Volume 12, Issue 1/2, 2009
Art, Praxis, and Social Transformation
“Fiat ars pereat mundus”
The Relevance of Walter Benjamin’s “Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” for Understanding the War on Terror
This essay assesses the prescience of Benjamin’s “Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” by examining its conclusions in light of the Global War on Terror. Following an initial section in which I provide a brief overview of Benjamin’s essay and revisit its conclusion, I proceed to analyze the various ways that Bush administration officials claimed that they could remake the world in America’s image. The key question at stake in this paper is whether Benjamin’s analyses still prove useful for understanding the relationship between art and politics at this moment in history. This paper begins to extend Benjamin’s analysis of art as a mass medium to contemporary society by investigating various ways that the Global War on Terror was justified to the American people during the Bush administration. Specifically, I am interested in the idea that art remakes the world in opposition to reality, and the relationship between this idea and age-old aspirations to empire.