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Walter Benjamin’s Archive: Images, Texts, Signs Walter Benjamin Benjamin Handbuch. Leben-Werk-Wirkung

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image of Historical Materialism

We are used to classifying different thinkers according to their general orientation: progressive or conservative, revolutionary or nostalgic of the past, materialist or idealist. Walter Benjamin does not fit into these categories. He is a revolutionary critic of the ideologies of progress, a materialist theologian, and his nostalgia for the past is at the service of his Marxist dreams for the future. It is therefore not surprising that so many different and conflicting readings of his work have developed since his death, some trying to bring him back into the usual frames of thinking, others trying to recruit him for the newest philosophical fads, and many simply damning him as ridden with contradictions and therefore an intellectual failure. But there are also some happy exceptions: those who try to take into account the irreducible singularity of his intellectual and political endeavours. These three books, quite different in object and method ‐ a collection of documents from his archives, a biography, and a ‘Benjamin Handbook’ ‐ belong to these exceptions.

Affiliations: 1: CNRS Paris, Email: michael.lowy@orange.fr

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