You are on page 1of 42

AESTHETICIZATION OF POLITICS:

BENJAMIN, FASCISM, AND COMMUNISM


Benjamin on aesteti!i"e# $o%iti!s&
Benjamin wrote the sound-bite about the fascist connotations of the aestheticization of
politics that serves the left as a condensed argument. Yet, Benjamins thoughts on this
issue are not as clear-cut as his slogan suggests. His esoteric formulations provide
theoretical ammunition both for a variety of conceptions of aestheticized politics, from
the prevalent left critiue against the aestheticization of politics, to my contrasting
argument that the problem is not that politics is aestheticized, but the ways that it is
aestheticized, by fascism and capitalism. !n this essay ! ma"e my own effort at
interpreting Benjamins meaning, while paying attention to and evaluating some of the
main competing interpretations.
#iven that $the connection between the %aestheticization of politics& and fascism
has become ' a commonplace, as (artin )ay says, one might e*pect there to be a fairly
clear-cut and commonly accepted conception of that connection.
+
Yet, given the diverse
conceptualizations of fascism as aestheticized politics, it becomes even more apparent
that the critical charge of $aestheticization resists focus, threatens incoherence and $loses
any rigor as an analytical model.
,
-his is the case because politics is not so much
aestheticized as already aesthetic, and because there are multiple forms of articulation
between politics and aesthetics. -he main point ! aim to establish in this essay is that it is
possible and plausible to derive from Benjamin not only a critiue of fascist aesthic.ized/
+
politics but also an alternative conception of a $communist or radical democratic
aesthetic politics, a conception that is immanent in the contradictory conditions of
technologically mediated politics of capitalist societies. !n spite of Benjamins categorical
condemnation of aestheticized politics, his sound bite is better read as e*plicit
condemnation of a particular .reactionary fascist/ type of aesthetic.ized/ politics and
implicit commendation of another .progressive communist/ type.
0o what does Benjamin mean by the $aestheticization of politics1 His "ey
comments, placed in the epilogue to his famous essay, $-he 2or" of 3rt in the 3ge of its
-echnological 4eproducibility, reuire some unpac"ing.
5
-he first point to note is that he
does not mean it as a synonym for fascism. 2hile $The logical outcome of fascism is an
aestheticizing of political life, it does not follow that the outcome of aestheticizing
politics is fascism, which is often the way the statement is understood. Benjamin writes
instead that $All efforts to aestheticize politics culminate in one point. That one point is
war. However, the structure of his argument means that it is only $the aestheticizing of
politics, as practiced by fascism that culminates in war, so that logically room is left for
other practices of aestheticized politics. !n that case, the $politicizing [of] art by
communism could be one of those practices, an alternative organization of the categories
of politics and aesthetics rather than a reversal of a causal flow.
6
$Benjamin failed to
recognize, 4ichard 2olin writes, $that in practice an aestheticized politics and a
politicized art are, at least formally spea"ing, euivalents.
7
,
But fascism is not only a political and economic response to capitalist crisis, as in
dictatorship and corporativism, but also an aesthetic one. -he aesthetic aspect enters
Benjamins account in that fascism $sees its salvation in granting e*pression to the
masses - but on no account granting them 8property9 rights. -his e*pressionist aesthetic
has a virtual or phenomenalistic sense, in that it does not change the conditions of class
division and uneual property relations, but appears to address social conflict. !t is
accompanied by the fascist conception, e*emplified by (arinetti, of war both as beautiful
though destructive .$war .. enriches a flowering meadow with the fiery orchids of
machine-guns/ and as human mastery of technology for its own purposes. :urthermore,
fascist war is $the consummation of lart pour lart, referring to the sense of aesthetic
autonomy. 2ar also gratifies $sense perception altered by technology, a distorted form of
ordinary sense perception that is elevated into an ;lympian, $contemplation which is so
detached that $self-alienation has reached the point where it 8human"ind9 can e*perience
its own annihilation as a supreme aesthetic pleasure.
<
!n the epilogue alone there are a
cluster of meanings of aesthetics = .inauthentic/ e*pression, .destructive or
disharmonious/ beauty, autonomy .of politics as an aestheticized practice from material
and ethical concerns/, elevated .anti-material/ sensuousness. -here is significant overlap
between this set of meanings of aesthetics and 2elschs networ" of traditional aesthetics.
>
!t is significant for my argument that Benjamin focuses on certain aesthetic concepts and
meanings, those of the #erman !dealist aesthetic tradition, when characterizing the fascist
aestheticizing of politics, because this again implies that other forms of aesthetic.ized/
politics are possible.
5
However, this initial presentation offers only limited illumination of Benjamins
meaning, as the epilogue has to be understood in light of the preceding essay .as well as
the essay in relation to his other wor"/. His notion of aestheticized politics relates not
only to a ne*us of fascism, war, technology and idealist aesthetics, touched on above, but
also includes in that ne*us the changing character of art, especially in relation to its
$aura, and of the human sensorium, or sensory perception. -he artwor" essay belongs to
a series of essays written by Benjamin in the +?5@s about the relationship between art and
technology, so that at first blush $there appears to be a disproportion between the uestion
of what constitutes a wor" of art and the political issues of fascism and communism.
A

-he following account demonstrates the proportion between those issues, and in doing so
demonstrates both the comple*ity and specificity of Benjamins understanding of
aestheticized politics. (y e*position attempts to deal in turn with the themes of war,
technology, technological reproducibility and the wor" of art, aura, the arts of
technological reproducibility, and the relationship between arts and the masses, although
the richly interwoven fabric of Benjamins thought and writing defies any neat
separations.
'a(
3 "ey precursor to Benjamins remar"s in the epilogue about aestheticized politics
leading to war is his review essay, $-heories of #erman :ascism, where the connection
between war and technology is baldly stated asB $3ny future war will also be a slave
revolt of technology.
?
Benjamin understands fascism and the $imperialist war that
6
ensues from it as a response to a structural contradiction in capitalism between the
development of technology as a force of production and the relations of production,
especially property relations. -he horror of war is $determined by the discrepancy
between the enormous means of production and their inadeuate use. 2ar is the
$unnatural use to which the $productive forces ' impeded by the property system are
put, war being an uprising on the part of technology, which demands repayment in
human material for the natural material society has denied it.
+@
3s 3nsgar Hillach
e*plains, in Benjamins (ar*ist schema the $increase in productive forces accompanied
by socio-economic limitations is woven into a figure of social $energistic relations, in
which war is a $regressive release of energies.
++
2ar is thus symptomatic of a more
widespread $misalignment between the technological dynamic and the mode of social
ordering that had become destructive by the twentieth century not only in war, but also in
the general dysfunctionality of accelerated technological production for human needs.
+,

However, the logic of Benjamins argument is that there is a $natural use for productive,
technological forces that will or could come about when society is $mature enough to
ma"e technology its organ, and effect a $harmonious balance between humanity and
technology.
+5
Benjamin does not hold that technological developments are themselves
responsible for the descent into war, which he instead ascribes to the discrepancy between
technological and social arrangements.
!f imperialist war is the regressive release of technological, productive forces,
why is it the culmination of aestheticized politics1 !t is so because of the way that fascism
simultaneously abuses technology, art and the masses, the way it directs and releases
7
social energies. :ascism is a way of diverting both the energies of technological
productive forces and $proletarianized masses into the destructive e*penditure of warB
$only war, ma"es it possible to set a goal for mass movements on the grandest scale while
preserving traditional property relations.
+6
-he diversion of the energies of the masses is
achieved aesthetically, that is, both through a particular "ind of e*pressionist, idealist,
autonomous and auratic aesthetics and by means of the modern, technologically
reproducible arts, which are more often referred to as mass media. Benjamin e*plains that
#erman fascism as an ideology e*presses #erman nationalism, which turns losing the
:irst 2orld 2ar into an $inner victory for the $perfect reality of a mystical $eternal
#ermany. 3ccording to fascism, war is $the highest manifestation of the #erman nation,
a recreation of heroism even though mechanized, technological warfare $dispenses with
all the wretched emblems of heroism.
+7
:ascism, in effects, aestheticizes war by
returning to it a ritual, cultic and auratic value that technological developments have
ta"en away from both war and art.
+<
:ascism, says Benjamin, uses technology to $recreate
the heroic features of #erman !dealism, which according to Hillach means that in war
social action is aestheticized as symbol and e*pression of $the essential interior, of a
metaphysical basis to life and as $a substitute satisfaction for the masses and for $the
repressed need for ' 8collective social action9 driven bac" into subjectivity.
+>
!n
fascism, the idealist aesthetic of autonomous subjective freedom is e*pressed e*ternally
and technologically.
Te!no%o)*
<
-he articulation of aesthetics and technology is crucial to this understanding of fascism,
in that technology should be $mediated by the human scheme of things to use and
illuminate $the secrets of nature but instead is applied mystically $to solve the mystery of
an idealistically perceived nature.
+A
3s Csther Deslie notes, Benjamin follows (ar*s
understanding of nature as mediated through human history, as an $anthropological
nature that $has no e*istence other than through the process of human history. !n that
sense, nature is itself $technological, including $not only the creaturely and physical, but
also the man-made, cultural and historical.
+?
!n contrast, fascisms $idealistically
perceived nature is at once supposed to be human .or #erman/ essential nature
unmediated by human history but given in a mythical history, and yet is also a nature that
is e*pressed technologically in machinic warfare. !t thus becomes possible for war to
become beautiful in (arinettis words because it appears as if in war humanity is using
technology to fulfill its natural destiny and in doing so blends harmoniously with
technologyB $2ar ' establishes mans domination over the subjugated machine ' it
inaugurates the dreamed-of metallization of the human body.
,@
But in this fascist
articulation of war, technology and aesthetics, technology is not under collective social
control but is in revolt against its abuse, while human"ind is so alienated from its
potential for collective action that it enjoys its own destruction.
Benjamin is uneuivocally opposed to the destructive abuse of technology in the
:irst 2orld 2ar, the imperialist war in Cthiopia that (arinetti describes, and the war he
senses will come as a result of the Eazi rise to power. But Benjamin is no enemy of
technology, of the technologically reproduced arts, of the engagement of sensuousness in
>
politics and, ! would argue, of aesthetic politics per se. 0o, how should technology be
used by society, and how should it be articulated with aesthetics1 3s Deslie says, $0o
much hangs off Techni!, meaning the difference between the #erman word and the
conventional Cnglish usage of $technology. -he former includes $the $material hardware,
the means of production and the technical relations of production, covering the senses of
techniue and technical as well as technological.
,+
-he third version of Benjamins
artwor" essay omits a significant distinction drawn in the second version between $first
Techni! and $second Techni!, which was itself a shift from the first versions distinction
between first and second nature. Deslie e*plains that Benjamin anticipates $a
harmonization or dialectical interpenetration of the person and technology in techno-
consciousness, not a restoration of humanity to its pristine nature but $an augmented
nature.
,,
!ndeed, for Benjamin technology is ultimately not natures opposite but a $truly
new configuration of nature.
,5

Techni! replaces nature because social development draws humanity further away
from what might be called its $natural state. -his distancing is also given in the shift
from first to second Techni!, which for Benjamin is mar"ed not by its technical
development but the difference between first and second Techni!s respective $orientation
and aimsB $2hereas the former made the ma*imum possible use of human beings, the
latter reduces their use to the minimum, the former tending towards sacrifice, the latter
to automation. 3lthough Benjamin associates first Techni! with ritual and magic, he
claims that it $really sought to master nature, whereas ' 8second Techni!9 aims rather at
an interplay between nature and humanity. -he reasoning behind this is that without the
A
development of technological productive forces, first Techni! had no prospect of
$liberating human beings from drudgery. But on its own, neither will the second Techni!,
which can only play between nature and humanity, ma"ing technology a social organ,
when $humanitys whole constitution has adapted itself to the new productive forces
which the second technology has set free. !n other words, only when the discrepancy
between productive forces and social relations has been resolved would the $currently
utopian goals of freedom from drudgery .as utopian as $a child who ' stretches out its
hand for the moon as it would for a ball/ give way to solutions to $vital uestions
affecting the individual. 3s Benjamin adds in a footnote, bringing humanity and
technology to play is the $aim of revolutions which are $innervations of the collective.
:ar from regarding technology as a reified enemy of humanity, Benjamin considers
communism to be the successful harmonization of the two, one in which humanity is not
so much in control of technology or nature, as master of its own $elemental social forces.
,6

(iriam Hansen e*plains that this distinction between first and second Techni!
distinguishes Benjamins approach from $:ran"furt school critiues of technology that
$assume an instrumentalist trajectory from mythical cunning to capitalist-industrialist
modernity. 0econd Techni! appears to be concerned primarily with domination of nature
only from the perspective of first Techni!, for which there is an e*istential need to
dominate nature, and in bourgeois cultures $fetishizing an ostensibly pure and primary
nature as an object of individual contemplation. Fnder capitalism and fascism, humanity
is regressively attached to a non-e*istent first nature, in an effort to reverse the historical
?
process of technological development. :or Benjamin, in contrast, the $issue is not how to
reverse the historical process but how to mobilize, recirculate, and rechannel its effects.
,7
!n his materialist understanding of human and natural historyB $-he way in which
human perception is organized = the medium in which it occurs = is conditioned not only
by nature but by history.
,<
-here is a materialist history not only of social and
technological development but also of human nature, including human modes of
perception or the sensorium. -here can be no $restoration of the sensorium to an
instinctually intact, natural state but should be a history of the sensorium that includes
$mutations of the physis causedGenabled by technology.
,>
3ccording to Haygill, $all
e*perience for Benjamin is technological, since the term technology designated the
artificial organization of perception. !t is not then a uestion of contrasting human sense
e*perience and perception with its technological mediation, but regarding technology as a
patterning of e*perience that is itself $reciprocally subject to change in the face of
e*perience.
,A

-he "ey to a progressive channelling of the effects of technology on a humanity
that changes with it, says Hansen, is innervation, which Benjamin considers collectively
as revolution. 0he e*plains his concept of innervation in relation to a $neurophysiological
process that mediates between internal and e*ternal, psychic and motoric, human and
mechanical registers. !t is an $empowering rather than $defensive mimetic adaptation, a
$two"way process that constructs a $porous interface between the organism and the
world rather than shielding the organism from the world. 3ccording to Hansen,
innervation will bring about interplay between humans and second Techni! only $if it
+@
reconnects with the discarded powers of the first, with mimetic practices that involve the
body.

-he second Techni! is distanced from human beings but the first ma"es full use of
them, their bodies and senses, including in practices such as yoga mediation whose
$imbrication of physical and mental energy har"s bac" to a ritualistic, premechanical
conception of the technical.

-he e*panded notion of technology employed by Benjamin
includes what :oucault would later call techniues or technologies of the self which are
$forms of bodily innervation that can rebalance the relationship between humanity and
technology.
,?
Benjamin does not only refer to pre-modern and individualized practices but
holds hold that the technologies of the reproducible arts, especially film, have the
potential $to establish a balance between humans and technology. He puts his hope in
$the possibility of countering the alienation of the human sensorium with the same means
and media that are part of the technological proliferation of aestheticization.
5@
3s Hansen
writes, Benjamins attitude to the new medium of film, as to much else in modernity, is
alert to its $failed opportunities and unrealized promises, through a $redemptive
criticism.
5+
-he hope for redemption depends on collective innervation that connects and
balances bodily, psychic and productive energies with the powers of both first and second
Techni!.
Benjamins vision of the potential relationship between technology, humanity and
nature, all of which play and develop in relation to each other, glimmers through the
crac"s of the actuality of capitalist and fascist abuse of technology and nature, or $the
catastrophic effects of humanitys .already/ %miscarried ' reception of technology&.
5,

Fnder fascism, the potentiality of the second Techni! is repressed by using it as first
++
Techni!, as a form of ritual lin"ed to myths of 3ryan blood and soil, about an unchanging,
essential nature. Fnder these circumstances, and especially in war, technology confronts
humanity $as an uncontrollable force of %second nature,& just as overwhelming as the
forces of a more elementary nature in archaic times.
55
-he contrast between progressive
and regressive uses of technology is drawn by Haygill as one between $a concept of
e*perience which responded to changes in technology, and one which used technology in
order to monumentalize itself. :ascism resists changes in e*perience, and by refusing to
change property relations adheres to $monumentalised e*isting social relations. !n
contrast is the use of technology $to promote the transformation of e*perience itself,
which entails transforming social relations to suit the development of technological
forces of production.
56
3s we shall see, there is a close parallel between the way fascism
abuses technology and the way it abuses aesthetics, or the arts that are technologically
reproducible. )ust as there is for Benjamin a potential, progressive, communist
relationship of humanity to technology that is countered by an actual, regressive fascist
abuse, so is there a similar contrast between communist and fascist articulations of
aesthetics and politics.
Te!no%o)i!a% (e$(o#+!i,i%it* an# te -o(. o/ a(t
-he connection between Benjamins attitude to technology and aesthetics runs through a
"ey concept of the artwor" essay, namely technological reproducibility. ;n this point too
there is a contrast drawn between the progressive potential of reproducibility and its
capitalist and fascist abuse or $miscarried reception. -he basic idea of technological
+,
reproducibility is uite straightforward. 2hereas the #ree"s could reproduce artwor"s
only by casting and stamping, woodcuts and lithography paved the way for photography
that subseuently $freed the hand from the most important artistic tas"s, while film
e*tended the reproduction of what the camera could capture to include sound. -he
significance of the development of technological reproducibility is fourfoldB first, it
$transformed the entire character of artI second, it $withers the $aura of the artwor",
detaching the object $from the sphere of traditionI third, it $re#olutionizes $the whole
social function of artI and fourth, it $changes the relation of the masses to art.
57
3ll four
points are closely related and all allow for differing $receptions or responses.
-echnological reproducibility changes the traditional concept of art as the manual
production of original objects that have $uniue e*istence in a particular place, or a $here
and now that grants art objects their $authenticity or $uintessence. 4eproduction
jeopardises $the authority of the object by substituting $a mass e$istence for a uni%ue
e$istence.
5<
Fnderstood as a uniue, authentic object, the wor" of art maintains authority
over its reception by appearing to be unchanging and eternally valid, reuiring the viewer
to appreciate its conte*t and history. 3s Haygill puts it, Benjamin associates continued
adherence to the traditional concept of art with monumentalism, a $refusal to
ac"nowledge the passage of time within a wor" of art.
5>
;n this view, the
transmissibility or passage of a wor" of art through history is already a form or
reproducibility, but one that is denied by the emphasis on origin. -he uniueness and
authenticity of the wor" of art relates to its $embededness in the conte*t of tradition and
its service in rituals, $first magical, then religious, or its $cult value. 2hile it seems odd
+5
that the ritualistic use value of art would still have any purchase in modernity, Benjamin
notes that the secularization of cult value involves its displacement by authenticity in the
sense of the $empirical uniueness of the artist or his creative achievement, or the
replacement of objects of piety with beautiful images, commented on by Hegel.

Benjamin partly characterizes the shift in the transformation of arts nature in
terms of the accentuation of e*hibition as opposed to cult value, which includes a shift
from monumentality to $transitoriness and repeatability. -he reproducible artwor" is
designed to be reproduced, to be detached from a uniue situation, to be able $reach the
recipient in his or her own situation rather than in its uniue setting, li"e a recording of a
symphony or a photographic negative, which can also pic" up sights and sounds the ear
and eye might miss. -he transformation of art by technological reproducibility above all
means that the media of reproduction, such as photography and film, become arts. -hey
seem not to be arts only from the perspective of their cult rather than e*hibition value, but
these uestions of perspective are for Benjamin intimately related to $the mass
movements of our day, to fascism and communism.

4ather than mourning the loss of
authenticity nostalgically, Benjamin argues that the technical reproducibility of art also
has a positive social significance that is most evident in film, namely, $the liuidation of
the value of tradition in the cultural heritage.
5A
-he conditions for the .re/production of
art ma"e it possible for art to brea" away from its role in reproducing the social authority
of tradition, including the hierarchies and social distinctions sanctioned by it. However,
this possibility will be realized only if the response to technological reproducibility is as
+6
revolutionary as is the technology itself, or if the social conditions and the forces of
production are aligned.
A+(a
-he $aura of the artwor" that withers because of technical reproducibility .that being the
second of four significant outcomes of technological reproducibility/ as a concept
encompasses originality, authenticity, uniueness, tradition, and eternal and cult values.
;n the face of it, the artwor" essay is about the $decay of the aura in art, but perhaps it is
more accurate to say the essay turns on the responses to that decay. Benjamins
immediate aim is to $neutralize a number of traditional concepts - such as creativity and
genius, eternal value and mystery that serve fascism and replace them with ones that are
adeuate to assess $tendencies of the development of art under the present conditions of
production and which $are useful for the formulation of re#olutionary demands.

-he
traditional concepts refer bac" to aura, reconnecting art to its ritual function. Benjamin
uic"ly characterizes some modern developments of art and aesthetic discourse, those
which assert the autonomy of art from moral, economic as well as ritual purposes, as
responses to the loss of aura. :irst came $the doctrine of lart pour lart, followed in turn
by a $negative theology, in the form of an idea of %pure& art, which rejects not only any
social function but any definition in terms of a representational content.

:ascism is $the
consummation of lart pour lart, because it ta"es the bourgeois ideology of aesthetic
autonomy to e*tremes, pursuing the aesthetic value of beauty through war and turning
death into an object of aesthetic contemplation.
5?
+7
Benjamins concept of aura is more complicated than this uic" summary
suggests, precisely because it does brea" with traditional aesthetic concepts that in his
view are residues of a superstructure lagging behind transformations of the base. -he
essay is often read as a critiue of fascisms attempt to return the aura to art and hence as
a complete rejection of aura. !n Hewitts words, Benjamins $model of aestheticization
rests upon a stigmatization of fascism as .aesthetic/ anachronism, as a false restoration of
arts aura and as a $decadent and reactionary aesthetics.
6@
But Hansen points out that
across his wor" $Benjamins attitude to the decline of the aura is profoundly ambivalent.
3lthough in the artwor" essay Benjamin does focus on the way in which technological
reproducibility undermines the traditional aesthetics that is complicit with fascism by
eliminating aura, Hansen claims he more consistently $tries to redeem an auratic mode of
e*perience for a historical and materialist practice.
6+
!n order to use the concept of aura
to $reconceptualize e*perience and $counter the bungled .capitalist-imperialist/
adaptation of technology, Benjamin has to $blast ' to pieces the received occultist and
theosophist meanings of aura in order to be able to use it as a broader, non-aestheticist
term that is not opposed to technological reproducibility.
6,
-his would also give aura a
sense that unbound it from fascism and aligned it instead with a progressive relationship
with technology.
;ther than as a term encompassing traditional aesthetic concepts, aura is variously
defined in the second and third versions of the artwor" essay asB $3 strange tissue of
space and timeB the uniue apparition of a distance, however near it may be. ;nly the
+<
latter half of the phrase is included in the third version and e*pressly related to natural
objects, such as $a mountain range on the horizon. 3ura is thus about temporal and
spatial e*periences, related to something being in a uniue $here and now, or giving rise
to a uniue e*perience. :ilm as non-auratic art offers new e*periences of space and time
that are appropriate to the development of human perception and technological forces of
production. -he #ree"s were compelled $to produce eternal #alues in their art because
they could not reproduce them, thus attributing the highest aesthetic value only to
artwor"s that were perfected at the very time and place of their creation. !n contrast, film
is $the artwor! most capable of impro#ement, the finished product being selected from
an e*cess of footage then edited and assembled in a manner that means it could always be
reassembled differently.
65
:ilm thus destroys arts aura of eternal value, also
demonstrating that art, human perception, productive forces, and the relation between
humanity and nature are not fi*ed and eternal li"e a sculpted monument but are capable
of transformation and improvement over time. )ust as communism transforms frozen
social relations, so does film undo monumental aura, while each $affirms the flu* of
identity and the permanent revolution of the organization of e*perience.
66
Hansen derives a second definition of aura from Benjamins $;n 0ome (otifs in
BaudelaireB $a form of perception that %invests& or endows a phenomenon with %the
ability to loo" bac" at us&.
67
3s in the artwor" essay, Benjamin claims that $photography
is decisively implicated in the phenomenon of the %decline of the aura&, because it
$records our li"eness without returning our gaze, or loo"ing bac" at us as a human
would. $C*perience of the aura thus rests on the transposition of a response common in
+>
human relationships to the relationship between inanimate or natural object and man.
-he e*perience is the same as Jrousts version of involuntary memory, and $comprises
the %uniue manifestation of a distanceB, being $inapproachable.
6<
0o, to go bac" to the
first definition, auratic e*perience can be distant although near .in time and space/
because it cannot be approached or ta"en hold of. 3s Hansen e*plains, auratic e*perience
or returned gaze in the encounter with the non-human $ta"es possession of us and
$confronts the subject with a fundamental strangeness within and of the self, or $with an
e*ternal, alien image of the self.
6>
Benjamins essay on Baudelaire delves into the
latters lyrical poetry as a way of conjuring beauty among the shoc"s, fragmentation and
ephemerality of urban modernity. )ust as Baudelaire finds beauty in shoc"ing modernity,
so does Benjamin find in the shoc"ing encounter of auratic e*perience $self-recognition
ua self-alienation and a $field of force set up between the polarities of distance and
nearness. -his is one might say a redemptive shoc", a moment of $disjunctive temporality
and self-dislocating refle*ivity in which it is possible to $both remember and imagine a
different "ind of e*istence. -he uestion then is whether the arts of technical production,
such as film, can $reactivate older potentials of perception and imagination that would
enable human beings to engage productively, at a collective and sensorial level, with
modern forms of self-alienation.
6A
Hertainly, the fascist use of those arts that return to
cultic practices in respect of both leaders and masses, presenting the latter with spectacles
of beautiful semblance for contemplation, obstructs such a reactivation.
A(ts o/ te!no%o)i!a% (e$(o#+!i,i%it*
+A
Yet, at points Benjamin seems to argue that the arts of technological reproduction are
inherently progressive because they are anti-auratic. Jhotography, a $revolutionary means
of reproduction, he says $emerged at the same time as socialism, as if the former
necessarily conforms to the latter, e*cept for early portraits. Jhotographs, uite simply,
are detached from their $here and now, from the time and place in which they were ta"en
.thus reuiring captions/ and the perspective of an individual viewer is replaced by a
technical apparatus. :ilm differs immensely from theatre because, among other things,
the presence of the camera in place of the audience means that $the aura surrounding the
actor is dispelled = and, with it, the aura of the figure he portrays. -he actors
performance in film is also detached from the here and now of the performance, because
it is not $a unified whole, but is assembled from many individual performances, recorded
by an apparatus that changes the position of viewing with camera angles and close-ups,
under technical conditions such as lighting, then reassembled as a montage, through
editing.
6?
!n the film studio, $the wor" of art is produced only means of montage and has
$escaped the realm of %beautiful semblance&, meaning traditional and idealist
aesthetics.
7@
-he hopes Benjamin has for the new arts of technological reproducibility vary
between the second and third version of the essay, the third seeming more optimistic than
the second in terms of the e*pert capacities of the audience, though both versions claim
that it is $inherent in the technology of film ' that everyone who witnesses these
performances does so as a uasi-e*pert.
7+
!n the third version, the audience is said to
have $empathy with the camera, with the apparatus that subjects the performance $to a
+?
series of optical tests, thus permitting $the audience to ta"e the position of a critic '
-his is not an approach compatible with cult value.
7,
-he audience thus seems to identify
with the technological process of filming and editing, or the production of the artwor",
and can thus be critical about the way the film has been made.
75
!n the second version the
parallel passage has the actor performing $before a group of specialists, being tested by
$a body of e*perts, as in a wor"-related aptitude test. -he urban audience identify not
with the apparatus but the performer $ta"ing revenge on their behalf on the sort of
industrial apparatus to which many of them are subjected daily, $not only by asserting his
humanity ' against the apparatus, but by placing that apparatus in the service of his
triumph.
76
Hhaplin in particular seemed to be a master of performing non-theatrically,
$chopping up e*pressive body movements into a seuence of minute mechanical
impulses that $render the law of the apparatus visible as the law of human movement.
77

!n doing so, he performs the possibility of constructing human subjectivity in concert
with a technological modernity that disrupts traditional forms of authentic subjectivity.
-he film actor thus demonstrates a productive alignment between technology and
humanity, one not achieved between humanity and industrial technology because of the
misalignment of social relations and forces of production. !n the second version of the
essay, Benjamin ascribes to the reproducible arts a role a"in to second technology in
general, in that the $primary social function of art today is to rehearse that interplay
8between nature and humanity ' The function of film is to train human beings in the
apperception and reactions needed to deal with a #ast apparatus whose role in their li#es
is e$panding almost daily. 3udiences, the masses, have little e*perience of the individual
creation of a uniue object, but they do of technological production and industrial
,@
apparatus. !n this lightB $The most important social function of film is to establish
e%uilibrium between human beings and the apparatus.
7<
:ilm does this in part by
rehearsing the $shoc" effects of modernity such as those e*perienced by $each passerby
in big-city traffic, thereby providing a way for humanity to adapt itself $to the dangers
threatening it.
7>
3s Haygill e*plains, reproducible arts $can serve in modern societies to
master the elemental forces of a technological second nature, and as $a site in which to
e*plore possible futures of the relationship between technology and the human which will
create unprecedented e*periences.
7A
Benjamin maintains that $as soon as the criterion of authenticity ceases to be
applied to artistic production, the whole social function of art is re#olutionized. &nstead
of being founded on ritual, it is based on a different practice' politics.
7?
-he change in
the social function of art is the third of the four significant impacts of technological
reproducibility listed earlier. 3ccording to 2olin, Benjamin means that art becomes $an
instrument of political communication, but that is only one aspect of the ways in which,
as Haygill says, art $serves to adapt humans to nature and nature to humans and now
does so $by means of technology allied to politics rather than magic.
<@
He also
categorises three different perspectives in Benjamins artwor" essay on the political
function of the reproducible arts, especially film, in relating humanity with technology
and nature and giving rise to new e*periencesB $as a site for e*perimentationI $as an
occasion for tactile critical enjoymentI and $as a form of cathartic inoculation.
<+

,+
Hathartic inoculation, discussed only in the second version of the essay, occurs in
relation to $the dangerous tensions which technology and its conse%uences ha#e
engendered in the masses at large ( tendencies which at critical stages ta!es on a
psychotic character. But certain films, themselves part of this dangerous
$technologization, such as $3merican slapstic" comedies and Kisney films, as well as
film figures that depict the dar"er unconscious, such as (ic"ey (ouse and Hharlie
Hhaplin, can immunize the masses against $sadistic fantasies and masochistic delusions
by encouraging $a therapeutic release of unconscious energies through $collective
laughter at the $grotesue events they contain. !n a footnote, Benjamin ualifies his
remar"s, noting that fascism easily appropriates the simultaneous $comic and '
horrifying effect of, and the $acceptance of bestiality and violence as inevitable
concomitants of e*istence in such films.
<,

-he $tactile critical enjoyment e*perienced through film relates to Kada, the
contrast between tactility and contemplation, distraction, and architecture. Benjamin
credits Kadaism with trying to produce the effects that film was to produce later,
annihilating aura by producing artwor"s that $they branded as reproduction and which
were not amenable to the traditional, bourgeois aesthetic attitude to artwor"s of
$contemplative immersion. :ilm reuires a different aesthetic attitude which Benjamin
labels $distraction .)erstreuung/, a word that also means amusement as well as
dissipation. He means by this not inattention but $heightened attention that is induced by
films $physical shoc! effect, the $percussive effect of $successive changes of scene and
focus and the interruption of images by each other.
<5
-his is the sort of shoc" identified
,,
above that confronts the viewer with something alien to itself, such that film is the
aesthetic .but also technological/ counterpart to $industrial modes of production and
transportation.
<6
Both Kada .morally/ and film .physically/ shoc" the viewer by $ta"ing
on a tactile ' uality, reuiring not a cerebral, detached consideration but a physical,
engaged response.
<7
3s with most of Benjamins concepts, there is both a $dialectical
movement and $constituted ambiguity to shoc", as both $the stigma of modern life,
synonymous with the defensive shield it provo"es and thus with the impoverishment of
e*perience and also a therapeutic moment of recognition that opens the way for
$reclaiming collective and anthropological ' e*periences.
<<
)ust as some form of
technology .the reproductive arts/ is a way of transforming the failed capitalist reception
of technology, so is a form of shoc" the appropriate response to modernity as a series of
shoc"s.
-he model for the tactile response to art is architecture, which can be appreciated
optically, but for the most is received through $use and $habit. -he role of reproductive
arts in rehearsing new relations between humans and technology is pertinent at this point
too, in that $the tas!s which face the human apparatus of perception that ta"e $their cue
from tactile reception or $reception in distraction, find in film their $true training
ground. 0uch tactile reception is critical in that $the evaluating attitude reuires no
attention, because evaluation occurs through use and enjoymentB $-he audience is an
e*aminer, but a distracted one.
<>
3gain, this suggests a very different form of aesthetic
judgment to that of traditional aesthetics, which eschews sensuous enjoyment, a point that
Benjamin ma"es in the second version when he remar"s that film is also central $for the
,5
theory of perception which the #ree"s called aesthetics, referring to bac" to the sensuous
sense of aisthesis.
<A
-he third perspective on the artwor" identified by Haygill concerns films
representation of the new human environmentB $;ur bars and city streets, our offices and
furnished rooms, our railroad stations and our factories. !n the third version of the
artwor" essay Benjamin writes only of the positive aspects of the unconscious processes
in films mediation of e*perience of the urban environment, sidestepping the psychotic
reaction to technology. :ilm techniues such as close-up and slow motion further $insight
into the necessities governing our lives by altering e*periences of space and time,
revealing aspects of modernity to the cameras $optical unconscious that are not given to
the conscious, seeing eye.
<?
Hentral to films e*perimentation with e*perience is $its
radical restructuration of spatial and temporal relations, as a counterpart to industrial and
urban modernitys e*periences of time and space.
>@
-ogether with the psychotic response
to technology countered by cathartic inoculation, Benjamins account of the unconscious
processes is also dialectical, alert to the actualities as well as potentialities.
!t is worthwhile to add to Haygills three categories or social functions of the
technological artwor", e*tending Benjamins comments on tactility and the aura, a new or
potential relation to things that is covered by the term mimesis. 3s mentioned above, this
concept is central to delineating a progressive relation between humanity and technology
in general. Hansen argues although Benjamin does not use the notion directly in the
artwor" essay, vestiges of his earlier writing on the mimetic faculty are at wor" in it. !n
,6
contrast to the Jlatonic sense of mimesis as the copy of an original or a li"eness, in
Benjamins usage mimesis refers to similarities between phenomena, similarities or
correspondences that the human mimetic faculty both recognizes and produces.
0imilarities are distinguished from sameness, as in identical copies. (imesis overlaps
with aura in that it also spea"s of a sensuous, embodied encounter between the human
and non-human, specifically human imitation of nature, as in childrens game. !n
particular, $it envisions a relationship with nature that is alternative to the dominant forms
of mastery and e*ploitation, one that would dissolve the contours of the subjectGobject
dichotomy into reciprocity. -he mimetic faculty is also similar to aura in that, with the
countless reified sameness of things under capitalist, technological production of
commodities and technological reproducibility of images, it appears to be decaying,
though it may also be transforming. !t is transforming through $non-sensuous similarity,
as in the $correspondence between a persons moment of birth and the constellation of
stars, meaning figurative correspondences. Benjamin hoped that such figurative and
generally literary figurations, as in Jrousts involuntary memories, would engender
images or e*periences that would reveal, through a distorted perception, the $therapeutic
alienation between environment and human beings, between humans and the reified
world of commodified sameness as well as technological, mechanised production.
>+

3ccording to Hansen, by the time of the artwor" essay Benjamin had lost
confidence in the political potential of such figurative correspondences. -he changed
perception of the masses which caused the decay of aura is mar"ed by a $sense of
sameness in the world that $e*tracts sameness even from what is uniue and an urge '
,7
to get hold of an object ' in a facsimile ', a reproduction that $differs unmista"ably
from the image or figuration.
>,
0ubtle differences between similarity and sameness have
sun", while, Hansen claims, Benjamin identifies $sameness with the proletarian masses,
tas"ing film with $a positive identification with masses. 0ome of the remnants of
mimetic figuration she finds in the artwor" essay are synonymous with the shoc" effect
off aura, of things returning the gaze. Yet, she overloo"s a "ey e*ample of mimesis in the
third version of the essay when she dismisses the audiences identification with apparatus
as congealment of $polytechnic education, popular e*pertise and a pseudo-scientific
notion of %testing which cannot be dissociated from its industrial-capitalist origin.
>5
!t is
precisely this $empathy with the camera and adoption of a testing attitude that
demonstrates through a playful mimetic inhabitation of reproductive technologies and
industrial relations techniues how people can have a non-instrumentalist relationship
with technologised nature. !t is not the actuality of industrial capitalism that determines
the shape of Benjamins argument, which also navigates towards revolutionary and
transforming possibilities immanent in current conditions.
Hansens discussion of mimesis in the artwor" essay is bac" on trac" when she
points to $the mimetic capability of film ' 8that9 e*tends to specific techniues designed
to ma"e technology itself disappear.
>6
Benjamins argument seems to oppose to Hansens
view when he claims that film $offers a hitherto unimaginable spectacle and that $the
euipment-free aspect of reality has become the height of artifice. -his claim sounds li"e
the familiar critiue of the reality effect of photography and film, for presenting a world
that appears real and yet is a technological illusion, thereby repeating the ideological
,<
inversion of commodity fetishism and capitalism. But according to Benjamin, it is this
$e%uipment"free aspect of reality that people $are entitled to demand from a wor! of art.
!n other words, the interplay between humanity and technology, technology and nature,
does not reuire the elimination but $the height of artifice, because the potential
imbrication of social energies with productive forces will occur on the basis of the most
intensi#e interpenetration of reality with e%uipment, just as much as film or mediated
reality does. By contrast, $the vision of immediate reality has become $the Blue :lower
in the land of technology, meaning $the unattainable object of the romantic uest.
>7

Human and technological development precludes the possibility of a non-technologised
human reality, but film rehearses the pleasure people can ta"e in a technological reality
that serves their rather than capitals purposes.
!n accord with the dialectical structure of Benjamins argument that ac"nowledges
potentialities and actualities, both versions of the essay deny that film and reproducible
arts in general currently fulfil a new social function in a progressive manner. -he ways
that reproducible art may be articulated with politics are not necessarily revolutionary,
just as the ways in which humanity may be related to technology will not be
revolutionary if social structure is out of step with the forces of production. 3s Haygill
puts it, the articulation of politics and democracy $may result either in the intensification
of democracy or in the use of the new technology for auratic ends, effectively
subordinating politics to ritual, just as $the changes in the character of e*perience can
lead $either to transformation or catastrophe .
><
!n Benjamins wordsB $0o long as
moviema"ers capital sets the fashion and $until film has liberated itself from the fetters
,>
of capitalist e*ploitation, film will have no $revolutionary merit other than $criticism of
traditional concepts of art. Hapitalist film regains the aura through $the cult of the movie
star and the $magic of the personality that derives from $the putrid magic of its own
commodity character. 0imilarly, in the politics of bourgeois democracies the
reproducibility of the presentations of leaders, their subjection to e*hibition value and
recorded appearances before the masses rather than other elected representatives in
parliament, means that they are tested not so much by the public as $a new form of
selection = selection before an apparatus = from which the star and dictator emerge as
victorious. !n this prescient comment, Benjamin captures a good deal of the critiue of
mediatised politics, organised as $an immense publicity machine that favours $the
e*hibition of controllable, transferable s"ills and that spea"s more to the ability of a
candidate to win an election than govern, and enables populism and demagoguery to
dominate the parliamentary process.

!t is significant that Benjamins remar"s about
aestheticized politics appear in a discussion of a shift from $auratic art to $mass media,
because so many contemporary complaints about aestheticized politics refer to
mediatised politics. But his comment refers more precisely to the growth of fascism in
parliamentary rule and fascisms $corruption of the revolutionary opportunities of the
reproductive arts for $the class consciousness of the masses.
>>

A(t an# te masses
-he fourth significant impact of technological reproducibility is on the relation between
art and the masses. 3lthough Benjamin does not use the terms himself, Haygill remar"s
,A
that his approach $uestions the distinction between high and low art.
>A
3rt has become
media art for the masses, a political force detached from older aesthetic categories and
values, under changed conditions of production. -he fourth of the developments wrought
by technological reproducibility is a changed relation between the masses and art, a
development that is most clearly mar"ed by the divergent responses to it, the actuality of
fascism and the possibility of communism. :irstly, the $mass e$istence of reproduced
artwor"s that replace the $uni%ue e$istence of traditional artwor"s not only shatters
tradition and aura but also gives art such as film increased $social significance. #iven
that this process is $intimately related to the mass movements of the day, the shift of arts
social function from ritual to politics is also invo"ed. 0econdly, the conditions of
reception have changed from individualized contemplation of objects or their reception in
$a manifoldly graduated and hierarchically mediated way in churches and at court, to
$simultaneous collective reception, as in film theatres. !ndividual reactions are
concentrated into a mass and once manifest $regulate each other.
>?
Hollective and hence
political as well aesthetic reactions to art become more prevalent under technological
reproducibility.
3s the new audience for art, the masses do not restrict themselves to detached
aesthetic judgment. -heir $progressive reaction to $a *haplin film for e*ample is instead
$characterized by an immediate, intimate fusion of pleasure =pleasure in seeing and
e*periencing = with an attitude of e*pert appraisal. Benjamin does not denigrate this
mass pleasure, nor does he object to the publics $bac"ward attitude to art in which he
himself finds progressive insight, such as surrealism. His attitude here cannot be
,?
dismissed as populist bad faith, because he is certainly not claiming that the public
always reacts progressively or that it is immune to the appeal of the cult of the star or the
dictator. However, in this case he is ma"ing a claim for an actualized possibility of a
progressive reaction, rather than a potential immanent in films relation to the masses,
one that depends on the audiences identification both with Hhaplins triumph over the
apparatus and with the apparatus as a critical, testing technology.
-here is also a cultural populist or at least anti-elitist element to Benjamins point
about how since the end of the nineteenth century $the distinction between author and
public has been losing its $a*iomatic character as more readers turn into writers and
more people gain e*pertise $in a highly specialized wor" process. -he technical division
of labour ma"es e*perts of more people as $specialized higher education gives way to
$polytechnic training. Benjamin criticises 3ldous Hu*leys elitist complaint about the
$vulgarity brought about by the technological reproducibility of $inordinate uantities of
reading-matter, seeing-matter, and hearing-matter.
A@
!n effect Benjamin argues in favour
of the potentially democratizing effects of mass cultural production and circulation on the
character of $literary competence, e*tending into what today would also be called media
literacy. -he same reasoning applies to his observation that $the greatly increased mass of
participants has produced a different !ind of participation, which involves not only
these new forms of literacy or e*pertise and the coincidence of the publics $critical and
uncritical attitudes in their distracted e*amination of mass artwor"s, but also $the human
beings legitimate claim to be reproduced. -he last point refers initially to the
appearance of people in newsreels and more significantly in 0oviet films in which people
5@
$portray themsel#es = and primarily their own wor" process.
A+
But the right to be
reproduced means more than banal $vo* pop and earnest socialist realismI it does not
mean simply that the public or the masses have a right to self-representation. 4ather, as
)oel 0nyder e*plains, they have a right to e*hibit themselves in their environmentB $:ilm
will show man 8sic9 in an environment re-made .reproduced/ and managed by himself.
A,

-hrough the technological production of artificial realities, film demonstrates to wor"ers
and the public in general that just as film produces reality, its own environment and
nature, so can humanity in its technological interplay with nature, $when humanitys
whole constitution has adapted itself to the new productive forces which the second
technology has set free. -he progressive and potentially revolutionary character of film
is again tied to its rehearsal of humanitys use of technology, but the right to be
reproduced also refers to humanitys role in producing and reproducing itself, in changing
its own nature, through interaction with technology. -he collective that is innervated
through revolutions is $the new, historically uniue collective which has its organs in the
new technology.
A5
-his is a collective that ma"es itself in reproducing itselfB $2ith the
new techniues of technical reproduction, construction ta"es the place of representation,
notes Haygill, so the right to be reproduced is the collectives right to be.
A6
!t would thus be revolutionary to enhance the control of the collective but
differentiated proletarian masses before whom performers are aware that they stand when
also confronting the apparatus, such as through $the e*propriation of film capital or the
socialization of the means of cultural production .which would be an appropriate way of
understanding what the $politicization of art means if it were not so reductive of all
5+
Benjamins implied meanings/. However, $capitalist e*ploitation of film obstructs the
human beings legitimate claim to being reproduced, leading instead to $the involvement
of the masses through illusionary displays and ambiguous e*pectations.
A7
!nstead of
allowing the self-reproduction of a collective, fascism mobilizes the $mass as an
impenetrable, compact entity in the way that it reproduces the masses, in $great
ceremonial processions, giant rallies, and mass sporting events, and in war. Fse of the
camera enables $the masses to come face to face with themselves in a $birds-eye view
of mass assemblies and in the $counterpart to the cult of the star, namely $the cult of the
audience. -he masses come face to face with themselves, but they do not return their
own loo", instead regarding themselves as an object for contemplation. -here is no
auratic shoc" of the strangeness of the mass to itself, but the aura of the mass uniue and
eternal nature. :ascism abuses the possibilities of technological reproducibility and its
arts $in the violation of an apparatus which is pressed into serving the production of ritual
values and at the same time violates the masses by treating them as an auratic artwor".
A<

-he revolutionary potential of the new relation between art and the masses is perverted.
T-o t*$es o/ aesteti!0i"e#1 $o%iti!s
-he potential for an alternative relation between humans and technology, nature, each
other, art .or mass media/ and politics would come through the communist response to
the decay of aura, in the politicization of politics. 3s stated above, Benjamin devotes
most of the artwor" essay to analysing the conditions under which aura decays and
e*ploring the potential of technologically reproducible art, rather than condemning it and
5,
the fascist response to it. 0o, although he appears to say almost nothing about the
communist politicization of art, he actually provides an outline of a new relationship
between the masses, technology and technologically reproducible arts. However, he does
not refer to it as a communist aestheticization of politics, while his rhetoric insists on the
polar opposition of fascism and communism. Cven if Benjamin implicitly outlines a
communist imbrication of aesthetics and politics, it cannot be denied that he e*plicitly
decries fascist aestheticized politics without referring to any other sort of aestheticized
politics.
3ndrew Hewitts study of :uturism and (arinetti in particular indicates some of
the shortcomings of a generalised critiue of fascism as aestheticization. He notes that
$from a broadly left perspective %the aestheticization of political life& comes to mean the
mas"ing of class struggle under a faLade of aestheticized social unity, when analyses
focus on connecting $outmoded notions of aesthetic harmony and balance to fascist
notions of the organicist 0tate.
A>
Hewitts "ey point in relation to Benjamin is to reject
his opposition between the aestheticization of politics and the politicization of aesthetics,
arguing that $aestheticization and politicization become synonymous, or co-originary.
AA

Hlaiming to read Benjamin against the grain, though actually reading him dialectically as
he should be, Hewitt realises that the difference between the fascist and communist
responses to the crisis of art and modernity in general is given in Benjamins distinction
between the actual way capitalism and fascism recreate aura in film, and his otherwise
favourable treatment of the $liberating potential of technologies of reproduction. Both
participate in the same logic because both grasp that with reproducibility comes a
55
$phenomenological mutation of the concept of origin, such that reproduction .Hewitt
says representation/ is $essential and primary, rather than incidental and secondary. !n
other words, with technological reproduction, reality itself changes, as film and other
media are able not only to represent reality, but to $reconstitute the thing itself, including
the $essentially reproducible masses. -here is thus a certain, uncomfortable $%truth& of
fascism in respect of politics and democracy which is that $politics ' is ' an
aesthetic, and that the audience that constitutes the public before whom politics is played
out is an aesthetic construct. Honceptions and critiues of aestheticization that treat it as
an ideological veil over reality miss the e*tent to which reality has changed. -he
difference between $the construction of the spectacle and $the new, historically uniue
collective which has its organs in the new technology is thus not a difference between
one being aesthetic and the other political, but the way in which each is constructed
aesthetically and politically.
A?
-he upshot is that, following the logic of Benjamins
argument, there is not on the side of fascism aestheticized politics and on the side of
communism politicized aesthetics, but on each side a response to the ways in which the
crisis of modernity unravels the conceptual distinctions between aesthetics and politics
and redraws the boundaries between cultural value spheres. Benjamins ambiguity about
the relation between technology and humanity, technological reproducibility, the decay of
aura, and the relationship of the masses to the technologically reproducible arts is
ambiguous because of the different ways in which the boundaries between politics and art
are effaced in actuality and potentially. Yet, he does urge that the boundaries between the
cultural spheres should be overrun in the $politicization of art. Both fascism and
communism reorganize the cultural value spheres, ending their separation, but do so in
56
different ways. !n other words, both fascism and communism could be considered as
aesthetic.ized/ politics. 3s a way of summarising the differences between these two
models of aesthetic politics, as characterised by Benjamin, a clear contrast is drawn
heuristically in the table below. -he table also serves as a conclusion, illustrating that
fascism is not synonymous with aestheticized politics, that fascism is not the only form of
aesthetic.ized/ politics, and that modern conditions of aestheticization contain the
potential for a progressive, even revolutionary form of aesthetic politics.
57
Aesteti!0i"e#1 $o%iti!s
Fas!ist Comm+nist
3ctual .failed opportunity, catastrophe/ Jotential .unrealized promise,
transformation/
4egressive Jrogressive
(onumental, eternal -ransitory, improvable
Fniue, authentic, whole, $autonomous 4eproducible, assembled
Hult value C*hibition value
4itual 4evolutionary
Hontemplation, detachment !mmersion, tactility, distraction
Kistance Hloseness
3ura as magic or monument 3ura as .redemptive/ shoc"
!dealist and subjectivist aesthetics 0ensuous aesthetics .pleasure and critiue
combined/
0ymbolic, $beautiful semblance (imetic .imbrication of humanity and
technology/
4epresentation Honstruction
-raditional C*perimental .restructuring e*perience of
time and space/
Kenial of humanGtechnology interplay
.misalignment of technology and society,
abuse of technology/
4ehearsal of humanGtechnology interplay
.euilibrium of humanity and technology/
5<
Notes
5>
+
. (artin )ay, $%-he 3esthetic !deology& as !deologyI ;r, 2hat Koes !t (ean to 3estheticize Jolitics1,
*ultural *riti%ue, ,+ .0pring +??,/, p. 6,.
,
0ee 3ndrew Hewitt, +ascist ,odernism' Aesthetics, -olitics, and the A#ant".arde .0tanford
Fniversity JressB 0tanford, +??5/, p. +57.
5
. 2alter Benjamin, $-he 2or" of 3rt in the 3ge of its -echnological 4eproducibilityB -hird Mersion,
trans. Harry Nohn and Cdmund )ephcott, /elected 0ritings' 1olume 2, 3456"27, ed. Howard Ciland and
(ichael 2. )ennings, .Bel"nap JressB Hambridge, (3, ,@@5/, pp. ,7+-A5.
6
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, pp. ,<?->@.
7
. 4ichard 2olin, 0alter 8en9amin' An Aesthetic of :edemption .Holumbia Fniversity JressB Eew
Yor", +?A,/, p. +A6.
<
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, pp. ,<?->@.
>
. 0ee :igure + in the !ntroduction.
A
. Howard Haygill, 0alter 8en9amin' The *olour of ;$perience .4outledgeB Dondon, +??A/, p. ?5.
?
.2alter Benjamin, $-heories of #erman :ascismB ;n the Hollection of Cssays %2ar and 2arrior&,
edited by Crnst )Onger, <ew .erman *riti%ue +> .0pring +?>?/, p. +,@.
+@
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, p. ,>@.
++
. 3nsgar Hillach, $-he 3esthetics of JoliticsB 2alter Benjamins %-heories of :ascism&, <ew
.erman *riti%ue +> .0pring +?>?/, p. +@5.
+,
. Csther Deslie, 0alter 8en9amin' =#erpowering *onformism .Jluto JressB Dondon, ,@@@/, p. *i.
+5
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, p. ,>@I Benjamin, $-heories of #erman :ascism, p. +,@.
+6
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, p. ,<?.
+7
. Benjamin, $-heories of #erman :ascism, pp. +,+-,7.
+<
. $8!9n gas warfare it 8society9 has found a new means of abolishing the aura. Benjamin, $2or" of
3rt, p. ,>@.
+>
. Benjamin, $-heories of #erman :ascism, p. +,<I Hillach, $-he 3esthetics of Jolitics, p. +@6-<.
+A
. Benjamin, $-heories of #erman :ascism, pp. +,<-,>.
+?
. Deslie, 0alter 8en9amin, pp. +77-<.
,@
. (arinetti uoted in Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, p. ,<?.
,+
. Deslie, 0alter 8en9amin, pp. *ii-*iii.
,,
. Deslie, 0alter 8en9amin, pp. +7<->.
,5
. Benjamin uoted in (iriam Bratu Hansen, $Benjamins 3ura, *ritical &n%uiry ,6 .2inter ,@@A/, p.
5<6.
,6
. 2alter Benjamin, $-he 2or" of 3rt in the 3ge of its -echnological 4eproducibilityB 0econd Mersion
trans. Cdmund )ephcott, Howard Ciland and ;thers, /elected 0ritings' 1olume 5, 345>"3456, ed.
Howard Ciland and (ichael 2. )ennings .Bel"nap JressB Hambridge, (3, ,@@,/, pp. +@>-A, p. +,6, fn.
+@.
,7
. (iriam Bratu Hansen, $Benjamin and HinemaB Eot a ;ne-2ay 0treet, *ritical &n%uiry ,7 .2inter
+???/, p. 5,@, p. 5,7.
,<
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, p. ,77.
,>
. Hansen, $Benjamin and Hinema, p. 5,7, p. 5,,.
,A
. Haygill, *olour of ;$perience, p. ?<.
,?
. (ichel :oucault, $-echnologies of the 0elf in Duther (artin, Huc" #utman and Jatric" Hutton
.eds/ Technologies of the /elf .-avistoc"B Dondon, +?AA/, pp. +<-6?.
5@
. Hansen, $Benjamin and Hinema, p. 5+>, p. 5,+, p. 5+?, p. 5+,, p. 557.
5+
. (iriam Hansen, $Benjamin, Hinema and C*perienceB %-he Blue :lower in the Dand of
-echnology&, <ew .erman *riti%ue, 6@ .2inter +?A>/, p. +A,.
5,
. Hansen, $Benjamin and Hinema, p. 5+,, including a uotation from Benjamin.
55
. Deslie, 0alter 8en9amin, p. +7>.
56
. Haygill, *olour of ;$perience, p. ?7, p. ?>.
57
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, p. ,75, p. ,7A, p. ,76, p. ,7>, p. ,<6.
5<
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, pp. ,75-6.
5>
. Haygill, *olour of ;$perience, p. ?6.
5A
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, p. ,7<-<>, p. ,>,, fn. +,, p. ,>,, fn.+5, p. ,77, p. ,76, p. ,75.
5?
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, p. ,7,, p. ,7<, p. ,>@.
6@
. Hewitt, +ascist ,odernism, p. ,6.
6+
. Hansen, $Benjamin, Hinema and C*perience, pp. +A<-<>.
6,
. Hansen, $Benjamins 3ura, p. 55A, p. 57>.
65
. Benjamin, %2or" of 3rtB 0econd Mersion, pp. +@6-7, pp. +@A-?..
66
. Haygill, *olour of ;$perience, p. +@5.
67
. Hansen, $Benjamins 3ura, p. 55?. 0ee 2alter Benjamin, $;n 0ome (otifs in Baudelaire in
Hannah 3rendt .ed./ &lluminations' 0alter 8en9amin, ;ssays and :eflections .0choc"enB Eew Yor",
+?<?/, p. +AA.
6<
. Benjamin, $;n 0ome (otifs in Baudelaire, p. +AA.
6>
. Hansen, $Benjamins 3ura, pp. 566-7, p. 56>.
6A
. Hansen, $Benjamins 3ura, p. 576, p. 566, p. 55>.
6?
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, p. ,7<, p. ,<@, p. ,<+.
7@
. Benjamin, %2or" of 3rtB 0econd Mersion, p. ++@I Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, p. ,<+.
7+
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, p. ,<,I Benjamin, %2or" of 3rtB 0econd Mersion, p. ++6.
7,
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, p. ,7?-<@.
75
. -his form of criticism is thus different to the sort of critical interpretation of media output that
audiences are said to conduct because they view it from a different social perspective to the producers,
or when they appropriate different meanings from it than the allegedly hegemonic meaning.
76
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rtB 0econd Mersion, p. +++.
77
. Hansen, $Benjamin, Hinema and C*perience, p. ,@5.
7<
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rtB 0econd Mersion, pp. +@>-A.
7>
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, p. ,A+, fn. 6,.
7A
. Haygill, *olour of ;$perience, p. +@>.
7?
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, pp. ,7<-7>.
<@
. 2olin, 0alter 8en9amin, p. +A?I Haygill, *olour of ;$perience, p. +@>.
<+
. Haygill, *olour of ;$perience, p. ++6.
<,
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rtB 0econd Mersion, p. ++A, p. +5@, fn.5@.
<5
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, p. ,<>.
<6
. Hansen, $Benjamin, Hinema and C*perience, p. +A6.
<7
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, p. ,<>.
<<
. Hansen, $Benjamin, Hinema and C*perience, p. ,+@-++.
<>
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, p. ,<>-<?.
<A
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rtB 0econd Mersion, p.+,@.
<?
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, p. ,<7-<<.
>@
. Hansen, $Benjamin, Hinema and C*perience, p. +A6. 0ee also Haygill, *olour of ;$perience, p.
++,.
>+
. Hansen, $Benjamin, Hinema and C*perience, p. +?<, p. ,@>, p.
>,
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, p. ,77.
>5
. Hansen, $Benjamin, Hinema and C*perience, p. ,@<, p. ,@,. 2riting nearly twenty years later, in
$Benjamins 3ura, Hansen herself discusses films auratic shoc" effects without referring to mimetic
figuration.
>6
. Hansen, $Benjamin, Hinema and C*perience, p. ,@5.
>7
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, p. ,<5-<6I $Benjamin, Hinema and C*perience, p. ,@6.
><
. Haygill, *olour of ;$perience, p. +@?, p. ++<.
>>
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, p. ,<+I p. ,>>, fn. ,>I Benjamin, 2or" of 3rtB 0econd Mersion, p. ++5-+6.
-he third version tones down the anti-capitalist language.
>A
. Haygill, *olour of ;$perience, p. ?,.
>?
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, p. ,76. p. ,<6.
A@
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, p. ,<6, p. ,<,I 3ldous Hu*ley uoted on p. ,>A, fn. ,?..
A+
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, p. ,<>, p. ,<6, p. ,<,.
A,
. )oel 0nyder, $Benjamin on 4eproducibility and 3uraB 3 4eading of %-he 2or" of 3rt in the 3ge of
its -echnical 4eproducibility& in #ary 0mith .ed./, 8en9amin' -hilosophy, ?istory, Aesthetics
.Fniversity of Hhicago JressB Hhicago, +?A?/, p. +>+.
A5
. Benjamin, 2or" of 3rtB 0econd Mersion, p. +@A, p. +,6, fn. +@.
A6
. Haygill, *olour of ;$perience, p. +@?.
A7
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, pp. ,<,-5.
A<
. Benjamin, $2or" of 3rtB 0econd Mersion, p. ++7, p. +,?, fn. ,6, p. ++5I Benjamin, $2or" of 3rt, p.
,A,, fn. 6>, p. ,<?.
A>
. Hewitt, +ascist ,odernism, p. +57.
AA
. Hewitt, +ascist ,odernism, p. A<.
A?
. Hewitt, +ascist ,odernism, p. +>@, p. +<<, pp. +<A-<?, p. +?,, p. +><I Benjamin, $2or" of 3rtB
0econd Mersion, p. +,6, fn. +@..