Knoweledge and culture, agents of barbarism?

Publication date:
Gonçal Mayos Solsona

The dominant issue for our fourth panel was clearly anticipated by Walter Benjamin, though in many senses it has grown to become one of the greatest paradoxes of our time. At the end of section VIIof Theses on the Philosophy of History, Benjamin (1971: 81) warned that "without exception the cultural treasures [...] have an origin which he [the historian] cannot contemplate without horror.

Benjamin points radically to the surprisingly easy way in which knowledge and culture are turned into agents of barbarism. He goes beyond the cruel subordination and tragic subjection of those who, through their anonymous sacrifice, made possible the great successes recorded in history. As Bertolt Brecht ironically notes (1976: 88s): "Every page a victory. / Who cooked the feast for the victors? / Every 10 years a great man. / Who paid the bill?"