lheses on tbe ?bilosophy

of llifiory


able was ffansparent from all sides. Acnrally, a litrle hunchback wh3 yas.ap experr chess player sat inside and guided the puppet's hand by m91s-of One can imaginia philosophidal -suingp. counterpert to this device. The puppet called ,,hisiorical materialism" is to win all the rr--". ft cin earity be a match for anyone if it enlists the service_s of theology, which todey, .. *. loro*, is wizened and has to keep out of sight.

that it could play q winning game of chesq answering each movt ot an opponent with e countermove. A puppet in Turkish attire and with a hookah in it' mouth sat befori a itrcssboard placed on a large table. A system of mirrors creared the illusion that this


Th" rtgy


told of an automaton construcred in such L way

instances, thc frecdom fro-m envy which thc present displiys to-

"One of the most remarkable charactcristics of humen nrn,'e," writes Lotze, 'tsn alongside so much selfishness in specific

ward the furure." Reflection sh6ws rs that our image o'f trappi25'

pest and present. Historical material'' ists are aware of that. The kind of happiness that could arouse envy in us exists only in the air we have breathed. That claim cannoi be settlid cheaply. Historical materialism wishes to retain that image of the past which unexpectedly appears to man singled out by history et a moment of danger. it is not in the form of the spoils which fall to the victo! that the latter make their presence felt in the class struggle. It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger.) VI i l III A chronicler who recites events without distinguishing be' tween major and minor ones acts in accordance with the follow ing truth:' nothing that has ever happened should be -regarded as loit for history. They have retroactive force and will constantly call in question every victory. In every ere the ettempt must be made anew to wrest tradition away froin a conformism that is about to overpower it.l i To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize really was" (Ranke). Our coming was exPected on tarth. Thcy. to be sure. The same applies to onr view of the past. we have been endowed with a tueaft Messianic power. of the rulers. In other words. The pest cen be seized only as an image which flashes up et the instant when it can be recognized and is never seen again. and fortitude. cunning. Like every generation that preceded us. a Power to which the past h* I claim. For every image of the past that is not recognizedby the present as one of its own concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably. -Hegel. The Messiah comes not only as the redeemer. only for a redeemed man' kind has its past become ciable in all its moments. Neverrl theless. A historical materialist must be awere of this mo$ in- conspicuous of all transformations. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious. among people we could have talked to' women who could have rll given-themielves to us. humor. As flowers turn toward the 2q by dint of a secret heliouopism the past strives to turn toward that sun which is rising in the sky of history. Each moment it has lived b. There is a secret agreement between Past generations and the present one. The danger affects both the content of the uadition and its receivers. v The true picture of the past flits by. only a redeemed mankind rcceive$ the fullnes of its past-which is to say.Ilbnhntions ness Tbescs on the Pbilosopby of History is thoroughly colored by the time to which the course of our own existinie has assigned us. 2t."o*et a citation d tordre du iour-*d that day is' Judgment Day. The past carries with it a temporal index by which it is referred to redemption. Only that historian will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in the past who is frmly convinced tha.t even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins. it "the way it 2tt . (The good tidings which the historian of the past brings with throbbing heart may be lost in a void the very moment he opens his mouth. "The truth will not run ewey from us": in the historical oudook of historicism these words of Gottfried Keller merk the exact point where historical materialism cuts through historicism. I I I manifest themselves in this suuggle as courege. our image of happiness is indissolubly bound up with the image of redemption. IV Seek : for food and clotbing first. The same threat hangs over both: that of becoming a tool of the ruling classes. which is the concern of history. which is always Present to a historian in' fluenced by Marif is a fight for the crude and material thinge' without *hi"t no refined and spiritual things could exist. he comes as the subduer of Antichrist. then tbe Kingdorn of God shall be added unto yoa. r8o7 The class struggle.

There is no better way of characterizing the method with which historical materialism has broken. icb hiine oxnig Gldick. And all rulers are the heirs of those who con. surveys have an origin which he cannot contemplate without horror. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight. Whoever has emerged victorious participates to this day in the triumphal procession in which the present rulers step over those who are lying prosuate. Thc angel would like to stay. I . denn blieb icb auch lebendige Zeit. They owe their existence not only to the efforts of the great minds and talents who have created them. His face is turned toward the past. One reason why Fascism has a chance is that in the name of progres its opponcnts treat it as a historical norm." * The narure of this sadness stands out more clearly if one asks with whom the adherents of historicism actually empathize. "Gruss vom Angelus" A Klee painting named "Angelus Novus" shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from somerhing hc i3 fixedly contemplating. It is a process of empathy whose origin is the indolence of the heart. wrote: "Peu de gens det. According to traditional practice.ineront combien il a fallu 6tre triste pour ressusciter Cirthage. ich kebrte gem ntrilck. In Consider tbe ilarkness and tbe gredt cold tbis aale which resounds asith mysery. bur also to thc toil of their contemporaries.w Illuminationt Tbeses on the Philosophy of History He regards it as his trdr !O ates himself from it as far as possible. who was familiar iritf. A historical materialist therefore dissocianonymous r "Few will be able to ate Carthage. his wings are spread. and this will improve our position in the struggle against Fascism. This emazement is not the beginning of knowledge-unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable. it hes : My uting is reody for fligbt. -Brecht. This is how one pictures the angel of history. IX Mein Fliigel ist ztsr?. Hence. 2t7 . Where we perceive o chain of events. how sad one had to be in order to resuscil I tuordd like tu urn baek. For without exception the cultural treasures he VIII The tradition of the oppresed teaches us thet the "statc of emergency" in which we live is not the exception but the rulc. His eyes ere staring.ttutld hwe little lack. Then we shall clearly retlize that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency. Among medieval theologians it was regarded as the root cause of sadness. THE THREErENNy opEnl To historians who wish to relive an era. awaken the dead. But a storm is blowing from Paradise. quered before them. which despairs of grasping and holding the genuine historical image as it flares up briefly. They are called cultural treasures. Historical materialists know what that means. If I nayed timeler time. VII brush history against the grain. barbarism taints dso the manner in which it was transmitted frorn one olvner to another. The answer is inevitable: with the vicror. Flaubert. he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling r wreckage uiron wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The current amazement that thc things we are experiencing are "still" possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. it. tious detachment. the spoils are carried along in the procession. and make wholc whst has been smashed. Scbumng bereit. empathy with the victor invariably benefits the rulers. his mouth is opcn. There is no document of civilization which is not at the same rime a document of barbarism. Fusrel de Coulanges recommends that they blot out everyrhing they know about the later course of history." 2t6 guess -Gerhard Scholem. And just as such a document is not free of barbarism. acedia. and a historical materialist views them with cau.

All t-his illustrates a kind of labor which. the other by Karl Marx and Witt Liebknecht. far from exploiting-narure." of sociery.. it already displays ihe technocratic features later encountered in Fascism. The . drafted by Liebkirecht and Lassalle. which have so often been ridiculed. This storm is what we call Progress. as a resuit of efficient cooperative labor. which. It_ seeks to an idea of the higti price our eccustomed thinking will "or. This vulgar-ptaixltt conception of the narure of labor bypasses the question of how iU products might benefit the workers while still not being at thcir disposal..ro Ioriger taste selty. ." is a complement to the corrupted conception of Iabor.Thl savior of modern times is called work.Illuminations Tbeses on tbe Philosopby of History ii.s with such violence that the angel can no [ong. sea water would . and soon thereafter Josef Dietzgen proclaimcd: .[hr . finally. Fourier.. . theii servile integration in an uncontrollable ap paratus have been three aspects of the same thing.s fantasies. From there it was but step to the illusion that the factory work whifh was supposed t tend toward technological progres constituted a political achicvl ment.the slave of bther mcn uhD have made themselves the owners. . However. one led by Ferdinand Lassalle. four moons would illuminate the earthly night.. r The Gotha Congress of 1875 united the two German Socialist panies.. the confidm spread. According to Fourier. This storm irresistibly pro?els.j i got caught in his wing. German workers in secularized form.as.and.potentials. . prore to be surprisingly sound.T-hg pr-o-graT.. womb. defining labor as . At a momenr when the politicians in whom the opponents of Fascism had placed their hopes arc prostrate andionfirm their defeat by betraying their 9*l "'oj?' ihese observarions are intended to disentangle the political worldlings from the snares in which the traitors have entrapp.. l':d* gratis. The new conception of labor amounrs to the exploitation of nature. as Dietzgen purs it. was"trn severelv attacked bv Mam in London. which not the_ retrogression if naturc.9. gram. .him into -the futire to which his back is rurned. Narure. rhe man who posseses no othCr propery then hh LLCI povrer" must of necessirlr become . and bealts of prey would do man. ..'. It is one reason for iu later breakdown.s bidding.. : r of labor constitutes the wealth which is now able-to accompUth \rhat no redeemer has ever been able to do. while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. the ice would recede from the poles. improvemcflt . Nothing has corrupted the German class so much as the notion that it was moving with the It regarded technological developments as the fall of the strcit with-which it thought it was moving.iltl of all wealth and all culrure. sbe his "critique of the Gotha pro. . It recognizes only the progress in the mastery ' . Compared with this positivistic conciption.. The Gotha progiletf. their confidence in their "mass basiq" .y pay for a conception of history that avoids anlr com' have io pliciry with the thinking to which these politicians continue to' adhere.& ready bears traces of this confusion. ilose them.lt': Orir considerarion proceeds from the insight that the politiciarull stubborn faith in piogtess. XI The conformism which has been part and parcel of Democracy from the beginning attaches not only to its poJiticC tactics bui to its economic views as well." Smelling a rat. The old Protestant ethics of work was resurrected with naive complacency is contrasted-with the exploitation of the proletariat. is capable of delivering her of rhe creations whiih Iie ?ormant in her. x The themes which monastic discipline assigned to friars for meditation were designed to turn them away from the world and its afiairs. Marx coutl$L thar ". The thoughts which we are developing here originate from similar consideiations. . Among these is e c-onc_eptiol of naftre which differs ominously from the one in the Socialist utopias before the 1848 revolution..

soZTALDEMoKRATTE Social Democratic theory. The great revolution introduced a ncw calendar. it was something boundless. Thus the calendars do not mcasrue time as clocks do. in this way cutting the sinews of its greatest suength. Progress as pictured in the minds of Social Democram was. has always been objectionable to criticism. In Marx it appears as thc last enslaved class.ryfly. Secondly. something that automatically pursued a straight or spiral course. It evoked ancient Rome the way fashion evokes costumes of the pasr.n the Spartacist group. lapse camera. zdt . Vol. to Robespierre ancient Rome was e psst charged with the time of the now which he blasted out of thc continuum of history. z6o -Wilhelm Dietzgen. A critique of thc conccpt of such a progression must be the basis of any criticism of th! concept of progress itself. tekes place in an arene whcri the ruling clas gives the commands. -Netzsche. have been formed by a con6eption of progress which did r. ttrat is. which are days of remembrancc. though it had been the rallying sound that had reverberated through the preceding century. for both are nourished by the image of enslaved ancestors rether than that of liberated grandchildren. progress was regarded as irresistible. This conviction. they rro r . Dra ner. but time filled by the presence of ttre now lletztzeitl.nqt r. no metter where it stirs in the thickets of long ago. The French Revolution viewed itsclf m Rome reincarnate. And. The same leap in the opcn air of history is the dialectical one. wonrr rN wnsnr. Hc clearly is thinking of the myst{cal rn no ttcrn.r to Social Democrats. first of all. which had a brief resurgence . This iump. in fpppsition to the pro-war policies of the German Socialist parry. oppressed class itself is the depository of historical knowledge. later absorbed by the Communist party. oF TIIE usr AND ABUSE or HIsroRy Not man or men but the suuggling. the progress of mankind itself (and not iust advances in men's ability and knowl- xv The awareness that they are about to make the continuum of history explode is characteristic of the revolutionaqr classes at thc moment of their action. Social Democracy thought fit to assign to the working class the role of the redeemer of future generations. Thirdly. empry time. Within three decades they managed virtually to erase the name of Blanqui.ot adhere to reality but made dogmatic claims. founded by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg at the beginning .mern. basically. empty time. and even more its practice. which is how Marx undcrstood the revolution.* Thus. when the chips are down. xIv -Karl Kraus.of World War I. however.an equivalent to Gegenan*. Origin is the goal.Illuminatbns Tbeses on tbe Philosophy of History XII We need history.rcroN DEf. The concept of the historical progrcss of mankind cennot be sundered from the concepr of is progresion through a homogeneous.Beniamin *ys "letztuif and indicarcs by the quotatioo marks thrt ho dpcs. it is a tiger's lcrp into the pest. Fashion has a flair for the topicel. as the avenger that completes rhe task of liberetion in the name of generations of the downtrodden. criticism must penerate beyond these predicates and focus on something thrt they have in common. Each of these predicates is controversial and open r Leftist group. However. prcsont. in keeping with the infinite perfectibility of mankind. I History is the subject of a structure whose site is not homogeneous. but not the utay a spoiled loafer in tbe gardm of knouledge needs it. This training made the working clas forget both its hatred and its spirit of sacrifice. XIII Eoery day our couse becomes clearer and people get snutrter. The initial day of a calendar seryes :rs a historical timc. edge). it is the same day that keeps rccurring in the guise of holidays.

who may have owed his insight to the rhyme. as a model of Messianic time. Historicism gives the "eternal" image of the past. A historian who takes this as his point of departure stops telling the sequence of events like the beeds of a rosary. empty time. Universal history has no theoretical arrneture. the era. as it were. it musters a mass of data to fill the homogeneous. On the first evening of fighting it turned out that the clocks in towers were being fired on simultaneously and independently from several places in Paris. by which it crystal* Who would have believed A) Historicism contents iself with establishing a causal connoction berween various moments in history. XVII Historicism rightly culminates in universal history. qu'imit6s contre l'heure De nouveaux Josuds au pied de chaque tour. lizes into a monad. . the entire course of history. Thus he establishcs r conception of the present as the "time of the now" which is shot through with chips of Messianic time. historical materialism supplies a unique experience with the past. coincides exactly with the sarure which the history of mankind has in the universc. xvr A historical XVIII "In relation to the history of organic life on eatthr" writes g modern biologist "the paltry fifty millennb of bonto sapiens con. hour day. he grasps the constellation which his own era has formed with a definite earlier one. comprises the endre histoqy of mankind in an enormous abridgment. Materialistic historiography differs from it as to method more clearly than from eny other kind. An eye-witness. humously." The prescnt. Instead. but their arrest as welL Where thinking suddenly stops in a configuration pregnant with tensionq it gives that confguration a shock. He takes cognizance of it in order to blast a specific ere out of the homogeneous course of history-blasting a specific life out of the era or a specific work out of the lifework.+ A historical materialist approaches a historical subject only where he encounters it as a monad. wrote as follows: Qui le croirait! on dit. men enough to blast open the continuum of history. zdz - r The Hegelian term aafbeben in its threefold meaning: to pllscrycr to 26. a revolutionary chance in the fight for the op pressed past. Its method is additive. and in tho era. He'remains in conuol of his powers. Thinking in volves not only the flow of thoughts. The nourishing fruit of the historically understood contains time as a precious but tasteles secd. In the July revolution an incident occurred which showed this consciousness still alive. materialist cennot do without the notion of a present which is not a transidon. Materialistic historiography. on the other hand. Tiraient sur les cadrans pour arr6ter le jour. stinrte something like two seconds at the close of a wenry-four.Illutnirwtions Tbeses ot the Pbilosophy of Hinory rnonuments of a historical consciousness of which not the slightest trace has been apparent in Europe in the past hundred years. orr put differendy. as though irritated with time itself. It became historical post. in the lifework. clevate. But no fact that is r cause is for that very reason historical. it! we are told that new Joshuas at the foot of every tower. but in which time stands still and has come to a stop. The historical materialist leaves it to others to be drained by the whore called "Once upon a time" in historicism's bordello. is based on a constructive principle. the hirtoty of civilized mankind would fill one-fifth of the last second of the last hour. On this scale. In this structuro he recognizes the sign of a Mesianic cessation of happening. which. fued at the dials in order to stop the day. As r result of this method the'lifework is preserved in this work and at the same time canceled t. For this notion defines the present in which he himself is writing history. to cancel. through events that may be separated from it by thousands of years.

it turned out that Beniamin. brit not its content. r9z8) German Tragedy'. they 'hnquestionably conain numerous erioir. We know that the Jews were prohibited frorn investigating the furure. however. tion of Benjamin's writings which. written during tho lrf thirties and published posthumously. empty time. (Berliner Kindbeit um Neunzebnbundert. equdly unknown.Kul Kraus" (in the Fruzkfurter Zeitungr lg3r). and comipn taries. Beniamin himself had approved thb tide for an earlier selection of some of his works. in' just the seme way.. r9z4 and r9z5) and the articlc on. Berlin. For every second of time was the streit gate through which the Messiah might enter. It conains the fu[Jlngth essiyt wlth y9 . Professor Adorno poina out in his Introduction thrt lt is not definitive: in the few instances where the original manurcrlpE could be consulted. cism" (Dar Begtifi der Kunstbitik in der deutsehen RomantihrBcg rgzo) and "The Origin of deutscben Trauerspiels.. Berlin" l9r8)--of boots of gcncrd tt.Ilhminatia* B €ditor's Note The soothsayers who found out from time what it had in store certainly did not experience time as either homogeneous or empry. The Grmtn toxt is chiefy drawn from the published texts in various magaziner rnd newspapers. and as for the typescripts and printed rr"*rprftr or magazine copies. published by Suhrkamp in 196r. that for the Jews thc Beniamin's work consists of nro books on German literotrrrc-hlt dissertation on "The Concept of Art Criticism in German Romrntl. wrr cd. The tide of the present cbllection. Adomo and publishcd by thr Suhrkamp Verlag in rgSj. (Der Ursyutrg dtt -two future turned into homogeneous.s Electlol Al. flections in the form of shon essays or aphorisms-. to which all those succumb who turn to the soothsayers for eil.Anyone who keeps this in mind will perhaps get an idea of how past times were experienced in remembrance-namely.s handwriting wu difficult to read. is identical with the title of a sellction from thc Sohtlftm.One-Wey Str$ttt (E_inbahnstrasse. This stripped the future of its magic."ry regrettable exceptions-the snrdy of . This does not imply. and'A Berlin Childhood around rgootl would have been ruined. under the title Scbrtften.. book reviews.two essiys would hrvo needed so many explanatory notes that the thrust of thc tcxt i6Glf of Benjamin 26t . ltef 3d introduceg by Theodor W. The Torah and the prayers instruct them in remembrancg however." In the only case in which I was able to iompare the original mrnurcdp 264 The chief purpose of this collection is to convey the importrocr as a literary critic. Frankfurg r95o)-and-of r grcrt number of literary and critical essays. finities" (published in Hugo von Hofmannsdrd's Neze Dcuttohl Beitriige in two instalments. these.. The uanslation of the text follows the two-volume Germon cdl.Goerhe. Since Karl Kraus it tdll p_ractically unknown in English-speaking countries and sirtco thr Goethe consiss to a large extint of a polemic against Fricddch -essay Gundolf's Goetbe. lightenment.

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