The Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought, Goldsmiths University of London

Research Centre based in Sociology and run jointly with the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths University, London

On Justice: Variations On a Theme Borrowed From Benjamin in 1916 (II)

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Variation Two: Massimiliano Tomba (Padova) reconsiders Benjamin’s idea of justice as a transformative form of anticipation that carries its own criterion of its rightness.

28 Apr 2016
1:00pm – 6:00pm
LG01, Professor Stuart Hall Building

In the second of this two-part event, Massimiliano Tomba will reconsider Benjamin’s idea of divine violence—made famous in the essay “Towards the Critique of Violence”—as a form of anticipation that might be politically transformative because it carries its own criterion of its rightness.

Massimiliano Tomba is Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Padova. His research focuses mainly on modern German philosophy, critical theory and globalization. He is co-organizer of an initiative titled ‘Next Generation Global Studies (NGGS)’ which aims at reconsidering predominant schemes of interpretation of global societies in order to overcome prevailing Eurocentric perspectives of political space and time. His work has involved theorists such as Kant, Hegel and post-Hegelian thought, Marx, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor Adorno. Among his  publications are Krise und Kritik bei Bruno Bauer. Kategorien des Politischen im nachhegelschen Denken, Frankfurt am Main, Peter Lang, 2005; La vera politica. Kant e Benjamin: la possibilità della giustizia, Macerata, Quodlibet, 2006; Marx’s Temporalities, Leiden, Brill, 2013.


In October 1916, Gershom Scholem copied into his diary a passage “from a notebook Walter Benjamin lent [him]” under the heading, “Notes Toward a Work on the Category of Justice.” Never included in either the two-volume or the seven-volume collected works and only reappearing upon publication of Scholem’s diaries, these “Notes” nonetheless represent a crucial juncture in the development of Benjamin’s thinking on the political. From one direction, the “Notes” are the culmination of intense discussions between Benjamin and Scholem on the concept of historical time, which issued into a number of important reflections on tragedy, time-reckoning, and language. In the other direction, the “Notes” inaugurated a series of objections and responses between the two friends that include Scholem’s own set of theses on the category of justice from 1919 and 1925, Scholem’s writings on Jonah, and texts surrounding Benjamin’s discussion of law and violence that come to a head with a number of fragments on lying circa 1923.

Using the “Notes Toward a Work on the Category of Justice” as its point of departure, this two-part event takes up the invitation to read together a “convolute” of shorter or lesser-known texts that contribute to a larger theme that Benjamin did not perhaps execute fully, but therefore provides a new context for understanding better known writings such as the Language essay or “Towards the Critique of Violence.” Each day will pivot around a variation on the theme, with presentations and seminar-style discussion based on pre-circulated texts.

For more information on the schedule and for a copy of the texts please visit https://benjaminonjustice.wordpress.com/

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