Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
P. Travis Kroeker
This thesis explores the messianic politics that Walter Benjamin develops in his "Theses on the Philosophy of History" by examining the relationship between historical materialism and theology that he proposes in the first thesis. I therefore begin by examining Benjamin's conception of historical materialism in order to differentiate it from Marx's and to elucidate the way in which Benjamin seeks to reorient proletarian praxis. I argue that Benjamin seeks to solve the proletariat's problems of organization (to which Marx's conception of revolution has given rise) by resituating history and proletarian praxis within the frame of a messianic apocalyptic. I then attempt to reconstruct the major features of this apocalyptic by showing the connections between Benjamin's cryptic theological formulations in the "Theses" and the thematically similar formulations scattered throughout some of his other writings (in particular, "Critique of Violence," the "Theological-Political Fragment," and The Origin of German Tragic Drama). I clarify the way in which Benjamin's theological messianism enables him to offer a critique of profane politics that eschews the doctrine of progress which has caused the proletariat to forsake its revolutionary vocation. Furthermore, I show how Benjamin's critique of profane politics also specifies a mode of enactment that is messianic in that it orients the subject to activity which participates in history's coming to fulfillment.
Poettcker, Grant, "Walter Benjamin's Messianic Politics: Between Marxism and Messianism" (2007). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 5618.
McMaster University Library