Working with Walter Benjamin: Recovering a Political Philosophy (Edinburgh University Press, 2013)
This book provides a highly original approach to the writings of the twentieth-century German philosopher Walter Benjamin by one of his most distinguished readers. It develops the idea of ‘working with’ Benjamin, seeking both to read his corpus and to put it to work – to show how a reading of Benjamin can open up issues that may not themselves be immediately at stake in his texts. The defining elements in Benjamin’s writings that Andrew Benjamin isolates – history, experience, translation, technical reproducibility and politics – are put to work; that is, their utility is established in engaging the works of others. The question is how utility is understood. As Andrew Benjamin argues, utility involves demonstrating the different ways in which Benjamin is a central thinker within the project of understanding the nature of modernity. This is best achieved by noting connections and points of differentiation between his work and the writings of Adorno and Heidegger. However, the more demanding project is that ‘working with’ Benjamin necessitates deploying the implicit assumptions within his writings as well as demanding of his formulations more than is provided by their initial presentation. What is at stake is not the application of Benjamin’s thought. Rather what counts is its use. Working with Benjamin engages with the themes central to Benjamin’s work with deftness, daring and critical insight while at the same time situating those themes within current academic and cultural debates.
‘Andrew Benjamin gives us the first extended treatment of Walter Benjamin’s political philosophy taking as his point of departure a radical rethinking of life, law, and violence. Most importantly, insisting on the distinction between religion and theology, he argues for a new understanding of political-theology, one that radically challenges Carl Schmitt. A superb and long awaited book by arguably one of the world’s leading authorities on the thought of Walter Benjamin’ Peg Birmingham, DePaul University
‘Andrew Benjamin has written a striking and original engagement with the core of Benjamin’s thinking that not only elucidates the central questions that animate Benjamin’s political philosophy but develops their full philosophical and critical consequence. This is a book that cuts new ground in Benjamin studies and does so with exemplary imagination and rigour. More than an interpretation, it lays out the possibility of what it means to think in a Benjaminian way today’ David Ferris, University of Colorado at Boulder