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Re: Literature and Political Economy

PostPosted: Mon Jun 17, 2019 4:17 pm
by uma
Angelus Novus

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I hope this is not just an invitation for posting ones own contributions to "literature and political economy" but also a forum to discuss them. I think it would be interesting if posters would reflect on other's posts.

There is a middle ground between literature, understood as works of fiction, and science, the development of more or less grand theory: essays. These are works of literature about concrete reality without pretending to be systematic science. One of the most profound essayists about capitalism was perhaps Walter Benjamin.

In some of their works, Bichler and Nitzan mention the Aymara people who "treat the known past as being 'in front of us' and the unknown future as lying 'behind us'." (Capital as Power: 187) Another picture of this kind, i.e. you are looking back onto the past, never to the future, perhaps more fitting to capitalism, is provided by Benjamin in his famous interpretation of Klee's Angelus Novus picture in the Theses on the Philosophy of History:

A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.


See also, or actually listen to Laurie Andersons interpretation Dream Before.