Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Reflections on Benjamin's Theses Part 3: what sort of redemption?

Benjamin contrasts the 'chronicle' (which does not distinguish between 'major' and 'minor', significant history and insignificant fact) to 'history' - or historicism, which is shortly to be critiqued.

Only a redeemed present enjoys, or receives, the fullness of history. That is, an 'unredeemed' present, one where the victors of the past are still in control because we have not yet fixed their errors, cannot fully understand its past. That kind of present will only see the parts of the past that benefit its victors. When the present seeks to fix the errors of the past, the past unfolds fully.

III. A chronicler who recites events without distinguishing between major and minor ones acts in accordance with the following truth: nothing that has ever happened should be regarded as lost for history. To be sure, only a redeemed mankind receives the fullness of its past-which is to say, only for a redeemed mankind has its past become citable in all its moments. Each moment it has lived becomes a citation a l'ordre du jour — and that day is Judgment Day.

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