This paper analyses the diverse references involved in Walter Benjamin’s idea of revolution. Despite its significance for his philosophical outlook, the concept of revolution seems to receive no systematic or perhaps even consistent treatment in his heterogeneous writings. But what is clear is that, in contrast to the way the term is usually understood in political philosophy, Benjamin conceives of revolution primarily as a category of experience, a type of emphatic experience of meaning. The paper defends this interpretation against some of the recent treatments of Benjamin’s notion of the dream and the wish. It shows that an adequate account of Benjamin’s idea of revolution must grapple with his peculiar idea of an articulated wish that is fulfilled in history. And it defends the thesis that this idea of a fulfilled historical wish provides the most robust formulation of the different references involved in Benjamin’s idea of revolutionary experience as well an instructive point of contrast between Benjamin’s treatment of this idea and other well-known conceptions of revolution.
- Walter Benjamin