The Shape of History (Reading Benjamin’s Theses XIII & XIV)

Chernikhov - image-1
Iakov Chernikhov, from Cycle of Architectural Landscapes (1930).


• XIII: Dogmatic progress and the concept of homogeneous empty time, with reference to Benjamin’s early formulations of mechanical clock-time time and historical time.
• XIV: The concept of ‘now-time’ as a secular analogue to messianic time and the forms of historical repetition that return the past to the now.

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Next section (XV & XVI)

Thesis XIII:

Every day, our cause becomes clearer and people get smarter.
—Josef Dietzgen, Social Democratic Philosophy

Social Democratic theory and to an even greater extent its practice were shaped by a conception of progress which bore little relation to reality but made dogmatic claims. Progress as pictured in the minds of the Social Democrats was, first of all, progress of humankind itself (and not just advances in human ability and knowledge). Second, it was something boundless (in keeping with an infinite perfectibility of humanity). Third, it was considered inevitable—something that automatically pursued a straight or spiral course. Each of these assumptions is controversial and open to criticism. But when the chips are down, criticism must penetrate beyond these assumptions and focus on what they have in common. The concept of mankind’s historical progress cannot be sundered from the concept of its progression through a homogeneous, empty time. A critique of the concept of such a progression must underlie any criticism of the concept of progress itself.

(1) Dogmatic progress

For Josef Dietzgen, the shape of history is known: each day is a step in the right direction, and progress on that path is assured by the patient succession of days that stretch from ignorance to enlightenment. The task of historical consciousness is therefore not to understand itself in its moment, but to keep faith in a natural progression that sweeps everybody up in its movement. As Benjamin writes, this vision of progressive history is underpinned by a series of dogmatic claims about history, its subject, and its task: Progressive history is defined firstly by its faith in human nature, secondly by the infinite potential of this nature, and thirdly by the automatic course which this nature runs from its present state to a more perfect state. We’ll return to this second point in a moment, when we turn to the kind of infinity that is proper to this mode of historical thought. For now, the most crucial of these progressive dogmatisms is the third, which mandates that humanity is not only infinitely perfectible but that this perfectibility is an inevitable, immutable fact of the laws of history. As an ineluctable law of history, progress is given in the form of an empty, static image: the straight line from one state to another, or else the spiral that bends from one extreme to another while constantly circling tighter to its goal. Historical time is given a line to follow, reduced to a representational picture-thinking that designates all historical events a place plotted out in advance.

In his critique of progress as a dogmatism of historical thought, Benjamin repeats the terms of Lukács’ critique of bourgeois philosophy made in History and Class Consciousness, which may in turn shed some light on the conceptual stakes of Benjamin’s approach to history. In his essay on “Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat,” Lukács characterises progressive forms of political thought as beset by a dogmatism that keeps them from properly conceptualising historical change. Specifically, Lukács sees in bourgeois theories of history a dependence on “eternal laws of nature” that “abolish the process of history” and produce in its place a frozen, mechanistic image of history.[1] This image reflects the standpoint of its bourgeois purveyors, for whom:

“[History] is an antagonistic process that is not guided by a consciousness but is instead driven forward by its own immanent, blind dynamic and that this process stands revealed in all its immediate manifestations as the rule of the past over the present, the rule of capital over labour. It follows that any thinker who bases his thought on such ideas will be trapped in the frozen forms of the various stages.”[2]

That is to say, from this mechanistic viewpoint, history is the history of capital. The motions of history are seen as automatic because they are made identical with the cyclical motions of capital, that operate in an unconscious manner, unmoored from the intentions of any one individual, society, or class. The faith in progress is in this sense a resignation of historical agency to the rule of capital, expanding the laws of capital accumulation and expansion into a universal order on the level of history as a whole. The import of this critique of progress for Benjamin’s criticism of the social democrats is clear: even espoused from the left, it is a conception of history that masks a bourgeois view of things. It universalises the conditions of capitalist history to history as a whole and makes progress into an object of faith, fit for the owners of capital, who only want to see one day pass after the next with ever greater returns on their investments, but unfit for those who need to understand history as a changeable process.

(2) Homogeneous empty time

This dogmatism of progress, we are told, cannot be separated from the concept of homogeneous empty time—which has now become one of Benjamin’s more widely known formulations and bears further examination. This term will appear several more times in the theses (XIV, XVII, B) but never with any substantial explanation. Looking through Benjamin’s body of work, we find that the formulation of homogeneous empty time appears quite early on, although not in the exact same terms. In an unpublished essay from 1916, written as part of his earliest notes toward his book on the German Trauerspiel, Benjamin draws a distinction between several forms of time, of which the historical and the mechanical will be of importance to our understanding of the theses. Historical time, Benjamin writes, is a purely formal type of time; it extends infinitely into both past and future, spanning decades, centuries, millennia, without containing any internal law that can single out a span of time as significant. Events may occur within history, empirically speaking, but the formal nature of historical time means that we cannot locate any necessary relation between that form and its content. As Benjamin puts it, “the event does not fulfill the formal nature of the time in which it lies” and so historical time remains “unfulfilled at every moment,” composed of moments that are purely formal in nature.[3]

The historical time that Benjamin described in 1916 can therefore be described as a homogeneous and empty form of time. It is homogeneous because it is purely formal: infinitely expansive over the full scope of history and infinitely divisible into moments of arbitrary length, each moment no more or less significant than the next. It is empty because it is unfulfilled: each of these moments is capable of containing an event, but no event can give necessarily meaningful content to these moments. There may be, as Lenin said, weeks in which decades seem to pass, but as weeks and decades they are only numerical measures of time, related to one another by equations of addition, subtraction, proportion, but not by judgments of significance.

All this being said, historical time it is not the most homogeneous and empty form of time that Benjamin describes. In the extremes of its homogeneity and emptiness, historical time in fact ceases to be properly historical, and must instead be identified as mechanical time. As mechanical time, the very possibility of filling one of its empty moments with meaningful content becomes impossible, because its absolutely formal composition precludes the affixing of determinate content to its interchangeable units. But, Benjamin insists, “we should not assume that time is nothing but the measure by which the duration of a mechanical change is reckoned” and the time of history must be understood as “something different from that of mechanics.”[4]

Although historical time lacks the internal structure to give its individual moments meaning, it is subject to forces that stand outside the mechanical continuum and isolate its moments as singular events. An historical moment is not significant for empirical reasons, but because of its participation in a higher order of causality, that links together disparate moments and makes of them events that stand apart from the surrounding monotony of mechanical time. In Benjamin’s words, “an event that is complete in historical terms is altogether indeterminate empirically; it is, in fact, an idea. This idea of fulfilled time appears in the Bible as its dominant historical idea: as messianic time.”[5] But this messianic form of time is something which we will have to leave for now, and return to in our discussion of the next thesis (XIV).

(3) Clock time

In concrete terms, mechanical time is clock time. The homogeneity and divisibility of mechanical time does not only pertain to the conceptual domain of history, but may be discovered empirically in the everyday social construction of time.[6] The clock is the machine that performs this structuring, as it divides an indefinite span of time into measurable units of seconds, minutes, and hours. Each of these units is homogeneous, being defined solely by its duration, and each is empty of any determinate content that might differentiate one moment from the next. Crucially for Benjamin’s argument, this time of the clock is not only perceptible when we are in the presence of these machines, but is universalised within the social realm such that it appears as a natural aspect of our lives and our experience of time.[7] We do not only measure our lives by the clock, but in a sense live for the clock, which becomes the measure against which we compare ourselves. You can take this as literally as you like, especially since the advent of Taylorism and other forms of scientific management in the world of business, which see the temporal structuring of labour as the means for a more consistently regimented production process—which amounts to the same thing as a labour time more intensely alienated from the lived time of the worker’s body.[8]

This is what Marx described as the quantitative measure of time under capitalism, which flattens out the qualitative differences between any given moment to make them equivalent to one another. Marx describes this process in a passage from The Poverty of Philosophy which is worth considering at length:

“Through the subordination of man to the machine the situation arises in which men are effaced by their labour; in which the pendulum of the clock has become as accurate a measure of the relative activity of two workers as it is of the speed of two locomotives. Therefore, we should not say that one man’s hour is worth another man’s hour, but rather that one man during an hour is worth just as much as another man during an hour. Time is everything, man is nothing; he is at the most the incarnation of time. Quality no longer matters. Quantity alone decides everything: hour for hour, day for day…”[9]

In their expansions on Marx’s formulation of quantitative time, Georg Lukács and Alfred Sohn-Rethel make some additions that are of significance to Benjamin’s argument. For Lukács, time is not only homogenised, but loses the “variable, flowing nature” of time entirely and is “transformed into [an] abstract, exactly measurable, physical space.”[10] Time is no longer experienced as time, but, spatialised, it is made perceptible only in quantitative units. These units are rationally ordered into a continuum that ensures the consistent pace of production and profit, and are filled with equally reified units of labour that are expected to add up like objects in a warehouse. Likewise, Sohn-Rethel notes that this spatialisation of time implies the annihilation of whatever remains of historical consciousness, as “the entire empirical reality of facts, events and description by which one moment and locality of time and space is distinguishable from another is wiped out.”[11] As we’ll see in Benjamin’s ongoing critique of the concept of progress, the time of capitalism is oddly timeless, incapable of differentiating any moment from another save for the quantity of duration, of labour-time, that it contains.

(4) Bad infinity

Now, if the concept of progress is politically suspect, that is not the last of its problems. On top of its complacency in the face of capital and its submission to capitalism’s regimentation of homogeneous empty time, it is also conceptually limited on its own terms, as it resorts to definitions of time and infinity that are formally deficient.

This homogeneous, empty time and its additive procedure are in many respects similar to Hegel’s discussion of spurious infinities in the Science of Logic, where a distinction is drawn between a purely quantitative form of infinity and an infinity which is properly self-reflexive. This first form of infinity is characterised by its subordination of finite particulars to its overarching form. That is, as each finite thing appears, ekes out its existence, and then subsides, it is assumed into an infinite sequence that transcends every one of its finite parts. This form of infinity exerts a homogenising principle over each of its parts, reducing them to the status of interchangeable, inconsequential elements that are added one after another in a sequence approaching infinity.

This is likewise the method by which Benjamin’s homogeneous, empty time is assembled into a universal history—in this case a universal history of progress. Like Hegel’s bad infinity, the concept of progress can do justice neither to itself nor to its constituent moments, because they are defined negatively in respect to one another. The homogeneous, empty moments are defined only by their place in a continuous sequence, such that they become merely quantitative units that are indifferently assumed into the upward arc of progress. But this progress itself chases an infinite point that it cannot reach: by adding its moments together it can only create a greater sum of finitude, without effecting a qualitative change that would transform these parts into a whole. As Daniel López puts it in his commentary on Lukács’s early Marxist writings, “the reified view of history reduces historical time to quantity and sees the present as Heraclitus’s river; that is, as an eternal quantitative unfolding of the self-same.”[12] As in Dietzgen’s platitude for progressive history, the additive procedure of this universal history means that the future is always assured. Every day the world moves closer to a perfected state; and every day is spent like any other in wait for the time when the infinite task of progress is complete.

But this task cannot be completed, because no sum of finite moments is capable of adding up to the infinite span of time’s continuum. Progress is not only an infinite task but an infinite deferment, which is never realised in any given moment. The ends of progress lie somewhere beyond itself, and the believers in progress can only wait for the postponed day that it arrives. Against the bad infinity of added finitudes, Hegel poses a conception of infinity as the unity of itself with finitude, such that both concepts are joined as moments of a single process. But Benjamin will take another path—and as we will see in the next thesis, his answer will not be a true infinity that subsumes bad infinity’s continuum, but a singular now that shatters it.

Thesis XIV:

Origin is the goal.
—Karl Kraus, Words in Verse, vol. l

History is the subject of a construction whose site is not homogeneous, empty time, but time filled full by now-time [Jetztzeit]. Thus, to Robespierre ancient Rome was a past charged with now-time, a past which he blasted out of the continuum of history. The French Revolution viewed itself as Rome reincarnate. It cited ancient Rome exactly the way fashion cites a bygone mode of dress. Fashion has a nose for the topical, no matter where it stirs in the thickets of long ago; it is the tiger’s leap into the past. Such a leap, however, takes place in an arena where the ruling class gives the commands. The same leap in the open air of history is the dialectical leap Marx understood as revolution.

(1) Now-time

At last, after the long critique of the ideologies of progress that began with Thesis IX, Benjamin returns to a positive outline of the categories of true historical knowledge. Here, we find the concept of repetition which was so important for the first part of the theses return in a new form, and we also find the addition of a new concept: that of Jetztzeit, or now-time. As with the introduction of homogeneous empty time in Thesis XIII, this notion of now-time is not greatly elaborated upon in Benjamin’s text, although it is suggestive of other concepts in his corpus. In its contradistinction with homogeneous empty time, and its description as ‘filling full’ the site of historical occurrences, now-time clearly parallels the ‘fulfilled time’ of Benjamin’s 1916 essay on “Trauerspiel and Tragedy” mentioned in relation to the previous thesis. As we have seen, Benjamin’s early writing distinguishes between two forms of historical time: (1) the unfulfilled, formal sequence of moments in mechanical time, and (2) the fulfilled moments that become events irreducible to their place in the empirical sequence of moments. In Benjamin’s words, “an event that is complete in historical terms is altogether indeterminate empirically; it is, in fact, an idea.”[13] This ‘idea’ that inhabits fulfilled historical time is what we might call the concept of ‘History with a capital H’ that stands outside the order of events, giving a meaning and purposiveness to an empirical sequence that is unable to justify itself. It appears like the kernel of rationality that Hegel discovered behind all historical movements, which allows us to justify the necessity of an event despite its empirical senselessness.

As Benjamin notes, this idea of fulfilled time is not only explicable in the terms of idealist philosophy, but has perhaps left its greatest mark in the language of religion, as it “appears in the Bible as its dominant historical idea: as messianic time.”[14] The messianic is here also an ‘idea’ that stands apart from the sequence of historical events, but whereas for the philosophers this idea pertains to history and its higher orders, for the theologian the true home for this idea can only be the mind of god. This divinely fulfilled time is more radically exterior to the historical sequence than its secular counterpart, the basis for which is the rational justification of events. The god does not participate in events, but intervenes, standing outside of them and issuing messianic proclamations that cannot be explained on the level of historical occurrence. As we have seen in our discussion of Benjamin’s melancholy Angel in Thesis IX, this position of exteriority poses all manner of problems for the historical thinker, who cannot allow salvation to remain a purely religious category, outside the domain of human actions. Hence, this is the problematic of the messianic that we will discover going forward: how are we to conceive of the possibility of transcending our historical moment, without access to the transcendent position of a god?

(2) Messianic moment

For Benjamin in 1916, the problematic of messianic time is clearly reducible to its import for historical thought. The messianic appears in the Bible as its ‘dominant historical idea,’ and is therefore of some use in giving a widely known example for the more general concept of ‘fulfilled historical time.’ But it is nevertheless subordinated to the philosophy of history and made to render theological thought legible for the young Benjamin’s philosophical idealism. Even so, the concept of the messianic remains a potent one for historical thought, and may shed more light on Benjamin’s new formulation of fulfilled time as a ‘time of the now.’ More so than the fulfilled time of secular events, the messianic event is one that reshapes the order of time around it, initiating a new relation to time.

In terms reminiscent of Benjamin’s now-time, Franz Rosenzweig in The Star of Redemption describes the era of Christ’s dominion as one long present: “It is Christianity that has made an epoch out of the present. Only the time before Christ’s birth is now still past. All the time that succeeds, from Christ’s earthly sojourn to his second coming is now that sole great present, that epoch, that standstill, that suspension of the times, that interim over which time has lost its power.”[15] In secular terms, the experience of Jetztzeit means the fulfilment of something essential in history, and the distending of an event over the long present of its duration. We may think again of Lenin’s adage that there are weeks that appear to contain the work of decades, but moving in the other direction we can look to the notion of ‘permanent revolution’ as a massive expansion of a revolutionary event to encompass many years and decades beyond its initial rupture.

The status of now-time as a rupture with the continuum of history also has its messianic forebearers. In his study of the letters of St Paul, Giorgio Agamben characterises messianic time with the Greek name of Kairos, as opposed to the ordinary time of Chronos. This chronos speaks for itself, as the etymological root for our present conception of ‘chronological’ time, with its mechanically divided units of seconds, hours, and so on, as well as its strict ordering of these units in a linear sequence. Kairos, on the other hand, is a trickier term to translate: it has the everyday meaning of a specific moment or ‘occasion’ in time, but also possesses the connotations of evental time, time filled to the brim with significance and portent. In his reading of St Paul, Agamben does not oppose chronos and kairos as two opposed principles, but identifies kairos as a fulfilled moment of chronological time: “what we take hold of when we seize kairos is not another time, but a contracted and abridged chronos […] kairos is nothing more than seized chronos.”[16] As in Benjamin’s identification of fulfilled time as a time seized from the meaningless sequence of mechanical time, kairotic time is blasted out of the order of chronological time and made to stand on its own, as the fragile present of an event that refuses to lay within the sequence from which it has been extracted.

(3) Profane repetition

The reference to messianic time is informative, but it isn’t exactly the same as the now-time that Benjamin formulates in the theses of 1940. The time of the messianic event described in 1916 depends on an historical idealism, for which the fleeting moments of history’s continuum are essentially unreal, waiting to be filled by an ideal that exists apart from it. By 1940, Benjamin’s typology of historical time has been stripped of its idealism to reveal a far more impartial structure, in which the various forms of time are not so unambiguously evaluated as they were in 1916. Whereas in 1916 fulfilled historical time was the domain of the messianic, in Benjamin’s later writings we find elements of fulfilled historical time liberated from the messianic form, allowing historical moments of repetition, citation, redemption, and fulfilment to be registered in the domain of secular history.

To illustrate this secularisation of messianic time as now-time, we find in Thesis XIV two examples of historical citation that blast a moment out of the continuum of history: the revolutionary repetition that imbues the present moment with the force of a past struggle, and, curiously, the citations of the past that make up the trends of fashion. The first of these examples of repetition has a clear political valence, and we’ll turn to it in a moment, but I first want to use Benjamin’s philosophy of fashion to show that this conception of historical time and its ruptures can be quite mundane, and not necessarily redemptive or liberatory.

In the Arcades Project Benjamin writes extensively on fashion as a unique experience of time. The allure of its trends depend, on the one hand, upon a fascination with the past as it is retrieved and made present in the most topical of new styles. As Benjamin puts it in the present thesis, “fashion has a nose for the topical, no matter where it stirs in the thickets of long ago; it is the tiger’s leap into the past”—that is, it hunts and devours whatever in the past might feed its hunger for the new. On the other hand, this hunger for the new and the topical depends on an abhorrence of the recent past: fashion despises any direct connection between the present and the past. Benjamin remarks that “each generation experiences the fashions of the one immediately preceding it as the most radical antiaphrodisiac imaginable,” such that in the realm of fashion the desire for novelty implies a negation of the living past that connects one generation to the next.[17] “Every fashion stands in opposition to the organic,” every fashion desires to be freed from the fashions of its parents, to exist apart from the continuum of time in which people live, reproduce, and die.[18]

Although fashion effects a destruction of the continuum of time and imbues the past with the spirit of the new, it does not for this reason produce fulfilled moments of historical time. In fashion there is nothing but the present, for which the past can only be registered in its topicality, and out of which no inheritance of generations or future of organic life can be envisioned. Elsewhere, Benjamin describes it as the “temporality of hell,” which aims “at eliminating all discontinuities and sudden ends” so that it may effect a perfect and eternal return of the same under the guise of novelty.[19] After all, fashion’s leap into the past “takes place in an arena where the ruling class gives the commands,” subordinated as it is to the cycles of the capitalist economy and without access to a properly historical conception of repetition.

(4) Revolutionary repetition

What would this repetition of the past look like if it were freed from capitalism’s eternal return of the self-same? As we have seen in previous theses, what blasts a moment out of the continuum of historical time is not its own messianic power, but the relation of repetition and fulfilment that imbues it with a weak messianic power from the past. The proper secular form for fulfilled historical time must therefore be one that is immanent to the course of history, without reference to a transcendent ideal that preexists historical events, while nonetheless creating a rupture in the linear course of history and bringing to fulfilment the accumulated, incomplete moments of the past. In short, this is the form of time that exists in the revolutionary event, when the course of history as it has hitherto existed is severed and a new relation with the past comes into being. No revolution happens in a vacuum, as the historical consciousness of every revolutionary movement exists in its awareness that it is the inheritor and the redeemer of past revolutions. In the event of the revolution, the past comes alive as the raw material by which the present comes to understand itself and its place in history. Thus, in Benjamin’s terms, “to Robespierre ancient Rome was a past charged with now-time, a past which he blasted out of the continuum of history. The French Revolution viewed itself as Rome reincarnate.”

No doubt in writing these lines Benjamin had in mind the famous statement of Marx in the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte criticising the bourgeois revolutionaries of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for their awkward devotion to the past:

“The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language. […] In like manner, the beginner who has learned a new language always translates it back into his mother tongue, but he assimilates the spirit of the new language and expresses himself freely in it only when he moves in it without recalling the old and when he forgets his native tongue.”[20]

Evidently, Benjamin’s position diverges from that of Marx in his sympathetic treatment of historical repetition, and his insistence that the proletarian revolution must be no less committed to the return of the past to the living present.[21] But as we have seen in Benjamin’s derision toward those who would seek to resuscitate the past (VII), the repetition he advocates cannot be mere set dressing for the revolutionary event. The proletarian revolution will not be of the same kind as the revolutions of the bourgeoisie: its point of reference will not be Caesar but Spartacus. Its revolution will not be a re-enactment of the past but a redemption, operating not in the illusory realm of appearances but in the actual completion of the liberatory struggle against class division.


[1] Georg Lukács, History and Class Consciousness, trans. Rodney Livingstone (London: Merlin Press, 1971), 48.

[2] Lukács, History and Class Consciousness, 181.

[3] Walter Benjamin, Origin of the German Trauerspiel, trans. Howard Eiland (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2019), 261.

[4] Benjamin, Origin of the German Trauerspiel, 262.

[5] Benjamin, Origin of the German Trauerspiel, 262.

[6] On time as a social phenomenon, see Jonathan Martineau, Time, Capitalism and Alienation (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2016), 4: “Time is produced by and through social practices, and time systems, as well as the architecture of temporal relations, vary from one society or historical period to another. Since conceptions and practices of time are rooted in social practices, they require social and historical contextualisation. Time itself has a history.” That is, time is therefore not a natural ‘thing’ but something socially produced and politically fraught.

[7] Martineau, Time, Capitalism and Alienation, 41: “With the production of clocks, ironically, time appears to run its course independently of any human beholder, ‘seconds,’ ‘hours,’ and so on now appear as symbols of instances in the flux of incorporeal time, obscuring the fact that both time-units and clocks are human-made symbols and devices. The symbol of time has been cut off from observable data. It assumes a (reified) life of its own.”

[8] Martineau, Time, Capitalism and Alienation, 137: “The very practices and movements of the human body, as well as the concrete time that they imply and produce as human embodiments of actual and folded socio-natural-material cycles, lose as a result their grounding in human experience, as time and motion become statistical problems and are abstracted into ‘standard data’ systems. Taylorism, and its various offshoots, such as time and motions studies, represents a fully-fledged form of the capitalist tendency to control the labour process and to alienate time. Alienated labour and alienated time, in the capitalist labour process, go hand in hand. As the case of scientific management shows, not only is the concrete time of labour alienated, but also the very concrete times of human bodies.”

[9] Karl Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1977), 47; quoted in Lukács, History and Class Consciousness, 89-90.

[10] Lukács, History and Class Consciousness, 90.

[11] Alfred Sohn-Rethel, Intellectual and Manual Labour, trans. Martin Sohn-Rethel (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2021), 40: “Time and space rendered abstract under the impact of commodity exchange are marked by homogeneity, continuity and emptiness of all natural and material content, visible or invisible (e.g. air). The exchange abstraction excludes everything that makes up history, human and even natural history. The entire empirical reality of facts, events and description by which one moment and locality of time and space is distinguishable from another is wiped out. Time and space assume thereby that character of absolute historical timelessness and universality which must mark the exchange abstraction as a whole and each of its features.”

[12] Daniel Andrés López, Lukács: Praxis and the Absolute (Chicago: Haymarket, 2020), 502.

[13] Benjamin, Origin of the German Trauerspiel, 262.

[14] Benjamin, Origin of the German Trauerspiel, 262.

[15] Franz Rosenzweig, The Star of Redemption, trans. William H. Hallo (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1970), 338.

[16] Giorgio Agamben, The Time That Remains, trans. Patricia Dailey (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005), 68-9.

[17] Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999), B9,1.

[18] Benjamin, Arcades Project, B9,1.

[19] Benjamin, Arcades Project, B2,4: “The temporality of hell: to show how this time does not recognize death, and how fashion mocks death; how the acceleration of traffic and the tempo of news reporting (which conditions the quick succession of newspaper editions) aim at eliminating all discontinuities and sudden ends; and how death as caesura belongs together with all the straight lines of divine temporality.—Were there fashions in antiquity? Or did the ‘authority of the frame’ preclude them?” On the question of framing in the life of antiquity, see also: Benjamin, Origin of the German Trauerspiel, 110: “This monotonous duration of heroic feeling is vouchsafed solely in the preordained frame of the hero’s life. The oracle in tragedy is not only a magic incantation of fate; it is the certainty, transposed to the outside, that the tragic life exists only insofar as it takes its course within its frame.”

[20] Karl Marx, The Political Writings (London: Verso, 2019), 480-1.

[21] On Benjamin’s divergence from Marx, see: Michael Löwy, Fire Alarm, trans. Chris Turner (London: Verso, 2005), 88.

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