Benjamin and Spinoza; Divine Violence and Potentia

Emerson Bodde
2019 Eidos  
In this paper, I seek to clarify, criticize, and expand upon the ambiguous-yet-influential concept of divine violence introduced by Walter Benjamin's "Zur Kritik der Gewalt". I proceed in three parts: in the first, I outline Benjamin's argument about the cycle of mythical violence and divine violence's special role as an interruption of that cycle. Next, I explicate Spinoza's key concepts of potentia and potestas, which can be used to more clearly define what ought to instead be translated as
more » ... ivine force". In the third part, through Benjamin's brief discussion of Sorel's theory of the anarchist general strike, I equate potentia as a determinate power of aggregative individuals to divine force, both as a collective action and as an idea itself. I use this renewed and more sophisticated concept of divine force to oppose several interpretations of Benjamin's concept, including Benjamin's own quietist stance toward divine force.
doi:10.14394/eidos.jpc.2019.0019 fatcat:lmxu3qnp3bf5dco4szwwi2jsyi