Walter Benjamin and the Antinomies of Tradition

By John McCole | Go to book overview

Conclusion
Benjamin's Recasting of the
German Intellectual Tradition

While working out a critical conception of tradition, Benjamin also developed a thoroughgoing, substantive revision of the traditions of German intellectual culture. He did not live to spell out what he meant by the "tradition of the oppressed" invoked in the notes to " On the Concept of History." The idea implies two distinct though compatible possibilities. One would be rooted directly in the history of those whose anonymous toil supports a culture whose products have always also been "documents of barbarism." The tradition of the oppressed, in this sense, would be an alternate tradition of those excluded from the canons of "high" culture, and those who set out to recuperate it might undertake the sort of politically engaged social and cultural history represented by the work of historians such as E. P. Thompson. In fact, Benjamin's language and the Brechtian strain of plebeian radicalism in his work of the 1930S resonate with the words of Thompson's famous preface to The Making of the English Working Class, in which he declared his intention to rescue the "casualties" of history from "the enormous condescension of posterity." 1 Benjamin's book reviews from the late 1920s and early 1930s sometimes propose such a shift of focus from high to popular culture, 2 but under the conditions of exile his pointer was bound to remain a gesture.

Benjamin always spoke of the tradition of the oppressed in the singular and specified its bearer as an oppressed class. This perspective accorded with his attempt in " Eduard Fuchs," " On the Concept of History," and elsewhere to ally his distinctive sense of history with the

____________________
1
E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class, 12-13.
2
See especially his 1931 review "How Can Highly Successful Books Be Explained?" ( III 294- 300).

-304-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Walter Benjamin and the Antinomies of Tradition
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 991

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.