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Revolutionary potential and Walter Benjamin: A postwar reception history

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Chapter Summary

Much of the debate of Walter Benjamin's legacy in 1960-1992 focussed on questions of art and aesthetics, with an emphasis on the relationship between technological reproduction of art and art's autonomy, as forwarded by Adorno in his critical engagement with Benjamin. In France, there was a significant reception of Benjamin as a productive political thinker amongst writers of a Trotskyist inflection. Dominant streams in anglophone humanities scholarship in the 1980s and 1990s were able to find productive relationships between Benjamin's language theory and poststructuralist thought, and, subsequently, Heideggerianism. A recent European-American contribution to Marxist theory has evoked Benjamin as part of its contemporary re-imagining of the revolutionary project. One of Benjamin's enduring theoretical contributions involves the question of tradition, legacy, how things - specifically knowledge and the historical past - are handed down.

Keywords: anglophone humanities; Marxist theory; Trotskyist; Walter Benjamin



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