Redemption: Benjamin’s Cultural Insights

  In the field of cultural studies, the 20th-century German-Jewish thinker Walter Benjamin made a unique contribution to the mode of redemptive criticism. Eugene Habermas in his work “Walter Benjamin: Criticism of Raising Consciousness or Salvation” clearly pointed out that the core of Benjamin’s theory is a kind of redemptive or saving criticism.
  On the first level, redemption refers to the return of tradition. The way to return is to save the shattered tradition from modernity, so that the original wholeness can be found in the fragments of history. For Benjamin, the fragment points to the whole and is a symbol of truth. Benjamin’s “fragment complex” has a strong color of Jewish Kabbalah. In the Kabbalah tradition, “fragment” symbolizes a piece of the “broken chalice”, which is a representation of the original whole. Benjamin was deeply influenced by Jewish mysticism. The most well-known name of Jewish mysticism is Kabbalah, which literally means “tradition.” The respect for tradition is deeply rooted in Judaism. Kabbalah thought has A particularly intimate relationship with the world of mythology, which embodies the highest and most profound form of mysticism in Jewish thought—return to the original world, which also refers to a return to the original state of world harmony before man fell from heaven, and even more so. The early days of pre-paradise when heaven and earth were integrated. Under the influence of Jewish Kabbalah, Benjamin had an extraordinary concern for tradition. The most complete exposition of the original state of tradition and the causes of its fragmentation can be found in Benjamin’s famous “On Ontology and Human Language”, followed by See The Translator’s Task.
  In Benjamin’s theory of language, language represents a worldview, and its function is to provide a manifest medium for spiritual existence, but it has no other function. After language has changed from a medium for revealing truth to a system of symbols of plane synchronicity defined by Saussure, language has become a means, a symbol that is external to things and refers to things. Since then, language has fallen. , it no longer conveys the essence of things, but is used by human subjects as a tool to communicate relevant information about things. Here, what Benjamin is concerned with is not so much the relationship between language and objects, but rather the relationship between man and all things in nature. Denying its instrumental value from this perspective can be regarded as a sympathy for the relationship between man and man under the rule of capitalist instrumental rationality. A critique of the relationship between things. The fall of language broke the harmony of the original world, and the disappearance of the unity of language reflected the fragmentation of the wholeness of the world. When the fragmented and ruined culture was beginning to take shape, what Baudelaire called “fragmentation, momentary, contingency” The process of modernization characterized by the beginning also begins, and the traditions forgotten by people in modernity must be rescued from the ruins. In On Ontology and Human Language, language is used to convey the essence of things, and this “communicability” is an unbroken tradition in Benjamin’s eyes. In The Translator’s Task, translation is a unique It is an irreplaceable form of spiritual expression, and “translatability” is a tradition that exists in literature, art and culture in fragmented form. Modernism is a multi-layered social phenomenon for Benjamin, so criticism should not only look for “translatability” in poetic language and literary imagery, but also in obsolete commodities in the prehistoric period of capitalism In the eyes of Benjamin, these discarded commodities represent a very special passage of time in capitalist society, and their place in the history of modernism is particularly important because they exist The period predates modernism, so the utopian idealism that coexists with these commodities will not be completely engulfed by consumer capitalism. By looking for this “translatability”, tradition can be restored through the ruins of modernity. At the same time, the best way for critics, philosophers, and historians to reproduce truth is not to rely on abstract generalizations or generalizations, but to sink in the “minimal details” of objects.
  Redemption on the second level emphasizes the restoration and salvation of tradition. Under the influence of Judaism’s return to the traditional paradigm, the consciousness of “Messiah” occupies a very important position in Benjamin’s thought, which is not only closely related to his theory of salvation, but also shapes his historical consciousness of messianism. In Benjamin, “Messiah” sometimes refers to the Savior, and sometimes refers to the heaven where human beings first lived, that is, the original state of unity between heaven and man and equality of all things. For Benjamin, there have been countless times in history to realize the Messiah. opportunities, but none of them materialized. His Messianic consciousness refers to a lifelong quest to restore that eternal state. In Benjamin’s redemptive ideology, history and redemption are a pair of opposite concepts, history is a catastrophe, a scene seen by the angel of history, “He looks back at the past, where we see a chain of events , all he saw was a whole catastrophe. This catastrophe kept heaping new rubble on top of old rubble, and then threw it all at his feet.” Redemption means the end of history, and the power of redemption to history must come from the power of the other that transcends the catastrophic cycle of history, and the advent of this other is the end of history. History has no purpose, only the end. Benjamin’s peculiar view of history has explained this impulse to salvation in this way: There is a mysterious cause in history that rules in this way, “Between the past generation and the present generation, there is a kind of By secret agreement, we come into the world on schedule. Like every generation that precedes us, we are endowed with a feeble messianic power. This power is given to us in the past, and therefore has an effect on us. Required.”
  When Benjamin combined messianic consciousness with a revolutionary vision, he opened up a new path for the return of tradition, and found the tools of redemption for its restoration and salvation. In Benjamin’s vision, the role of the revolutionary or statesman is to “light the fire and announce the coming of the Messiah” in the redemption of history. The revolution in the Benjaminian sense permeated with deep-rooted mysticism is to jump to the turning point in history where the Messiah has never been realized. The so-called “progress” is the eternal repetition of disaster, and the concept of progress must be based on the concept of disaster. Fundamentally, it is a storm that is carrying the angel of history through time and space, but this storm is against the will of the angel of history, and only a catastrophic history that ends with violence “it just happens endlessly” can begin A new messianic age, in this utopian vision as Fourier describes it, in which human beings will restore the lost paradise in the mundane, so that salvation must be based on “a small leap in catastrophe”. In the dark era of Nazi rule after the First World War, Benjamin sought a tradition that was forgotten by modernity, expounded his utopian thought with Kabbalah, and took construction as the final vision, so as to achieve the redemption of history .
  As far as Benjamin’s critical mode of redemption is concerned, what he is concerned with is the infusion of the potential of discourse, analyzing the text structure from the social effect of the text, he endows the discourse with a revolutionary redemptive function, and regards it as the translator’s task. Translators are not just Benjamin himself, revolutionaries, materialists, and true statesmen are translators who translate the language of the world into the language of salvation. This kind of redemptive criticism breaks through the boundaries between aesthetics and theology, penetrates the two, and finally enters historiography.