A Non-Nullified Nothingness: Walter Benjamin and the Messianic


  • Sami R. Khatib
Keywords: Giorgio Agamben, Hermann Cohen, messianism, nihilism, Walter Benjamin

Abstract

This article discusses Walter Benjamin’s thought-figure of the messianic. Reading his enigmatic “Theological-Political Fragment” (ca. 1921), I argue that the messianic is an inaccessible relation, an unmediated non-relation “in between” the historical and the messianic. Taking my cue from Giorgio Agamben’s reading of messianic time as the remaining time that lies and insists within the “cut of the cut” of the realm of the profane and the messianic, I examine the nature of this messianic “in- between-ness” through Benjamin’s early studies on Hermann Cohen, co-founder of the Marburg school of Neo-Kantianism. It is in Cohen where we can find a philosophical structure that allows us to think the messianic as an a-relation simultaneously separating and connecting the historical order of the profane and the coming of the messianic kingdom (section I). Reading the messianic as an a-relation, I trace back the structure of this separating connection to a messianic nothingness. This non- reflexive “non-nullified nothingness” un-mediates, and, ultimately, short-circuits the historical and the messianic, relating the former to the latter by introducing a minimal cut—an irreducible nothing, a messianic crack—into the order of the profane (section II). If the order of the profane has to be established on the idea of happiness, and the messianic rhythm of this profane order is happiness as the eternal downfall of everything worldly, the task of a truly profane politics is to strive nihilistically for this a-teleological downfall, that is, for the unbinding, the liberation of the messianic nothingness that groundlessly grounds the a-relation of the messianic and the historical (section III).

Author Biography

Sami R. Khatib

PhD in Philosophy, Lecturer 
Freie Universität Berlin, Insitute for Media and Communication Studies
Kaiserswerther Str. 16-18, Berlin, Germany 14195
e-mail: khatib.sami@gmail.com

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Published
2013-01-09
How to Cite
Khatib, S. (2013). A Non-Nullified Nothingness: Walter Benjamin and the Messianic. Stasis, 1(1). Retrieved from http://stasisjournal.net/index.php/journal/article/view/56