On the Concept of History

Is it possible that Benjamin’s concept of the “Jetztzeit” (lit. “now-time”) in the Theses is meant to evoke a contrast with “Neuzeit” (modernity, lit. “new-time”)? That would seem to fit well with the distinction between the liberal-progressive concept of time and messianic time.

The German text does not appear to include the word “Neuzeit,” but of course “Jetztzeit” appears in several places.

One thought on “On the Concept of History

  1. Adam, for what it’s worth, this is precisely how I take Moltmann to interpret Benjamin (and Ernst Bloch): “In Bloch and Benjamin, ‘the moment’ seems to be something like a mystical nunc stans, and a gnostic spark of light which blazes up in time, as a ‘messianic splinter’…The messianic interpretation sees ‘the moment’ that interrupts time, and lets us pause in the midst of progress, as the power for conversion. At that moment another future becomes perceptible. The laws and forces of the past are no longer ‘compulsive.’ God’s messianic future wins power over the present. New perspectives open up. The deadliness of progress towards the economic, ecological, nuclear and genetic catastrophes is recognized; and the modern world’s lack of future is perceived” (The Coming of God, 45).

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