Exploring the connections between Walter Benjamin's philosophy of history and a Marxian Critique of Political Economy, Duy Lap Nguyen analyses Benjamin's early writings and their development into a distinct understanding of historical materialism.
Benjamin's historically materialist conception of history is shown to be characterised by a focus on the religion of capitalism, the mythology of the state, and messianic time. Revealing these factors, Nguyen joins up Benjamin's philosophical critique of the Kantian conception of history, alongside the historical trajectory of capitalism he subscribed to. Influenced by the theory of fascism outlined by German Marxist theorist Karl Korsch, we see how Benjamin's own theory of revolution and redemption in capitalist society developed into a sophisticated critique.
Essential to Benjamin's materialist critique was a recognition of the fallibility of the Enlightenment notion of progress, as well as the need to overturn the political and economic catastrophes which enable capitalism and fascism to thrive. In mapping the exact course of Benjamin's critical historical materialism, Nguyen fully explicates the unique contribution he made to western Marxism.
Duy Nguyen is an Associate Professor in World Cultures and Literatures at the Department of Modern and Classical Languages.