[OPE-L] Fire Alarm: Reading Walter Benjamin by Michael Lwy

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Thu Mar 23 2006 - 03:37:39 EST

Fire Alarm: Reading Walter Benjamin
by Michael Lwy

Translated by Chris Turner

Revolutionary critic of the philosophy of 
progress, nostalgic of the past yet dreaming of 
the future, romantic partisan of 
materialism-Walter Benjamin is in every sense of 
the word an "unclassifiable" philosopher. His 
last text was written in a state of urgency, as 
he attempted to escape the Gestapo in 1940, 
before finally committing suicide. "On the 
Concept of History" is one of the most important 
philosophical and political writings of the 
twentieth century, argues Michael Lwy in this 
scrupulous, clear and fascinating examination.

Lwy uses the concept of "elective affinity," the 
mutual attraction between two cultural figures, 
derived from the amorous encounter of two souls 
in Goethe's novel Elective Affinities. Looking in 
detail at Benjamin's celebrated but often 
mysterious text, and restoring the philosophical, 
theological and political context, Lwy strives 
to understand and highlight the complex 
relationship between redemption and revolution in 
Benjamin's philosophy of history.

"Sensitive to Benjamin's profound anxiety and the 
tragic vision of the world, Lwy 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." - Le Monde

"A work of great humanist import ..." - L'Humanit

Michael Lwy is Research Director of Sociology at 
the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 
Paris. His previous books include Redemption and 
Utopia: Liberation Judaism in Central Europe, 
Marxism in Latin America and The War of the Gods: 
Religion and Politics in Latin America.

February 2006
148 pages

1 84467 040 6
16.99 / US$27 / CAN$38

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