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Download Fire Alarm: Reading Walter Benjamin's "On the Concept of History" epub

by Chris Turner,Michael Lowy

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 essay ‘On the Concept of History’ was written in a state of urgency, as he attempted to escape the Gestapo in 1940, before finally committing suicide. Michael Lowy argues that it remains one of the most important philosophical and political writings of the twentieth century, in this scrupulous, clear and fascinating examination. Looking in detail at Benjamin’s celebrated but often mysterious text, and restoring the philosophical, theological and political context, Lowy highlights the complex relationship between redemption and revolution in Benjamin’s philosophy of history.
Download Fire Alarm: Reading Walter Benjamin's "On the Concept of History" epub
ISBN: 1844670406
ISBN13: 978-1844670406
Category: Literature
Subcategory: History & Criticism
Author: Chris Turner,Michael Lowy
Language: English
Publisher: Verso (February 16, 2006)
Pages: 148 pages
ePUB size: 1111 kb
FB2 size: 1970 kb
Rating: 4.7
Votes: 201
Other Formats: rtf azw lit txt

This book saved my life! I had to do a presentation on Benjamin’s essay, On The Concept Of History, for Greg’s class. He told me that I he was worried about my participation in the class and how it would affect my grade. Then he asked if I could lead the class on this text that I’d showed interest earlier.
I read it a few times without understanding it whatsoever! I mean come on People! Why do you have to be this inaccessible? How would it approach those people whose the text is concerned about, the working class, the repressed...? One should spend hours, days (especially if you have a frail academic background like myself) to comprehend it, partially of course.
But this book helped me a lot! It interprets it word by word and dissects it so carefully in an accessible way. Michael Löwy is so brave in his effort to explain and simplify such a high profile text. Scholars are mostly afraid or unwilling to do that...
Thumbs up to Michael Löwy! And Benjamin...and ideas in know? Ideas...

Ps: the presentation was a disaster. Many times I thought of just running out of the class..People looked bored and too quiet. I lost the order of my thoughts and presented an abstract version of the text..but I made through it anyway..thumps up.
I bought this book without knowing anything about it except that it is a book-length commentary on Walter Benjamin's "On the Concept of History". The Amazon page does not allow one to search inside the book or even to see the table of contents. The editorial reviews consist of two short and uninformative but admiring sentences. There is nothing here but the title to indicate the content of the book.

The book consists of an Introduction, two chapters or sections (one about a hundred pages, the other about ten pages), notes, and an index. The Introduction is titled, "Introduction: Romanticism, Messianism and Marxism in Walter Benjamin's Philosophy of History". The first chapter is titled, "A Reading of Walter Benjamin's 'Theses "On the Concept of History"'." The second chapter is titled, "The Opening-up of History". There are more than a dozen black and white illustrations and photos scattered throughout the text.

The introductory material situates Benjamin's text in its historical and intellectual context. There follows a thesis-by-thesis commentary. The author brings out much of value in the theses, and while he takes issue with other commentators on Benjamin, he never becomes critical of Benjamin himself, in either a global or a local sense, i.e., he doesn't criticize Benjamin's overall project or any of Benjamin's particular claims in the theses. One suspects that the author has spent too much time in the company of others who closely mirror his views, and has not had to defend his general outlook in the face of hostile criticism. The author employs incautious superlatives, such as calling Benjamin's theses, " of the most important philosophical and political texts of the twentieth century." (p.4)

The book is nicely prepared for publication and nicely bound. The translation is smooth and seamless, and never "feels" like a translated text.

The "star" system of rating a book is highly unsatisfactory. I gave the book three stars for reasons as mixed as Benjamin's motives in writing his theses. If one is (as I was) simply looking for an insightful exposition of the theses on history, then the book deserves five stars. If one is looking for a critical appraisal of Benjamin's conception of history, then the book deserves a single star. I am happy to have the book in my library as a reference, and I imagine I will consult it with some frequency.

Those seeking more on Benjamin's theses might look into Volume 4 of Benjamin's Selected Writings published by Harvard. This includes about seven pages of notes and material not included in the theses, taken from Benjamin's working notes published in toto in his Gesammelte Schriften.

J. N. Nielsen
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In Fire Alarm Malcolm Lowy reads Benjamin's "On the Concept of History". This is a detailed and exhaustive and profound reading of the celebrated essay which Benjamin wrote in a state of urgency as he attempted to escape the Gestapo in 1940 before he chose to commit suicide rather than resign himself to the hands of the Nazi. Michael Lowy argues that "On the Concept of History" is on eof the most important philosophical and political essay of the 20th century. The critic's exegesis of this mystifying text limns its philosophical, theological and political context, highlighting the complex relationship between redemption and revolution which the text compresses. Lowy touches and explains in detail each thesis while outlining the entire philosohical corpus of Benjamin's thought within the composition itself. A very valuable addition to Benjamin scholarship and one that does not shy away from the more difficult questions, nor the more mystical which the essay evokes. A Judeo-materialist reading of Benjamin that is clearly in keeping with the spirit of Benjamin's prophetic vision, which is not to say that it is theological or Marxist but philosophical and poetic through and through.