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In this scrupulous, clear and fascinating examination of this essay, Michael Löwy argues that it remains one of the most important philosophical and political writings of the twentieth century. Looking in detail at Benjamin’s celebrated but often mysterious text, and restoring the philosophical, theological and political context, Löwy highlights the complex relationship between redemption and revolution in Benjamin’s philosophy of history.
“Löwy’s close reading … follows Benjamin’s text thesis-by-thesis, bringing out the salient criticisms of orthodox Marxist discourse and highlighting the interruptions of this discourse, the interruption of the concept of time that is at its foundation, through Benjamin’s insertion of messianic time into the banality of progress.”
“Sensitive to Benjamin’s profound anxiety and the tragic vision of the world, Löwy traces the unfurling of this ‘revolutionary melancholia,’ which is haunted by the recurrence of disasters … It is unusual to explore the depths of a text in this manner, but it is true that we have here the text of an exceptional thinker.”