The redemption of experience: On Walter Benjamin's 'hermeneutical materialism'

Philosophy and Social Criticism 37 (2):167-188 (2011)
The aim of this article is to show how philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin related to the hermeneutical tradition — and tried to move beyond it by ‘redeeming’ human experience, while avoiding the pitfalls of the philosophy of ‘authenticity’. Though convinced that questions relating to historicity were central to any understanding of modern human experience, Benjamin explicitly rejected the Heideggerian alternative, and chose a path closer to Hans-Georg Gadamer’s. He attempted to combine theological interpretation with dialectical materialism, always grounding hermeneutics in the concrete manifestations of social life, inaugurating a method which I suggest could be called ‘hermeneutical materialism’. At stake was a politically motivated defence of the ‘mimetic faculty’ — understood as (re)interpretation — in the modern, technologically organized world
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DOI 10.1177/0191453710387069
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