Sunday, 29 June 2008

i just might be on to something...

I was doing some referencing research in Benjamin today, and I stumbled across the crucial evidence to grounding my project.
Nature is messianic by reason of its eternal and total passing away.
To strive for such a passing away -- even the passing away of those stages of man that are called nature -- is the task of world politics, whose method must be called nihilism. (
Theological-Political Fragment)
Taken in this light, the "Work of Art..." takes on a new meaning. Benjamin tells us that aesthetics has to become political, which he relates to communism. However, the political can only be thought in terms of nihilism. In order for aesthetics to become political, it has to become nihilist.

8 comments:

CR said...

one has to be careful with WB, tho.. Watch out for dialetical, "thetical" writing, as per the WofA essay. Also have to watch out for his impersonal constructions. He doesn't say "we strive" or "strive!" but "To strive." And whose politics are "world politics"?

beardmonster said...

You're absolutely right, he doesn't say "we strive", or define the possessor of the "world politics." However, you have to consider the context of the fragment (and especially the larger context in which i bring it up). Benjamin is working to illuminate some themes in his work, namely messianism and his concept of the political. The owner of the politics is not important to me. Rather, what is important is that in conjunction with his own work, Benjamin connects politics to nihilism as a methodology. Which means to me that my idea of reading "Work of Art..." as a nihilist aesthetics is not completely insane. Also, I would argue that "Work of Art" is one of the least dialectical of Benjamin's works.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I really don't get the point of your criticism. I'm always open to other opinions, but I'm not really following what you're trying to get at.

schoolboyerrors said...

Ok, dude, I think this is great stuff. I don't know Benjamin very well, but I have read pretty widely on messianisms and it seems to me you're really onto something: from a certain perspective, a messianism can only be considered in the light of nihilism. Ok, so there's the deferral of meaning until the coming of the messiah (who may or may not come), right? This means that any system of meaning that we put in place is not only fleeting but might contradict the system of meaning and valuation inaugurated with the arrival of he-who-comes...

But I see here JD's point that a messianism needs to be a messianicity unhooked from the corporeal and extant systems of meaning and valuation, but I'll raise him one: his messianicity never gives in to the full promise of nihilism that you seem to be proposing here.

Nice one! More on this! we want more!!!

beardmonster said...

when you say "his messianicity" at the end there, who is the object of that pronoun?
(also, it took me like 30 seconds to figure out who JD was.)

schoolboyerrors said...

I meant JD's messianicity. He opposes a messianism, conjoined with a specific establishment or church, particular preconceived ideas of what the messiah would be or do when he arrives and a form of the future which would be derived from present conditions, to a messianicity which is more like an affirmative orientation towards what is to-come (that particular form of the future which is completely new and cannot conceived/prescribed from the perspective of the present: a-venir).

Sorry bout the confusion, I was in a bit of a rush!

beardmonster said...

where does he talk about this, cause i think i'm going to have to deal with it.

schoolboyerrors said...

I think one of the first sustained elaboration of a theory of the messianic is in Specters of Marx, but since then it's everywhere. This little piece is alright on it:
http://courses.nus.edu.sg/course/elljwp/messianism.htm

schoolboyerrors said...

sorry i don't know how to post links! that link's end is ".htm"