“The Actuality of Community in Walter Benjamin’s Philosophy”
The concept of ‘community’ (Gemeinschaft) runs like a thread through many of Benjamin’s writings: from his earliest reflections on the German Student Movement, including his 1911 essay on ‘The Free School Community’, to his ill-fated Habilitation on the Origin of the Mourning Play (1925); and from his early language-philosophical tract ‘On Language as Such and on the Language of Man’ (1916) to his later, more pointedly materialist city portrait, ‘Moscow’ (1927). For Benjamin, the term entails not only a critique of ‘national community’ (Volksgemeinschaft), but equally an effort to delineate a form of ‘ethical community’ (sittliche Gemeinschaft) and a ‘community of language’ (Sprachgemeinschaft). In each case, these figures of community are articulated in response to shifting historical circumstances, including two World Wars, and through an engagement with a wide range of interlocutors – Friedrich Hölderlin and Gustav Landauer, among them. Although Benjamin never systematically expounds the concept of community per se, his frequent use of the word is consistent with his wider effort to recast the sense in which alternative forms of sociality might be conceived – be it in terms of ‘The Storyteller’s ‘community of listeners’ or in terms of the city as ‘the first communio’, as noted in The Arcades Project. In other words, there is a sense in which Benjamin’s concept of community, alongside its cognate terms, marks a nodal point: an opportunity to rethink the interplay of language, history, and politics in the register of what is common.
For the inaugural issue of the yearbook NEW BENJAMIN STUDIES, we thus invite contributions of up to a maximum of 8,000 words on the theme of Benjamin’s thinking of community – be it on its own terms, in terms of its connections to other areas of Benjamin’s work, and/or in terms of its bearing on present debates. Please submit articles for consideration to email@example.com by 26 th of March 2023. All submissions will undergo a process of blind review and should be formatted according to the style sheet.