Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


The Historical Materialist Conception of History and the Meaning of the Messiah in Walter Benjamins Notion of the Dialectical Image


Sociology Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Social and Behavioral Sciences


Throughout his writings, Walter Benjamin expressly rejected the dominant, historicist notion of history as a chronological, evolutionary movement through the open-ended continuum of empty time into a future that is little more than a mirror of the present. For Benjamin, such a homogeneous, empty conception of time and history was nothing less than the ruthless, legitimation of the system of elite class domination and its crushing despair, suffering and death inflicted on the weak and powerless. To counter this, Benjamin advocated a heterogeneous, class-conscious conception of history, which expressed a dynamic synthesis of the sacred and the profane; of the messianic redemptive notions of Jewish mysticism and the revolutionary theory and praxis of historical materialism, among other influences. In this, history is understood as the document of class warfare, of the terrible battle between the conqueror and the conquered, the winners and the losers. It is from within this historical struggle that "dialectical images and memories of the defeated, innocent victims and their struggles for liberation can "flash up" momentarily in the present and become a weak Messianic power of solidarity and hope in the midst of the continuing class struggle of today. This study explores Benjamins epiphanal notion of the dialectical image and its possible contemporary relevance in the struggle for a more reconciled future society.

Conference Name

Future of Religion: Remembrance, Liberation, & Solidarity

Conference Location

Dubrovnik, Croatia

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