Walter Benjamin has always been both a fascination and an obstacle for intellectual history. He seems to relate to nearly every discourse of early-twentieth-century German history, but in a peculiar, even idiosyncratic, way that makes it difficult to circumscribe his own position. Benjamin's fragment Capitalism as Religion, written in 1921, takes up certain discourses and transforms them by his own writing. Its inconsistencies (or “ungrammaticalities”) and semantic displacements institute a textual movement, which turns out to be allegorical. It thus both constructs and deconstructs the relation between capitalism and religion in question. Benjamin's thought not only is essentially related to a specific form of expression but also opens up new contexts. In terms of intellectual history, it relates Benjamin to the broad discourse on the relation between religion and (modern) culture, as in the sociology of Max Weber and Georg Simmel, but also to contemporary dialectical theology. Systematically, the unfolding of the sacred as a movement in the text opens up a critical perspective on the current turn to religion in theory, which often refers to Benjamin affirmatively yet overlooks the complexity of his references to “theology.”

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.