Walter Benjamin, Peter Fenves and Julia Ng (eds): Toward the Critique of Violence: A Critical Edition

Toward the Critique of Violence - cover

Walter Benjamin, Peter Fenves and Julia Ng (eds): Toward the Critique of Violence: A Critical Edition
Stanford University Press, 376pp., Paperback: ISBN 9780804749534
Publication date: June 2021

Marking the centenary of Walter Benjamin’s immensely influential essay, Toward the Critique of Violence, this critical edition presents readers with an altogether new, fully annotated translation of a work that is widely recognized as a classic of modern political theory.

The volume includes twenty-one notes and fragments by Benjamin along with passages from all of the contemporaneous texts to which his essay refers. Readers thus encounter for the first time in English provocative arguments about law and violence advanced by Hermann Cohen, Kurt Hiller, Erich Unger, and Emil Lederer. A new translation of selections from Georges Sorel’s Reflections on Violence further illuminates Benjamin’s critical program. The volume also includes, for the first time in any language, a bibliography Benjamin drafted for the expansion of the essay and the development of a corresponding philosophy of law. An extensive introduction and afterword provide additional context.

With its challenging argument concerning violence, law, and justice—which addresses such topical matters as police violence, the death penalty, and the ambiguous force of religion—Benjamin’s work is as important today as it was upon its publication in Weimar Germany a century ago.

“This translation places before English readers for the first time the most comprehensible version yet of Benjamin’s compelling and demanding essay.”
—Kevin McLaughlin, Brown University

Howard Eiland, Michael W. Jennings: »Walter Benjamin – Eine Biographie«

Titelblatt Eiland_Jennings

Howard Eiland, Michael W. Jennings
»Walter Benjamin – Eine Biographie«
Übersetzt von Irmgard Müller und Ulrich Fries
Gebunden, 1021 Seiten
ISBN: 978-3-518-42841-2
D: 58,00 €
A: 59,70 €
CH: 77,90 sFr
Auch als eBook erhältlich

Im ersten Satz erklärt dieses umfassende, facettenreiche Porträt Walter Benjamin zu einem »der wichtigsten Zeugen der europäischen Moderne«. Damit ist das Programm des Buches vorgegeben: Detailliert wird der Zeuge in seinen Suchbewegungen verfolgt, wie er in herausragender und parteiischer Form den Geist seiner Zeit artikuliert, schwankend zwischen Jugendbewegung, Zionismus, Marxismus und Messianismus. Benjamins Hoffnung, einmal »erstrangiger Kritiker der deutschen Literatur« zu werden, erfüllte sich zu Lebzeiten nicht. Subjektive Dispositionen und objektive Verhältnisse drängten diesen Autor zunehmend in eine randständige, wenngleich von Freunden und Bewunderern geachtete Existenz. Wirtschaftliche Not, Verfolgung und Flucht prägten seine letzten Lebensjahre.

Die Auseinandersetzungen um die Deutungshoheit über Benjamins Werk (und Leben) setzten bald nach Kriegsende ein: Wer vollstreckte das Testament in seinem Sinne – Theodor W. Adorno oder Hannah Arendt? Gershom Scholem oder die Neomarxisten Berliner Prägung? Oder gar die Studentenbewegung?

Die nun endlich in deutscher Sprache vorliegende, vielgerühmte und reich bebilderte Biographie verarbeitet sämtliches verfügbare Material in einer der Objektivität verpflichteten Weise und stellt auch die unterschiedlichen Haltungen zu Benjamin auf den Prüfstand.

Sie gilt schon jetzt als Standardwerk.

Special Issue: Walter Benjamin on Religion Online

 Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory
Issue 19.3   Fall 2020
Edited by Brian Britt

Many readers of Walter Benjamin have commented on the place of religion in his work, especially in terms of messianism and Judaism, but few of these discussions go beyond generalities. This special issue of JCRT on Walter Benjamin represents the first volume to explore this thinker’s work in dialogue with current theory of religion. The essays collected here contribute to the scholarship on Benjamin and the theory of religion, with the hope that they will bridge these two sets of conversations and generate new work between them.Serious engagement of Benjamin’s work with current theory of religion is long overdue. The first generation of Benjamin scholars tended to project Benjamin onto a spectrum running from secular Marxism to mystical Judaism. These two extremes, which can be associated with Theodor Adorno and Gershom Scholem, continued to shape readings of Benjamin by Jürgen Habermas, Jacques Derrida, Beatrice Hanssen, and others. More recently, nuanced readings of religion in Benjamin by Irving Wohlfarth, Michael Jennings, Daniel Weidner, along with broader engagements by theorists like Talal Asad, Judith Butler, and Slavoj Žižek, have begun to reach wider audiences in the study of religion. The seven essays collected here offer sustained readingsof Benjamin’s work in dialogue with religious theory.  ….
Contributors: Yael Almog, Brian Britt, Roger Green, Nitzan Lebovic, Ori Rotlevy, Carlo Salzani, Daniel Weidner

Tom Vandeputte: Critique of Journalistic Reason

Critique of Journalistic Reason.jpg

Tom Vandeputte: Critique of Journalistic Reason. Philosophy and the Time of the Newspaper
Fordham University Press, 272 p.p., ISBN 978-0-8232-9025-3,
Publication date: September 2020

“The subject of this book,” Benjamin writes in the last exposé of his Arcades Project, “is an illusion expressed by Schopenhauer in the following formula: for the one who wants to seize the essence of history, it suffices to compare Herodotus and the morning newspaper.” This sentence points to a preoccupation running through Benjamin’s work: the attempt to develop a philosophical interpretation of journalism as well as the experience of time and history exemplified by it. In this book, Benjamin’s preoccupation with “the journalistic” is examined alongside that of two other thinkers writing in the aftermath of German Idealism and its philosophies of history: Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. Tracing the images of images of reporters and newspaper readers, messengers and town criers, announcements and rumors punctuating the writings of these thinkers, Vandeputte shows that the critical engagement with journalism plays a pivotal role in their philosophical project, in particular their theories of time, history and language. Through a close reading of Benjamin’s 1931 essay on Karl Kraus – the Viennese writer who, for him, embodied journalism “most paradoxical form” – as well as the earlier reflections on the form of the journal (Zeitschrift), Vandeputte examines how Benjamin’s critique of journalism is interwoven with an attempt to articulate a singular relation between thought and its own time: one that strives for an “actuality” (Aktualität) conceived as a counterpart to the novelty of the newspaper.


Critique of Journalistic Reason offers a provocative reframing of modern European thought, expanding and redirecting Foucault’s insight into the emergence of ‘today’ as a post-Kantian philosophical problem.
–Peter Fenves, Northwestern University

This is a fascinating and provocative book, powerfully argued, exegetically adroit, and profoundly suggestive in its implications. Vandeputte offers a series of extraordinarily fine-grained, original, and subtle readings that brilliantly demonstrate how philosophy’s ambivalence about journalism expresses philosophy’s own uneasy relation toward its temporal and historical constitution. It makes us think anew about the ‘new’ and the ‘news’ and about ‘thinking’ itself.
–Rebecca Comay, University of Toronto

Philipp Ekardt: Benjamin on Fashion


Philipp Ekardt: Benjamin on Fashion
Bloomsbury Academic, 2020, Extent: 256, Hardback
RRP: £85.00, Online price: £76.50
ISBN: 9781350075993

Benjamin on Fashion reconstructs and redefines Walter Benjamin’s complex, fragmentary and yet influential fashion theory that he developed in the Arcades Project (1927-1940), in the theses On the Concept of History and beyond, while situating it within the discourse, media and fashion practice from which it emerged – 1930s Parisian couture.

Ekardt brings Benjamin into discussion with a number of important, but frequently overlooked sources. Amongst many others, these include Georg Simmel’s fashion sociology; Henri Focillon’s morphological art history; designs by Elsa Schiaparelli and Madeleine Vionnet; films by L’Herbier and others starring Mae West; and the photography of George Hoyningen-Huene and Man Ray. Most centrally, however, German fashion critic Helen Grund, who introduced Benjamin to the contemporary fashion scene, and by whom Ekardt discovered unpublished notes among Benjamin’s papers, now held at the Walter Benjamin Archiv, which are here excerpted and analysed for the first time.

Ekardt demonstrates how fashion and silhouettes became grounded in sex; how an ideal of the elegant animation of matter was pitted against the concept of an obdurate fashion form; and how Benjamin’s idea of “fashion’s tiger’s leap into the past” paralleled the return of 1930s couture to the depths of (fashion) history, while corresponding with the harsh economic inequalities of his present. Ekardt also shows that Benjamin recognized in fashion a chronotechnics – a cultural technique for the operationalization of time – the analysis of which contributed to a sharpening of his late philosophies of history and temporality. Benjamin’s thoughts on the subject of fashion, further, prove key to understanding his ‘modal materialism’ – an alternative to our current, latently vitalist ‘new materialisms’. And they reveal at least one overall problematic aspect of his thinking, which in its prevalent nexus between the fashionable person, the female gender, commodification, and allegory, is shown to deny the realities of womens’ work, hence turning a blind eye to production and productivity beyond masculinity.