Susan Buck-Morss: The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (1989–) [English, Spanish]

1 May 2013, dusan

Walter Benjamin‘s magnum opus was a book he did not live to write. In The Dialectics of Seeing, Susan Buck-Morss offers an inventive reconstruction of the Passagen-Werk, or Arcades Project, as it might have taken form.

Working with Benjamin’s vast files of citations and commentary which contain a myriad of historical details from the dawn of consumer culture, Buck-Morss makes visible the conceptual structure that gives these fragments philosophical coherence. She uses images throughout the book to demonstrate that Benjamin took the debris of mass culture seriously as the source of philosophical truth.

The Paris Arcades that so fascinated Benjamin (as they did the Surrealists whose “materialist metaphysics” he admired) were the prototype, the 19th century ‘ur-form’ of the modern shopping mall. Benjamin’s dialectics of seeing demonstrate how to read these consumer dream houses and so many other material objects of the time—from air balloons to women’s fashions, from Baudelaire’s poetry to Grandville’s cartoons—as anticipations of social utopia and, simultaneously, as clues for a radical political critique.

Buck-Morss plots Benjamin’s intellectual orientation on axes running east and west, north and south—Moscow Paris, Berlin-Naples—and shows how such thinking in coordinates can explain his understanding of ‘dialectics at a standstill’. She argues for the continuing relevance of Benjamin’s insights but then allows a set of “afterimages” to have the last word.”

Publisher MIT Press, 1989
Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought Series
ISBN 0262022680
493 pages

Reviews: Shierry Weber Nicholsen (New German Critique, 1990), Robert Tobin (Phil and Lit, 1991), James L. Gussen (Germanic Review, 1992), Erika Berroth (J Germanic Linguistics, 1994), Beste Alpay (Montréal Review, 2011).

Publisher (EN)

The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (English, 22 MB, updated on 2019-12-3)
Dialectica de la mirada: Walter Benjamin y el proyecto de los Pasajes (Spanish, trans. Nora Rabotnikof, 1995, updated on 2013-5-2)

9 Responses to “Susan Buck-Morss: The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (1989–) [English, Spanish]”

  1. dhr on May 2, 2013 9:03 am

    traffic limit reached :?

  2. dusan on May 2, 2013 9:13 am


  3. marko on October 10, 2014 11:24 am

    could you please fix this link? Thanks!

  4. dusan on October 10, 2014 10:16 pm

    try now

  5. G. C. on September 18, 2016 8:48 pm

    Hello, thank you for your uìinvaluable amazing website. I have noticed that the English url redirect to a bet website…

  6. dusan on September 18, 2016 9:19 pm


  7. G. C. on September 18, 2016 11:51 pm
  8. axel on March 25, 2019 4:47 am

    The link for the English version doesn’t work

  9. dusan on March 25, 2019 7:39 am

    now updated

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