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A Vision of Hell: Walter Benjamin’s Angelus Novus and the Catastrophe of Progress

Preciosa Regina Ang De Joya


Before his untimely death in 1940, the German philosopher Walter Benjamin wrote an essay, entitled “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” marking his recovery from the shock of the Hitler-Stalin non-aggression pact. This study reflects on the philosophical and historical significance of this essay, unraveling Benjamin’s critique of Marxism as a critique of progress. Progress, which the angel of history sees as a storm coming from paradise, has caused a growing pile of rubble of historical blunders and environmental disasters. This uncritical submission to progress, however, can be seen not only in the blind confidence of the communists and the social democrats towards Marxist teleology, but also in historicism, which reduces the writing of history to a form of disaster: a “heaping up of information” that forgets the memory of


“enslaved ancestors,” thus losing its “weak, Messianic power.”


philosophy, history, Marxism, historicism, phantasmagoria

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