“On the Concept of History” by Walter Benjamin

Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) was a philosopher and cultural critic associated with the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory. While he clearly saw great value in the dialectical materialism and historical materialism, in this, one of his final (and perhaps most famous) works, he employs spiritual, even mystical language.

In “On the Concept of History,” sometimes translated as “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” is a strange and poetic piece. Composed shortly before his suicide — Benjamin killed himself to avoid near-certain death in a Nazi concentration camp — it invokes messianism and the messianic in its contemplation of history. History, for Benjamin, can’t merely be made of up “homogeneous, empty time.” Instead, “[t]he past carries with it a temporal index by which it is referred to redemption.”

The article to which I refer in the video can be found here.