The Dialectics of Seeing
Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project
By (author) Susan Buck-Morss
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Dialectics of Seeing by Susan Buck-Morss
Book DescriptionWalter 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.
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Book DetailsISBN: 9780262521642
(229mm x 152mm x 23mm)
Imprint: MIT Press
Publisher: MIT Press Ltd
Publish Date: 6-Sep-1991
Country of Publication: United States
Books By Author Susan Buck-Morss
Museological Unconscious, Paperback (March 2012)
The history of contemporary art in Russia, from socialist realism to the post-Soviet alternative art scene.
Thinking Past Terror, Paperback (August 2006)
Argues that the global public needs to think past the twin insanities of terrorism and counter-terrorism in order to dismantle regressive intellectual barriers. Surveying the literature on the relationship of Islam to modernity, this work reveals that there is surprising overlap where scholars commonly see antithesis.
Dreamworld and Catastrophe, Paperback (March 2002)View all books by Susan Buck-Morss
Developing the notion of dreamworld as both a poetic description of a collective mental state and an analytical concept, Susan Buck-Morss attempts to come to terms with mass dreamworlds at the moment of their passing.
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Author Biography - Susan Buck-Morss
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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