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Title: Benjamin's state of exception : an analysis of the 'critique of violence' with reference to Carl Schmitt
Author: Van de Web, R. M.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2005
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Abstract:
The aim of this dissertation is to explore the connection between Carl Schmitt, popularly recognized as ‘Crown Jurist of the Third Reich’, and Walter Benjamin’s ‘Critique of Violence’. The dissertation responds, in part, to a series of secondary commentaries that read one thinker as an influence on the other. In arguing for the necessarily implicit dialogue between these two thinkers, the dissertation brings into question the emphasis, in secondary commentaries, on Benjamin’s reference to Schmitt in the Trauerspiel Study. The introduction establishes the obscure beginnings of Benjamin’s ‘Critique of Violence’, staging the problem, and the method, for reading the essay in the context of Benjamin’s understanding of the specifications of pure violence and the significance of Schmitt to these constructs. Part one (chapters one and two) examines Benjamin’s interest in the moment of Schmitt’s conversion from Catholic conservative principles to Nazism. Chapter one sets the framework for reading Benjamin’s refusal to engage with the terms of Schmitt’s discourse, and offers detailed expositions of Schmitt’s principle of sovereignty. Chapter two seeks to establish that Benjamin’s notion of sovereignty should not be construed as either conforming to Schmitt’s concept of sovereignty or as its opposite. Part two (chapters three and four) extends the incommensurability of Benjamin’s position with respect to Schmitt. Its starting point is a conceptualisation of pure violence as that which exists from within the legal order, and as that which refuses conscious willing. My analysis works, firstly, against the interpretative direction set by Derrida in his essay on the ‘Force of Law’, which reads pure violence as open to a ‘reversal’ and appropriation by anti-revolutionary cause. Against Derrida’s claim that Benjamin separates pure violence from the legal order, I argue that Benjamin’s account of pure means brings to light a series of contradictions within critique as a method of legal analysis. Secondly, this analysis seeks to articulate the general underestimation, in secondary commentaries, of the strategic irony Benjamin deploys in his determination of the conditions of reading pure violence. Chapter three clarifies how, for Benjamin, the problem of the destruction and liberation of any given form of representation, dramatic or otherwise, is a political problem.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.663176  DOI: Not available
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