Metaphysics of the Profane: The Political Theology of Walter Benjamin and Gershom Scholem

Walter Benjamin and Gershom Scholem are regarded as two of the most influential Jewish thinkers of the twentieth century. Together they produced a dynamic body of ideas that has had a lasting impact on the study of religion, philosophy, and literary criticism. Drawing from Benjamin's and Scholem's ideas on messianism, language, and divine justice, this book traces the intellectual exchange through the early decades of the twentieth century-from Berlin, Bern, and Munich in the throws of war and revolution to Scholem's departure for Palestine in 1923. It begins with a close reading of Benjamin's early writings and a study of Scholem's theological politics, followed by an examination of Benjamin's proposals on language and the influence these ideas had on Scholem's scholarship on Jewish mysticism. From there the book turns to their ideas on divine justice-from Benjamin's critique of original sin and violence to Scholem's application of the categories to the prophets and Bolshevism. Metaphysics of the Profane is the first book to make this early period available to a wider audience, revealing the intricate structure of this early intellectual partnership on politics and theology.