Walter Benjamin as the “Last European”: The Transfer of Walter Benjamin’s Ideas to American Cultural Studies
Walter Benjamin’s posthumous reception was significantly broader than the one during his lifetime, particularly in the one country he had never succeeded to visit (although he had intended to), the United States of America. In the current article, we suggest, that while beginning to widen in American intellectual circles, the acknowledgment of the philosopher’s legacy happened later in a narrower academic context, rehabilitating the philosopher who had never had the chance to work in a university due to a failed 1925 habilitation. The majority of Benjamin’s works were disseminated in various non-academic journals and magazines, making the process of translation and publication of his texts more difficult than it usually is for scientists. We suggest that, firstly, Benjamin’s reception in the USA established his image as a provocative essayist stepping far beyond Marxist frameworks (as opposed to how his first publisher and friend Theodor Adorno presented him through a thoroughly-selected collection of writings that had been translated into English for the first time), exploring such topics as Messianism, mass culture, and everyday practices. Our second suggestion is that Benjamin’s legacy appeared to be fruitful for American cultural studies whose representatives rejected ideas of the teleology of culture embedded in the original British program, and turned to “practice theories” which presented everyday practices significant in themselves, not as privileged sites of ideology.