Cahiers

2010 / n° 21

Walter Benjamin lecteur de Charles Fourier

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Dès 1933, Walter Benjamin trouve dans les écrits de Charles Fourier et de ses exégètes les motifs d’une surprenante radicalité politique tournée vers l’utopie et l’émancipation. De Paris, capitale du XIXe siècle aux thèses sur le concept d’histoire, Fourier tient ainsi un rôle stratégique pour dire le refus de toute abdication face à l’ordre dominant, la lutte constamment menée pour un monde autre.

Cette place méconnue de Fourier dans l’œuvre du philosophe allemand est ici mise en relief et si, de la « sublime exagération de l’espérance » prêtée à Fourier, Benjamin fit des armes pour son temps, c’est à en éprouver le caractère toujours explosif que nous invitent aussi les contributeurs de ce numéro enrichi de traductions inédites de textes de Benjamin et Adorno autour de Fourier.




Présentation

Florent Perrier
Préambule
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Remerciements
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Repères bibliographiques et abréviations utilisées
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Documents

Walter Benjamin
Un fragment manuscrit de Das Passagen-Werk
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Etudes

Florent Perrier
Forms of presence of Charles Fourier in Benjamin’s "Paris, Capital of the 19th Century"

The books and essays dealing with Fourier that are mentioned by Benjamin in his writings, particularly the « W » bundle of Paris, capital of the 19th Century, will be our point of departure for an investigation seeking to emphasize the place devoted to Fourier’s writings and the role played by them in the texts written by Benjamin, especially when living in exile in Paris. These « presences » of Fourier in Benjamin’s writings (from his historical presence in the study of passages, to his subversive political presence in the Collège de sociologie) throw a new light on Benjamin’s reflections informed by his unknown passion for the « sublime dreamer ». If Fourier’s theories unquestionably innervate some of Benjamin’s major writings, though often in an invisible way, the present essay intends to offer a tentative survey of these hitherto almost uncharted elective affinities, which are nevertheless full of potential promises and present a Benjamin attentive to the freedom coterminous with the absolute divergence postulated by Fourier in a larger context hostile to emancipation.

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Michèle Riot-Sarcey
Charles Fourier’s singularity in the elusive modernity of the 19th Century

The shift to modernity is usually taken for granted. But should the historian accept to break the linear coherence of historical narrative by invoking outwardly disparate quotations - especially Fourier’s - taken from Benjamin’s Passages, he/she will discover a form of modernity hitherto confined to literature. Between daily poverty and untimely expectations, byways lay open for the modern hero whose temporal experience was brushed away from the march of history.

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Henri Lonitz
Critical theory and utopia

Critical theory and utopia are often seen as incompatible opposites. The former pays exclusive attention to hard economic facts ; the latter breaks up with social reality to live up in « intelligible worlds ». This essay purports to demonstrate that in our own tradition of critical theory the utopian motifs, though transformed, have been preserved. In his study of the 19th Century, whose latest parts focus on the philosophy of history and the necessity to maintain the relevance of changing the world, Benjamin gave these motifs a specific form.

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Simone Debout
Inexchangeable delights, or composed attractions between Walter Benjamin, Charles Fourier, Sade, Pierre Klossowski

This essay will be focused on the special attention paid by Benjamin in tracing back what is essential with Fourier : the way he transforms labour so as to make it as attractive as a game. Through Fourier, Benjamin comes to grasp for the first time with the exploitation of nature and the exploitation of human labour, so that if the former stops, it will also signal the end of Man’s estrangement and the transformation of labour, henceforward similar to those games expressing spontaneously the inner life of children and their imagination. This transformation has to be oriented so as to express itself at the contact of reality, and to engineer simultaneously the transformation of life and of the world in which human beings live.

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Philippe Ivernel
Pedagogical utopia and childhood sovereignty

In the quotations and notes which immediately precede with no apparent contradiction the Marx file in Walter Benjamin’s Passages, the author draws the reader’s attention to the instruction and education given to children in the famous experimental phalanx. He stresses from the outset that the nature from which the fourierist pedagogy draws its inspiration is made up of a thousand fibers, and that accordingly, starting from the passions and their possible combinations, they open the way to as many possible extensions and evolutions. To take but one well known example, from greediness to gastronomy via the cooking activities, all of them being otherwise related to agricultural and industrial activities, the child proceeds « naturally », according to Fourier, towards a polytechnical training likely to supersede not only the division of labour, but also and above all the separations existing between labour, experimentation, and game. Benjamin is obviously sensitive to the dynamics of the child’s desire (whether he is trying to catch the moon or a ball) and to his reproductive gestures, as opposed to moralist teachings seen as a threatening abstraction. The pedagogical utopia refered to here is on the contrary exclusively conceived as rooted in its relationship with practise. Eventually it can provide the starting point for a story unfolding (in Benjamin’s writings as we know, but also indirectly in Fourier’s), in which childhood reigns supreme as the age of beginnings, and renewed beginnings.

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René Schérer
Hords and gangs

In the W section of Walter Benjamin’s Passages devoted to Fourier, infancy and education provide the author with a relevant case for testing the method of « materialistic anthropology » attributed by him to the utopian thinker. Regardless of any recourse to transcending orders or pedagogical intervention of adults, and responding to some immanent dialectics, the passions of the children themselves do mechanize and « cog in » the mutual interactions of the various groups, turning the « small hords » and « small gangs » into decisive agents of societary harmony. Highlighting them as so many « dialectical images », Benjamin’s quotations and footnotes emphasize the singular junctures where infancy bestows on the harmonic order its picturesque and particularly attractive touch.

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Irving Wohlfarth
The marriage of Physis and Techne. Walter Benjamin and the idea of an anthropological materialism

Between the wars, Benjamin argued that the Marxian dialectic between the relations and forces of production had been blocked first by bourgeois society, then by Fascism. The result was a “failed reception”, indeed a “revolt” of technology, leading inexorably to world war. The alternative - which the Soviet experiment initially seemed to hold out - was a renewed liberation of this dialectic : an end to the exploitation of man and nature and an emancipation of the body and technology. Its indispensable precondition was the formation of a collective historical subject. Fourier’s utopian socialism had its place within this “anthropologically” extended historical materialism. Its implications for today’s ecological politics are radical and disquieting.

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Maurizio Gribaudi
Passages and Phalanx. Urban spaces and utopian visions

In his very first presentation of Paris, capital of the 19th Century, Benjamin had already placed Fourier at the heart of his reflection by entitling the first part : « Fourier, or the passages ». Such centrality is meaningful. Beyond their direct relationship with the covert passages, the forms of the phalanx show many traces of Fourier’s utopia. In Benjamin’s interpretation, the dream of the former turns out to be the photographic negative of the latter’s. In the first place that of the passage, as belonging to a conception of modernity informed by technical progress and the reproduction of goods. Then that of the phalanx leading to a progressive vision born from the harmonization of a cluster of singular realities. In fact, passages and phalanx, saint simonian and fourierist visions seem to cut across each other in Benjamin’s writings, drawing out a chiasma of contradictory forces.

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Traductions inédites

Walter Benjamin
Pinloche A., Fourier et le socialisme, Félix Alcan, Paris, 1933 (200 p. ; frs. fr. 15. -)
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Walter Benjamin
Armand, F. et Maublanc, R., Fourier, 2 vol., Editions sociales internationales, Paris, 1937 (264 et 263 p. ; l’ensemble frs. fr. 25. -)
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Theodor W. Adorno
Prolégomènes à « L’oeuvre d’art à l’époque de sa reproductibilité technique »
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Walter Benjamin
Préface à la version allemande des Quatre Mouvements de Charles Fourier
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Expérimentations

Chantal Guillaume
Ardelaine, la fibre du développement local
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Notes de lecture

Gaston Bordet
DESMARS Bernard : Militants de l’utopie ? Les fouriéristes dans la seconde moitié du XIXe siècle (2010)
Dijon, Les Presses du Réel, 2010, 421 p.
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Guy Martinière
PONCIONI Claudia : Ponts et idées. Louis-Léger Vauthier, un ingénieur fouriériste au Brésil. Pernambouc, 1840-1846 (2009)
Paris, Houdiard, 2009, 491 p.
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Actualités

Informations diverses
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