The Redundant Avant-Garde

Walter Benjamin and the Intelligentsia in the Age of Its Disappearance


  • Nikos Pegioudis Adjunct Lecturer in Art History at the Department of History and Theory of Art of the Athens School of Fine Arts


Avant-garde, Intelligentsia, Sociology of knowledge, Intellectual labor, Deskilling


The Redundant Avant-Garde: Walter Benjamin and the Intelligentsia in the Age of Its Disappearance

Walter Benjamin had much to say about the intelligentsia, from vicious reviews such as ‘Left-Wing Melancholy’ to the more programmatic essays ‘Author as Producer’ and the Artwork essay. But while the specific allegiances, the ‘strategies’ in the literary battle, have been plotted with great precision, a larger debate in which these texts represent interventions has been passed over: the debate on the crisis of geistige Arbeit (intellectual labor). By re-inserting Benjamin’s intervention to this discussion, this article seeks to cast light on the philosopher’s different models for an effective politicized intelligentsia and explicate his final anti-intellectual position, i.e. that technological progress could lead to a general deskilling of artistic or cultural labor abolishing the mediation of the expert/intellectual. But the neutralization of the role of the intellectual would automatically lead to the end of the avant-garde. This is a surprising answer for a figure so closely tied to our notion of the avant-garde and a text which though it has come to pass as a manifesto of various avant-garde movements, it might had been originally destined to tell us something completely different.





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