Study Guide

Giorgio Agamben - It's All About the Benjamin

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It's All About the Benjamin

These folks are loyal as can be to the one and only Walter B. And who can blame them, given that this dude opened so many philosophical doors? His Arcades Project alone is copious—and enigmatic—enough to keep future scholars busy for generations. There's hardly anything this dude didn't write about, so the conversation at his fan club's meetings never dries up.

Judith Butler

We've already seen that Giorgio and Judith have had their differences, but they've been influenced by a lot of the same people, and Benjamin, together with Arendt, is the most important.

Butler and Agamben have both looked to Benjamin's work for leads when it comes to contemporary politics. For Butler, Benjamin offers a way out of the impasses of Zionism. For Agamben, meanwhile, Benjamin's thoughts about messianic time can show us the way through the maze of current, catastrophic biopolitics.

Slavoj Žižek

Žižek's writing is all over the place, in more ways than one: ranging from the tragic to the farcical, this theorist's work also draws on all kinds of influences, from Hegel to Hollywood.

In recent years, though, Benjamin has been a touchstone for Žižek. The German philosopher's theory of "divine violence" has been especially helpful in this respect—just take a look at Žižek's little book on violence. Žižek may use different Benjamin texts than Agamben and Butler, but the love is there.

Aby Warburg

This poor art historian lost it late in life, but not before churning out some seriously influential work that drew on Benjaminian sources, among others (source). Today Warburg is read not just by art historians but also by literature scholars, anthropologists, and all kinds of other students of culture hungry for new ways of thinking about history and images. Check his stuff out, and you'll see why; Agamben sure did (source).

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