Illuminations of the Everyday
Philosophical and Cultural Expressions of Redemption in Weimar Germany
|Institution:||University of Sussex|
|Degree:||M.A. in Social and Political Thought|
Benjamin's work has been classified either according to the principles of historical materialism, or according to the principles of metaphysics. This fragmentation of his ideas, however, obscures the real impetus of his oeuvre, particularly in the interpretation of his central notion of redemption. If instead one considers Benjamin as a critic of the everyday in search of a mechanism for change, influenced by the historical condition and his intellectual contemporaries, then we are able better to understand his narrative. The Weimar Republic was a period dominated by the dialectic between hope and despair. The intellectual sphere of Critical Theory attempted to understand their condition of alienation and establish a solution. Redemption is key to Benjamin's approach. Redemption carries the stigma of theology and has therefore been dismissed because, unlike revolution, it has no historical precedent and appears to have limited value. In common with the other Critical Theorists, for Benjamin the conditions of alienation as well as the structure of its solution were in the everyday. Through the concepts of the dialectical image and now-time, Benjamin readdresses the question of revolution, which he finds to be limited by its maintenance of linear historic time. Benjamin's redemption is an amalgam of the historic and the metaphysical and represents a powerful social critique, propelled by revolutionary rhetoric.