the materials supplied appear to be of a revolution
ary character. We have, in effect, to face the fact that the bourgeois
apparatus of production and publication can assimilate and even prop
agate astonishing quantities of revolutionary themes without thereby
seriously putting in question its own existence and that of the class
which owns it. This remains the case at least as long as it is routinely
supplied by hacks (Routiniers), even revolutionary ones.

‘What remains’ – in Christa Wolf’s phrase – of the revolutionary hopes which sustained these sentences is a question which may provisionally be left . . .

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