The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project

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MIT Press, 1991 - History - 493 pages
9 Reviews

Walter Benjamin's magnum opus was a book he did not live to write. In The Dialectics of Seeing, Susan Buck-Morss offers an inventive reconstruction of the Passagen Werk, or Arcades Project, as it might have taken form.Working with Benjamin's vast files of citations and commentary which contain a myriad of historical details from the dawn of consumer culture, Buck-Morss makes visible the conceptual structure that gives these fragments philosophical coherence. She uses images throughout the book to demonstrate that Benjamin took the debris of mass culture seriously as the source of philosophical truth.The Paris Arcades that so fascinated Benjamin (as they did the Surrealists whose "materialist metaphysics" he admired) were the prototype, the 19th century "ur-form" of the modern shopping mall. Benjamin's dialectics of seeing demonstrate how to read these consumer dream houses and so many other material objects of the time - from air balloons to women's fashions, from Baudelaire's poetry to Grandville's cartoons - as anticipations of social utopia and, simultaneously, as clues for a radical political critique.Buck-Morss plots Benjamin's intellectual orientation on axes running east and west, north and south - Moscow Paris, Berlin-Naples - and shows how such thinking in coordinates can explain his understanding of "dialectics at a standstill." She argues for the continuing relevance of Benjamin's insights but then allows a set of "afterimages" to have the last word.Susan Buck-Morss is Professor of Political Philosophy and Social Theory at Cornell University. The Dialectics of Seeing is included in the series Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought, edited by Thomas McCarthy.

  

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Review: The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought)

User Review  - Yamini - Goodreads

Such a well written and interesting academic book. Contextualizes Benjamin's Arcades project in his own vision, the ideas that influenced him, and finally, in the modern post-WW2 context. Read full review

Review: The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought)

User Review  - Robert - Goodreads

Fine book. Extremely helpful understanding both Benjamin and what he attempted and what he managed to achieve. Very inspiring storytelling, very smart analysis. A good time was had by all. Read full review

Contents

Spatial Origins
25
Introduction
47
Fetish
78
Wish Image
110
Ruin
159
Introduction
205
Dream World of Mass Culture
253
Materialist Pedagogy
287
Copyright

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About the author (1991)

Susan Buck-Morss is Professor of Political Philosophy and Social Theory, Department ofGovernment, and Professor of Visual Culture, Department of Art History, Cornell University.

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