Alternative temporalities of revolution in the work of Walter Benjamin and Luce Irigaray
Every conception of history is invariably accompanied by a certain experience of time which is implicit in it, conditions it, and thereby has to be elucidated. Similarly, every culture is first and foremost a particular experience of time, and no new culture is possible without an alteration in this experience. The original task of a genuine revolution, therefore, is never merely to ‘change the world’ but also - and above all - to ‘change time’. (Giorgio Agamben, ‘Time and History: Critique of the Instant and the Continuum’, in Infancy and History: Essays on the Destruction of Experience, London, Verso,1993, p. 91). In this thesis I will be looking at the work of Walter Benjamin and Luce Irigaray as two examples of different attempts to ‘change time’ in the sense given by Giorgio Agamben above. I will be arguing that both of these thinkers theorise this ‘genuine revolution’. I will also be arguing that there are useful parallels in their work which will help to bring about a more productive thinking of the temporalities of history and revolution. The first part of the thesis consists of a reading of Benjamin’s revolutionary philosophy of history and a study of the temporalities that emerge from his critique of historicism. This also involves an investigation into both Hegel’s and Nietzsche’s influence on Benjamin’s thinking of time and history. His relationship to Hegel is explored through the nature of the dialectic at work in Benjamin’s texts as well as through the interpretations of these texts by Adorno and Agamben. Nietzsche’s influence is traced through the theme of tragedy. I compare and contrast Nietzsche’s thinking of tragedy with Benjamin’s thinking of Trauerspiel, and show the various conceptions of historical time at work in these forms. The second part of the thesis is then a reading of what I take to be Irigaray’s revolutionary philosophy of history.