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Law and the Utopian Imagination$
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Austin Sarat, Lawrence Douglas, and Martha Merill Umphrey

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780804790819

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804790819.001.0001

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The One and Only Law: Walter Benjamin, Utopianism, and the Second Commandments

The One and Only Law: Walter Benjamin, Utopianism, and the Second Commandments

Chapter:
(p.23) The One and Only Law: Walter Benjamin, Utopianism, and the Second Commandments
Source:
Law and the Utopian Imagination
Author(s):

James R. Martel

Publisher:
Stanford University Press
DOI:10.11126/stanford/9780804790819.003.0002

Many scholars consider Benjamin to be a utopian thinker. His politics, while attractive, are deemed unlikely, what Adorno calls a mixture of “magic and positivism.” This chapter argues that Benjamin can be considered utopian when we judge him by our current conceptions. This is because, for Benjamin, our current conceptions are distortions, products of commodity fetishism and what he calls the “phantasmagoria.” Benjamin's project is essentially recuperative; he seeks to restore us to the life we are actually living, the decentralized and non-ideological existence that we don't recognize due to our ensconcement in phantasm.

Keywords:   Benjamin, utopia, law, mythic violence, divine violence, idolatry, Second Commandment, anarchism, iconoclasm, phantasmagoria

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