Guilt History: Benjamin's Sketch "Capitalism as Religion" Author(s): Werner Hamacher and Kirk Wetters Source: Diacritics, Vol

. 32, No. 3/4, Ethics (Autumn - Winter, 2002), pp. 81-106 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1566446 Accessed: 13/09/2010 20:24
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GUILT

HISTORY

BENJAMIN'S SKETCH AS RELIGION" "CAPITALISM
HAMACHER WERNER

History as ExchangeEconomy Since historycannotbe conceivedas a chainof eventsproduced causation, by mechanical it must be thought of as a connection between occurrences that meets at least two conditions: first that it admit indeterminacy and thus freedom, and second that it nonetheless be demonstrablein determinateoccurrences and in the distinct form of theircoherence.Relationscan thusbe calledhistoricalandcan be recognizedas historical only if they aredeterminedby neithernecessity nor chance, and if theircausalityis of a of history can thereforebe differentorderthan the mechanical.The temporalstructure of characterizedon the one hand by the distinct connection its elements-and on the other hand by the dissolution of all connections that do not assist these elements in achieving their independence. has A temporalnexus that clearly does not satisfy these conflicting requirements been characterizedin one of the oldest texts of occidental philosophy as the time of (fromabout500 BC),handeddown by guilt. Accordingto the sentenceof Anaximander Simplicius in his commentary(530 AD) on Aristotle'sPhysics, the origin and end of all to the law of necessity (katih things is subordinated t6 krebn)."Theymust pay penance tou chrdnou and be judged for their injustice, accordingto the orderof time (kati tMn tdxin)"-so the fragmentreads in the translationoffered by Nietzsche in his treatise the sequence "Philosophyin the TragicAge of the Greeks." Accordingto Anaximander, of time ordersthe rise and fall of all things and ordersthem in accordancewith the law of guilt andpunishment so thatbecoming(genesis)is a guilt(adikia)thatmustbe expiated in perishing. Time and more precisely its tdxis, the positing of time, is thought in debt and payback.It is a Anaximander'ssentence as an orderof guilt and retribution, time of economy in the sense thatit is the time of law-and precisely a law thatis valid for all beings, a tdxis,a decree, an ordinanceandan ordering-in which the unavoidable incurringof guilt is atoned in an equivalentpenance that is just as unavoidable.The strictcoherenceof guilt andpenanceis ascertained by the principleof theirequivalence. Time is thereforeconceivedhere as a doubleprocessof coming into being andperishing,
Translator's note: This essay was originally published in a slightly longer version, as als Religion,'" in Kapitalismus als Religion, "Schuldgeschichte: BenjaminsSkizze 'Capitalismus ed. DirkBaecker(Berlin:Kulturverlag Kadmos,2003), 77-120. Themostimportant terminological difficultyof this translationconcerns the Germanword Schuldand relatedterms.Schuldmeans, as well as, in other senses andforms, "toblame," "tobe to put it simply,both "guilt"and "debt," atfault, "and "toowe. " Theoriginal textof the essay typicallyhas several of these senses in mind at once, and at certainpoints in the argumentit may be useful to keep this in mind. Generally,I have translatedaccording to the context,but, in the interestof terminologicalconsistency,I have also tried to optfor the English word "guilt"wheneverpossible.

diacritics / fall-winter 2002

diacritics 32.3-4: 81-106

81

Etiology It is unknownwhetherWalterBenjaminwas familiarwith this sentenceof Anaximander.since the close analysis of thepassages cited wouldotherwise seem implausible. Its measure is a justice that representsitself as a tdxis and therebyas the positing andthe law of all becoming and vanishing. Hisformulation is used to characterizethe commonplacebut to his mindmateriallyunjustifiedunderstanding of Anaximander's the situation is such that "moral fragment.this also allows ethical. trade.is reduced to the juridicaldimension of the decree.time is not only the double-processof coming into being and passing away. Hermann of the pre-Socratic Cohen.2 Only by the categoryof guilt can the unambiguousness of 1. thuscircumscribed by the orderof time.the law of physis and its demise as an onto-economiclaw. Thisis howHeideggerdescribesit in his "Spruch desAnaximander" [304]. to the schema of exchange." itself Heidegger's understanding 2.like its remediation. Thistime is therefore thatof a guilt-anddebt-continuum. be a matterof an ethics of time to the extent that this ethics. however.juridical.andeconomic conceptsto substitutefor one anotherwithinthis order. alreadyjuridified and economized. unfreely. and both now define themselves accordingto the calculusof "anexchangeeconomy in an eternallyunchanging householdof nature. The 82 . time is the schemaof guilt andretribution: Accordingto the thesis of Anaximander.in manyregards teacher. . It would be sentence possible to show that. continuallyadvancing without a gap in its eternalrecurrences. In one of his fragmentary notes on the concept of history.however. in Anaximander's sentenceas a normative time of inculpationandexpiation.] mix themselves up with the image of nature" [304].perhapsto be datedat the end of the 1910s.despitehis intentionto be moretrueto thematterofAnaximander's shares decisive traits of this "misunderstanding. The injusticecommittedby the progressof time occurs." From this and the earlier works of Cohen.ethical time. in the chapteron "The Idea of the Messiah and Humanity":"The world must pay in punishment(diken did6nai) for its existence. History. Theethicaldimensionofjustice.Thisis also the casefor all othercitations." He seeks to strictlydifferentiatethis historyof the world (it may be understoodas the history that offers itself in the aspect of its worldliness) from divine history. Translator's note: Citations from Benjaminare given here in my own translations.cites a fragment Benjamin's in and without his 1918ReligionofReasonfromthe Sources reference.Accordingto this misunderstanding. is thus and the equivalence of guilt and retribution. Benjaminmay have been familiar with the early Greek equationof time and guilt.The critical accent of his exposition is unmistakable: "Guiltis the the uni-directionality (Einsinnigkeit) highest categoryof worldhistoryfor guaranteeing of what occurs"[GS 6: 92]. and juridical concepts [. is subordinated The time of history. interpreted Whateverenters this tdxis of time is thereby alreadyguilty and can only become excused by its perishing." ' It can only. saying. . InAnaximander's sentence.But it is not the time of history. It is the time of the quid pro quo of everythingthat is generatedand passes away within time.a process that occurs in such a way that the genesis is erased in its passing away-so that time is thus erasedby time itself. Thepage referencesgiven in the body of the essay referexclusivelyto the Germaneditions. This taxiological orderof time places every realm of the naturalandhumanworld undera law of substitutionwithoutexception.English editions of the central textsof the essay are noted in the bibliography. Benjamintakes up the connectionanddeclaresguilt to be a categoryof "worldhistory.fleetingly of Judaism. however. it is-as a tdxis-the common and constantlyenduring medium of the exchange of the contrarybut equivalentmotions of coming into being and perishing.

it is "the highest category of world history" insofar as it is the category of genesis itself and the only categorythat can accountfor occurrencesin a homogenous sequence. Writings. because it is the category of the causation of deficiencies.becausethey cannotdetermine anytotality. however.Logic has to provetheprinciple that no totality as such can be either cause or effect.its sense of direction. It indicatesthatwhatever "provenance" is priorhas had somethingtakenfrom it by thatwhich follows. This is why guilt is "the highest category"of history. and every history is a phenomenonof deficiency. also indebtedin the sense thatwhateverhappensin the line of descent occurs as a theft in which somethingis tornaway. Guilt is "thehighest category"of history.1 [288-91].leavinga lackin the place of its origin. its linearorientation. because only this category refers occurrencesin a nonmechanicalway to an origin and to further consequences in other occurrences. Guilt is not a mechanicalcausation.as a makingor letting happen. Everythingthat happens is guilt. guilt is not only a categoryof provenancebutalso a categoryof moralandmoreprecisely legal relations.Guiltaccordingly designates the reason of an absence.a causa in the sense of the Greekaition. Every stateof the worldis thereforean incomplete one. A state of the world is howeveralways guilty with regardto some other later one" [GS 6: 92]. and thatit is guilty: it is historyonly to the extent thatit is guilt history. conversely.a category of relationto an other-Benjamin defines it in exactly this sense: "A stateof the world is only guilty with regardto some other laterstate"-and unlike the categoryof cause.like causation."then this is presumablyfor the reason that a cause as such is completely exhaustedin its being the cause of something other than itself andthereforecannotbe a totalityin itself. a deficit. but it designates at the same time the moral guilt that a condition or occurrence carries "with regard to some later one. a state of the world) as cause or effect. The Greek aition means as well as "guilt":guilt is a categoryof descent. every stateof the world is guilty to the extentthatit releases anotherdeficient state of the worldandbearsthe guilt for it. If guilt is a genealogical category. release. a morally or legally lacking condition. It is. and production. If Benjamin here makes "totality"the criterion for whether something is "guilt"ratherthan "cause. primary textual base is in any case quite small. Cause and effect can never be decisive categories for the structureof worldhistory. it happensfrom an other andtowardyet another andis therefore indebtedto these otheroccurrences.as giving occasion.butonly the relatedyet markedly distinct relationshipof guilt. Guiltis indeed. It is a mistake of the rationalistic conception of history to view any historical totality (that is. comprised as it is by Benjamin's three-page fragment. however. diacritics / fall-winter 2002 83 . a history out of guilt and a history of guilt. And. the de habere of debt. Every "having"is thus declared as a havingfrom something else that previously had it-as in the debere." Only an ait-ical occurrence is an ethical occurrence:in the etiological structureof time and history that Benjaminhas in mind here. A moral connection. or whateveris priorhas withheld something from that which follows it. a failure. a relation out of freedom (even if it be a minimumof freedom) can never be causally grounded.there can only be history if a conditionor an occurrencesevers itself from anotherone without.And thereforethe cause-effect relationcannotbe validas a categoryof history.however.what occurs be guaranteed. Thus it must follow that history is guilt." which has been published in English as a part of Selected Vol. Whateverhappens.andthe unity of its sense. Benjamin continues in his note: "Every world-historicalmoment is indebted and indebting. Guilt can only exist where there is history.it is. "Capitalismas Religion. The word aition names not only a causationof somethingthroughsomethingprior to it.that not only permitsbut ratherrequiresthat the one who is guilty is a self and thus a totality-very much accordingto Cohen's presentationin the Ethics of Pure Will [ErW370].

the time of theAte andthe aitionthatcan only be improperly called"time. only completely impropertemporality. This fate.as the time of fate Benjamincharacterizes (Schicksal):"Thetime of fate is the time thatat all times can be madesimultaneous(not present). as the ultimatecategory of fate. valid for the-principally unforeseeable-duration of naturalman toto genere andthereforevalid not for a time or for some time but for all time.is "theguiltdifferentiation nexus of the living" [GS 2.pronouncedearlier. not for some individualhumanin his or her singulartime. History." is the time of causation in the sense of the incursionof guilt. . andneverfor the human as an ethical being. The sentence. "thatthis "Fateand Character" time may at any time be made simultaneous(not present) with any other time" [GS barredfrom the differentiation of past. being essentially guilt and more precisely the generativeprocess by which guilt is incurred.completely losing all relationto it. 2. guilt cannotbe the decisive categoryfor humanhistory. which determinesits coherence.therefore. Guilt is the cause of a not. but for the "barelife" in him. subjectionof the individualsof this people.for its part.is the process by which guilt is incurred-since in its everyproductionthe no-longer-beingof something else is effected..] [Myth]still sees no differencebetween the individualandhis people." present.fate. TheAte extends itself over a people. There it states.statesin the same sense: "Itis [. nor futurewithin it" [GS 6: 91].distance. therefore..there is neitherpresent.butbecausethe ethicaldimension can only show itself withinthis historyin its negation. All historyis thereforethe historyof guilt in the sense that the form-and only thereforealso the content-of historyis determinedby guilt.can only be historyand guilt in turn. which is incapableof any temporal determination.] always in a fall fromfate thatfate fulfills andproves itself. In anothernote that is not only chronologicallyclose to the one underdiscussion. precludes 'proper time of morally meaningful action-possible.It is a time that is not independent.blocks historyandproperlyhistorical time.The time of guilt.as evil.175]. the time of guilt... it and can be called "a because future.is indeedthe ultimatecategoryof worldhistory.manremains defined by the unity of his naturalgenus and by his generationunderthe category of guilt.just as little as Zeus ceases to be an individualgod because he is subjectto thefatum.1. HermannCohen's Ethics of Pure Will. The evil is guilt.norfor historicaltime in general.History. It categoricallyexcludes the possibility of leaving the chain of events connecting everything that is and occurs without at once continuing its sequence and thus reconsolidatingits order even in breaking it.nor past.includingthe study of it.1. along with its divisions into various dimensions of time and experience. which clearly provides the-sometimes critical-orientation for the relevantissues in Benjamin. As long as the "natural coherence" of a peopledefinesthe humanas a merelynatural being. The dense coherence that obstructs temporal is called the guilt-nexus. none that would not have been made guilty by anotherandnone thatfor its own partwould not bearguilt towardyet another-an other that.in short. A time with this kind of synchronicity. And guilt is fate" [ErW361]. is etiology: the study of occurrencesas causationsof defects. [ . There is no history that is not about guilt. the and freedom that first make the time'-as separation. the time of world history.much less a historical one-and which thereforecan only provide the 84 . upon This is the reign thatfate extendsin the whom the fate of humansmakesitself apparent."everythingthat happens is guilt. The decisive formulationof this note became partof a passage from the treatiseon from September 1919. The concept thatforms the properkernelof fate may be recognizedin the concept of guilt. thus conceived by Benjamin. over a privilegedpeople.It standsunderthe orderof guilt.176]. Guilt is thus a deficitaryrelation." can be made more precise: everything that happens by the coherence of natureand generationis guilt-and this is precisely the reasonwhy guilt. more precisely.a relationto that which is lacking or missing.

Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. to the on the "principleindissolubility"of originalguilt. but ratherof an initiativeex nihilo where every coherence based on indebting-its every bond and chain-falls away. but also-and not a bit less-the Christianitythat raised the doctrineof originalsin to the statusof a dogma and extendedthis logic into the furthest reaches of its systems of faith. The point of the diagnosis given in the formula "Capitalismas Religion" can be highlighted in contrast with Max Weber's works on the sociology of religionas mightbe supposed.an orderthatwould now be historicalin a strictersense. andcapitalismas the systemof a deterministic some indication is given as to the place and the weight of Benjamin's fragment "Capitalismas Religion"within the vast projectof his theory of historyand politics. Weber diacritics / fall-winter 2002 85 .Everythingbelonging to the realm of ethics out of freedom)qualifies itself to this realmby its rigorous (thatis of self-determination separationfrom all of the elements of myth-from genealogically enforcedguilt.resultsand theircausation. as Weber believes.The proof of the religious structureof capitalism-not only. butinsteadexecutesa preordained program of an inheritancefrom whose succession he is for action itself.nor for any relationto an other thatwouldnot standexclusivelyunderthe categoryof guilt.175]. but as an essentially religious phenomenon-would still lead us.178] and innocence-might points in the directionof a realmthat-beyond the merely "natural" be called moral and historical innocence.Methodological If the task of a critiqueof historycan only be satisfiedby a critiqueof guilt history. dictated in advance by another-and is thereforeonly a form of not acting. solution. from sequence.with the workscollectedunderthe title TheProtestant particularly. even today. The pagan teaching insists however.the pagan"cult"can offer only "atemporary Whathe understands (also accordingto Cohen's sense of it) is not by the word "pagan" only Greek polytheism.Anyone who is boundby guilt and obligationdoes andfalls fatally.Only by the resolute cessation of commerce between guilt and retribution does the human emerge into the realm of his freedom. Capital Guilt History. thepeccata originale.then as the religionof guilt economy. like strict monotheistic religion-the Judaism of the prophets-where the categoryof guilt falls away. as Benjaminemphasizes.time as historicaltime can only begin where it no longer assumesthe form of a guilt nexus. from succession.from familial and chronological lines of provenance. In "Fateand Character" Benjaminopposes "thedogma of the naturalguilt of humanlife. of original guilt" with "the vision of the naturalinnocence of man" [GS 2. As ethics first takes hold. thought.Both Benjamin'sandCohen's conceptionsof ethicsas well as of religionaredefinedin oppositionto theguiltmechanics of the fate systems of antiquity-and especially againstthose of the Greeks-as well as against their later and modern variants. from contrary. of guiltandatonement" concatenation BothBenjaminandCohenview "theperpetual as "heathen"and therefore as prereligious and protoethical[GS 2. astray into an immeasurableuniversalpolemic" [GS 6: 100].ahistorical and atemporalfundus out of which another order can emerge through individuation.1. as a formation conditionedby religion.torments and restlessness to which the so-called religions used to provideanswers.1.Benjaminwrites: "In capitalisma religion may be discerned-that is to say. the privilegedobjectof this critiquemustbe Christianity debtreligion.By specifyingthese objects.capitalismservesessentiallyto allaythe sameworries.Acting in the guiltnexus means following an obligation to act.and behavior. because it leaves no room for the individual'scapacityof freedom. into the predestination not free to abstain.lethally not do whathe does." which.

the attributionof provenance and guilt. 3.the rulesof conduct under capitalism give an answer to what Benjamin calls "worries. that of the "so-called"religions." Thoughthis sentence speaksof law andof legal decrees. [DpE 21]." 86 . pursuing. The methodological apparatus is thatof rational appliedto the spiritof capitalism causalityitself-and is thusstructurally in its inspiration." constitutiveconcepts are misfortuneand guilt.." says. like every other cult within the context of myth. Both are relatively independentstructuresof relation with an identical function:namelythatof providingan answerto "worries. but rathera "cult-religion.however. torments and restlessness"-they systematize a deficit without permittingany escape from it. andculturalstructures haddone previously. And more precisely.175]. as well as politicalfutility Benjaminavoidsthis methodological aporiaandthe theoretical of Weber'sinterpretation both and Protestant by defining capitalism religiosity in the same terms.Capitalismis thus essentially etiology.but does not take into accountthe possibility that both might refer themselves to a third sphere that does not represent their condition-as aition or causa-but ratherpresentsthe space of their articulation. Cf in this regard Weber'sclaim on the same page.174]. and of Benjaminis careful to speak of "the religious structure" withoutbasing this structure on anythingother "anessentially religious phenomenon. the sole aim of organizing"theguilt.and particularly of capitalismas a cult religion: they condemn to torments andrestlessness" guiltby positingguiltas thereasonfor a lack-for the"worries. it is the positing of guilt.]-such an ordercannotbe religious"[GS2. .tormentsandrestlessness.cultic.3 matter where the series of causation starts-and no matter how it is additionally legitimated-it securesthe economic form on the one side andthe religiousform on the other as fixed positions within a system of dependencies.] by as he "a causal relation" And thus represents.and debt-nexusof the living..1.it is valid (since law for Benjaminis an institutionof myth)for all of the componentsof mythandits corresponding rites:"Thelaw does not sentenceto be said of all ritual punishmentbut to guilt" [GS 2." interpretation of cultureand history" are "equallypossible. capitalism's genesis follows. where he speaks of "both causal Also wherehe indicates[190] thatbotha "materialist" and a "spiritualist causal relationships. thoughWeberdoes not say it. of law and economy. Thus it may correspondingly and cultic practices.Weberthus insists upon the derivationof economy andreligion from one another. and within which there is no thinkable courseof liberation [.and thus he characterized the rationalethics of ascetic Protestantism as the preconditionfor the ethos of occidental societies: "The conditioning of the modern-capitalist-business of a 'business the content of certain religious beliefs genesis mentality' [. .The "capitalist is a structure of belief and religion" thereforenot a religion. aetiotaxy." than the conventionalconcept of religion. preciselythe same kind of rationality-a logic of provenanceandguilt-that supposedlyfirst acquiresits privilegedmodernstatusin the rise of the "businessmentality"that Weber describes. Thismethodcannottherefore capitalistic provideanymeansof liberation from capitalism and its structures.. Like all "so-called religions. The functionof capitalismconsists in structuring the lack by explainingits provenanceand by giving instructionsfor its remediation.whose phenomenon." behavior." As religious.performedhis studies accordingto the methodologicalprincipleof causality.The fact that Weber incorporatesa supplemental reverse causality in his analysis (turningProtestantChristianityinto a result of the No capitalisteconomic form) changes nothing in the specific form of his derivation."In this characterization.1."capitalismfollows a logic that Benjaminhas made explicit in a sentence from "Fateand Character. It is not his own concept of religion (a rigorousone undoubtedly relying on Cohen andthe tradition of Judaism) that underlies the notion of capitalism as an "essentially religious "FateandCharacter" is unambiguous on this: "Anorder.

Capitalas "theconcretion" are in this "concretion" and to constitutea closed complex God. The religious functionof capitalism. The immediate presence. intenton filling up a lack. The first feature of capitalismis that it is a pure cult religion. It is a cult of the "immediate" significance of everyday activities. can only have come aboutin such a way thatthe form of the one remainedpreservedin the formof the other. actionandmeaning. summation: instead it transformed itself into capitalism" [GS 6: 102]. "perhapsthe most extremethathas ever existed. Everything meaningis immediatelyidenticalwith what it means. already an end.butin the otherorthodox Christianchurches as well). Christianitywould not have been able to transformitself into capitalismif capitalism had not been essentially Christian-"essentially religious.is its parasitic relation to guilt. that is in concreto actualized with every move in this cult is that of a lack-of a debt and of guilt. its "permanent duration. guilt forms positing the cause of a deficit. this rite without transcendencepermitsonly the pure presence of what it inscribes. Meansandends. an immediaterelationto its God.For both are "essentiallyreligious" forms. anda meaning. has as in the occidental notes: a of "Capitalism developed parasite Christianity Benjamin countries(this mustbe shown notjust in the case of Calvinism.of of guilt and cause-of aetiotaxy-is not contradicted the attribution by the fact thatthe of relied another development capitalism mostly upon religious system for its form.The obsessive attribution detail of to the scales of and salvation-turns this conduct-according capital every structureinto a cult of meaning that is "extreme"in terms of both its universalityand intensity. "growntogether" money that has of semantictransaction.Since the realmof means has been thus deleted and substitutedwith that of immediate ends. a purpose. aetiotaxies. a cult in which every individualis not only the means but is also.a value. however. of capitalism" [GS 6: 102]. as means."in which everything. Capitalismis a system for the attribution of guilt as well as simultaneouslyperpetuate debt." Since every relationbetween secularact and salvation-historical significance diacritics / fall-winter 2002 87 . Thus Benjamin's "TheChristianity of the Reformation did not favorthe growthof capitalism. until it reached a point where the history of Christianity became essentially that of its parasite-that is to say.Temporaldistances arejust as excludedas semioticdifferencesbetweenthe elementsof this cult of meaning. as "cultreligion"and guilt religion. as the second featureof the capitalistrite." The capitalreligious structureguaranteesan immediacy of meaning.Benjamindescribesthis immediaterelationto the God of the cult [GS6: 100]. Benjamin emphasizes. and just as Christianitythat goes along and identifies with it. This transformationof Christianityinto capitalism. of value and its source.of the positing and maintainingof reasons.and that which is capitalist in Christianity. Capital Guilt History.Structural Thatwhich is "already of capitalism" recognizablein the presentin the religiousstructure is shown by Benjaminin threefeatures-and a fourththat lies in the unrecognizability of its God.thoughwithoutany special dogmas or theology. from religious form into economic form. Thatwhich is Christianin capitalism. just as all pagan cult religions that precede it. "only has meaning with immediate reference to the cult.of naturallife-and condemn to punishmentin order to make good on this debt and it."and.the sign is immediatelythe signified andits referent. which assigns a ratingin the salvationeconomy to every andpermitsno one to leave the nexus of value stancetakenandevery actionundertaken of an economic index to and meaning installedby its rituals.

from which the Reformation-and that of Mtinzerabove all-was meant to be the liberation."5 The identity. 88 . ThomasMiinzer.the rites of the salvation business offer an image of the undifferentiatedduration of the present.namely."But it is not only this observation that might be an echo of Bloch's one bindsthe two together. ForBloch. thefinal words read instead: " "introduced elementsofa new 'religion':thatof capitalismas religionand the church ofMammon [TM 143].only thepre-rationalwill to cultivate the worldseeks to appear to set value.' "Capitalism no day that would not be a holiday in the terrifyingsense of the unfolding of all of its sacralpomp. is the celebrationof a cult sans troveet sans merci.provoked in 1921 some scathing remarksfrom Bloch writesin Thomas entitled Miinzer. instead of "sans reve et sans merci" (as the editors of the collected works have read it). that "On Calvin and the Ideology of Money":"It is ultimatelyjust the record-keeping keeps company with God. anddespitethe severityof his formulation. of the most extremetension of the worshipper" [GS 6: 100].on the otherhand."capitalismas religion"is 4. and Bloch's thirdbook. in orderto give flourish and figurationto His majesty-in of God as 'theLord'of Handel'smajestic sucha way thateven Calvin'soriginalsentiment relaxationof a dead Sunday"[TM music quicklylet itself be reducedto the paradoxical 142]. Uwe Steinerhas plausibly suggested [156-57] that.however. It thereforerepresentsa regressionto the merely pseudo-Christian schema of guilt.4 At this point a shortexcursusrecommendsitself to consideranothertext from the same time. Bloch writes: "The content. understanding workethic as the sole purpose of thejustification.has been contractedinto the single point of their immediatecopresence.the one at the formulations: an even more important in end of his chapteron Calvin."and "the tension between the state of sin and the state of origin"-makes it likely that (or at leastthis chapter)when he wrotein "Capitalism Benjaminalreadyknew "Miinzer" as Religion"thatunderthe conditionsof the capitalreligion "therewould be no day that would not be a holiday in the terrifyingsense [.in the chapter Benjamin. (of divine commandments)-the only thing which but is instead can take referenceto in this case-is not a statutizedchurch-dogma. a text thatwas likewise mainly inspiredby Max Weberand which likewise ErnstBloch's ThomasMiinzer radicalizeshis connectingof capitalismandChristianity: as Theologian of the Revolution."as Benjaminalso calls it).And nothingthatis precisely the God-ordained beyond reason wishes to appear amidstsuch a skewedKantianism. the text should read "sans trove et sans merci": withoutrest and withoutmercy. however. Bloch's formulationhere-in combinationwith his commentaryon the "socialreligious homogeneityof life.butrather the "complete desertion" fromit. 5. where Bloch writes that the Reformation"inaugurated the end not merelythe misuse of Christianity.of the decisive formulation"capitalismas religion"in the texts of Bloch and Benjamin can easily draw attentionaway from the differences in their overall tendencies.. .the diagnosis"capitalism as religion"is a blatantmetaphorof the Calvinistic apostasy to the sataniccult of the profit rates of life. cf context].] of the most extremetension of the worshippers.. his judgment is nevertheless a moderateone: for the capitalism in question does not of Christianity into its representfor Bloch. butratherits complete desertionandeven elements of a new 'religion': of capitalismas religion and the true churchof Satan.Benjamin had entered into an amicable but critical relationshipwith Bloch even before the publicationof TheSpiritof Utopiain 1919." "theeliminationof the tensiontowardthe beyond. A thirdpoint of agreementbetweenBenjaminand Bloch lies in their suggestion that capitalism transformstheologyinto codes of conductand dogmas into the laws of the workethic. to determinetruthor to use the instrument of the mind" [TM 141-42.who readits typescript. as it does for Benjamin. Though Bloch identifies capitalism as a religion (and indeed as a "so-calledreligion.the metamorphosis trueform.For Benjamin.Thereis no 'weekday. In the revised version that has been in print since 1960.

thereis no "now"thatmight not be simultaneouswith any other"now". can only be dated at the end of 1921 at the earliest. whichwas thenonly later takenover by Bloch in his Miinzer. but the philosophical conception of time in the epoch from as religion"fromBloch (a possibilitythatstrongly 6.time has retiredinto its Sabbath. in which all time contracts itself and simultaneously strives for its return and for the further intensificationof its production. Capitalism'sever-lastingSunday is the perennialworkdayof surplusvalue and surpluslabor. especially in Switzerland. Benjaminwrites to Scholem: "Contactwith Bloch has been. The material connections.whichisolates the two textsfrom one another.thereis no "now"thatwould not be intentupon its returnin another.thus characterized. then thefragment." character thattime assumesin the capitalistreligion.and thus the suppositionwould not be inadmissiblethat at that time Benjaminhad alreadylaunchedthisformula. but areeternallyput to rest in the expectation of ever the same product. re-established. but ratherfrom theforce (or the weakness) by which they release themselves from this historyand come to standfor themselves. however.releasingthem from the guilt relationship and turning them in their independence (even if it is merely a possible one) into historical phenomena.a questionof who owes what to whom. on the "paradoxicalrelaxation of a dead Sunday.of which Benjamin it is "improperly says in "FateandCharacter" temporal. "no day thatwould not be a holiday.the same Sunday as the ever-unchanging final day. a matterof blame and indebtedness.6 Bloch's sentence. But this Sundayof Capitalisandhereinlies the paradoxof its relaxation-dead. on hisfirst visit.between Bloch's texts and Benjamin's-including the ambivalentrelationship betweentheirauthorsand the relatedquestionof the datingofBenjamin's sketch-should not be addressedhere without further opening the questionof whetherthis has to do with a historicalproblem in the emphaticsense-or whetherit is not. extendsthe end of historyinto the dead eternityof surplustime."In Bloch's religion of capitalism. becausein it the motionof production and self-productionnot only come to rest. Thereare sufficientsoundarguments for all threesuppositions.that the time of capitalis the time of the dead "now"as its own second coming as revenueand surplus. Machiavellistically naturally.none thatwould not itself standunderthe law of returnsand appear as the mere revenantof another"now. very carefully. This formulaof a "now"owing to another"now"characterizes not only capitaltime andthe time of the Capital Christianepoch.Thecompleteproofsof Miinzerwererecentlyhanded over to me." replicatingitself in yet another"now"that is equally deficient.the diagnostic formulaby which the essence of capitalismas well as of Christianityis defined. and in which the meaning and the goal of humanwork have become one with the workitself-so thatmoney-makingis God.The time of capital. as the present context suggests." This means.and thereforethe questioncannot be decided.And it is precisely this undecidability and the consequentnecessity of suspendingthe judgment. and I have startedreading"[GesammelteBriefe 212-13]. do not acquire theirgenuinelyhistoricalpregnancy(which is somethingcompletelydifferentthan the truthcontent of their diagnoses) out of the historyof their origination."And it itself is meanwhile only a deficient "now. whose terminusad quem is given by the editors as "the middleof 1921" [GS 6: 690].the day when God rests fromhis works and finds them good.It is the automatictime of a homogenouscontinuum. like all others. In a letterfrom November27." Every"now"owes itself another "now" and owes itself to another"now. and it does expressesthe particular so more forcefully-especially in light of Hegel's "Sundayof life" in which historyhas come to its end-than Benjamindoes when he says that therewould be no "weekday" underCapitalChristianity. If Benjamintooktheformula "capitalism suggests itself here). Thetexts. diacritics / fall-winter 2002 89 .whetherit be Bloch to Benjaminor Benjaminto Bloch-or maybethat neitherowes the otherfor an insight.The permanentholiday of capitalismconsists in the ritualeffortsto celebratethis holiday always once again and at the same time ever more festively.as re-now and over-now. In the time of capital. 1921. however. Therehad also however been very intense conversationsbetween Benjaminand Bloch long before 1921. however.

thatit produces.accumulates. . Withthis traitof the religion of capital. This is the third and the decisive trait.only because it functions by accruingguilt.In this respect.it is both of these."Predestination.like all ambiguityfor Benjamin. .becauseit offersthe vaguesign of something undecided or undifferentiated.and guilt religion.andtherefore 123].reaches for the cult [. "Monstrous consciousness of guilt. guilt designate.the domination In of the "demonic Schuld and the concept of Verschuldung. unable to find atonement.and universalizes guilt. descendancy. guilt Under the conditions of the capital. Theterrifying pointof the doctrine but a doctrine of fate-lies precisely in the fact that its God died exclusively for the elect "towhom He had resolved in all eternityto contributeHis sacrificialdeath"[DpE abouthis stateof grace. So Weberwrites.And thus it is all the more decisive for Benjamin'sanalysis that the extent and the logic of the logic thatprovidesfor the turbulencesaroundthe hollow this fusion be determined: center of this religion. Capitalismis not only a cult and a permanent both cult and permanent.andeverydebtin guilt. so as to finally interestHim in atonement"[GS 6: 100-01].] in orderto make it universal [.of its economic.butratherto makethe guilt universal-to hammerit into the conscious mind and finally and above all to include God Himself in this guilt.and affectiveguilt (Schuld)andby which everyguilt manifestsitself in debts.this is indicatedby his referenceto Weber'streatises is the disenchantment of Ascetic Protestantism"). by God Himself-have been of predestination-whichis in factnothing withdrawn. through sacraments. "Demystification" (presumablyabove all "TheWork-Ethic was introducedby Calvinism'smethodicalexclusion of sacramental magic as a means of salvation."its history is improperlyhistorical. according to Weber. temporal. . It is the ambiguity."the utterguilt of God" ForBenjaminthe starting pointfor the universaldominanceof guilt in recentChristianity of the world.reachesfor the cult not to find atonement. as well as by the silent eliminationof the sacramentof penitence in the form of private confession. at the pointwhen he speaksof the "demonic ambiguityof this concept"[GS 6: 102].]. there is no liberation.namely. in turn:"A monstrousconsciousness of guilt.Aristotle to Hegel and beyond: it describes the negativity of the "now" that is now Andjust as the time of this epoch is "improperly alreadypast andpassedon into another.its religious system exists in the downfallof a monstrousmovement. frozen in the reproductionof the everunchanging schema of debt and debt-increasing compensations. and Benjamin.butthatnot one of the elect canreachcertainty 90 . the fusion now emergeswith greaterclarity. ambiguity" itself attests to the that it should thus and continuallybegets itself. He writes:"Capitalism cult thatproducesguilt ratherthanatonement. . consisting in the relaxationof a dead Sunday. Calvinism thereby withheld.with respect to which man has not yet secured his freedom-freedom lying in decision alone-and in which he thereforeleaves himself of etio-economic at the mercyof the forcesof provenance andsuccession.Benjaminhimself pointsto fusion as an aspect existing withinthe conceptof Schulditself.A monstrousconsciousness of guilt. moral.juridical-and to this extentmoral-and psychologicalaspects."The guilt becomes universalbecause every means of influencingit-whether by the devout. through the church.emphasizedby Benjaminin the essentially religious structure of is probablythe first case of a this economic form and life form. unableto find atonement. all possibility of relief from the sinful conscience: "Themeans of a periodic 'workingoff' (Abreagieren)of an affectively chargedconsciousness of guilt were done away with" [DpE 124]." "paradoxical cult of immediacy.This ambiguity is demonic.by which financial debts (Schulden)always serve as an index of legal.

. of retribution and restitution. this God is sheer guilt in the sense of aition. or relief. however. "Capitalism as religion"supposes "God as guilt.As if by the wave of a magic wand.This guilty consciousness is denied all predestination whether in confession. Since He is nothing but His relation to Himself. A God who must inalterably follow His own decision is subject to a relation within Himself that is one of cause and result-therefore a relationship of guilt and indebtedness. no matterhow much He may have sacrificed Himself for the guilt of the world.. the God of self."Marx comments on "the system of public credit. Such a consciousness cannot even find liberationin God: for God.andworldfoundationin will-He is a God who stands in a relation of guilt toward Himself.andHe thereforecannoteven come under considerationas the redeemer of this creation and must remain guilty. Weber's curt sentence-"No one could help him" [DpE 122]--characterizes the world of as one of ultimatemercilessness.nor is it a merely affective state that determinesthe entire emotional structureof the society of the capital religion. God's guilt.which is to say: into money thatrealizes itself and multiplies itself.must remain perpetually incarcerated in the consciousness of guilt. The doctrine thus claims that He owes it to Himself to carry out His decision-that He relates to Himself as to a causa sui. that He owes Himself to Himself and is therebyguilty of the guilt of His followers-of those who are indebtedto Him.the deeperit goes into debt. Predestinationis predestinationthroughGod.the process by which God becomes guilty-and indebted-is at the same time an economic fact. "Hence. in the case of capital. Under whatever guise one wishes to consider the God of predestination-that is.somethingthat is more than it is is first of all the bare.butfirstandabove all regarding His own decision. Following this diacritics / fall-winter 2002 91 . semblanceof capital.e. Public credit becomes the credo of capital [. condemningthe history of Christianity and all of its practicesto be a historyof guilt." The climax of the guilt consciousness characteristic of CapitalChristianity is thus reachedin the conviction that God Himself is guilty. debt endows it into capital [."accordingto Marx. or in the ostentationof financial freedom from debts. and that He is thus made guilty by His original resolve.]" [K unproductive money with generativepower and thus transforms 782]. not as muchwith respectto everythingover which He decided. it is the thoroughlyproductiveand over-productive capitaldebt. A God who exists purely in His decision must behave with absolute indifferencetowardeverythingtemporalHe created. still remains indebted-and thereforeguilty-with respectto His own will and His decision. it is also less thanitself. But. though utterlyeffective. entitled "The So-Called OriginalAccumulation.Moreover. since.]" [K 782].. that has not been technically conceptualizedby Weber(who in any case uses the concept of guilt with conspicuous rarity)butrather by Marx. i. as well as the resulting irremediability and unredeemability of the world and the universal guilt consciousness of His faithful. even in the most zealous efforts at "sanctity by good works" [DpE 133]. in the measurein which it is more thanitself. is no longer just a gloomy theologoumenon. of causa. He essentially defines Himself as the one who does nothing but sacrifice Himself to Himself in all eternity.and second. because it is essentially predestination within God. of the laying of blame. ratio andfundamentum as well as in the sense of debitumand of culpa. of state debts":"Thepublic debt becomes one of the most energetic levers of original accumulation. The doctrineof predestination statesas its final consequence(one thatis seldom stated) that God is not at liberty to reverse or suspend a decision that He once made."themodern doctrineis perfectlyconsequent.In the twenty-fourth chapterof the seventhsection of Capital. always turningitself into more money-and thus into more money thanit actuallyis. The public debt turnsmoney into capital. guilty towardHimself and for Himself as His own determiningcause. .thata people becomes all the richer. one.

it begets money and money and money.GeorgesSorel writes in his Rdflexionssur la violence from 1908: "therightof debt-relationsrules every advanced capitalism" [207]. Adam Muillerin his Twelve Speeches on Eloquencefrom 1816: "economicmisery [.for which thereis no forgiveness. Money is artificialand alive. greaterthan itself' is the productionformula of the "automatic of the generationof God out of nothing. the fatheras well.into a privaterelationship value from itself as addedvalue.exploitation. because money has become cannibal"[144-45].as soon as the son has been producedby the father.7 or "credited" The mechanicsof debt-of "advanced" money-compose the process by itself into surplusvalue-which is what defines value as value which value transforms is the process of a god's genesis out of something to begin with. the only idol [der einzige Gotze].Thusfor Marxthe "credo the formula subject. .Only from the surplusvalue of ?10 does an advanceof ?100 become capital-and as soon as this has happened.referring "Theonly thing ever cast in a mould [der einzige Gegossene].."capital'sfaith in capitalitself.which humanseverbroughtintobodily existence is money [Geld].' andRelatedMatters.value now with itself. it has all of the powers of the world. "money that is instantly more value that is money. a credo quia absurdum be confessed only in the absence of what is believed in. This is somethingthatis underscored always polemical-fashion in all of the works that Benjamin makes note of in his fragment. just as God the Fatherfrom Himself as God the Son. Uwe Steineralso makes referenceto this passage in his essay [see footnote 5].. This transformation that is not-a theogeny out of self-incurreddebts.the only god [dereinzige Gott]. as value's "private that can relationshipwith itself.so to speak. It is a credo in which capitalGod the Fatherin unity with His son-confesses its own debit:I owe myself myself. 8.it is a theogeny out of credit.infidelityagainst economy andreligion: debttakesthe place of the sin againstthe Holy Spirit... [.8 And finally Nietzsche. ] from now on-since every deed and every action has become expressed in money-pours itself over posterityin heavy and always heavier masses of debt" [68]. 92 . 7. even thoughboth are of the same age and in fact form only a single person. because money has become God." of a moralization.] We are beggars and simpletons and fools. but not his Zarathustra. in particular HereNietzsche speaks its treatiseon "'Guilt. so that it the 'creditor' turns"against [Gldiubiger]"-which is to say. And Gustav Landauerin his Call to to an etymologicalsuggestionof FritzMauthner: Socialismfrom 1911and 1919."that is abbreviated as of interest-bearing capital "money-more money". It is instead. theirdifferencevanishesagainandthey become one. Money.and throughthe son. ?110" [K 169].to which Benjaminalludes in the fragment with the conceptof the UObermensch. a creditthat is itself drawnfrom unpaidlabor.preeminentlyin the form of capital. and murder. by suggesting national rise of national the "And with the debts. The general formulaof in "thelapidarystyle" value "money-commodity-more money. againstGod:"Inthis process. I have correctedthepeculiar misprint(thus also rectifyingthe credit reductionimposed) in the text of the edition cited." of capital" is not the tradesman'sfaith in capital." What appearshere as a sacramentalprocess of an indebtingthat endows capital with of money into capitalas a generativeprocess productivityappearsin the transformation within God Himself: "Insteadof representingthe relationsof commodities. where the capital sum is namedas ?101.of a backwardsturn and reversal in the concept of guilt.is not only a god thatmakes guilty but in a more or less analytic-but also a guilty god.And more precisely.credo from seculareconomic creditinto the sacramental formulaof the metamorphosis in the and its implicit diagnosis thatcapitalismbecomes structurally phase of religious a further contraction of Marx continues its "original"accumulation.legalized under the laws of the privileged. It differentiates itself as original enters. theft.colonization. but in the 1887 Genealogyof Morals.' 'Bad Conscience.

.&' M ..h ?I? :46 . . ' . ....

of the beginning of the human race. as yearningtoward nothingness . since The Genealogyof Moralsis introduced as "the supplementand clarification" to Beyond Good and Evil. the formula 977]. .9 The divine creditorsacrifices himself not only for his debtor. Nietzsche suggests an understanding of capitalismas a religion-and moreover as a of an religion guilt-and understandingof religion-more precisely the Christian religion-as capitalism. 9. out of love to his debtor!. "in orderto finally interestHim in atonement.If this thoughtis combinedwith the suspicionthatthis "creditor" may also be "existenceitself. First." Even if the conceptsof "capital" and"capitalism" aremissingin Nietzsche'sanalysis. and the ultimateBeing. . nor in the reformationof this religion. is nothingotherthanmaximaculpa.Benjamindraws the consequencethat "GodHimself' is being includedin this guilt. the highest instancewho alone would be able to offer the atonement. .) [.] until we stand at once before that paradoxicaland horrifying result [.According to Marx.477]. . nor in its renunciation" sentence the overall tendency of Benjamin'sreflections is indicatedby the refusal of three conceivable alternatives." Like the formulasofferedby Bloch andBenjamin.. Neither is any liberationto be expected from the merely immanentmotions within the system of guilt. the formulaof moral-economictheology reads: God not only owes somethingto someone.]-of existence itself..but actually owes him this sacrifice. since God. In this something solid within the religion itself.one would think simultaneouslyof the causa prima of man.is subjectto guilt.primaculpa-this is Nietzsche's diagnosis. as long as the constitutiveprincipleof this system exhaustsitself in being at fault and owing.andit makeshim evaluate as an "executioner's and a "backdoor into nothingness"[N 2: Christianity metaphysics" of asceticism and as nihilism. . . Beyond Good and Evil is also cataloged (assigned with the number722) in Benjamin's list of bookshe had read. much less any higher. but He also owes Himself to Himself-and this is the only way thatHe can "be"out of His "non-being. and thereforeunfree.. of his progenitor[. the summum ens.accordingto Nietzsche.]-the creditorsacrificingHimself to his debtorout of love (can one believe it?). there is little doubt-just as little as in Marx's christologicalcredit formula or in the inheritanceof debt observed by Adam Miiller or Landauer'spolemical etymologythat the causal relation describedby Weber is insufficient in its determinationof the terms"Christianity" and"capitalism. which remains left over as valuelessness in itself (as the nihilisticturningaway fromexistence. Primacausa. 94 .instanceof debt resolution. Also.God paying Himself off to Himself [. an atonement of the system of guilt that has assumed world-historical proportionsin the religion of capital is-despite the promise of redemptionthat this system never ceases to make-not possible withinthis religion. Christianity'sstroke of genius: God sacrificing Himself for the guilt of humans. Dead End History Out of the materialand the argumentsthus prepared by these authors. a particularly debitummaximum thatcannotbe restituted-because thereis no further. as rationalization of politico-economictheologyreads:God producesHimselfout of His own credit(never to be covered). it is plausible to assume that both of these texts were knownto Benjamin. ." then the conclusion is unavoidable:thatExistence itself.1.Nietzsche's textappears in the vicinityof threeof the other textsthatare cited in "Capitalism as Religion"[GS 7.This atonementthus cannotbe expectedfrom withinthe cult itself." [N 2: 83233]. .]. which would need to be able to hold onto [GS 6: 101]..

and thus the burningthorn-bush. not to be expected from a reformationof this religion. Renunciation as well.The formula of this double exclusion-"neither within nor without"-contains a hint. If these three alternativesto the guilt relationonly perpetuatethis relation. because every reformation-which would necessarily amountto a reformationof the effortsas they were undertaken.as to where this sought-afterliberationmay neverthelessbe possible. Neither inside nor outside of it would a historybe possible thatis not guilt history. the paper blossom on the beloved thorn-bushof capitalism"[41-42]. Socialism is supposedto produceitself out of the automatismof capitalism's own motion. The possibility of liberation from guilt can thus only be located at the very extremeof guilt."And order clarify theologicalconnotationof this metaphor Landauercontinues: "Marxism-the absence of all spirit. And therefore even the renunciationwould remainguilty before this religion and indebtedto it.the bitter emblem of the theophanyof capital. Landauer titles it in his Call to Socialism. by social-democraticand socialist politics would have to find a starting pointin an elementof the capitalcultandits economicandpsychosocialstructures thatwould be free of guilt-or which mightat least have some prospectfor the liberation fromguilt. and therebyinterpretshistory in the age of capital religion as debt history. As long as of guilt retainsthe slightestbit of dependence-guilt is dependencepar the renunciation excellence-the renunciationwill only intensify the guilt and will fail to allow any liberationfrom it.' [.The socialism projectedby Marxcan only become a more advancedstate in the debt history of capital. must fail to accomplish the atonement. since. as Benjaminwrites. because no renunciationcould avoid having the cult as its cause and speakingthe language of the cult. diacritics / fall-winter 2002 95 . however. one that still participatesin myth while declaringits independencefrom it. and economic form resulting from the dynamic progression of debts in capitalism. in to the of 'blooming. but it is Marx: "One prognosticated by Karl Marx's real opinion: that Capitalism develops socialism out of unquestionably The socialist mode of production'blooms'out of capitalism and itself. completely totally. secondly. a social in Benjamin'sestimation(which is closely relatedto thatof GustavLandauer).referringto the socialism "Capital-socialism" is stunned by such exemplary nonsense. Reformation-and all reformatory Protestant especially in Benjamin's time.and innermostlimit upon which guilt is no longer itself and yet is nothing otherthan itself: where it is-as guilt-freed of itself. Renunciation remainsan ambiguousrelationship(demonically ambiguous. nor from outside of it. "the capitalismthat does not turnback will become socialism by way of the simple and compoundinterestthat are the functionsof debt" [GS 6: 101-02].]. .as Benjaminmight say).placing the accent on the structureof indebtingthat grantsthe continuitybetween capitalism and socialism.then a liberationis not to be expected from within its system. He interpretsthe historical process that transformsthe one mode of productioninto the other as a debt progressionaccordingto the metaphorsof interest and compoundinterest.Atonement is. then it is possible in a place-and only here-where these relations have reached an extreme that belongs neitherto these relationsthemselves nor to their outside.Even the Marxistvariantof socialismrepresents.Such a notion depends on the idea that it froma positionexternalto the guilt structurewouldbe possibleto utterthe renunciation or else thatthe renunciationwould be able to introducea division within the structure. If an end to the history of guilt accumulationis possible neither out of its own norby its reform. is for Landauerthe only place where the socialism projectedby Marx can blossom.then the only furtherpossibility of a liberationfrom internalstructure this history seems to lie in its renunciation.But thereis no such element.. Benjaminuses the same argument. This extremewould be the outer. If it is possible neither within the guilt relationsof the capitalreligion nor withoutthem. however. which is precisely that of accusation and indictment.

" 96 . no less than in the passages about guilt andfate. This loneliness and despairmay well be understood with referenceto the relevantdescriptionsin Weberof the emotional devastationimposed by Calvinism. as despair and as loneliness. without ever Absolutesurplusvalue.Havingdismissed every way out of the bind of history. guilt in itself-and emergebothfroma historywhose "ultimate category"is guilt." everydetailof every"human destiny.of the "passageof the planetof man throughthe house of despair in the absolute loneliness of his course" [GS 6: 101].absolute beingableto tie thisvalueto anyactualvalue-equivalent.Ruinationof Being Benjamin'sremarksmove througha descriptionof the aporiasof guilt in orderto reach the most extreme aporia. collapsing in such a way thatthe system thathad maintained includedin its ruin. ThoughKierkegaardremains unnamed in Benjamin'sfragment. and to Kierkegaard's mental illness unto death. language. nothing credit.the unheard-of character of capitalism. in Nietzsche's GenealogyofMorals. debts of His faithful. The system of capitalistreligion is pantheisticto the exact point that it is schizo-theistic:the world and every humanin it is God in His despair. are the structural consequencesfrom the universalizedsystem of debt andthereforeof guilt in relationto the causaprima-that is. This same "completeindebting is but and God but nothing capital.God being in both instancescapital:God is the uncoveredcredit from which capital takes its start-and the uncovered surplusvalue that it never ceases to producein every cycle of the circulationof goods." the universalization This statedetermines stateof the world. Benjaminwrites: "It lies in the natureof the religious movementcalled capitalism. in a pathosladen astrologicalmetaphor. The point at which "Godhas finally become utterlyguilty and utterlyindebted"correspondsto the place of exposed credit in Marx'sstructural analysis of capital. debts. he has been includedin the destiny of man"[GS 6: 101]. in His split from Himself. But he is not dead. to the self-tormentsof conscience under ascetic characterization of despairas a ideals as describedby Nietzsche."and deeperthanAdam. This is the historically unprecedented.determiningthem all as guilt. in which the process of guilt accumulationcollapses upon this process is itself itself. to God's takingover the of God"also corresponds. and out of a political-economictheology thatculminatesin "theutter guilt of God." including every force and institutionin which humanstake part.The process by which God is "made utterly indebted" is not restricted to a process internal to Him as a transcendentbeing or a transcendental idea: it makes transcendenceitself guilty and in the process of God's despair. history. e. whose instance-then indeed His "transcendence" fall was still ordainedand caughtby a God. and morality that is structuredaccording to this highest has "fallen."If God himself becomes guilty-along with everythingin economy and society. In the treatise by the same title. God Himself has fallen from Himself in an 10. untilGod has finally become utterlyguilty-to the pointwherea conditionof the worldis achievedthatis totaldespair.10Both solitude and despair.to hold out untilthe very end. eli.reformistas well as renunciatorysolutions. referring thereby to Nietzsche's Ubermenschand his astrologicalimages. however. lama sabachtani.and it is at bringsaboutthe ruin of all transcendentalia of this despairuntil it becomes "the the same time the "expansion. he leaves traces throughout:in the referencesto despair fear and loneliness. Kierkegaard defines "sicknessunto death" as despair "worries" in his sketch as "the mental illness belonging to the epoch of Benjamin speaks of capitalism" [GS 6: 102]. something which is precisely hoped for. It is for this reason that Benjamincan speak. thatreligionis notthereformof beingbutits ruination: the expansion of despairto the religious condition of the world-a state from which salvationis to be expected." and to the godlessness of God in the world historyof His credit. God's transcendencehas fallen.i. to the godforsakennessof God in His "eli. as well as in the "demonicambiguity.

withoutcompare. inaccessible andunheard in whichexperienceconfrontssomethinginexperienceable.unsuccessful. "ForGod to become utterlyguilty" chargethusdoes not addressan "utterly" can only mean thatHe is guilt in and of Himself. and that it is the event of the devastationof being. "historicallyunprecedentedand unheardof' (das historisch It is not only a singularevent withoutprecedent.In this case. is infinitely more-and therefore infinitely less-than it is. is Benjaminable to reachthe most fully expounded and the strictest conclusion of his sketch: that "the historical unprecedentednessof capitalism"lies in its being a "religion that is no longer the reform of being but its ruination. responsibleand liable for Himself as the one who is not only incomplete.does not save Him. the self-annihilation ens-reaches the extreme historical. perceivedby no one. God's guilt must lie.one thatresistshearingandeveryotherdistinctsensoryexperience of and every concept. even to itself-an occurrence The ruinationof being broughtaboutby the CapitalChristiancult of guilt. the ruination of the summum of the value of all values. since He "hasbeen includedin the destiny of man"-and therebycollapsed into a networkof guilt that is worse thandeath. this God of fallen and split transcendence. Only by being "historicallyunheardof' can capitalismat its zenith turninto a historical.drivingHim to division anddespair. This devastationof being in capitalism.He can be this or from time to time. set up as a capital value. a being split off from itself and splitting." point in the mythical nexus of guilt. that He is guilt in itself as a guilt that has not yet been and never can be resolved.a reasonthatannihilates itself. not having it at His disposal and thus not being his being. and unheard event. and be called historicalin the emphaticsense of thatwhich escapes sense andthe senses.experience and action that demonstratesthat being. This guilty God.The splittingin and "a secret.severingHim from auto-apostasy His own community.or mistaken-but who is utterlylacking.then"thebecoming utterlyguilty of God" means that He is the cause of His own nonbeing.if this despair were not also the despairof God in everythingthat defines itself throughHim." Religious capitalismis the structureof thought. the isolation of a God who no longer has "everything" anything in common with Himself and who has lost even the minimal company with Himself.a singularevent. Only out of this highly paradoxical reason.thatHe is guilty. The isolation within this must also be God's isolation.institutions. thatbeing is somethingtoto coelo otherthanitself. as Benjamin emphasizes.but it is a literallyunheard UnerhYrte).in His being His own nonbeing-and thus in not being. if it is to determineHim in His entirety. it can offer itself neitheras an empiricalnor as an ideal object of knowledge."because an entitythathas God.isolating Him even from Himself. Despair would not be able to become "the state of the world" at the end of history. ThereforeBenjamin. thatit is a ruinedbeing. He would be capableof other more ideal creationsand would thus become guilty of not correspondingwith His own ideal. is "inaddressable" been explodedinto discontinuouspieces can have no access to itself andbarsall external access. since no being can be attributed to it. and nondiscursiveexperiences affected by it. its annihilation. Unheardof as the ontological ruin is. The accusation againsta God who does not live up to His abilities is an accusationmade againsta God who is guilty only in part-and in partinnocent or at least capable of innocence.If being guilty meansbeing the cause of a nonbeing. is.discourses. That He is not dead. What.ruiningitself. cause not by withholdingbeing from Himself merely arbitrarily but ratheronly if he cannot but withhold it.then. which can only be called "improperly and rupturesits network:the devastationof being is the opening of history. the ruinationof being. does it mean for God to "finallybecome utterlyguilty"-die endliche Gottes?It cannotmean thatHe is the prime moverand cause of a v5llige Verschuldung deficient creation.after indicatingthe three traitsof "thereligious structure diacritics / fall-winter 2002 97 . in Capital Christianityand in all of the structures.

Scholem's apodictic claim of the "dismissive judgment" does indeed correspond with the sharp tone of Benjamin's characterizations elsewhere. accomplishments.allow for the possibility thatthis guilt may become eliminable as soon as it is made absolutein God. somethingwhich is still being hoped 11. of His A structural secret. Benjaminfinds in Freudian psychoanalysis the structure of the capital divinity indicated-and simultaneouslydisavowed. capital itself. and onlyfrom it wouldit be possible to say how Benjaminactually "passed judgment"on Freud'stheoryof drives. and political-economic thinking. needs to add the fourth trait of capitalism.Such a conceptiondoes not. If this comment is combined with the mythological note on "Pluto. but Scholem'sassessmentwouldbe unfairto theacknowledged historicalimportance ofpsychoanalysis for Benjamin.every representation and thoughtof it damages the secret of its fruition"[GS 6: 101].He recognizedin the Freudian"unconscious"(as in Nietzsche's Ubermensch)one of the signaturesof the era of the zenith of guilt. however. very dryly. Until its maturityis achieved-which may mean the state of its separationfrom "natural" connections and above all from "itself'-the of the divinity of the cult of guilt mustbe kept secret in orderto preservethe "mystery" ripening process. in WalterBenjamin:The Story of a Friendship: sat (1917/1918) in a seminaron Freudtaughtby Hiiberlin. by a most profound analogy that remains to be illuminated. "Its fourthtraitis that [capitalism's]God must be kept secret.Benjamin's nothingness-and wouldtherefore assessmentcould indeed find supportin the Freudiantheoremof originaryrepression. theological. to the point where a conditionof the world's total despairis achieved.the unrecognizabilityof its God. as well as in the ethno-psychologicalmyth of the murderof the primalfather. This "secret"can be none other than the secret of His guilt. GershomScholem notes.the sinful imagination.In the Freudian diagnosis-at least as Benjaminwould have it-the concept of guilt and the process of its accumulationare consolidated as the indissolublefundamentof all social andreligiousrelations. in capitaland its religion. and the hell of the unconscious draws interest on it" [GS 6: 101].a murder leadsto anunconscioussense of guiltthatmotivatessubsequent cultural which.repressed. the unconsciouswho is also "thegod of wealth. Ruinationof Being. 98 ."the god of the underworld-of hell.is. passed in Benjamin'spresentationwas a dismissive one" [75].But just as in the case of Marx and of Nietzsche. but also to the most advanced "psychological"theory that he was aware of: to that of psychoanalysis. until God has finally become utterly guilty. it belongsfor Benjaminnot only to the realmof ontological." Like Marx.The cult is celebratedbefore an unripedivinity.At thattimeFreud'stheory "Benjamin Thejudgment of driveswas Benjamin'stopicfor an extensivelyelaboratedresearch-presentation. Only in the zenith of His guilt may He firstbe addressed." Benjamindeclares:"The repressed. sanctionthe religion of guilt in theirtheories-instead of recognizing in its course the elements of its demise.whichmustcarryits own forgetting deficitary beingandHis nonbeing. Thepresentationthat Scholem refersto has been lost. presumablyKierkegaard."then it suggests thatGod is unconscious.Freudtoo is countedamongthose who Nietzsche. The "Freudian theory"thereforefalls underBenjamin'sverdict that it is "completelycapitalisticallyconceived" and belongs "to the ruling priesthood of the cult. in nothing but absence and nothing but offerno possibleobjectfor consciousness. andWeber. the first and most deeply repressed idea consisting in nothing but guilt and failure. Reversal Benjaminmaintainsthatit correspondsto the essence of capitalismas religion to "hold out to the very end. or "repression" alongwith it.He is a sinful imagination and even the most sinful one.of capitalism"that are recognizable in the present.

then the "hope"that Benjamin speaks of would have no object and would be unable to "still"direct itself-"precisely" now-toward this end. He is life12. which states that guilt is "the null cause of a void" (nichtiger Grundeines Nichts).It wouldneed to be tested.Thisdefinitionalso attests to a proximityto the issue that concernsBenjaminin the text in question.in Heidegger's reflectionsbearing the title "Whois Nietzsche's Zarathustra?." to displace the end from its end.is the "achievedconditionof despair"-achievedhere andnow. is not yet God. in the historicalinstantof his analysisof the cult of guilt-in a moment that is simultaneouslythe one in which capital-Christian "God has become utterly guilty" at "the end" of the cult. therefore.for" [GS 6: 101]." but this does not in any way exclude the possibility that he also experiences his being as privation. He is still lacking.a completelysober thought. and Freud--among the "ruling priesthoodof the cult" of guilt. but from the logic developed already(of the "completeguilt of God"andof the "zenithof His guilt"andthe "ruination of being"). Heidegger's definition. being withoutbeing.He is also the "nonguilt. a mistake).rupturing the state of the world and the God who has mergedwith it. without nothing-and even a nothing without the "without"of a nothing. however. The situation is different. but rather a turning away from guilt that emerges out of guilt's own immanentmotion.is led neither by "faith"nor by any kind of confessional sentiment."leads thereforein the end to the "turn-around" (Umkehr)namedthree times in Benjamin'ssketch. and this for reasons pertaining to the material itself Among these reasons (which cannot be presented here in anything approachingtheirfull extent). the formal shape of this motion can be sketched: God is guilt in itself. He is guilty of Himself. in Benjamin'stime.lack. This division. Thespecific conclusionsdrawnby way of Benjaminin the present essay would at any rate have been quite distantto the Heideggerof Being andTime. Since this this despairmust"still"continue hope. cannot be belittled in light of its withthese unfinished materialdifferences thoughtsofBenjamin. a defect. therefore. a deficiency. is not cited here just for the sake of its accuracy. considering the importanceof the problem of guilt for both authors.As this "nonbeing" however. but. Benjamin does not comment furtheron this motion of despair's reversal. as such a cause. Whatis hoped for. 62]. then He is the cause of a "nothing" (of a lack. whetherthe implicitpositivization of the "nothing"(which is to be achieved in the distinctionbetween existentialnothingnessand the nothingnessof simple absence) hindersHeidegger in Being and Timefrom even considering the thoughtof an ex-cusation (Ent-schuldung). lack. redemption[cf Vortriige diacritics / fall-winter 2002 99 ." If God is nothingbut guilt. Which is to say: He owes Himself Himself.Benjaminwould presumablynot have hesitatedfor a second to count Heidegger-like Marx. or absence (assumingthat these modes were those of a world conditionor of a god).punctual though it may be. and can only be God so long as He actually is not God. It is a reversalthat is not metanoia or penitence. splittingthe "now"of the historicalmoment. the despairof or reversal God in His "finalutterguilt.This thought.AndHeidegger'sdefinitioncannot be ignored here."a text that speaks of the temporal structure of revenge and the possibility of undAufsfitze102-03]. He is. which is itself a "nothing"(a lack. Umkehris guilt's "own"turningagainst itself.however.guiltily. He is thereforethe "null cause of a void. His own "not"and nonbeing.directsitself in the end toward"despair. Heidegger's definition from Being and Time [?? 58. a mistake). God mustbe just as much To be the cause of a "nothing" be guilty withoutguilt. Nietzsche. nothing He must the cause as no cause at all. however. In the present analysis. Theone who is despairingorfearful may be his own "not." "the vain and inane reason of a 'nothing"'(nichtiger Grundeines Nichts)-and thus neithercause nor guilt. one shall be named withoutfurther existentialguiltiness (Schuldigsein)as the constitutionof being (Dasein) cannot argumentation: be distinguishedby a "nothing"in a way thatwouldmaintainterminologicalprecision and at the same time be differentiable from other modes of privation. But if this end were thus alreadyreached.Heidegger'sformula is not used within the limits of its own context. or rapture.12 andnothingbutthis cause.

Withoutreferenceto empiricaldata. then as His own cause. TheLogic of the Recoil Already as early as 1918. but ratherto a "nothing"-it is an original negation that remainsindependentfrom any position. and if this guilt is His own "nothing. In the logic of the indefinite(of the adriston).It is mere debit.In the infinitejudgment. At this point. and He is God-but before and beyond every causa prima and causa sui.but no naturalone. as the uncauseandas the anetiologicalfact of freedoma freedom this side of guilt and one that first opens up the possibility to be guilty and allows for a freedomin which guilt is no longer subjectto restitutionbutto forgiveness.as such. Cohen's text had broughtthe ex nihilo to new esteem by using an operational'nothing'as the starting pointin whathe called "thelogic of origin": "On the detour of the 'nothing."gives outalongwith this historyitself. is a God who owes Himself to Himself as the one who is at fault for Himself. The logic of this reversal-of "thecapitalismthat turnsaround"[GS 6: 101]. God. And likewise capital: it is advance. and therebyfor the first time actuallybroughtinto productionand determination" [LrE89].it is inequivalence and credit-debt.that serves (like the alphaprivativumandthe me in Greek)as the index for a "nothing" in which the "something" of being can first find its determination. and.Cohenrehabilitates the "infinite judgment"in orderto make it purelogic's originalmeans of knowledge. so that the creditorbecomes the total debtor in his most nakedpoverty.' judgment representsthe origin of the 'something'" [LrE84]. The reversalmust insteademerge from guilt itself. The infinitejudgmentconsists in the annihilationof a "nothing. this history's "ultimatecategory. Guilthistoryis thusa motionin nihilo-into the nothingness of guilt and its divinity-just as it emerges ex nihilo. thisjudgmentdefines a "something" of something by the negation(or even annihilation) that(it) is not. He is therebyHis own "nothing"-and in this nothing also His own not-guilt:if He is guilty of Himself.Only by this immemorialannihilation being be achieved. it would be a system of absoluteguilt-but never its absoluterestitution. surplus value beyond the value by which it would be able to representinvested labor and raw materials. as an ethics of absoluteowing in the formof obligations to be fulfilled. in the ontology of the infinite (of the dpeiron and the anhypitheton [LrE 86-88]). and in the mathematicsof the infinitesimal[LrE89-90]. Benjaminmust have been familiarwith HermannCohen's Logic of Pure Knowledge.A = non-B always meansabove all:A = non-nihil. also evoked in the metaphorof the "zenith"of the accumulationof guilt-clearly cannot follow any prescriptivemoralitythatwould seek to hold the "turnaround" to some kind of ideal of behavior. This negationdoes not referto some particular thatprecedes "something" it. it is the in. and it can do so only at the pinnacle where it separatesfrom itself andturnsagainstitself. "So it is. out of the nothingnessof God and the "nothing" of guilt.Thusthe infinitejudgment(whichplaces a "not"againstnothingness) containsthe preontologicalorigin of being. thoughtof in the extremeof His despairat "thezenith"of the cult of capital.Such a moralityis of the kind thatlies at the base of Christianity in its capitalistmode. "thatthe so-called (but by no means thus understood)'nothing' becomes the operativemeans by which each and every 'something' in question is broughtinto its origin."then as the ongoing absenceof this cause. worldhistorystrikes against a "nothing"upon which guilt. 100 ." in the repulsionof a of a "nothing" can the "something" of privation.unableto coverhimself with a banknoteor bill-and which is thusneither credit nor debit." writes Cohen. In this context.

practiced retribution itself.If God has."turnsCohen'soperational of logical early sketchon "Capitalism "nothing" which a historical in into and back turn capitalism knowledge "nothing" Christianity into theirhistoricalorigin. This forgiveness must extend through all of guilt history. then it also bringsabout.a history of guilt and guilt's deletion.in its extreme. the infinitesimaland the intensivebetweenKant."' as by Religion" projected "Capitalism Timeas a Stormof Forgiveness The "utterguilt" of capital's divinity is thus the ultimatemomentof a jump back to its the "not"of guilt.but they must neverthelessboth relate to each other. the annihilationof His guilt and His nothingness:It operatesandeffectuates. the origin where it becomes the "not"of a "nothing." historicalreduction studies on as well his work on the art of Kant as theory the earlyRomantics Benjamin's on madehim familiarwith speculations the creatioex nihilo. a specialization friendGerhard Scholemwas at thattimepursuing in calculus (Benjamin's as a part of his study of mathematics. doctrineof the self-emptyingof God in the Zimzum.The "ruination the cult of capitalcan be understoodas the ruinationof a privativebeing in guilt. Outof the Christianity in Messianism of the its the self-devastation. Neither of these can be reducedto the other.)Meanwhile. if the guilt The decisive relationbetween them can once again only lie in a "nothing": history is precisely a history of annihilation-as "thedevastationof being"-then it is at the same time the history of the annihilation of history. as Benjaminsays.the infinite judgment in its theo-economic form.a shorttime later.alreadyin the as Religion." diacritics / fall-winter 2002 101 .but ratheras an economic self-annihilationof the guilt system-as its to its originin the differential of the "not-guilt" andthe "not-nothing. however.butthatof guilt's annihilation. throughthe presentationon Maimonidesin Salomon Maimon'sLife History. in his theoremof the "Theological-Political Fragment"(from about the same time as "Capitalismas Religion") that the contradictory tendencies of profane and messianic history make up a "world politics. A more extensivetreatment(also with differentemphases)of this complexof the infinite. Benjamin was also learning the he also learned.aboutthe of God and His existence withoutexistence. This methodical nihilism is the political complementof of Cohen's theoryof judgment. Benjamin. by which a that is as "nothing"annihilatesitself in orderto open the possibility of a "something" in determination.with theoriesof annihilation and their connections to the mathematicsof the infinitesimaland differentialcalculus.If. "finallybecome utterlyguilty"by a guilt thatbrings aboutthe emptyingandthe nothingnessof God.methodical"nothing" is a repetitionof the origin. Theirretrograde motion happensno longer as a logical selfannihilation. yet Cohen's purelylogical categoryof origin into a historicalone. it inauguratesa of being"at the end of history thatis somethingotherthanguilt history.The turn-around the operational. At the origin. This immanent recoil 13. Just as the where without he transforms positive Trauerspielbuch." of law of retribution does not rule.emerges forgiveness. Cohen.according to the logic of Cohen's infinitejudgment. the annihilationof an infinite privationand opens the origin ex nihilo of a God who is otherthan the God of guilt. Injust this theoryof the negative attributes sense Benjaminargues.and Benjamincan befound in my study "IntensiveSprachen. capital. annihilationof guilt is the infinitejudgmentthatthe capitalcult carriesout uponitselfof guilt-then the forgiveness and if thisjudgmenthas always belonged to the structure have even within the system of guilt and here must been always operative. It is a destructio destructionis." "whose method must be called nihilism" [GS 2: 204]. thus transformingit into a double history.

" It does notbelong to the worldof law. It is not a function of law. It is also the distance.Diaries.]. but as the true revolution eliminating at every moment the traces of the guilt system. To the institutionsof law. between the moral predication and its actual completion. 1917-23 [T 401]. Out of their the forces of law demandthat even misdeeds of the distantpast interestin retribution.a burdensomedelay in the execution insist on retribution. which Retribution time is only an impediment. thatit is the forgivenessof guilt and in this forgivenessthe annihilation of a historythattakes guilt as its "ultimate category.though it is indeed permissible to judge. Time is nothingbut the delay of the JudgmentDay whose coming would 14. counterhistory Under the dominationof the category of guilt there can be no experience of time. also 336]. he thereby says nothing less thanthattime itself is moral.between the constativeutteranceof a judgmentand its execution. is basically indifferentto time" [GS 6: 97].butrather to the moralworldof "forgiveness.14 The considerationsof this text made a powerful impressionon Benjamin. The nothing of this is time itself as the time to come. the execution of a judgment remains as something entirely different.in his Ethics of the Pure Will:"Thebasic concept formingthe proper kernelof fate may be recognizedin the concept of guilt. This is what God does with Nineveh"[T526.likewise irreducible. but rathera figure of justice. The timeof deferral-and moreprecisely. the friendof Benjamin'syouth.ForBenjaminthis delay in carryingout the punishment has the dignity of an independent ethical phenomenon. also 336]. is forgiveness. Benjaminleaves the Ate to a vain struggle againsttime..ruledby retribution indifferent to time.For him the time of delay between misdeed and is expected of the Last Judgment-is not retribution-and especially if this retribution an "emptytarrying.The unambiguousrelationof judgmentto its executive function (as the actual legal order)is suspendedin the delay of execution. The essay was entitled "On Jonahand the Concept of Justice."whose earlierversion. The Ate extends itself across a generation. time as deferral-is not only theirreducible distance between guilt and retribution. In his sketch. time is the forgivenessof guilt: "Thetime in which the Ate pursues the criminal is [.thatit is justice itself. since for him. . . . called "Notes on Justice.Benjaminclarifies this in a fragmentthat depicts the institutionof law in its relationto time. Because the delay in the executionof the sentencealso affects God's Judgment. Guiltknows no time and no history.Scholem is able to drawthe following consequences:"Justice is the idea of the historical annihilationof the divine judgment [. Justice is the indifferenceof the Final Judgment:This means thatjustice unfolds from within itself the sphere in which the coming of the Last Judgmentis infinitely postponed"[T 527."Scholem had already sharedwith Benjamin in Octoberof 1918. should be judged and prosecuted." Cohenhad written.] the thunderouslyloud oncoming storm of forgiveness before the ever-approaching court-against which it can do nothing"[GS 6: 98].between the judgment and its implementation.to the extentthatit intervenes as delay within the orderof retribution. Cf GershomScholem."reachinginto the succession of distantgenerations. of theirintentions." [ErW363]. 102 . . because in it all times are synchronized according to the schema of ever-identical causationof ever-identical guilt.accomplishes itself and becomes history in a sense that is contraryto that of "guilt history": It comes about not as reform or reformation." Time. . The cessation or suspension in judgment (and indeed of divine Judgmentmost of all) is the theme of a 1919 essay by GerhardScholem. When Benjamin writes that the moral world of forgiveness finds "its most powerful figurationin time" [GS 6: 98].in it Scholem wrote:"For justice in its deepestsense meansthis andnothingelse: that. This idea of justice-as "the carryingout of a not carryingout" [T 341] of God's Judgment-lies at the bottom of Benjamin'scharacterization of historical and ethical time.

It is not an act (whether it be of human or divine will). and thereby the medium of everythingthat lives. afformative'5 of thejudgmentitself in its illocutionarydemand.The "now"of this time of nonexecutionis the an-etiological and an-archicsuspensionof every time sequence. The afformative. and what happens within it is not boundby the principleof action to pass througha chain of effectuations in orderachieve a preset purpose.JacquesDerrida's "Forceof Law" [78-79]. condemning to punishment. in the sense developed in the essay "Afformative. The afformativeis the act's unconditionalprerequisiteand at the same time the deactivationof the act. is thus not the act (which was requiredeven for the constitutionof time as Kantconceived it throughthe auto-affectionof the spirit). time is the deactivationof the carryingout of sentence and thereforethe suspensionof the strictconnectionbetween sentence and execution-and thereforethe disenabling of the sentence itself. by the delay of execution andthe epoche in performance. Time is the a-thetic happening. Instead. which. time is the noncarrying out. which is valid for all acts." diacritics / fall-winter 2002 103 . turningthe sentence into deed.see also my study "Afformative. the disassembly of the entire nexus of actiondefininglaw-makingandjudicial power.This delay saves the Creation-only hereinlies in a way thatexactlyfollows the "logicof origin" annihilation itsjustice-by annihilating in the infinitejudgmentas Cohenoutlinedit: as the annihilating repulsionof a "nothing. would disenable all of them." Time is the span-virtually infinite-between the sentence.whetherimplicitly or explicitly. while at once breakingthis horizon and shifting it.This is because every legal order.individual " as an "absolute 16. whetherlinguistic or actual. It is the deletion not only of the sentence but also of the guilt. Thissuspensionis misrecognized ifjustice is characterized performative or as a "pureperformativeact. problems." is a event that is not the act of a linguisticsubjectwithinthe horizonof a convention preperformative or consensus concerning speech acts. and finally.Time. This is the order that is deactivatedby time's irreducibledelay. extendingthroughevery legal order. The orderof execution." which is what occurs in one of the most significant of recent Benjaminstudies. insofar as an "act" is consideredto be a resultof thepositingofa constituting.annihilatethe Nineveh of the Creation. its orderdefines itself (in principleas well as in its particular forms) as the instancethat is the most deeply struckby time as the suspensionof action.time is the "nothing"that separates the sentence from its performance and erases both.It is the breakingoff of succession between cause and effect. This is because it is not only the not 15. And. "Linguaamissa. linear as well as circular." and. the cessationin the execution-and thereinalso the annihilation aperformative.but independent from Derrida's reading.just as little as it is a performativeact by which consciousness operates (whether it does so immediately or with some hesitation). Dealing with the same complexof Strike.to which both are exposed and in which both are suspended.16ForBenjamin and Scholem. since law to this extent propoundsthe schema of causalityand the causalityof the will. Time. structure of law andits logic Precisely this fundamental of retribution is what is meantto be unhinged-the hinges being those of the concept of action-in Scholem's and Benjamin'sreflectionson thejustice of time.the ex-positionof the horizonof the "act" as it has been classically-and thoroughlyontologically-conceived.Time as delay is the suspensionof the sentence. As nonexecution and nonaction-this is how Benjamin elsewhere characterizes the revolutionarystrike [GS 2:1:184]-and as nonactivity. or collective.is the coming aboutof justice. It is the ongoing crisis of the exchangeof equivalentgoods. but is rathera literal parapraxis in the strict sense that it offers the very possibility of such a horizon.and its execution. egologicalsubject. has always founded the legal order by the causality of violence. specifically referringto Derrida. Theafformativeevent is. in both senses of the word. presupposesprecisely this principle:that everythingthat happenscan be tracedback to intentionsthat would lend the occurrencethe status of an action. once conceived in its strictethical significance.Strike.

of strivingtowardan ideal in the future." of terror.and ultimatelythe preventionof 104 . it is also the deletion of the guilt by which the misdeed pursues its doer.The time of delay is historical time.but ratherand moreover:it means that which emerges out of something's becoming and passing away. As a "nothing" a counter-"nothing" and re-"nothing.however." history. has nothing to do with something's genesis. be understoodwithout taking into account its relation to Cohen's concept of origin: "Origin.it is a "nothing" thatholds backannihilationintentionsandactionsthatdevolve fromit. thus it isolates the individualphenomenaby endowing each of them with an impulse against itself: thus justice is the "eddy" in the flow of time.The dike of Anaximander foundedthe orderof such a way thatonly the "quid" a time thatrequitedgenesis with demise. but instead the ethical time of Fragment. it is also the handthatexpungesthe tracesof his misdeed-though the earthbe laid to waste thereby"[GS 6: 98]." and alter-"nothing"' '-this time over-"nothing" from the future would be the infinite judgment of the origin of temporal movement itself-while every execution of judgmentandeven everyjudgmentitself is suspended by it.but. and the "meaning"can thus be found in time's suspension of the principleof guilt-economy(thatof the quidpro quo andthe exchangeof equivalents)in is saved.as Benjaminand Scholem tried to conceive it. This is also how Benjamin characterizesthe origin (the category of the work's title) in the "Epistemo-Critical This frequentlycited passage cannot Preface"to his Originof the GermanTrauerspiel. or giving time. this countertime. permanently accruingguilt andpunishmentin in and the incessant self-execution. It springs free of the mere course of time and. as Benjamindemandsin his "Theological-Political of the always renewedbeginning. the Ate.carryingout of the sentence: as the breakingoff of every consequence.not that of guilt and resulting punishmentand not the time of progress. though certainly an entirely historical category. is the justice not of a time that comes into being and then passes away.it can erasethe tracesof the deed andobscurethe courseof his flight. This stormof time cannotrestrainguilt.but rathercomes ex futuro. be called nihilism. it is uncertain and undeterminable for knowledge as for the by programsand prognoses.moving againstthe lineartime of developmentand againstguilt time's indifferenceto time. This reversed time.blowing fromthe future.It is the otherway around. but ratherone that restrainsand gives pause to everythingthat it comes into contact with. In origin what is meant is not the becoming of that which is originated. As future it is not already taken. and it tugs the materialof genesis into itself with its rhythmicpulsation"[GS 1: 226]. in its persecutionof the wrongdoer. Historicaltime is nothing but the delay. It is not logical and mechanical time. self-persecution pursuit of the business of "the devastationof being. over a succession of points on a line.The origin standsin the streamof becoming as the eddy. The time to come is the time of origin-not because time must emerge from it before it can pass.just as the riveris separatefrom its flowing. the time thatcomes fromthe "ever-approaching" futureandmoves thus into its past-and only can it be "the thunderously loud oncoming storm of court"[GS 6: 98]. but because its coming out of the futureopposes the time thatmoves into the future and gives pause to its movement of annihilation. coming time.Its methodmay. impediment.but its resultis the counternihilism "The Meaning of Time in the Economy of the Moral World":this is the title of Benjamin's sketch. an annulling. Time is the "storm of and "thisstormis not only the voice thatdrownsout the criminal'sscream forgiveness. It is ratheraforgiving. throughthe presentand into the future:It is not the time of genealogical descendency. positing.This time does not stretchitself froma point of origin in the past. is able to restrainthe cause-effect sequence-breaking its nexus of guilt and punishmentand even expunging the traces of the misdeed-only because it is not a thetic. forgivenessbefore the ever-approaching Ethical time does not flow in futurum."Justice. annihilating.

--. GesammelteBriefe. . and descendanciesin the moralworld.Cambridge. Benjamin's 'Critique of Violence.1972-. 1954. Bd. MA: Harvard UP. Streik. HartNibbrig.1996. The principleof reason. Ed. Hildesheim:Georg Olms. [ForceofLaw. Christiaan -am Main:Suhrkamp." Klostermann. Gustav." Benjamin. Tiedemannand H.sine culpa et causa. Suhrkamp.Anyone who seeks to think history has to think this pause and this exposition of temporalsuccession in the countertimeto come-and must thereforethink history without groundand reason. "Wer ist Nietzsches Zarathustra?" Pfullingen: Neske. Lonitz. "Fate and Character. --. Frankfurt Derrida. Jennings. ChristiaanHart Hamacher.Vol. Ed. and naturaleconomy. If the orderof the "moralworld"is thenhistoricaltime. RichardRand.Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. BullockandM.1959.Berlin:Cassirir. diacritics / fall-winter 2002 105 . 296-343. London:Routledge 1994. Reprint of the second edition of 1907.2002. Ernst. 1999. [TM] Cohen. Walter Ubersetzen: . Landauer 1920.Gesetzeskraft.1962.1. Strike: "Afformative.Peter Osborne. 87. Frankfurtam Main: -Suhrkamp.1991.Vol.1:1913-1926.Ed.1902. by Cohen." Selected Writings. "Linguaamissa. Logik der reinenErkenntnis."Afformativ. C. [LrE] Alex GarciaDiittmann."Aufrufzum Sozialismus.Ethik des reinen Willens.consequences. the guilt economy withoutcontinuingit. as is not an conceived it."' WalterBenjamin's Philosophy-Destruction and Experience. 201-06.Jacques. 130-78. 1. Schweppenhiuser. 1981.Vol."Selected Writings. as Benjamin imaginedas an orderof acts andmethodicaloperations. Godde and H. Frankfurt . "Der Spruch des Anaximander. AndrewBenjamin.1994. "Intensive Sprachen. successions.Ed. -.Stanford. GesammelteSchriften. but ratherthe operational represents "nothing" the of It is the omission and epoch6withinevery execution. London:Verso. Bloch. 168-212. Thomas Miinzer als Theologe der Revolution. [ErW] .1. Martin. 2001. of of causa andaftion. Frankfurtam Main: Suhrkamp.M. II. . Berlin:Cassirer. [GS] "The Meaning of Time in the MoralUniverse."Selected Writings.Ed."Washeif3t'Darstellen'? Ed. 101-26. "nothing" nonoperationality. Translatedby Kirk Wetters WORKS CITED as Walter. Holzwege. Vortriigeund Aufsditze. "Linguaamissa. Benjamin. 288-91. Michael Sprinker." Revolutionsausgabe 1920.it is the liberationof ethical singularityas well as the epoche of economy and all of its branches-within naturalscience.Werner. Vol. am Main: Suhrkamp.Ed. Frankfurt am Main: Nibbrig. --. Hermann. SelectedWritings. . the etiological principleparexcellence-ceases in the "nothing" this pardon.Ed. 110-38. 340-71. naturallaw. 286--.StanfordUP.]Trans. Frankfurtam Main: Heidegger."GhostlyDemarcations. "Capitalism Religion. 174-235. R. and only thus does it interrupt Time excuses and is nothingbut the very motion ex causa. 1996."Futures.

H. Berlin:Dietz. am Main: Suhrkamp.Munchen: Nietzsche.Max. Weber. EthikI-Eine Aufsatzsammelung. KoppF. Die protestantische Miinchen:Siebenstern.Friedrich.Karl. Tagebficher 1917-23. . [K] Adam. K. Werke Ed. HanserVerlag. Gershom. TheProtestantEthic and the Spiritof Capitalism. 1966.1981. Johannes Winckelmann. Ed. Sorel. MiUller.Uwe. Uber die Gewalt.1991.2000.Marx. Niewohner. [7] Oberstebrink. am Main: Suhrkamp. Grtinder. Frankfurtam Main: Suhrkamp. [DpE] 106 . Zw6ilfRedeniiber die Beredsamkeitund deren Verfallin Deutschland.1 (1998): 147-71. KarlSchlechta. 1991. 1969.Das Kapital.1967. Frankfurt in dreiBainden.1975. [Diaries] Ed. WalterBenjamin-die Geschichte einer Freundschaft. "Kapitalismus Benjamins.Trans. Georges. London:HarperCollins.Frankfurt am Main:JiidischerVerlag. [N] Scholem. Frankfurt als Religion-Anmerkungen zu einem FragmentWalter Steiner." Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift fiir Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte72. .TalcottParsons.