The Spanish Tragedy (RLE Responding to Fascism) (Routledge Library Editions: Responding to Fascism)

Walter Benjamin
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In the ebb and flow of its changing rhythms—additions, revisions, reformulations and retrievals—Benjamin's Arcades Project provides an extraordinary case study in the labour of conceptual construction via the configuration and reconfiguration of archival materials. Only since their publication has it been possible to get a clear sense of the overall trajectory of Benjamin's thought during this period—rendering redundant, or at least displacing, many of the polemics associated with previous cycles of reception.

As the project evolved, and in response to the barriers to its realization, Baudelaire thus became increasingly central to Benjamin's thinking. However, to reduce the project to its own, restricted de facto trajectory, rich as it is, does too much violence to the historical and philosophical framework it embodies, from which the material on Baudelaire gains its broader significance.

1. Philosophical Development

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The two terms, capitalism and modernity, are inextricable for Benjamin in the context of 19th- and early 20th-century Europe. The problem: to dialectically redeem the concept of experience [ Erfahrung ] by finding an appropriate way of experiencing the crisis of experience itself.

Herein lay the basis of his friendship with Brecht.

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Unlike Brecht, however, he conceived them within the terms of a speculative cultural history Caygill The second is concentrated in readings of Baudelaire and related texts by Nietzsche and Blanqui. The focusing-in on these three thinkers is a focusing-in on the relationship of capitalism to modernity in its purest, nihilistic form. The third is conjured from a reflective conjunction of Marx, Nietzsche and Surrealism.

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It is the development of the forces of production that is the motor of history. However, Benjamin was no more orthodox a Marxist about technology than he was with regard to the concept of progress, the Marxist version of which the German Social Democratic Party SPD grounded upon it see Section 8, below. The mastery of nature, so the imperialists teach, is the purpose of all technology [ Technik ].

But …technology is not the mastery of nature but of the relation between nature and humanity. SW 1, , translation amended.

The Spanish Tragedy (RLE Responding to Fascism)

The collective is a body, too. And the physis that is being organized for it in technology can, through all its political and factual reality, only be produced in that image sphere to which profane illumination initiates us. Only when in technology body and image so interpenetrate that all revolutionary tension becomes bodily collective innervation, and all the bodily innervations of the collective become revolutionary discharge, has reality transcended itself to the extent demanded by the Communist Manifesto.

SW 2, —8. Art—an art of the masses—appears within this scenario as the educative mechanism through which the body of the collective can begin to appropriate its own technological potential. In this respect, it was the combination of the communist pedagogy and constructive devices of Brecht's epic theatre that marked it out for him as a theatre for the age of film UB, 1—25; Wizisla Much ink has been spilt debating the thesis of the decline of the aura in Benjamin's work. On the one hand, with regard to some of his writings, Benjamin's concept of aura has been accused of fostering a nostalgic, purely negative sense of modernity as loss—loss of unity both with nature and in community A.

Benjamin On the other hand, in the work on film, Benjamin appears to adopt an affirmative technological modernism, which celebrates the consequences of the decline. Adorno, for one, felt betrayed by the latter position. He wrote to Benjamin on 18 March Yet Adorno was wrong to see a simple change of position, rather than a complex series of inflections of what was a generally consistent historical account.

This context over-determines the essay throughout, with its almost Manichean oppositions between ritual and politics, cult value and exhibition value. For some, however, it is precisely the connection it draws between a certain kind of mass culture and fascism that provides its continuing relevance Buck-Morss It is associated with transitoriness as the generalized social instantiation of the temporality of the modern, in the capitalist metropolis.

2. Social-Political Philosophy

Derrida, J. Presidency, by Newell G. Fieschi, Catherine. Starrett, Gregory, and Joyce Dalsheim. An analysis of the reaction of mainstream parties towards right-wing populist parties in the field of European integration and immigration using a dataset of all parliamentary speeches for at least 20 years in six European national parliaments that have witnessed the entry of prominent right-wing populist parties.

It is here that transitoriness enters the picture—as a result of the generalization of novelty. Baudelaire was able to grasp this experience, according to Benjamin, through the contradictory historical temporality that structured his work: at once resolutely modern yet, in its poetic form lyric , already anachronistic. What determines the rhythm of production on a conveyor belt is the same thing that underlies the rhythm of reception in the film.

SW 4, — SW 4, , translation amended; GS 1. The connection of the modern to fascism does not appear solely through the thematic of the false restoration of the aura, but also within the process of its disintegration by shock. Baudelaire is thus not merely the privileged writer for the advent of the theory of the modern, but the one in whose work the nineteenth century appears most clearly as the fore-life of the present. On the one hand, it de-historicizes experience, wresting it away from the temporal continuities of tradition. On the other hand, a messianic structure—an opening of history to something outside of time—reasserts itself within the still life [ nature mort ] of modernity's restless sameness.

It transforms the historical naturalism of the baroque, analyzed in the Origin of the German Mourning-Play Section 4, above , in a futural direction.

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In particular, it involves a prioritization of the interruptive stasis of the image over the continuity of temporal succession. This was in large part the polemical legacy of the competing influence of three friendships—with Gershom Scholem, Theodor W. Scholem promoted a theological interpretation, Brecht inspired a materialist one, while Adorno attempted to forge some form of compatibility between the two.

This new philosophy of historical time is the ultimate goal of Benjamin's later writings.

He had both philosophical and political reasons for this. It is naturalistic in so far as it acknowledges no fundamental temporal-ontological distinction between past, present and future time; it has no sense of time as the ongoing production of temporal differentiation. Time is differentiated solely by the differences between the events that occur within it. In particular, it fails to grasp that historical time the time of human life is constituted through such immanent differentiations, via the existential modes of memory, expectation and action.

In this respect, there are affinities between Benjamin's philosophy of time and Heidegger's Caygill, In other words, the concept of progress is demobilizing; and Marxism had become infected by the ideology of progress. The experimental method of montage, borrowed from surrealism, was to be the means of production of historical intelligibility.

The passage above continues:. The philosophy of historical time which these images sum up was elaborated by him in two main contexts: the development of a new conception of cultural history and a political diagnosis of the historical crisis of Europe at the outset of the Second World War.

It is here, in an ontological rethinking of reception, that the philosophical significance of Benjamin's interest in technologies of reproduction lies. With these concepts of fore- and afterlife, Benjamin founded a new problematic for cultural study. In this respect, cultural study is situated within the field of a materialist philosophy of history. And the philosophy of history insists on a conception of history as a whole.

Benjamin was aware that this rhetoric would lead to misunderstanding. But the combination of perceived political urgency and isolation compelled him to extend his concept of history beyond the state of his philosophical research, experimentally, into an apparently definitive statement.

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It is as if Benjamin had hoped to overcome the aporia of action within his still essentially hermeneutical philosophy Osborne through the force of language alone. As such, it remains resolutely negative—and thereby importantly partial—in its evocation of the historical whole, which is acknowledged as unpresentable. The current standard German edition of Benjamin's work remains Suhrkamp's seven volume Gesammelte Schriften , edited by Tiedemann and Schweppenhauser, although a new Kritish Gesamtausgabe is currently being edited, also by Suhrkamp and projected at twenty-one volumes over the next decade.

Adorno, Theodor W. Charles1 westminster. Biographical Sketch 2. Early Works: Kant and Experience 3. Romanticism, Goethe and Criticism 4. Baroque Constellations 5. The Arcades Project 6. Art and Technology 7. Baudelaire and the Modern 8. Biographical Sketch Walter Bendix Schoenflies Benjamin was born on July 15, , the eldest of three children in a prosperous Berlin family from an assimilated Jewish background. Early Works: Kant and Experience The importance of Benjamin's early unpublished fragments for an understanding his wider philosophical project has been emphasised by a number of scholars Wolfharth ; Caygill ; Rrenban Romanticism, Goethe and Criticism Benjamin initially sought to develop these ideas in the context of Kant's philosophy of history, believing it was in this context that the problems of the Kantian system could be fully exposed and challenged C, Grandville, or the World Exhibitions C.

Louis Philippe, or the Interior D. The Paris of the 2nd Empire in Baudelaire i. The Modern 3. SW 1, , translation amended The collective is a body, too. The first technology really sought to master nature, whereas the second aims rather at an interplay between nature and humanity. The primary social function of art today is to rehearse that interplay.

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This applies especially to film. The function of film is to train human beings in the apperception and reactions needed to deal with a vast apparatus whose role in their lives is expanding almost daily. Dealing with this apparatus also teaches them that technology will release them from their enslavement to the powers of the apparatus only when humanity's whole constitution has adapted itself to the new productive forces which the second technology has set free.

He wrote to Benjamin on 18 March In your earlier writings… you distinguished the idea of the work of art as a structure from the symbol of theology on the one hand, and from the taboo of magic on the other.

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SW 4, In other words, the concept of progress is demobilizing; and Marxism had become infected by the ideology of progress. It is not that what is past casts its light on what is present, or what is present its light on what is past; rather, an image is that wherein what has been comes together in a flash with the now to form a constellation. In other words: image is dialectics at a standstill. For while the relation of the present to the past is purely temporal, the relation of what-has-been to the now is dialectical: not temporal in nature but figural [ bildlich ].

Only dialectical images are genuinely historical … AP, [N3, 1], The experimental method of montage, borrowed from surrealism, was to be the means of production of historical intelligibility. In this way they serve the apotheosis of the latter, barbaric as it may be.