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Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy

Volume 20, Issue 1, Fall 2015

Nathan Ross
Pages 233-253
DOI: 10.5840/epoche201572448

Walter Benjamin on the Concept of Criticism and the Critique of Capitalism

This essay examines the concept of criticism in the early works of Walter Benjamin. Critique is for Benjamin an attitude toward objectivity that treats it as a medium of reflection, and embodies a politics of ‘sobriety.’ This critical posture provides the early Benjamin with an original method of critiquing capitalism as a form of religion. Capitalist religion is characterized by the proliferation of ‘debt’ that robs the subject of the capacity for critical experience. Art critique and the critique of capitalism are two valences of the concept of critique: positive (or immanent) critique, and negative (or redemptive) critique.