The last European: a plea for a re-politicized Benjamin

This review of Alexander Gelley's captivating book follows its attempt to respond to Benjamin's plea to “expound the nineteenth century” and liberate us “from the stupendous forces of history,” using aisthesis, “a weak messianic force,” and “dream visions.” Taking the cue from Gelley's reference to Benjamin's rebellion against “a secret agreement between past generations and the present one” (156), this review attempts to open up the context and to wonder about “the secret agreement” between recent Benjamin scholarship and its own sense of the past. The review pleads with future Benjaminians to start asking questions relating to the twentieth century, and attempts to consider the relevance of Benjaminia for current political analysis and recent trends in critical studies.