"A close affinity with the concept of the dao": Toward Walter Benjamin's idea of revolution

Peter Fenves*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper takes its point of departure from ancnigmatic concept Benjamin briefly discusses in one of the fragments he wrote in the early 1920s in conjunction with his search for an appropriate topic for a qualifying dissertation - the concept of action - or agent-determinative knowing, which, he suggests, may be comparable to the concept of the Dao. " After analyzing the fragment in question, the paper seeks to demonstrate that in the early 1930s Benjamin develops this Dao-like concept under the rubric of two terms drawn from the vocabulary of ancient Greek thought; "mimesis" is the name under which he develops the concept of agent-determinative knowing, while the "second technology" is his revised designation for action-determinative knowing. Taken together, these concepts lead him toward something like a Daoist-Marxist idea of revolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-74
Number of pages7
JournalTheoretical Studies in Literature and Art
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 25 2020


  • Dao
  • Daoist-Marxist
  • Mimesis
  • Revolution
  • Walter Benjamin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology


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