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Walter Benjamin and the City: Paris

Walter Benjamin’s Paris Arcades Project reveals philosophical and political concepts and dimensions relevant for studies of urban realities. Both the categories he uses, such as “experience”, “phantasmagoria”, “allegory”, “dream” or “awakening”, and the figures such as “flâneur”, “ragpicker” and “mass” manage to elucidate the dialectical materiality of the city. Benjamin’s materialism addresses not only the analysis of economic and sociological determinants but also the understanding of myths, dreams, and phantasmagoria as “producers” of metropolitan life. The paper, focusing on the city of Paris, attempts to scrutinize the overview of Walter Benjamin’s political thought in the period between 1935 and 1939. T. W. Adorno, in his Correspondences, makes an objection to Benjamin’s thought, suggesting the absence of mediation in it. Although Benjamin did not develop the category of mediation consistent with the speculative philosophy that Adorno hoped to find in his works, he advises his own understanding of what political mediation entails. Consequently, the paper claims that Benjamin’s primary task is to demonstrate that the potentials of political and social disalienation lie not outside but within the existing order. Purely political means do not exist, thus politics is not a praxis of creation of the pure temporality of disalienation, but a rupture in uninterrupted temporality effected through its own materiality.


Walter Benjamin, political philosophy, phantasmagoria, allegory, mediation


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