A Storm called Progress : Walter Benjamin’s Theses



… Marx says that revolutions are the locomotive of world history. But perhaps it is quite otherwise. Perhaps revolutions are an attempt by the passengers on this train – namely, the human race – to activate the emergency break …

A Storm called Progress : Walter Benjamin’s Theses on the Philosophy of History

With his enigmatic texts and his sprawling, ambitious projects – both cut short by his tragic death – Walter Benjamin has exerted a profound influence on a wide range of philosophers, scholars, activists, artists and revolutionaries. Equally Marxist and mystic, Benjamin was deeply critical of Stalinist-style Communism and tepid reform-oriented social democracy. Both, he thought, were in thrall of the ideology of progress. In his short text, Theses on the Philosophy of History, also known as On the Concept of History, Benjamin launched a withering attack on the idea of ‘progress,’ while laying out his own theory of history. But the text is much more than that. Cryptic, poetic, allusive and obscure, On the Concept of History is a mysterious meditation on the nature of time, of redemption, of revolution. Though the text is brief, it rewards a very close reading, which this Crash Course will provide. In times of global political turmoil, the text remains hauntingly relevant.

How this course works

The participants can initiate their entry into the text on their own, prior to the Crash Course, but the programme will start with the basics, with a presentation of the historical and philosophical background of Benjamin, before undertaking a close reading of the text in the sessions. This course, like all programmes at IST, is designed in view of dynamic exchanges between the instructor and the participants; therefore interjections, questions, comments and alternative interpretations are invited and encouraged throughout the session, while an interactive time is kept specifically at the end of each study session.

Crash Course

Duration : 2 sessions of 180 minutes
Dates and Times : decided with the participants
Instructor : Thomas Crowley
Modality : Skype Videoconference
Open to : All · No pre-requisites

At IST, a new edition of each course is organised upon 3 confirmed participants


On the Concept of History



Fire Alarm : Reading Walter Benjamin's 'On the Concept of History'

Michael Löwy


Session 1

Introduction : Benjamin’s turbulent life & times

Textual analyses and discussions on :
Theses I-X

Session 2

Textual analyses and discussions on :

Theses XI-XVII
Addendum A & B

Conclusion : the relevance and lingering questions of the text




The financial contribution is open
beyond a minimum amount of

15.00 $

or the equivalent in your local currency
Check the conversion rates here

2 Interactive sessions of Textual Analysis
6 Hours of collective study
Reading Material in soft copy
Instructor’s Notes for each session
HD Audio Recordings of the sessions


A new edition of this course will be organised
upon 3 confirmed registrations