Edited By Dirk Göttsche
Brian Elliott – Revolution, History and Time in Benjamin and Sloterdijk
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Revolution, History and Time in Benjamin and Sloterdijk
The theme of time is considered here through a comparative analysis of Walter Benjamin’s conception of revolutionary politics and Peter Sloterdijk’s recent work on a philosophy of globalization. For Benjamin, revolutionary thinking calls for a concept of time as radically discontinuous. In Zorn und Zeit [Rage and Time] (2006) Sloterdijk interprets the desire for revolutionary rupture in terms of a continuous accumulation of rage.1 The task of the revolutionary party, however, is to thwart any popular desire for the sudden, explosive release of this accumulated rage in favour of its calculated, disciplined deployment. For Benjamin, capitalist cycles of production give rise to a repressive historiography founded on the idea of irreversible technological and social progression. Like Foucault decades later, Benjamin highlights the discontinuities of history in opposition to orthodox narratives that stress continuity. Benjamin embraces the neo-Kantian notion that history, to be intelligible, must be consciously constructed. Revolutionary historiography must therefore take the form of counter-constructions. Benjamin elucidates the temporality of capitalist production through close attention to processes of obsolescence, both of things and places.
In Im Weltinnenraum des Kapitels [In the World Interior of Capital] (2005) Sloterdijk appears to have learned from Benjamin’s unfinished Passagen-Werk [Arcades Project] the art of reconstructing history based on unconscious cultural anticipations. Taking up Dostoevsky’s comments on ← 101 | 102 → the London Great Exhibition of 1851, he sees Joseph’s Paxton’s monumental Crystal Palace as premonitory...
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