Benjamin's Arcades: An unGuided Tour by Peter Buse, Ken Hirschkop, Scott McCracken, Bertrand Taithe

By Peter Buse, Ken Hirschkop, Scott McCracken, Bertrand Taithe

The Arcades undertaking, Walter Benjamin's unfinished masterpiece, is a superb yet maddening publication. This publication seems to be for the strategy in the back of the insanity, conscientiously reconstructing the highbrow and political context of the paintings and unpacking its quite a few analogies, metaphors and conceptual gambits. Written by means of 3 literary students and one historian, this article is either a studying significant other and a full of life interpretation of 1 of crucial humanistic texts of the 20th century.

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For . 10 Benjamin aspired to be a European Jew, above all else. The date of Benjamin's encounter with Jewish questions, 1 9 12, was not a coincidence: it was the moment at which Jews across central Europe were reacting to Martin Buber's dramatic intervention, the 'Three � 44 · Jud aism Speeches on Judaisrn' delivered to the Bar Kochba Union in Prague in 1 909 and 1 9 1 1 and printed in 1 9 1 1 . 11 Buber's lectures were aimed squarely at the liberal rationalism that sought to 'normalize' Judaism within Europe, turning its theology into a precursor of Kantian ethics and reducing its aspirations to political emancipation within the framework of the European nation-state.

Were one to go by the blotter, how­ ever, nothing of what is written would remain' (N7a, 7). If this was meant to imply that his writing was infused by, but not reducible to Jewish the- .. ology, the message was clearly lost both to his contemporaries and to the � 41 Benjamin's Arcades numerous critical friends he acquired posthumously. In life, he must have felt torn between Gershom Scholem, who rnade no effort to mask his disappointment when Benjamin swung towards Marxism, accusing him of an 'an unusually intent kind of self-deception' which varnished meta­ physical insight with a Marxist coating, and Brecht, whose plumpes Denken didn't really stretch to theology.

The aim of the dialectical image is to retrieve an object, practice or figure from obscurity. Its rearrangement in a new constellation offers the possibility of its transfiguration. In Convolute 0, 'Prostitution, gam­ bling', for example, gambling is represented as a dialectical concept, but a full understanding of it as a dialectical image requires that it be under­ stood in relation to other concepts, as part of a constellation akin to that described in The Origin of the German Mourning Play: For ideas are not represented in themselves, but solely and exclusively in an arrangement of concrete elements in the concept: as the configuration of these elements.

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